Monthly Archives: July 2013

Yesterday, the FBI announced that it broke up a major, nationwide child sex trafficking ring. There were 150 arrests, and 105 children were rescued…three of those children were from Maine.


From the Bangor Daily News:

3 Mainers among victims in child prostitution sweep

BANGOR, Maine — An FBI spokesman confirmed Monday that three of the child prostitution victims rescued during a nationwide three-day weekend sweep are from Maine.

The three victims were found in the same Maine community, Special Agent Greg Comcowich of the FBI Public Affairs office in Boston said late Monday afternoon.

Comcowich, however, said that the bureau is not releasing any additional information at this time, including the victim’s ages and sexes or if anyone from Maine has been charged.

“It’s a very sensitive issue. Because [the victims] are juveniles, we’re releasing very little information,” Comcowich said.

“What we can say is that the real driving force behind [the Maine cases] was the local police department. They’ve asked us not to identify them and we are respecting that,” he said.

According to Reuters, the FBI arrested 150 people across the United States on charges of holding children against their will for prostitution, a three-day weekend sweep that officials on Monday called the largest-ever operation against child sex trafficking.

The suspects, whom the FBI referred to as “pimps,” were arrested in 76 U.S. cities and are expected to face state and federal charges related to sex crimes and human trafficking, FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials said at a news conference, Reuters reported on Monday.

The news agency said that FBI agents and local police recovered 105 children during the operation at truck stops, motels, casinos and other places where they were forced to work as prostitutes.

The FBI said the suspects were not part of the same operation. It said some belonged to organized crime while others acted alone. The bureau did not immediately release a list of the suspects.

The FBI typically does not investigate adult prostitution, leaving it as a state and local matter, but in recent years it has made child prostitution a priority in a program the FBI calls Operation Cross Country. The program includes highway billboards asking people to call the FBI with tips.

About 1,350 people have been convicted as part of the program and at least 10 of them were sentenced to life in prison, officials said.

The latest sweep was the seventh and largest under Operation Cross Country, they said.

Child prostitution is a growing problem in Maine, law enforcement officials said in 2012.

“Traffickers will come up from Atlantic City, Boston and New York and essentially trick these girls into working for them,” Portland police Sgt. Tim Ferris said last year.

Sexual assault & social media

Fantastic, must read article via The Daily Beast.


When Rape Goes Viral: Social media is forcing Americans to confront the scourge of sexual assault more openly and honestly than ever before—even as it also destroys the lives of individual victims. The horrific Catch-22 of rape in the Internet age.

By Ann Friedman

I was raped at an off-campus event,” Kelsey (not her real name), who just finished her freshman year at University of California, Berkeley, tells me. She tentatively chooses the word and drags out the first letter: “rrrrraped.” She never reported the assault.

About a week later in her dorm, a group of students was clustered around a guy holding a phone. “A bunch of my floormates had gone to a party,” says Kelsey. “There was a video of him, very drunk and laughing, and fingering a girl who was very drunk and crying. And everyone on my floor was gathered around the phone watching this video and laughing about it.” She was horrified. “When I said something, I was told to shut up and f–k off and it wasn’t my business.”

This wasn’t the guy who had raped Kelsey, and she didn’t know the girl in the video. But “it was really similar to my situation,” she says. “I just kind of put myself in her position and imagined: what if everyone in my perpetrator’s dorm is doing the exact same thing?”

She says she went to a school administrator, who was sympathetic and asked Kelsey to get her hands on a copy of the video. But because Kelsey had already expressed her outrage, none of her classmates would forward it to her. She says she tried to follow up with the administrator a few more times, but nothing much happened. Of course, it’s certainly possible that action was taken behind the scenes, without Kelsey’s knowledge. But at least as far as she knows, the student “didn’t face any repercussions for his actions at all.”

