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CSA: Pedophiles and pimps score at large sporting events like Super Bowl XLVI


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CSA: Caught By a Predator: Woman Speaks Out 10 Years After Her Abduction


January 5, 2002



January 2012


by Luke Gilkerson

His sweaty hand squeezed her hand tightly as they made the five-hour drive to his home, saying things like, “Shut up. Be good. The trunk’s cleaned out for you.” Terrified, 13-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz wondered how she might escape or if she would live to see her family again. Finally, late that night, Scott Tyree arrived with his captive at his home in Herndon, Virginia. He escorted her to his cold basement. There she could see sadistic devices hanging on the wall. And over the next several days Tyree would rape her, beat her, and share images of his new sex slave to his buddies over the Internet.

It has been 10 years since Tyree abducted Alicia outside her home on New Year’s Day, 2002. As she told me the details of her story, she never once said his name. She only referred to him as “the monster.” She recounted for me the details of her four-day-long nightmare.

But for Alicia, the story doesn’t begin the day of her abduction. It begins months earlier in a chat room. Parents, you won’t want to miss what she has to say.

Groomed for Abduction

Earlier in 2001, Alicia met “Christine,” a red-haired 14-year-old girl, online. They became very close, sharing secrets, problems, and girlhood crushes. To the lonely, bored Alicia, Christine represented what she really wanted in a good friend. Even after finding out that “Christine” was really a 31-year-old man named John, this only shook her for a few hours before continuing communication with him. After all, he had been a good friend to her, hadn’t he?

John introduced Alicia to Scott Tyree. He too was thoughtful, gentle, courteous, and respectful. He seem to be there for her, waiting on the other end of her computer whenever she needed him. If she got in a fight with her mom, Tyree was there to take her side. If she got a bad grade, Tyree was there to validate her intelligence. When she got in a fight with friends at school, he was there to be a friend when it seemed no one else was. Slowly, for over half a year, Tyree played on Alicia’s teenage vulnerabilities until she was convinced she needed him.

As time went on, Tyree introduced more and more sexual topics into their online conversations. She began parroting back to him the things she thought he wanted to hear. Words were exchanged. Photos were sent. At times they would instant message each other through the night. Facilitated by the anonymity of the Internet, bit by bit Tyree chiseled away at Alicia’s inhibitions.

The process is called grooming. “Grooming is essentially brainwashing,” Alicia told me. “It is taking you apart bit by bit, and putting you back together into who this person wants you to be.” Grooming is “a premeditated behavior intended to secure the trust and cooperation of children prior to engaging in sexual conduct,” says Dr. Raymond Choo, Senior Lecturer at the University of Southern Australia. Offenders, he says, “take a particular interest in their child victim to make them feel special,” and then over time introduce a sexual element to the relationship, desensitizing the child to sexual topics and behavior.

Grooming is something child predators have done since before the days of the World Wide Web, but as Alicia sadly learned, the Internet has become another medium for predators to groom potential victims.

The Million-to-One Rescue

“He was very abusive and extremely sadistic,” Alicia shared with me. “He was an absolute monster: the kind you would watch in a horror movie. He was terrifying and completely overpowering in every single way.”

The morning of January 4, Alicia was chained to the floor with a leather collar around her neck. Before leaving for work at Computer Associates International, Tyree looked into her eyes and said, “Alicia, I’m beginning to like you too much. Tonight we’re going to go for a ride.” Alicia believed this would be the last day of her life.

But Tyree had made one fatal error. The night of her abduction, shortly after arriving home, Tyree posted an instant message to an online friend in Tampa, Florida: “I got one.” He then posted a picture of Alicia using his webcam. At first the man believed it was fake, but later went to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website and found a story about a missing girl along with Alicia’s photo. He knew then Tyree was serious. Later Tyree sent images of Alicia with her arms bound above her head, being beaten, and she was crying.

The Florida man called the FBI the evening of January 3 from a payphone, saying he had information about a missing girl. The next morning the informant called back and gave investigator’s Tyree’s Yahoo screen name: “masterforteenslavegirls.” Using this information, investigators reached a Yahoo vice president in California requesting the IP (Internet Protocol) address. And after placing a call to Verizon representatives in Texas, at 11:30 a.m. they finally learned his name: Scott William Tyree.

It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Tyree was due home any minute. Alicia remembers the moment she heard the pounding at the door. Frightened and traumatized, she crawled under the bed to hide. “We have guns! We have guns!” she heard. Entering her room they found her, stood her up, and draped her in a coat to cover her nakedness. And then—as she says in her 2007 testimony before Congress—”Then I saw the most beautiful letters in the alphabet—FBI—in bold yellow on the backs of their jackets. And I knew that I was safe.”

