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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Man Accused of Rape Seeks Revenge on Accuser

If you’ve ever wondered just how conniving, manipulative, and controlling abusers can be, look no further than the following story. Women often face difficult consequences for reporting the abuse committed against them but it’s safe to say no one has ever experienced anything like Seemoa Sumasar did. After accusing her ex-boyfriend of rape, he staged an elaborate CSI-like plot that left her in jail for over seven months.

According to the New York Times, Seemoa Sumasar began dating Jerry Ramrattan in 2006, after he posed as a police detective and private investigator in order to impress her. He moved into her home in 2008 but instead of going to work, he stayed at home and watched shows like CSI and Law and Order on repeat. Their relationship began to crumble about a year later and took a violent turn when he attacked her, taped her mouth shut, and raped her. Sumasar went to the police and refused to drop the charges even when Ramrattan sent friends to threaten her.

What happens next is “A revenge plot so intricate, the prosecutors were pawns”.

One night, Sumasar was pulled over by the police, handcuffed, and told by an officer “You know you did it…. Just admit it”. She was taken to the police station and charged with performing a series of armed robberies. The police claimed they had a wealth of evidence connecting her to the crimes, which included credible witness statements and proof that her car was used as the getaway vehicle. As a result, Sumasar lost her business and her home, was separated from her young daughter and had to come to terms with the fact that while she was sitting in a jail cell for a crime she did not commit, her rapist was free on bail and roaming the streets.

While his scheme was no doubt meticulous, it would not have succeeded if law enforcement hadn’t assumed from the very beginning that Sumasar was guilty or refused to investigate her claims that she was being framed. Had officials decided to take her statements seriously, they would have found that the three  “witnesses” were being paid to participate in the set-up. The New York Times reports that Ramrattan coached the supposed victims to say that a woman identical to Sumasar robbed them and were even shown photographs in order to be able to pick her out of a line-up. Another “witness” came forward, claiming that he saw all of the digits from Sumasar’s car as it drove away from the scene and that he overheard the robbers use nicknames associated to Sumasar and a former boyfriend.

Shortly before Sumasar was scheduled to go to trial, the case fell apart when a witness confessed to police that their story was false.  Ramrattan is currently awaiting trial and is making the claim that all of this is part of Sumasar’s scheme to set him up. Sumasar is planning on suing the police department for presuming that a woman without prior criminal convictions was guilty, despite evidence that proves otherwise, and for refusing to investigate her claims against a man who was accused of a violent sexual crime.

Over and over again, we see the burden of proof placed upon victims of sexual violence. In this case, the proof was on the victim’s side and yet it was completely ignored. If not for the witness coming forward, Sumasar never would have stood a chance. Scary how our justice system works sometimes, isn’t it?

Clare’s Law: Instilling A False Sense of Security

British couple Clare Wood and George Appleton met through Facebook in 2007. Throughout their relationship, she was the victim of severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Clare eventually ended the relationship but Appleton continued to harass her and ultimately took her life in 2009.  It appears that Clare was not the first and only woman abused at the hands of Appleton and his history of violence against women was documented and acknowledged by the British police.  As a result of Clare’s death at the hands of a man with a proven record of violence, a new bill has been proposed in her name that would inform women about the violent pasts of their partners. That way, women like Clare would be able to make informed choices about whether or not to continue in their relationship.

While those advocating for this bill may have the best intentions, it will not in any way hamper the ability of a perpetrator to exercise violence and may actually do more harm than good.

For example, imagine this. You meet a really cute guy who brings you flowers, holds open the car, picks up the dinner check, and even lets you choose what movie to watch at the theatre. As weeks go by, someone convinces you to check his background with the police… you know, “just in case”. They tell you that he does actually have a record on file for a violent crime committed against a woman. By this time, it’s probably too late. Your feelings are strong and its gotten way more serious than you had thought. Besides, it’s probably not what you think, right? Now that you think about it, he did mention once that he had an evil ex who didn’t ever let him see the kids. She was probably the one who started the fight and he was just defending himself. Or at least, that’s what he would want you to think.

Perpetrators of domestic violence are manipulative and controlling, and Clare’s Law completely underestimates the hold they have over their victims. Making past history available isn’t necessary going to stop new abuse from forming. By the time victims realize that they should have listened to the police, leaving the relationship isn’t as clean cut as one would hope.