Kelsey is one of the anonymous plaintiffs in a national complaint against the Department of Education and several universities for violating students’ civil rights by failing to thoroughly investigate reports of crime on campus, and for failing to follow the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges to keep accurate crime statistics. (Janet Gilmore, spokeswoman for UC-Berkeley, says the university has yet to see the complaint, but “we care very much about this issue and work hard to encourage students to report sexual assaults. We thoroughly investigate these cases and work with surviving students to ensure they are getting the counseling, support, and any additional care they may need.”) But even though Kelsey is deeply engaged in activism surrounding the issue of rape, she’s also been very private about her own experience as a victim. Right now, she’s home for the summer, and her parents still don’t know that she was assaulted. She feels incredibly lucky that she didn’t end up like the girl in the video her floormates watched: the victim not only of a sexual assault but of a gross affront to her privacy.

And yet, even as she seeks to maintain privacy about her assault, she says she wishes morepeople would have seen the video of the crying woman being attacked. Assuming the university failed to act, perhaps the release of the video would have changed that. “If the video had gotten published or something, maybe the university would have actually done something if it would have tarnished their reputation,” Kelsey says. “There’s a history of sexual assault and harassment being swept under the rug to make the campus look like a perfect and safe place, and it’s difficult but I feel like if something would have happened with this video …” She trails off, and corrects herself: “It isn’t even about the video though. It’s that it happened and the university didn’t do anything.”

In a way, though, it is kind of about the video—and the stark dilemma it created. That video—grotesque as it was—probably represented the best hope for shaming people into taking strong action in this case. It was also, however, a vicious weapon that if widely circulated could have ruined a young woman’s life.

Both of those outcomes have repeatedly proved to be consequences of our hypersocial digital culture. As social media has become enmeshed in the lives of young people—and a fair number of not-so-young people—so has the widespread sharing of information about specific sexual assaults, especially video and photos. In recent years, a half-dozen high-profile sexual-assault cases have centered around photos or video of the crime that were shared on social media. In 2010, a 16-year-old girl was drugged at a rave in Vancouver and violently raped by a half-dozen men while a bystander snapped photos and later uploaded them to Facebook. Soon the whole school had seen photos of what was undoubtedly one of the worst experiences of her young life. This past April, a 17-year-old named Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life in Nova Scotia. A year and a half earlier, Parsons had been gang-raped at a party and harassed about it on Facebook.

Probably the most notorious incident occurred in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012. There, two high school football players and a handful of bystanders took photos and tweeted about the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl who had passed out at a party.

Then there was the case of 15-year-old Audrie Pott. In September of last year, Pott told her parents she was sleeping over at a friend’s house in her hometown of Saratoga, California, on the western edge of Silicon Valley. Instead, she went to a party where she drank so much vodka and Gatorade that she passed out in a bedroom and woke up to find her body written on with a Sharpie—someone had scrawled his name and “was here” on her leg, like graffiti on a bathroom stall. Her shorts were off. She had no memory of what happened. The next day, photos of her naked body made the rounds on Facebook.

“I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember, and the whole school knows,” she messaged a friend on Facebook. It wasn’t just that she had been physically violated and still wasn’t sure what had happened to her. Now even her classmates who weren’t in the room had seen an intimate part of her body. And they were taunting her about it. In another message, she wrote, “My life is ruined. I can’t do anything to fix it.” She didn’t tell her parents what had happened, and she didn’t go to school authorities. She certainly didn’t press charges.

Instead, one week after she woke up in that bedroom after the party, she hanged herself in her bathroom. At the time of her funeral, her parents still had no idea that their daughter had been assaulted. But over the next few days, the story started to come out. Classmates came forward with anecdotes and names. Eventually, three 16-year-old boys were charged with sexual battery and distribution of child pornography.

Social media can offer victims a path to legal relief by, in effect, creating more witnesses.