Scott Tyree was arrested the same day at his place of employment. He is now serving a 19-year prison sentence.

Could It Happen to Your Kids?

It has been a decade since Alicia’s abduction and rescue. After much therapy and years of healing, Alicia decided to start speaking about her experiences to teens. She’s been in countless classrooms and school assemblies. She’s helped out with educational films for the FBI, Enough is Enough, PBS, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General, to name just a few. She’s taken her message everywhere from Oprah to the U.S. legislators.

Alicia’s story may seem fantastic—like something we might see on Law and Order: SVU or a made-for-TV movie. In many ways it is fantastic, but there are also elements of Alicia’s story that are very typical of online predation.

Alicia knows by experience she is not an anomaly. In her travels to schools all over the country, she has met many teens who, like herself, have started venturing into risky relationships online.

Thanks to research funded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Department of Justice, hundreds of case level interviews have been conducted concerning sexual offenses against minors that started with online encounters. The first wave of this research concerned cases in late 2000 and early 2001 (shortly before Alicia’s own abduction).

  • Like Alicia, who was 13 at the time, most victims (75%) were ages 13-15 years old. None were younger than 12.
  • Like Tyree, most (95%) did not try to pass themselves off as minors online. Some predators (25%) shaved a few years off their true age, but still said they were adults.
  • Like Alicia, most victims (61%) did not come from broken homes, but rather lived with both biological parents.
  • Like Tyree, most offenders (64%) spoke with their victims online for more than a month before meeting face-to-face.
  • Like Alicia, most victims (76%) first meet their offender in a chat room.*
  • Like Tyree, most offenders (80%) brought up sexual topics with their victims online, and in only 21% of cases did the offender lie about their sexual interest in the victim.

One major difference between Alicia’s story and most other cases of predation is the level of brutality and violence. Only 5% of cases 10 years ago involved any violence or the threat of violence, and only 3% involved abduction. In most cases (83%) the victim chose to go somewhere with their offender after meeting face-to-face, and most victims (73%) willingly met with their offender on more than one occasion. In fact, half of the cases involved teens who, after the offender’s arrest, said they still felt close to or in love with their offender. Most cases of online predation are cases of statutory rape.

In other words, as far as her abduction and sadistic rape is concerned, cases like Alicia’s are somewhat rare. But as far as her online interactions with Tyree are concerned, Alicia’s case is a prototype. Most cases of predation are not violent sex crimes, says Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC). “But they are criminal seductions that take advantage of common teenage vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance, adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to encounters that the teens know are sexual in nature with people who are considerably older than themselves.”

Dr. Finkelhor says what puts kids most in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with strangers.  Kids who have a pattern of multiple risky activities online, like meeting lots of people through online text or video chat, are most at risk. Kids must avoid “behaving like an Internet daredevil,” Finkelhor says. Like Alicia, these could be the shy kids looking for someone to meet. Many of them are kids who have a lot of conflicts at home or at school. Many struggle with loneliness or depression. To these kids, a warm, affirming relationship with an adult can seem very attractive. Mix in teenage sexual inquisitiveness, and the disinhibition effect of the Internet, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Beyond Predators: Children Used for Pornography

As I spoke with her, what seemed to be on Alicia’s mind were the countless children who are enduring brutal sexual abuse, at the hands of strangers or (more likely) people they know. She asked me, “If somebody told you that the little girl down the street was being raped, would we do nothing about it?”

Some like Alicia are taken from their homes, trafficked across states or national lines, where they are either used as sex slaves or prostituted in underground brothels. Also like Alicia, images of these children are shared online.

Nonetheless, this kind of sexual brutality is far more commonly committed by perpetrators in a child’s own family or social circle. Researchers at the CCRC state that in spite of all media attention online predators have received, “offenders who victimize children and youth within their families or networks of acquaintances are much more common than those who use the Internet to meet victims.”

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office produced a map showing the locations of half-a-million identified individuals who are trafficking in images of child pornography. Sharing this with me, Alicia was quick to correct this label: “These are actually crime scene images of child rape. I think the term ‘child pornography’ waters it down a bit.” Moreover, one in three dots on the map marks the location of a hands-on child abuser.

This map was introduced as evidence to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. “Law enforcement knows who they are and where they are,” Wasserman Schultz said. “What shocked me the most and what compelled me to get involved in this issue is that due to a lack of resources, law enforcement is investigating less than 2 percent of these known 500,000 individuals.”

