Updates: PSU sanctions KDR & House Appropriations Committee calls for DOJ action on Cyber Bullying

Since March of this year, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One was a video created by some of the women who have been cyber-bullied reading a few of the online threats they have received so that the public can see what they are facing. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women. Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Today, I have two updates.  One deals with Kappa Delta Rho (KDR), the Penn State University fraternity discussed in my first blog.  And the second one is the first outcome of a letter sent to the US House Appropriations Committee in March that was followed by Congressional briefing on Capital Hill in April.

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

Sign seen at a rally in State College PA on a need to end rape culture.

PSU Sanctions KDR for Harassment, Cyber-Bullying, and Other Issues

Penn State University announced yesterday that KDR has been suspended for at least three years. The administration reversed the student-led Inter-Fraternity  Council (IFC) decision not to revoke recognition of KDR; the “sanction” recommended by the IFC was only to provide “a comprehensive new member education program and participation in sexual assault and bystander intervention training.” 

Instead, the University posted a news article on their website yesterday that clearly sanctions KDR for their cyber-bullying and maltreatment of women.  Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, notified the IFC about the 3-year sanction in a letter stating,

“We base this decision on the sum of misbehaviors exhibited by various members of Kappa Delta Rho. Not every member of the chapter was equally culpable for violation of the University’s expectations for recognized student organizations. Even so, the sum of the organizational misbehaviors is far more than the University can tolerate from a student organization that seeks its imprimatur.”

The University cited hazing, underage drinking, the sale drugs, and the “persistent” harassment of two women along with the “photographing [of] individuals in extremely compromising positions and posting these photos [online].” Click here to read the entire letter.

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital that Rep. Katherine Clark associated with her press release regarding the House Appropriations Committee call for DOJ action on cyber stalking on May 27, 2015.

House Appropriations Committee Calls Upon Department of Justice to “Intensify” Efforts to Combat Cyber-Stalking and Bullying.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, I received an email from Steve Thornton, Legislative Aide to Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) regarding the cyber threat appropriations letter Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, and National NOW all signed onto in March that went to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Here’s a copy of the letter that Representative Clark sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Cyber Abuse Dear Colleague (2)

And here’s what the Committee is requesting the US Department of Justice to do to address the issue of cyber stalking and cyber terrorism of women:

Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. (p.31 of the Committee on Appropriations report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016).

In her press release, Representative Clark applauded the Committee’s action.  She stated,

“Too many women have had their lives upended by the severe threats and harassment they have received online, and they often feel they have nowhere to turn for help. These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online. That is why we [asked] the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and make these cases a priority.”

That’s Two for Two

Two successes within 24 hours of each other.  NICE!  Thanks PSU. Representative Clark, and all of the US Representatives, advocates, and organizations for your efforts to address these issues in an appropriate manner.

Video: Women Read Social Media Online Threats

For just about 2 months now, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women.

Today I thought I’d share a video I stumbled across.  It’s called “Feminists Read Mean Tweets.” The text describing this video tells the story of why mic.com created this video last fall:

A Mic Video original: Jimmy Kimmel’s Angry Tweets is on to something. When it comes being trolled, many people on the Internet have it bad. But feminists in particular are often singled out for vitriol.

The lethal combination of being a woman and having an opinion about the patriarchy is a recipe for a troll cocktail.

This video shows how women who challenge the status quo are treated online on a daily basis. While many have tried to describe what it’s like to be the target of constant, horrible abuse online, sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.

As the last sentence says: “Sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.” So here’s the “show.”

Be forewarned: there is a lot of rude and nasty language as well as threats of violence directed at these women.

Now that you’ve seen the video, you might also want to read the background story on Mic.com.

#NoHonor4Baugh NOT if We Can Help It

Picture of Former Judge G. Todd Baugh

Former Judge G. Todd Baugh. He was censured and suspended by the Montana Supreme Court in 2014 for blaming a 14-year old girl for the rape perpetrated on her by her high school teacher.

He blamed a 14-year-old for her rape. A young woman who died by suicide before the sentence was handed down. And then after blaming the victim, he gave the rapist a 30-day sentence in jail!

These actions occurred in Yellowstone County (Billings), Montana in August 2013.  We and the nation were outraged at this victim-blaming, minimization of sexual assault exhibited by this member of the legal hierarchy. As a result, Montana NOW (National Organization for Women) and Pennsylvania NOW helped spearhead the call for the censure and suspension of Baugh along with the appropriate re-sentencing of the convicted rapist. We won – see here for a summary of what happened.

Then a couple of weeks ago we heard about a local bar association’s plan to give Baugh a lifetime achievement award! We are appalled at this disregard for both the victims of sexual assault in general and the appellate court decision in this particular case.

The Yellowstone Area Bar Association association in Montana is HONORING a judge who was literally suspended for letting a rapist off the hook–and blaming the 14-year-old-victim? It’s rape culture at its worst, and if enough of us speak out, we can stop it from happening.