What all these stories have in common is a wrenching Catch-22 at their core. For decades, the challenge facing anti-rape activists was to take what is often an intensely private crime—54 percent of sexual assaults are estimated to go unreported—and bring it to national attention as a pervasive crisis. Now that cases regularly crop up in which photos and videos of sexual assaults are circulated on social media, it’s becoming harder to argue that rape is anything but a public scourge. We are all bystanders. We all bear witness.

Yet the increased attention on social media often has tragic consequences for victims. They don’t just have to grapple with the physical and psychological ramifications of being sexually violated. They have to deal with the fact that everyone else knows what happened, too.

RAPE WAS long considered to be a crime carried out by sex-crazed men who targeted strangers—women who were stupid or unlucky enough to walk alone down a dark alley or leave their doors unbolted. But starting in the late 1960s, feminists began working to change this common misperception of sexual assault. In her influential 1975 book Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller argued that “rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power,” a social tool that men used to assert dominance over women and communicate that dominance to the wider world. At the time, it was still legal in most states for men to rape their wives, and many states required all sexual-assault allegations to be corroborated by a third party. Both legal distinctions sent a clear message that what happens behind closed doors between two people—even if it’s a violent sex crime—is not something the rest of us should be particularly concerned about.

In the 1980s, victim-advocacy organizations began publicizing the fact that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. There are simply not that many nefarious strangers, not that many dark alleys. This is a crime that happens every day, in the spaces where we live and work and sleep and, yes, drink. Places where we feel safe. It is a crime that usually involves existing friendships, acquaintances, and relationships.

When we see photos and videos of a teen girl’s body or of a high school boy bragging about taking advantage of her, this reality is thrown into stark relief. And when we see ordinary kids engaged in extraordinarily terrible behavior, we don’t always look away. Often, we click “share.”

That was exactly what happened in Steubenville, Ohio. Thousands of us clicked on grainy images taken at a house party and saw a girl whose body had gone slack, held by her arms and legs by two high school football players. We read tweets from bystanders who joked, “Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana.” We watched a video of those boys laughing about it and saying “she is so raped her p**s is about as dry as the sun right now.” Most people who saw all of this online could not even locate Steubenville on a map, but now they were witnesses to an awful crime that had occurred there.

Indeed, the Steubenville case is perhaps the best representation of how social media can offer victims a path to legal relief by, in effect, creating more witnesses. Arguably, the case never would have resulted in a conviction if the images had not been circulated through social media.

But social media does more than offer legal relief. The Steubenville tweets and photos infused the crusade to end rape with a new degree of urgency. Suddenly we weren’t talking in abstractions about what “he said” or “she said.” We were looking at an Instagram photo of a comatose teenager being dragged around. “That picture was a come-to-Jesus moment for a lot of people,” says Kate Harding, author of a forthcoming book on sexual assault called Asking for It. “We had a conversation in the wake of Steubenville that we’ve never really had before as a country. All of these things have been coming out, and it’s something that we’re hearing about on MSNBC and on CNN and in the big newspapers. A lot of what we’re talking about is driven by the fact that there is video and social media. Social media is used as a demonstration of how many people care and are watching and listening.”

The simple truth is that salacious photos help to get the media interested in what isn’t exactly a new issue. “That’s why media is covering these stories more,” says Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of the advocacy group Women, Action & the Media (WAM) and co-editor of Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. “It’s sad to me that this is a question of, does this make good TV or not? But I do think that it improves the chances for justice when those photos or videos are sent around. I don’t think on balance it’s worth it, but I’m not the one who gets to decide.” She adds, “It’s traumatizing to the victims and all of us, but if perpetrators choose to do it, we take advantage of it and use it against them.”

It isn’t just the mainstream media that pick up on these stories and move them forward: in several cases, video and photos that had been circulated only among teens were brought to wider attention by members of the hacker group Anonymous. After no one was charged in Rehtaeh Parsons’s gang rape in Nova Scotia, Anonymous hackers found and published the names of young men allegedly involved in the 2011 attack. A 12-minute video of Steubenville boys joking about the assault—which includes comments like “she’s deader than a doornail,” followed by laughter—was also made public by Anonymous. It got more than 717,000 views.