This is why Alicia has been traveling throughout the country to convince legislators to pass what has become known as “Alicia’s Law.” Having passed in Virginia and Texas, Alicia is now going after the 48 others states. This law provides law enforcement agencies the resources needed to fight crimes against children, especially when related to trafficking and child pornography.

Alicia has also helped to spearhead the Not One More Child campaign. Hoping for more immediate action, she is petitioning President Obama and the 50 state governors to declare a state of emergency to do something about the untold thousands of kids suffering at the hands of traffickers and child pornographers.

(Our readers can go to and to take action.)

Alicia’s Legacy

“I certainly believe that I was rescued for a reason,” Alicia told me. As my interview with her ended, my heart was heavy, but not nearly as burdened as Alicia felt for the children who have yet to be rescued. More than anyone, she knows something of their nightmare. “They stand beside me,” she said, “the voices who’ve been silenced by fear, by shame, by the grave.”

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CSA: My Daughter was Caught By a Predator: A Word of Warning from One Parent to Another


by Mary Kozakiewicz

Thursday, January 12th, 2012


On New Year’s Day, 2002, my 13-year-old daughter, Alicia, was lured from our Pennsylvania home and stolen to Virginia by a man whom she had been introduced to online. For eight months, this sadistic madman masqueraded as her friend, grooming my daughter, restructuring her thought patterns through coercive mind control, and bypassing those core values which her father and I had labored to deeply ingrain. A 38-year-old computer programmer, father to his own 12 year old daughter, held my little girl captive, chained to the floor by her neck in his basement dungeon as he repeatedly raped and tortured her.

Throughout the entire grooming process, my husband and I were totally clueless, and therefore helpless to circumvent the unfolding tragedy.

Our Lives Before

The night of Alicia’s abduction was blisteringly cold. Outside of our warm family home, redolent of holiday fragrance, the winds raged and whipped snowy ice crystals against the candle-lit windows reflecting our traditional little two-parent two-child family.

It is captured forever in my mind’s eye, this golden moment in time. We were happy, secure–and desperately unprepared for what would follow. To the casual passerby, we would have appeared to be an All-American Norman Rockwell painting, and certainly, that’s what we felt that we were. As with any family, our lives were certainly less than perfection but, to this day, I miss the “us” that we were before January 1, 2002.

Looking back, I treasure my memory of our joined hands; heads bowed in prayer, as we shared those moments we were most thankful for in the year past, and our resolutions for the new.

These were our last moments of grace.

For, in the passage of these ten years, each of us has been irrevocably altered, and our lives overshadowed by the event. One does not survive every parent’s worst nightmare and remain unscathed.

The Nightmare and the Rescue

When Alicia, excusing herself from the dinner table, slipped silently out of our front door and into oblivion, she carried with her the hopes, dreams, and the expectations that for each parent begin the moment our children are born. Hours later, after police reports were made and family members had returned to their own home, we sat curled in terrified misery as through our suddenly silent home, the clock’s tick-tick-ticking counted the seconds of our precious child’s life—and our own—slip-slip-slipping away.

The specialized law enforcement which responded, The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, shared with us in the days that followed that our daughter’s chance of recovery was perhaps a million to one. It would take a miracle…

Nearly hopeless, and brought to our knees us to our knees by grief and exhaustion, we began to do the only thing left to us: we prayed. We prayed for miracles.

And they came.

Days, eternities later, Law Enforcement was able to locate the needle in the haystack that was my daughter, only because the braggart Internet Predator shared Alicia’s abuse and degradation with his fellow pedophilic perverts via streaming online video. Cutting the chains from Alicia’s neck, they returned her to freedom—and to my arms.

Parents Remain Clueless

A decade’s journey behind us, our family has risen from its knees to wage war against online sexual abuse and exploitation. Internet crimes against children have grown exponentially, and no child—or their parents—are safe from these monsters.

When Alicia was lured and abducted, the Internet was in its infancy. Most parents, myself included, knew little to nothing of this new technology that had begun to forever restructure the ways in which humanity would interact with each other. Unbeknownst to parents, schools had begun teaching our children how to surf the net, but were neglecting to teach them how to protect themselves online.

Sadly, today, having presented the Alicia Project Internet Safety and Awareness Program to thousands of children and their parents, we have found that many of them remain as clueless as we were.