Since we first heard of this plan, lawyers, local activists in Montana, NOW members around the country, over 33,000 UltraViolet members, and the general public asked the Yellowstone Area Bar Association to reverse its decision. And local and national news coverage has been growing (see here and here for samples of local and national news coverage). But despite the backlash, the bar association is sticking to its guns.

So in addition to signing the petitions started by NOW and by UltraViolet, it’s time for us to call the Yellowstone Area Bar Association  and demand  that Bar Association President Jessica Fehr reverse this despicable decision.

I did. Will you take one minute to call, too?  Here’s the link from UltraViolet to make this call.

Let’s stop this terrible decision before it leaves the gate. And thanks for calling!

Joanne Tosti-Vasey for Bellefonte Borough Council

On May 19, 2015, I will be standing outside my precinct polling place asking my constituents to vote for me in the 2015 Primary for a seat on the Bellefonte Borough Council representing the 3rd (or West) Ward.  There are three seats for this section of town with one seat being elected for a four-year term starting on January 1, 2016.

There are two people — myself and a 32-year incumbent — running on the Democratic ticket. There is no one running on the Republican ticket. So I am running both a regular primary campaign on the Democratic side and a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot.

Volunteers on both sides of the aisle are writing letters, door knocking, and making calls on my behalf.  Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for links to the letters to the editor that have so far appeared in the Centre Daily Times endorsing my campaign for Bellefonte Borough Council. Thanks everyone.

As part of the campaign, I was interviewed by C-NET, our local cable access TV network on April 25.  The following clips are from that interview broken down by question.

Question 1: Why are you running?

Question 2: How should Bellefonte Council deal with developing a town budget?

Question 3: How do you see Bellefonte dealing with affordable housing?

Question 4: Thoughts on the development of the Garman and Cadillac sites

FYI, the Garman and Cadillac buildings, aka “The Mews,” is the downtown development project.  This project will renovate the Cadillac Building (designed by Anna Wagner Keichline, Pennsylvania’s first female registered architect) and build a new building on the former site of the Garman Opera House and the Hotel DoDe into a set affordable housing units. There has been a lot of controversy about this project including how decisions were made in selecting the developer and how the community and historic preservation were ignored during the process.

 

Question 5: Courthouse v. Town

With legal issues surrounding the Courthouse, how do you raise the town above that? How do you let people know that Bellefonte is more than just the Courthouse and the people involved in it?

 

Question 6: Should Bellefonte become part of the Centre Region?

Centre County is divided into seven planning regions. The Centre Region is where State College and the Pennsylvania State University are located.  It is the population center of the county.  Bellefonte is part of the Nittany Valley Region.

Question 7: Economic Development of Bellefonte’s Downtown and the Waterfront Districts

Q8: Tell us about yourself

In answer to this question I talked about my community organizing and community policy background and how that qualifies me to serve as a member of the Bellefonte Borough Council.

AND NOW: Get Out and Vote!

So… if you live in Pennsylvania, remember to vote on Tuesday, May 19. Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

If you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd (West) Ward, please vote for Joanne Tosti-Vasey.  If you are a Democratic, I am number 2 on the Borough Council section of the Democratic ballot; please fill in the bubble next to my name on your ballot. If you are a Republican, please write in “Joanne Tosti-Vasey” in the Borough Council section of your ballot.

Help make a difference in your community. VOTE!

STATE COLLEGE: League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forum for May 2015 Primary

This is an article about the Centre County League of Women Voters’ Spring Primary Candidates’ Forum.  It was held on Wednesday April 29.  I was one of the candidates participating in the forum.  A larger portion of this article in the Centre Daily Times covers the race for Bellefonte Borough Council.  And you will see a couple of photos of myself debating my incumbent opponent.

STATE COLLEGE: Candidate forum including shines spotlight on upcoming primary | CentreDaily.com http://www.centredaily.com/2015/04/29/4725701/candidate-forum-shines-spotlight.html

Same-Sex Marriage = Equal Rights

civilrightsactivist:

Marriage Equality We the PeopleThe Supreme Court is currently hearing the same-sex marriage case. This gives some background info on the first set of same-sex marriages forty years ago here in the USA. The live blog at http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_Obergefell_v_Hodges will help fill you in on the arguments being heard before SCOTUS.

Originally posted on Nel's New Day:

Forty years ago, a young clerk in Boulder (CO) gave marriage licenses to six same-sex couples before the state attorney general discontinued the practice. Clela Rorex made history, and one couple, Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams, made more history when they sued the government after the U.S. government denied an application for Sullivan, an Australian, to stay in the United States although he was married to a citizen. The response on the denial read, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

The 9th Circuit Court ruled against Adams’ suit to obtain an immigrant visa for Sullivan, stating that Colorado might recognize the marriage but the federal government would not. The couple did quit: Sullivan filed a new suit, arguing that his deportation constituted an extreme hardship because ending his relationship with Adams would “cause him personal anguish and hurt.” He…

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Petition to Yellowstone Bar Association: Rescind Lifetime Achievement Award Being Given to G. Todd Baugh

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

Sign seen at a rally in State College PA on a need to end rape culture around the country


On April 24, I posted a blog announcing that the Yellowstone Area Bar Association had announced that they will be giving G. Todd Baugh their annual “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the end of May.  I expressed outrage and said that I’d be back with another posting once “we finalize plans on how to deal with this outrageous decision to honor Baugh.”