AND YET, whatever the benefits, the horrific human downsides of all this sharing are never far from view. During the trial, the Steubenville victim was asked on the stand how it felt to see photos of herself passed out. “Not good,” she replied.

Moreover, while unearthing videos and photos and publicizing them beyond teens’ social circles can lead to arrests, those photos and videos are just as likely to be turned against accusers as they are to help prosecute attackers. The questions that have long dissuaded survivors from coming forward—What were you wearing? How much vodka did you drink? What were you thinking?—are now being asked on social media, often whether or not a victim has made allegations herself. Inevitably, when people share images of a sexual assault, they end up putting the victim on trial along with the accused attackers. And whereas there are legal protections to ensure the victim remains anonymous and that details such as her sexual history are not introduced as evidence at trial, no such courtesies are extended in the court of Twitter and Instagram.

For a victim, there’s no difference between people who share footage of the assault because they want to raise awareness about the problem and people who share footage to laugh at it or, worse, because it turns them on. “The horror of having the intimate violation of your body exposed, shared, transmitted, and existing in a way that you know can never be expunged is awful,” says Kaethe Morris Hoffer, legal director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “Since the advent of the Internet, it has been a tremendous and devastating burden for survivors to live with the knowledge that they have no hope of ensuring that images of their sexual violation will ever be erased. What social media does is make the transmission of it a hundred times faster and more shareable.”

Attackers have created photographic and video evidence of their crimes ever since cameras and camcorders have been available. (“One of the characteristics of gang rapes is they’re so performative,” says Harding. “The urge to document this particular kind of rape has apparently always been a part of it. It’s just now we have the distribution.”) In 2006, when Facebook was not yet a major cultural phenomenon, Morris Hoffer successfully intervened in a Chicago-area court case in which a judge was going to make a victim watch footage of herself being sexually assaulted—a crime of which she had no memory—as part of her assailants’ trial. Had that crime occurred in 2013, there’s a good chance that victim would have come across such images on social media, before she even decided whether or not to seek justice in court.

Questions that have long dissuaded survivors from coming forward can now be asked on the Web.

And that case illustrates another reality about images and videos of sexual assault: they can easily be used as proof of consent rather than its absence. Even though the victim in the 2006 case ultimately wasn’t forced to watch the footage, the trial ended in an acquittal after defense attorneys went frame by frame and argued the victim—who was so drunk she doesn’t remember the incident—had consented.

“Ever since there have been photographs of sexual assault, the assertion of the survivor that the image is actually an image of abuse has been contested,” Morris Hoffer says. “The material that is produced from the abuse is used as evidence that it wasn’t abuse.”

Even if the perpetrators are convicted, it doesn’t mean the victim is off the hook. The publicity surrounding images and photos can last well beyond the point where it is useful for the justice system. Recently, tennis star Serena Williams came under fire for a sentiment that a lot of other observers expressed about the two convicted Steubenville rapists: “They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky.” Williams later apologized directly to the victim and her family. Meanwhile, the victim’s attorney has made repeated public statements that she wishes the whole thing would just go away. But, as with the night she was assaulted, she doesn’t have much of a choice.

THERE AREN’T any easy ways around the conundrum of social media and sexual assault. One strategy being pursued by activists is to go after social-media posts that are unambiguously pro-rape. Recently WAM, Friedman’s media-advocacy group, embarked on a campaign to get Facebook to pull down any pages with titles like “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs” that promote sexual assault. Dozens of organizations signed on to a letter demanding “swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook.”