This is not acceptable! Parents must educate themselves to the dangers their children are encountering each and every time they set their fingers to the keyboard. The tragedy that Alicia and our family suffered may be on the extreme end of the spectrum, but the danger that every child is constantly exposed to every time he or she goes online is no less damaging. The availability of hardcore porn, which incessantly attacks even the innocent and unsuspecting children as they surf the web, desensitizes them and endangers their future ability to maintain decent loving marriages. Indeed, young people have shared with us their Internet addiction as well as their fear that the Internet has led them to prey on younger children.

So, what can parents do? We can do a lot!

The Sexualization of Our Children

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that, through media, our children are being sexualized far beyond their ability to cope with the psychological ramifications. Subsequently, we must cease to hide behind those psychological defense mechanisms that give a false sense of security.

After Alicia’s recovery, the general public chose to believe that we were poor parents and to place the blame on our family rather than on the predator. Thus, they were able to convince themselves that if we were “bad parents” as compared to their ”good” parenting, then their resultant “good child” was safe. But quite the opposite is true.

The web is a level playing field for predators. Every child—yes, your little prince or princess—is vulnerable. Alicia’s abductor initially began the grooming process by simply being her friend and by giving her seemingly unconditional love, something that any responsible parent setting boundaries and enforcing consequences can rarely compete with.

Therefore, as parents we must strive to communicate with our children in an open and honest manner when discussing the Web and its inherent dangers. Despite the discomfiture we may feel when discussing sexually taboo areas with our children, kids need to know that they can confide in us without our becoming judgmental. Predators will use that same fear and shame as coercion.

On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that, as their safety is our responsibility, nothing should be left to chance. Privacy issues are no argument when the need for monitoring software arises. We lock our doors and our liquor cabinets. We surreptitiously sniff their breath for evidence of cigarettes or alcohol. Logically, if we hold them to geographical boundaries and curfews, we should do so on the Internet highway as well. Remember: it’s their home, but it’s our house and our computer. As such, we have the right to monitor usage.

Also, as parents, we must stand and demand effective legislation to keep our children from the hands of predators; especially those which supply funding and resources for the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, such as Alicia’s namesake, Alicia’s Law. Call your local legislators; ask them what laws they are endorsing to battle child sexual exploitation. Vote accordingly.

All too often I have been asked whether I suffered from feelings of guilt, and my answer has been that I do not. I know that I did everything that I could have to protect Alicia utilizing the information that I had been given at that time.

But I am a mother, and as parents, we are ultimately responsible, aren’t we? I would give anything to have known better, to have saved Alicia from that monster.

Consider this your wake-up call, moms and dads. How will you answer that question?

. . . .

Mary Kozakiewicz is a member of Team HOPE, dedicated to empowering the families of missing children. She is also a member of the Surviving Parents Coalition, advocating for education and legislation that will help to prevent crimes against children. Along with her husband, Charles, and daughter, Alicia, she has participated in Internet Safety films for both Law Enforcement and the private sector.

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CSA: Female Perpetrators & Male Sexual Abuse Victims: Society’s Betrayal of Boys

Female Perpetrators & Male Sexual Abuse Victims: Society’s Betrayal of Boys

by Kali Munro (2002)

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Sexual Violence: DNA expansion draws rave from TV detective


By CASEY SEILER, State editor
Published 10:15 p.m., Thursday, January 5, 2012

ALBANY — Prosecutors refer to it as “the CSI effect”: the expectation of juries schooled on police-procedural TV dramas to the notion that modern forensic technology will be able to identify the guilty based on less evidence than it might take to fill a teaspoon.

Which makes it rather appropriate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s call for an expansion of the state’s DNA database was followed by a statement of support from one of the stars of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“I am so grateful to Gov. Cuomo for his leadership and support on this issue,” wrote Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson on the NBC drama. In 2004, Hargitay founded Joyful Heart, a nonprofit that works with victims of sexual and domestic abuse.

In his Wednesday address, Cuomo called for the creation of an “all-crimes” DNA database that would expand mandatory collection of material from those convicted of felonies as well as all penal law misdemeanors — a spectrum of offenses ranging from to unlawful assembly and public lewdness to first-degree loitering and unlawfully solemnizing a marriage.

The current database, Cuomo noted, has provided leads in over 2,700 convictions and led to 27 exonerations of the wrongfully accused although slightly less than half of all crimes are currently exempt from mandatory DNA collection.

Law-enforcement groups were quick to express support for the expansion. Peter R. Kehoe, executive director of the state Sheriffs’ Association, said the change would allow officers to “efficiently and effectively deliver their services to protect the public, by preventing crimes from ever occurring or making sure those who committed crimes are properly and fairly punished for their actions.”

Civil libertarians, however, said questions remained about the system that would be put in place, and whether the expansion would prove worthwhile when measured against the costs. Any scientific system, they noted, is only as trustworthy as the humans who manage it.