This leads me to the second problem I have with Clare’s Law. We live in a society where victim blaming is the name of the game, and this law will only exacerbate that problem. If a woman is warned about her partner, but she is convinced that he’s changed or things will be different this time, imagine how much more intense the victim blaming will be when she finally reports the assault. “She knew about him all along!” “What did she expect? History was bound to repeat itself!” The list goes on and on. This shift of responsibility from perpetrator to potential victim is the very thing we are trying to end and unfortunately, this law makes it harder for us to do so.

Lastly, I can’t help but think this law is going to lure women into some type of false sense of security. Rather than learning to listen and trust their own intuition, women will instead rely on the police to help them make decisions regarding their perspective suitors. What about the individuals who, for some reason or another, were not eligible to be included on this list despite previous violent incidences? And what about those who have yet to become violent or whose crimes have gone unreported? This reliance on official agencies and systems is simply far too dangerous and cannot be an effective strategy to end domestic violence in the long run.

What are your thoughts about Clare’s Law? Does it impeded upon civil liberties or is it a necessary step to protect the lives of women? Should the United States propose a similar law?

What Is It Going To Take?

It’s been a little over a week since the body of 18-year-old high-school graduate Lauren Astley was found near Boston, Massachusetts. The young woman’s life seems to have been taken away in an act of domestic violence that occurred after Astley ended a three-year, on and off again relationship with her boyfriend Nathaniel Fujita.  On the night that he allegedly killed her, he bombarded her with text messages and insisted that they meet. She relented and the situation turned fatal. Fujita allegedly stabbed Astley, wrapped bungee cords around her throat and left her body in a marsh. Evidence has been found connecting Fujita with the incident and he was recently arrested and charged with the young woman’s murder.

While it is not common for these types of relationships to end in murder, teen dating violence is anything but rare. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is estimated that 1 in 3 high school relationships involve some sort of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Despite such a high frequency of abuse taking place in teen relationships, it is not being given the attention that it deserves. What is it going to take for us to take this problem seriously? How many more women will lose their self-esteem, their focus in school, their friends and family, and even their lives due to intimate partner violence? Never mind- don’t answer that. I almost don’t want to know.

Many teens, as well as their parents, don’t believe that teen dating violence can happen to them. They believe that relationships are too casual at their age to incite the kind of emotional intensity that results in violence. Boy, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The pressures and hardships facing teens today are greater than those faced by any other generation. And with the advent of the technological age, where almost every teen has access to Facebook and cell phones, dating abuse is happening in ways we may not even recognize. For example, a survey performed by Love is Respect found that one-third of teens report receiving 10, 20 or even 30 controlling text messages an hour from their partner, asking where they are and who they’re with.

When addressing teen dating violence, one cannot understate the importance of prevention. The right time to start talking to teens about healthy relationships is before the relationship even forms. Adults need to promote the idea that kids shouldn’t be violent or controlling with anyone and that everyone deserves respect. We also need to make teens, parents and teachers aware of the warning signs associated with a dangerous relationship. Aside from cuts and bruises, signs of abuse also take the form of a lack of focus in school, low self-esteem, frequent mood swings, estrangement from family and friends, and even depression.

The best way to provide teens with help is to keep an open line of communication. Not only will this help your children recognize the potential risk, but it will also create a safe space where they may feel comfortable sharing if they feel as though they are in harms way.  Besides creating a dialogue at home, you can also make an appointment to meet with your school principal and ask that some type of dating violence curriculum be implemented. Research shows that this helps reduce the risk of teen dating violence.

Let’s make today the day that we make ending teen dating violence a priority.

The Strauss-Kahn Effect

The Strauss-Kahn Effect (n.)- The phenomenon in which rape victims all around the world have become more fearful of reporting their experiences as a result of the treatment of the victim in the case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Prosecutors in the case against Strauss-Kahn believe they have discovered inconsistencies in the victim’s story which may force the case to be thrown out and the charges dropped. As it turns out, Strauss-Kahn decided to hire his own private investigators who found out that the woman made a phone call to a man in prison for drug violations and discussed with him possible financial gains to be made from her case against the Frenchman. The woman has also come under scrutiny for questions regarding the circumstances that have brought her to seek asylum in the United States but was she really left any choice? The woman hails from one of the poorest countries on earth was found to have lied in order to get on with her life. And that is cause for the case to get dropped why…?

As more details about the woman who accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault have began to leak, her credibility has been attacked and her name tarnished in media outlets across the globe. Women’s groups warn, and rightfully so, that such campaigns against the New York hotel worker may make other sexual assault victims more hesitant to come forward out of fear that they will receive the same treatment.

The idea that only women with a perfect past and a tidy lifestyle will be able to bypass the scrutiny that comes alongside the reporting of a sexual crime causes a chilling effect that will not only prevent justice from being served, but will keep women from receiving the help and support they so greatly need and deserve.