Facebook had long taken a laissez-faire approach to responding to user reports of pages peppered with rape jokes, images, and, in some cases, threats. “The reason we targeted Facebook is because they have a policy against hate speech,” Friedman says. “In some ways they’re ahead of the game because at least in theory they have a policy that this stuff is not welcome there.” Eventually Facebook admitted its attempts to curtail hate speech had failed, and unveiled plans to improve its monitoring system.

But Facebook, with its hate-speech policy, is the exception. Most popular social-media sites, like Twitter and Tumblr, have no such community standards. Their terms of use lean toward unfettered free speech, placing the onus on users not to post or share objectionable content. (And maybe even the Facebook policy will have diminishing returns. Focus-group research shows teens have a “waning enthusiasm” for Facebook because of the increasing adult presence there.) Perhaps with a big enough activist effort, it would be possible to push Twitter and Tumblr to temper their free-for-all approach and formally reject content that promotes rape. Still, enforcement of such a policy would fall to users, who would be the ones reporting posts that violate the policies. It would be like whack-a-mole.

One possibility is that the legal system could end up offering some recourse for activists. Cristina Tilley, a media law professor at Northwestern University, predicts that, eventually, we’re going to see people sued in civil court for posting videos and images of sexual assault. “But it’s not entirely clear to me how successful they might be,” she says, “and if early suits along these lines don’t succeed, that may discourage others from filing and send a message about whether the underlying conduct is off-limits or tolerable.”

Of course, if such lawsuits, coupled with tougher enforcement of community standards by Facebook and other sites, did ultimately lead to fewer violations of rape victims’ privacy—and fewer suicides—that would be a wonderful thing. But there will still be the question of how to continue making rape a public crime without intruding on the privacy of victims.

After all, if users are sharing photos and videos of sexual assault as a way to encourage action against such crimes, it’s hard to call such content hate speech. And so, when it comes to social media that is not pro-rape but instead aims to raise awareness of it, advocates are more conflicted. If they could wave a magic wand and make all social-media content documenting rape disappear, would they?

“I’d only want that if we’d somehow otherwise transformed the culture so we took women and men seriously when they report rape,” Harding says. For her part, Friedman argues that activists should take their cues from victims. “We have to do our best as activists and journalists to either find out what the victim would want or at least consider that question,” she says. “If we don’t have access to that info, we have to do our best to be empathetic and try to imagine what the victim would want.”

In some cases, perhaps the answer lies in considering the content of each individual photo or video. Much of the footage and many of the tweets that came out of Steubenville didn’t picture or name the victim at all—they featured perpetrators and bystanders laughing about the crime. While we might be wary about outing victims as we pursue justice, most of us have far fewer qualms about publicizing the sickening remarks of an onlooker who encouraged the attackers. Documenting the callous way perpetrators and bystanders discuss rape has the potential to be just as horrifying as a blurry photo of the crime or its aftermath, a way to highlight the banality of this particular evil.

Photos and videos that feature bystanders have the added benefit of engaging all of us from a perspective we understand. Most of us don’t identify with sexual predators. But, in the age of social media, we all know what it’s like to witness an attack.

A new approach for sex education?

“For some reason, says educator Al Vernacchio, the metaphors for talking about sex in the US all come from baseball — scoring, getting to first base, etc. The problem is, this frames sex as a competition, with a winner and a loser. Instead, he suggests a new metaphor, one that’s more about shared pleasure, discussion and agreement, fulfillment and enjoyment. Let’s talk about … pizza.”

New Maine law to stop human trafficking

From the Bangor Daily News:

Shifting Perceptions of Prostitution

Victims of sex trafficking in Maine might call themselves prostitutes. Their pimps and those buying their sex might call them prostitutes. But if they are not prostituting themselves by choice, they are victims. Their pimps, who control their behavior, often with violence, threats and drugs, are the criminals.