“Sadly, New York isn’t ‘CSI’ and in the real world DNA is not infallible,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. “The possibility for error, fraud and abuse exists at every step from the moment that DNA is collected. We need rigorous quality assurance protocols to ensure the integrity of the state’s DNA databank.

“It’s also critical that forensic evidence is available beyond our state’s DAs,” Lieberman added, “so that innocent New Yorkers wrongly accused or convicted can clear their records.”

Reach Seiler at 454-5619 or

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Sexual Violence: U.S. broadens archaic definition of rape


By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 3:26 PM EST, Fri January 6, 2012
Attorney General Eric Holder says the new definition will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide.
Attorney General Eric Holder says the new definition will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide.

(CNN) — The Justice Department announced Friday it is revising a decades-old definition of rape to expand the kinds of offenses that constitute the crime and for the first time, include men as victims.

Now, any kind of nonconsensual penetration, no matter the gender of the attacker or victim, will constitute rape — meaning that attacks on men will be counted.

The crime of rape will be defined as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim,” a Justice Department statement said.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the new definition will lead to a more comprehensive reporting of rape in the FBI’s annual compilation of crime statistics.

“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with rape victims,” Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”

An FBI advisory panel recently recommended the revision to the antiquated definition, established in 1927.

The law then defined rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That meant that it was only an act of rape if a man forcibly penetrated a woman through her vagina. It excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and non-forcible rape.

Under the old definition, the case of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky — charged with 40 counts in what authorities allege was the sexual abuse of young boys — would not be considered as rape.

“Needless to say we are very pleased that the FBI has agreed to revise its definition used in data collection so it more accurately reflects what the public understands to be rape and what our current criminal statutes say,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, which has been pushing for the definition change.

The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator. It also includes instances in which a victim is incapable of giving consent because of mental or physical incapacity, such as intoxication. Physical resistance is not required to demonstrate lack of consent.

At issue here is how the old definition of rape affected the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system.

Tracey and other advocates, as well as law enforcement officials, have said that the old definition led to under-reporting of rape. That in turn shaped public perceptions of the prevalence of rape and affected federal funding for resources in combating the crime.

Justice and FBI officials said, however, that it could take several years for all 18,000 of the nation’s police agencies to report rape under the new definition.

All reporting to the Uniform Crime Report is voluntary, and state legal codes, resources, and technical capabilities vary widely. Although top officials expect reported forcible rapes eventually to increase from the 84,767 reported in 2010, they declined to offer any estimate of the statistics to be issued for 2011.

“This change will give law enforcement the ability to report more complete rape offense data, as the new definition reflects the vast majority of state rape statutes,” said David Cuthbertson, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services.

“As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics,” he said.

In 2010, the last year for which a final report is available, the FBI reported a forcible rape every 6.2 seconds. With a broader definition, that statistic will probably be even more grim, said Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.

“The problem is much greater than what you have been previously seeing,” she said. “You don’t really know what the problem is. Therefore, you can’t really create solutions to fit.”

The push for a revision started with the Women’s Law Project over a decade ago. Tracey had a letter written to FBI Director Robert Mueller that was slated to be mailed on September 11, 2001.

The terrorist attacks that day changed everything. The FBI’s attention turned to other pressing issues.

Last year, Tracy testified before a congressional committee looking at the failures of police departments to thoroughly investigate rape. She said then that an antiquated, narrow definition of rape was a harmful disservice to countless victims.

Friday, she thanked Justice and White House officials who listened. Among them was Vice President Joe Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act.

“Rape is a devastating crime and we can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” Biden said Friday. “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”

Kim Gandy, vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, called the revision a “major policy change” that “will dramatically impact the way rape is tracked and reported nationwide.”

Tracey, however, noted that the change is about data collection and that America has a long way to go in tackling rape.

“We still need to improve police practices and rid society of the stereotypes about rape victims,” she said. “This is one important change but not the only change that’s needed.”

CNN’s Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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CSA: Speaking out about staying silent

By Donna Jenson

December 14, 2011

When I was 8 years old, I never knew which night my father would come into my room. When he was done with me, he’d always say, “You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.” Petrified and ashamed, believing his threat, I never told anybody. This secret stayed buried in a dirt pile at the back of my brain. For 40 years. But now I tell. I started telling a few years before each of my parents died.

My silence had layers. The first layer was fear. The second got formed from believing it was somehow my fault; this wouldn’t happen to a “good” child. Another was shame for having come from a family that would abuse and not protect its children.