The fact of the matter is that rape can happen to everyone and the “type” of individual it happens to does not make it any less of a crime. Sexual crimes are committed against prostitutes, illegal immigrants, gang members, as well as to you and to me. The belief that one’s tarnished past makes the crimes committed against them any less real or any more deserved sends the message that unless you are flawless, be prepared for the fight to get ugly and your reputation tarnished in the process.

How can we ensure that the accused is the one on trial and not the victim? Is there a way to make victims feel more comfortable coming forward? Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Next Door Thanks Our Community Investors!

 

Next Door garners a $10,000 grant from the WD Foundation

The Western Digital Foundation has granted Next Door $10,000 for its Children & Youth Program. Next Door has been receiving support from the WD Foundation for over 5 years and is very lucky to partner with the WD Foundation for another year. Its support of Next Door’s Children & Youth Program is integral to the operation of its Kid’s Club Program, which fosters emotional resiliency in children ages 5-12 who have been impacted by domestic violence; its HomeSafe Academic Program, which provides individual tutoring and group homework help to children and youth who reside at the HomeSafe Transitional Living Sites in San Jose and Santa Clara; and its Youth Leadership Forum, which will create two educational and outreach campaigns about Teen Dating Violence in San Jose.

 

Lockheed Martin Employees Foundation Grants $11,000 to Next Door

The Lockheed Martin Employees’ Foundation has recently granted Next Door $11,000 for the general operations of its programs. General operating support is vitally important to Next Door as it allows the funds to be distributed wherever there is most need. Patti Voshall, who leads the Lockheed Martin Employees Foundation, said that supporting the safety of women and children is of vital importance to our community. Next Door wholeheartedly agrees and is eternally grateful for the many years of support that Ms. Voshall and the Lockheed Martin Employees Foundation has provided over these past many years.

 

The David & Lucile Packard Foundation awards Next Door a Two Year, $60,000 Grant

The David & Lucile Packard Foundation this past month granted Next Door a two year, $60,000 grant for Next Door’s general operations. This funding comes from the Packard Foundation’s Local Grantmaking Fund, which funds essential needs of disadvantaged individuals in Santa Clara County and beyond. This funding is vital to the operation of Next Door’s programs and allows Next Door to further leverage this funding to gain further support from other local and regional funders. On behalf of the women and children that Next Door serves, we express our sincerest thanks in a time of great need.

 

Next Door receives $6,000 from the Mission City Community Fund

Next Door has been honored once again by the Mission City Community Fund, which has supported Next Door for more than eight years. Mission City is an all volunteer run agency that supports Santa Clara residents in need and has been providing support to non profit agencies since 1986. Mission City this past year provided funding that will directly support residents of Santa Clara who enter Next Door’s 24-hour Shelter.
Thank you Mission City Community Fund!

 

Next Door receives $35,000 from SanDisk

Next Door has been honored with a $35,000 grant from SanDisk. SanDisk, which has been funding Next Door since 2003, granted funds to support Next Door’s Advocacy programs. These programs include Next Door’s award winning legal services, its Language Bank of 26 languages and its Crisis Intervention Advocacy, which provides emergency services, safety planning, and referrals to Next Door and other community services for walk-in clients at Next Door’s Community Office. We applaud SanDisk for the long term commitment to the issue of domestic violence and are humbled by their consistent and generous support of our mission.

 

Yahoo! Employee Foundation grants Next Door $22,283

Recognizing the need for around-the-clock emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children in San Jose, the Yahoo! Employee Foundation granted Next Door’s 24-hour Emergency Shelter $22,283 for the up and coming fiscal year. Funds will be used to provide safety planning and case management to women and their children who come to the Shelter sometimes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, having been forced to suddenly and abruptly flee their homes in fear for their lives. This is the third year in a row that the Yahoo! Employee Foundation has supported Next Door.  We are forever grateful for their ongoing and vital support.

 

Knight Foundation presents Next Door with $30,000 grant

The John L. and James S. Knight Foundation granted Next Door a $30,000 grant this past week in support of Next Door’s digital literacy programs. A majority of these funds will support Next Door’s newest program – the POWER Program, which will cultivate in 8 San Jose teens the leadership skills and digital literacy skills necessary to allow them to create educational campaigns that address teen dating violence in their communities. One of these campaigns will use social media like Facebook or texting to reach their peers to educate them about dating violence. Knight Foundation funds will also help clients learn how to avoid cyberstalking.

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