On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage held a ceremonial signing of a bill, LD 1159, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, that gives Maine its first sex trafficking law. By replacing “aggravated promotion of prostitution” with “sex trafficking” in Maine law, the legislation shows a shift in cultural understanding of the crime. By adding sex trafficking as a human trafficking offense, it makes resources available to survivors. The law also increases penalties for traffickers and allows for more flexibility in the sentencing of “johns.”

Now that Maine has the law, it will need the tools to enforce it. That means police, health care providers and district attorneys will have to think differently about what they are encountering in their distinct but connected professions.

Too often, for example, pimps are arrested or prosecuted for side matters — such as money laundering, drug deals or assault — that don’t cut to the heart of their most egregious offense. Or doctors might see patients with rapid repeat pregnancies or abortions, a high number of reported sex partners, general ill health and a high incidence of sexually transmitted infections. Instead of treating individual problems, they must put the pieces together, know how to ask the right questions and connect their patients to the best resources.

For a long time, police performed their duty to uphold the law and arrested those acting as prostitutes: Undercover officers pretended to be customers, solicited sex and then arrested the man or woman. But police have gradually shifted their perception and approach, and trafficking convictions have followed suit.

An analysis by the police department in Anaheim, Calif., for example, found that prostitution activity always returned no matter how many women were arrested. The women often came from similar backgrounds of neglect and abuse, and a majority told police selling themselves was their only way to survive. The police came to realize many of the women were being trafficked.

Anaheim police changed their strategy and began an effort to help women escape their dangerous situations and identify pimps as possible suspects. Instead of arresting the women, they began to take them off the street and bring them to a comfortable room at the police department where they could discuss the manipulation that led to their prostitution. They connected them with resources and pursued the traffickers with victims’ help.

From the project’s inception in August 2011, through Oct. 31, 2012, 38 pimps were arrested and charged; 20 were convicted. At that time, 18 awaited trial, and Anaheim police had rescued 52 human trafficking victims.

A change in awareness is also happening in Maine. In May, Sgt. Tim Farris of the Portland Police Department testified in support of LD 1159 and described what he had learned over the previous two years through interviews with hotel staff and girls involved in the sex trade. These were stories of people “being severely beaten, raped and choked unconscious, at times hoping for death,” he said. At the same time, he said police did not have the resources to adequately assist victims. They needed to coordinate with other agencies and build public awareness.

So they did. More than 500 police officers and providers have been trained on human trafficking prevention in the last couple years and specific groups are building response strategies. The Greater Portland Coalition Against Sex Trafficking and Exploitation formed in 2011 and similar groups are coalescing in Lewiston and Bangor. LD 1159 follows the work of many to bring the problem to the fore.

Maine communities may not have the population of Anaheim, but sex trafficking exists here and will only get worse if the state does nothing. With a statute referring specifically to sex trafficking, police agencies will be better able to record and track cases that otherwise might be listed as prostitution or drug possession. It will help with enforcement to have a legal definition that’s broader than other applicable, but narrower, offenses, such as criminal restraint or kidnapping.

Perhaps most importantly the law reflects a shifting perception that people selling sex are not necessarily prostitutes but possible victims. Not all the time, but very often, someone else is profiting from the sex acts performed by those who feel they have no choice.

Sexual exploitation of teens in the media

Granted, teenage sexualization is nothing new in the media, but at least it is being discussed.

Some people may like to argue that the actresses are generally in their 20’s, and therefore, it is “okay” for them to be portrayed sexually, but it is also important to realize that they are representing underage girls…not 20 something’s.

(Note: all teen genders tend to be exploited sexually in the media, not just females; however, this article is only representative of females).


Via CBS News:

“Female TV characters are sexual targets, says new study”

Teenage female characters are sexual fodder for broadcast network TV series, especially comedies, according to an advocacy group’s new study.

An examination of 238 sitcoms and dramas airing during four weeks in 2011 and 2012 found a third of the episodes included content that “rose to the level of sexual exploitation” of females, according to the Parents Television Council report released Tuesday.