In sexual assaults, there are victims, offenders and bystanders. Bystanders are those who know or suspect something is wrong. Today Coach Joe Paterno is our nation’s most famous bystander. If I could speak directly to him, I would say, “Carpe diem, Coach Paterno! Seize the day. One hell of an opportunity lies before you. Step up to the microphones and cameras; face those thousands of adoring Penn State students who are outraged at your being fired and say, ‘Stop worrying about me. I got fired because I didn’t do everything I could have to protect those boys. Because I didn’t do everything I should have to stop a man from harming them. Take this energy you’re spending on me and use it to change the world so this doesn’t happen to your children.'”

Everyone who has heard about this tragedy is now a bystander.

In the aftermath of the Penn State earthquake I’m thinking about the 39 million people in our country who’ve been sexually assaulted (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And thinking about the kids who are going to be abused today and tomorrow makes my pen stop and my brain freeze. Someone’s going to be sexually abused for the very first time today and we’re living in a world that can’t keep it from happening.

There are bystanders who don’t want survivors to tell, who can’t endure the awful exposure of people they love, trust or know — present or past. My family has responded in all the ways one can imagine — some believe and support me — some are angry I told and shun me — the rest are stunned to silence.

Telling brings a freedom that’s palpable. For me it’s been a release from a coat of armor glued to my skin and a rusty chain wrapped around my heart. All keeping the very best of me locked away.

The majority of survivors haven’t told yet, haven’t felt safe enough, supported enough or connected enough to tell just one person how they were harmed. The culture’s got a lock on keeping these secrets. Nothing will change as long as the truth is locked away.

Why has this Penn State fiasco stirred up such a maelstrom of attention and outrage in our culture? It appears much larger than the public reaction to the very same thing that’s been happening in the Catholic Church. Could sports be a higher religion in our country?

Whatever the reason, I am sorrowfully glad it is so. A window of opportunity has opened in our airwaves and around our kitchen tables.

I’m calling out to everyone who’s disturbed, enraged and confused by all the stories coming out of Penn State, wondering what you could possibly do to help. You can help. You can make a difference. Unlock the secrets with your listening. There is power in the simple act of listening. Silence gets broken when two things happen: Survivors tell and the people they tell listen.

The Penn State aftershocks are bringing painful reminders to countless survivors. Some will be moved to speak, some for the first time. Get ready to listen. It’s the first step. Thirty-nine million of us are sitting on a vast morass of truth. Believe it. The sooner our country gets to that truth to see how wide and deep it is — the sooner we can start figuring out together how to prevent it from happening over and over, again and again.

Donna Jenson, the founder of Time to Tell, is the author and performer of “What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest.”


Sexual Violence: FBI Will Update Its Definition of Rape


FBI Director Robert Mueller has announced that the agency will update its definition of rape, taking effect in the spring of 2012. The FBI currently defines rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” As we have noted before, experts consider this definition to be too narrow, and it leads to the under-reporting of thousands of sexual assaults across the U.S. each year.

An FBI advisory board voted on December 6 to expand the definition of rape and sent the final decision on to Director Mueller. While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller explained his support for updating the definition:

“That definition was in some ways unworkable, certainly not applicable—fully applicable—to the types of crimes that it should cover.”

The new definition states that rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In updating its terminology, the FBI removed the requirement that a rape involve force and expanded its reach beyond only female victims.

The updated definition of rape will allow local law enforcement agencies to report more sexual assaults to the federal government. In turn, the Uniform Crime Report, the FBI’s annual report on crime statistics, will give a more accurate picture of sexual violence that is reported throughout the country.

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Sexual Violence: Supportive Steps After a Sexual Assault


Published: December 19, 2011

Do you know what to do if you or someone close to you becomes the victim of a sexual assault? A national survey released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that sexual assaults are far more common than previously believed, with nearly one woman in five reporting that she had been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

Ideally, anyone who has been forced into a sexual act should be seen within 24 hours at a hospital emergency room where a specially trained team provides medical care and counseling, collects high-quality forensic evidence and supports often terrified victims who may — or may not — choose to pursue legal action.

Unless you already know the best place to go, call a rape crisis hot line, regardless of the nature of the assault and even if the attack occurred days or weeks earlier. There’s a hot line in every community, according to Dr. Judith A. Linden, an emergency physician at Boston University School of Medicine, where she treats victims and trains medical personnel how to be sensitive and thorough in examining people who have been sexually assaulted.