This is our first step.  We have created a MoveOn.org petition calling upon the Yellowstone Bar Association to  immediately rescind this award.

Why is this so important?

Non-reporting by sexual assault victims is commonplace in our society. G. Todd Baugh’s victim blaming and rape myths have caused sexual assault victims to further question whether they should report their assault. We need to protect our sexual assault victims.

The Yellowstone Bar Association, as members of the legal profession, need to step up to the plate and make sure that bias in the judiciary does not stop victims from coming forward. Honoring someone who disses and blames victims creates a view that the legal system maintains a “Climate of Indifference” towards victims of sexual assault.

AND THAT’S NOT OK!

That’s why we created and I signed onto a petition to Jessica Fehr, President, Yellowstone Area Bar Association, which says:

Victim blaming and rape myths have no place in our society, especially by the judiciary. G. Todd Baugh engaged in such victim blaming and rape myths and was censured and suspended for these biased acts. We, therefore, call on the Yellowstone Area Bar Association  to rescind their Lifetime Achievement Award to G. Todd Baugh.

Will you sign this petition? Click here:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/yellowstone-bar-association
Thanks!

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No, I Won’t Apologize for Being Angry

Originally posted on The Feminist Pensieve:

We call our warships “she.”  The earth is commonly named “Mother Earth” because of its ability to both create and destroy.  Women are routinely compared to black widows, vipers, lionesses and tigresses.  Pick any female comic book character, and you will see the innate power of the names given to these women.  They are called Black Widow, Poison Ivy, Asp, Black Mamba, Queen Bee, Cheetah, and Fatality.  All of these comparisons show the raging strength and power of women.  Why, then, are we expected to hold back in the “real world?”

There is an interesting double standard for men and women when it comes to showing rage and aggression.  When men break their cool facade in an explosion of anger, we naturally assume his feelings are valid and deserved.  We listen when a man is angry because we respect that anger.  When women become angry and project their feelings outward…

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Outrage! Baugh to receive Yellowstone Bar Association’s lifetime achievement award

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says

Sign seen at a rally in State College, PA on the need to end rape culture around the country

In August 2013, G. Todd Baugh, then a sitting judge in Yellowstone County, MT, blamed the 14 year-old girl who was raped by her high school teacher for “looking older than her chronological age” when he sentenced the rapist to just 31 days in jail.  In 2014, the Montana Supreme Court overthrew that sentence and remanded the case back to a different judge in Yellowstone County who sentenced the rapist to 10 years in prison.  And at the same time, the Montana Supreme Court censured and suspended Baugh for his gender bias and failure to follow the sentencing guidelines for child rape.  For a summary of what happened in 2013 and 2014, click here.

Now we hear that the Yellowstone Area Bar Association is giving this biased and censured former judge a lifetime achievement award!?

Baugh blamed the rape victim. Now he is scheduled to receive the Bar Association’s lifetime achievement award? This is unconscionable

Read what we know so far.

This article is from the Billings Gazette (the local paper in Yellowstone County, MT): Judge Baugh to receive Yellowstone Bar Association’s lifetime achievement award.

And this article is by Ed Kemmick, the person who broke this story in a local Montana online media blog: ex-judge censured over rape comments to receive award. CBS, NBC and ABC are using this link for their info. This article also goes into a bit more detail on the award, date of the ceremony, and comments from the bar association. the Montana National Organization for Women and JusticeforCherice (the organization that was founded after Baugh blamed Cherice for the rape).

I’ll post more on this once we finalize plans on how to deal with this outrageous decision to honor Baugh.

So spread the word.  We will fight this decision — #NoHonor4Baugh.

The Sexism Is Everywhere, But Handling Hillary Clinton With Kid Gloves Isn’t Feminist; It’s Sexist

Originally posted on Erin Matson:

No woman in the public eye symbolizes the tremendous change in opportunities for women more than Hillary Clinton. It is not in spite of this, but because of this, that she inspires passion and deep ambivalence. People love her, or people hate her. The media reports on and questions her style as if the entire credibility of constitutional democracy might rest on her cleavage, her hair, her pantsuits, her scrunchies, and now, her logo.

On substance, feminists are frequently told to judge her by the sexual mores of the man she married. Someone has yet to credibly explain how judging a woman by the actions of her partner, rather than her own actions, is feminist.

In the 2008 elections, the Democratic Party failed to treat Hillary with the respect she deserved. She was surrounded with calls to get out of the race while she was still ahead in the primary.

As one of my mentors…

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