The likelihood that a scene would include exploitation increased when a teen girl was involved, the report found, as did the odds that a show would try for a laugh: Girls were more likely to be the target of sexually exploitive jokes than adult women, 43 percent as compared to 33 percent.

The instances cited by the report varied widely, from an adolescent boy and girl playing strip poker in an episode of “Glee” to jokes spun off the topics of sexual violence, harassment and trafficking, according to the group’s researchers.

“At what point in time is it OK to laugh at sexual trafficking or rape?” council President Tim Winter said.

The PTC said its study relied on a United Nations’ definition of sexual exploitation as involving abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust for sexual purposes including profiting financially, socially or politically.

Winter contended that it’s a certainty: An industry that attracts billions of ad dollars meant to influence buying habits must acknowledge that it has an impact on viewers, especially youngsters, he said.

Among the sitcom humor cited by the report: A May 2012 episode of “Family Guy” in which teenager Meg appears onstage and an announcer says, “This girl is perfect if you want to buy a sex slave, but don’t want to spend sex slave money.”

“Young people are having difficulty managing the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate sexual conduct,” and TV’s confusing messages are one reason, said the Rev. Delman Coates, a PTC board member.

The report is the council’s third in a series about media sexualization of young girls. Last year, the nonpartisan group launched its 4 Every Girl initiative aimed at combating such depictions and replacing them with what it calls “healthy, respectful images.”

The latest study reveals “the frequency with which sexual humor is used to communicate beliefs and perpetuate offensive narrowly defined female stereotypes among underage girls,” according to a PTC summary.Bottom of Form

Broadcasters compete with cable channels that draw viewers away with far more explicit material. Critics have said that it’s unfair to study broadcast content and not include the unregulated programming on cable, or to ignore that viewers demonstrate what they want by tuning in risque shows.

The report’s release, intended for last year, was delayed by the PTC’s decision to focus its resources on the subject of violence in media after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Networks also weren’t heard from on that PTC study, which was released last May and found that violence remained a prime-time TV staple even immediately following Newtown.

TV executives typically are reluctant to talk about sensitive issues such as violence or sexuality and, when pressed, downplay the link between on-screen fare and real-life behavior. They’ve also questioned aspects of PTC’s methodology.

The new study, for instance, includes scenes from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a drama that focuses on those trying to stop sexual predators.

Winter said it’s important to distinguish between the treatment the topic receives in that show compared to a comedy, but added that “there still need to be heightened scrutiny” of the effect on viewers.

He called for a broad dialogue about media content and its effect, and renewed the PTC’s insistence that the Federal Communications Commission enforce its “safe harbor” rule barring indecency or profanity from airing during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Healing from a sexual assault

Healing from a sexual assault takes time, and the journey is different for everyone. Please do not rush yourself, and know that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

The Stages of Healing:

  • The decision to heal happens when a person chooses and is willing to change.
  • The emergency stage begins when memories and suppressed feelings start to emerge.
  • Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.
  • Breaking silence is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a survivor.
  • Understanding that it wasn’t the survivor’s fault places the responsibility directly on the offender(s).
  • Making contact with the child within (for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse) helps a person feel self compassion, anger at the offender, and greater intimacy with others.
  • Trusting oneself is the best guide towards healing.
  • Grieving and mourning is a way to honor individual pain, let go, and then move into the present.
  • Disclosures and confrontations are not necessary for healing, but can be important for some survivors.
  • Forgiveness of the offender is not an essential part of the healing process. The only essential forgiveness is self-forgiveness. It is important for a survivor to accept that it is okay not to forgive the offender, even when the offender is a family member. The choice to forgive or not is always personal.
  • Spirituality is a uniquely personal experience that can be an asset in the healing process.
  • Resolution and moving on allows a survivor to come to terms with the offender and while it does not erase history, it will make deep and lasting changes in a survivor’s life.


(Source: Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Help in Healing: A Training Guide for Advocates)