You can find the nearest rape crisis treatment center, as well as free confidential information, support and referrals, by contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673), or online at, the Web site of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Throughout the United States, mainly in metropolitan areas, there are about 650 centers at which a sexual assault nurse examiner or sexual assault response team provides services that not only offer proper care of victims but also increase the “likelihood that charges are filed and successfully prosecuted,” Dr. Linden wrote recently in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Her article was intended to help doctors who may not have received specialized training perform a proper examination that can minimize trauma for victims of sexual assault and increase the likelihood that perpetrators will be apprehended.

Whether the assailant was a stranger or, as occurs in 80 percent of cases, an acquaintance or relative, there are likely to be prior and future victims. On average, Dr. Linden said in an interview, sexual predators commit seven offenses before they are caught and imprisoned.

Preserving Evidence

The goal, then, is to get these criminals off the streets as quickly as possible, which can happen only if good forensic examinations are done and victims decide to file charges.

“Unfortunately, it can take two years for a case to move through the legal process,” said Rebecca Campbell, a psychologist at Michigan State University who studies sexual assault. During that time, victims may have to tell their stories over and over again, which can prevent them from putting the trauma behind them and getting on with their lives.

It is entirely up to the victim of a sexual assault whether to report it to the police, which can be done weeks or even months after the attack. Even if she thinks at the time that she wants only medical help and time to heal, she might change her mind later. Should that happen, the National Center for the Victims of Crime urges a course of action that best preserves evidence that could lead to apprehension and conviction of the assailant.

The center advises that before evidence collection by a trained professional, victims should not use the restroom; shower, bathe or douche; brush their teeth or gargle; brush or comb their hair; eat or drink anything; clean up the crime scene, or throw away clothes worn during the attack.

But, Dr. Linden said, “there’s the ideal, and there’s reality.”

In one case, she said, even after a woman who was orally assaulted had vomited, brushed her teeth and drunk something, “good DNA evidence that led to the perpetrator was obtained by swabbing behind her ears.”

In another case, the doctor obtained DNA from a woman’s breast, where the attacker had licked her.

As soon as possible after an attack, victims are advised to write down everything they remember about it: the circumstances under which it occurred; the appearance, special odor or other characteristics of the assailant (like a limp or a lisp, evidence of intoxication or words spoken); and the nature of the attack and whether the assailant used a weapon or verbal threat.

Although juries often look for an injury as evidence that sex was not consensual, Dr. Linden said that injuries occur in fewer than half of attacks. A woman is unlikely to fight if the assailant has a weapon. Even with no weapon, “the risk of injury is greater if the victim fights back,” she said. “There’s no right answer.”

Help From an Advocate

Many emergency rooms now have on call a staff of trained volunteers called sexual assault advocates whose job is “to protect a victim’s health and well-being and make sure her rights are respected,” Dr. Campbell said.

The advocate stays with the victim in the emergency room and, if needed, through the legal process. At each step, the advocate explains what is going to happen and why, what information is confidential and what is not, and which questions the victim does not have to answer.

If legal action is pursued, “the advocate may be able to intercede so the victim won’t have to repeat the same story 20 different times,” Dr. Campbell said.

The advocate must remain neutral, however, and support the victim’s decision whether to file a police report.

Advocates come from all walks of life. Some are college students; others never graduated from high school. Some are survivors of sexual assaults or know someone who was a victim. Others just want to do something good for their communities.

Among the latter is Samantha Reiser, a 22-year-old graduate of Harvard University now working as a paralegal in Manhattan. Ms. Reiser said she had taken a course in violence against women and spent a summer teaching in Namibia, where one of her students had been raped. Recognizing a need back home, she decided to become trained as a sexual assault advocate.

The 40-hour course at Bellevue Hospital includes firsthand information from a wide range of perspectives, including social workers, detectives from the special victims unit, an assistant district attorney, sex workers, survivors of assaults and working advocates.

Once she is certified, her commitment is to be on call a minimum of twice a month for a minimum of 18 months.

“It’s heavy stuff to deal with, but what I learn and do really matters to women, and everyone involved values what we’re doing,” Ms. Reiser said.

Anyone interested in becoming an advocate can contact a local rape crisis center or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at (877) 739-3895 or

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Sexual Violence: Fighting Sexual Assault, One Tweet at a Time

(Photo via

BY Sady Doyle
Web Only// Features » December 22, 2011

One of the gifts of the Internet is that it can make local or fringe stories into big, international ones.

When a history of 21st-century feminist activism is someday written, 2011 may be labeled Year Rape Broke. Sexual assault and harassment have, of course, always been key feminist concerns. But in 2011, sexual violence, exploitation, or intimidation were part of nearly every major story that fell under the heading of “women’s issues”–and the activism against it has been particularly widespread, focused and effective.

