Archive for October, 2010

The “Privilege” to Get Away with Rape?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

We need to stop treating plagiarism as a more serious act than rape. When institutions are so willing to make excuses for rapists so they can remain matriculated, but do not think twice about expelling someone for cheating even if is just “one person’s word against another” we have colleges that have created yet another line of attack against reproductive justice.

Gawker wrote a story uncovering a rape complaint filed against Republican California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman’s son Griffith Rutherford Harsh V, who ended up graduating three years after the school’s investigation deemed that there was not enough “evidence” to hold Harsh accountable. The story of the assault was like many that happen to 25% of college-aged women – except in this case the victim woke up with a black eye and bruises on her face. Many survivors of campus sexual assault don’t even have any telltale physical injuries in the aftermath; most just have to deal with the emotional scars of a confusing situation and a school that fails to take it seriously.

Maureen O’Connor highlights some very interesting facts about Griffith Harsh that are sadly very relevant to the likelihood of justice for a rape survivor. The year that Harsh applied to Princeton, Meg Whitman announced a $30 million donation to build a new residence hall which was named after her. The summer after his sophomore year (the time of the incident) the residence’s construction was still not finished. Even without the huge donation on the table, Harsh still had the resources of a mother who is a billionaire, which is a fact that the rape victim took seriously. She avoided going to the local authorities or to the local hospital to file a report or get an evidence collection kit done. Even though turning to Princeton to handle this egregious violation of her body enabled the situation to be addressed more quietly, she still had to deal with the inherent unequal access to justice that occurs when one is assaulted by someone who has a lot more power.

When looking at Harsh’s final statement to the Princeton disciplinary committee the victim-blaming and lack of knowledge that he is responsible for avoiding sex when the other party not capable of giving consent is glaring. Why is it when one unknowingly cites something incorrectly they’re still punished for plagiarism or when we’re caught breaking a law we didn’t know existed we can still be arrested? His statement admits there was sexual relations and any claims that he could not tell that she wasn’t able to consent does not do enough to change the fact that someone woke up violated.

Reproductive justice is also about people being properly educated. It seems like either Princeton’s Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline is not properly educated about what sexual assault is, or they were more conscious about keeping the possibilities of hefty donations after $30 million residence hall open. Was the rape survivor clearly taught the options about the aftermath of sexual assault (i.e. she could have gotten a ‘rape kit’ done for the student judicial process)? Was Griff Harsh properly educated that it isn’t a person’s fault if they can’t remember being sexually assaulted?

While many may not realize that sexual assault is intrinsically tied to reproductive justice, this case shows how economic status, sexual health education, and institutional bureaucracy all can affect access to it. We need to look closely at why we let so many unrelated factors (so what if Harsh’s mom is a billionaire? Who cares if the victim’s friends say she didn’t seem drunk earlier that night?) make us so hesitant to hold those who violate the rights of others accountable for their actions.

Protect Our Communities from Toxic Chemicals

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Welcome Susana Almanza from our grant partner, PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources).

In East Austin, Texas the Pure Casting Foundry is directly across the street from Zavala Elementary School and its playground for kindergarten children. At the Pure Casting Foundry, twelve metals have been documented that are known to possess toxic characteristics to humans — especially for children, infants, and fetuses.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 has principally failed communities of color. In the 34 years since TSCA was enacted, EPA has been able to require testing on just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the U.S. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals where we live, work and play from industrial polluters, consumer products and contaminated food supply. (Learn more about these products by visiting SaferChemicals.org and SafeCosmetics.org.)

The November 2010 elections are more important than ever. We need to elect representatives that will support H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. Ask your congressional representative if he/she supports H.R. 58210.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 will protect the most vulnerable from the cumulative impact of toxic chemicals; reduce “hot spots” in communities that face the highest exposures to toxics; and take prompt action to restrict the worst chemicals to which people are exposed.

Let’s make sure that our elected and newly elected representatives represent policies that protect the health of our families and ensure environmental justice. Vote!