As we enter this renaissance of sexual assault awareness, it’s worth considering the ways in which new media has informed it–and, indeed, perhaps even made it possible.

The major sexual-assault headlines of the year are easy to name. The pushback to HR3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” act, was spurred by its redefinition of rape to include only “forcible” assaults. Journalist Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while covering the Egyptian revolution. The Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape allegations dominated the headlines for most of the summer. The once front-running Republican Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, dropped out of the race after his personal history surfaced; that history included several harassment complaints and one allegation of sexual assault.

But where there has been ugliness, there has also been substantial and effective pushback. The “Rape is Rape” campaign, started by Ms. Magazine, got the FBI to change an unreasonably narrow definition of rape that had not been touched since 1929. And the biggest feminist protest movement in years, SlutWalk–which has sparked copious press coverage everywhere from Feministing to The New York Times, and which has staged marches around the globe–was sparked by a Toronto police officer’s off-hand comment that women who didn’t want to get raped (which, one would think, is all of them) should avoid “dressing like sluts.”

Rape has become central to the feminist discourse again in 2011, much as the question of whether we could have a female president became central again in 2008. While there are several compelling arguments as for how this happened–for one, this was simply a year in which an unusually large number of high-powered men were accused of sexual misconduct or violence–one of them often goes unnoticed and uncredited. That is to say, feminists may simply be more aware of misogyny and sexual violence because it is more easily visible online.

Much of the especially virulent misogyny online is produced by self-anointed “men’s rights activists,” or MRAs. Writer David Futrelle started his blog Manboobz in September 2010 to monitor and mock them.

“At the time, I actually didn’t realize just how misogynistic these guys were,” Futrelle told me in an e-mail. “I found myself reading blog posts on how women didn’t deserve the right to vote, how the solution to domestic violence is for men to hit women harder than women hit them, how men built civilization while women sat on their lazy asses. It was, not to get too hokey about it, a sort of voyage of discovery for me.”

It’s also a voyage of discovery for his readers, who are able to actually see the different forms that virulent misogyny can take–from claiming that Lara Logan lied about her assault to giving tips on how to pay homeless women for sex. Futrelle’s dissection of these unappetizing blog posts is a public service: It’s hard to claim that we live in a post-sexist society when visible examples of blatant sexism are being pointed out on a daily basis.

This is one of the gifts of the Internet: It can make local or fringe stories into big, international ones. Whereas someone looking to educate herself about rape in 1991 would have to rely on books, and whatever made the local or national papers, someone looking for the same information in 2011 can simply enter “rape” into Google news, and see fresh rape statistics the unfolding rape case of a University of Oklahoma professor, and several discussions of the rape scenes in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” among many other stories.

Feminists who hope to raise awareness of sexual violence, in turn, can pull from these stories when educating themselves or making their arguments. On my own Twitter and Facebook feeds, I can see several stories that look small but which actually serve to demonstrate both the pervasiveness of sexual violence, and the existence of resistance to it: The college blog network Campus Basement posts an article “jokingly” giving a list of instructions for date rape, and it is taken down almost immediately due to feminist pushback. After the hashtag #itaintrapeif trends worldwide it’s covered by Jezebel, the counter-hashtag #RapeIsNotAJoke is formed, and it’s drowned out in protest by the end of the day. The existence of misogyny online can, indeed, pose an actual threat to female or feminist bloggers, as I have noted. But, if recent history has anything to say about it, feminists online are forming a variety of very effective strategies to counter it when necessary.

Activists can also harness the Internet to make visible the sorts of everyday violence that all too often go unreported. Emily May’s Hollaback! is an organization aimed at ending street harassment, which allows women to upload phone camera shots or accounts of street harassment to specific city-based websites, thereby creating a highly visible record of how common and extreme it can be.

“Social media is best at storytelling, and storytelling is what catalyzes social change,” May told me. “Now we don’t have to wait for the media to pay attention to our stories, we can tell our stories to over 1,000 people within minutes… I think social media is going to allow our generation to take on day to day discrimination in a big way by shifting our experiences from isolating to sharable.”

It’s not only the experiences of oppression or sexual violence that have become sharable: It’s the precise shape of the attitude that allows and creates those experiences, as in the case of #itaintrapeif, which was nothing if not a public archive of pro-sexual assault sentiments. Despite the undeniable headache induced by having to see the stuff in one’s Twitter feed, this may be a strange blessing. This generation is fighting against sexual assault harder than ever–and that is at least in part because they have more information than ever about what it is they have to fight.

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