Social Media Attacks on Women: Rape Culture at Penn State and Kappa Delta Rho

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

The theme of the Window of Opportunity Rally and March. This informal coalition was created last week as a “window of opportunity” to impact town and gown policies and programs to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in our community.

A little over two weeks ago, Penn State University’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity was suspended by the national fraternity’s office and by the university after it was announced that the State College police were investigating the fraternity for possible criminal activity related to hazing, drug use, and the sexual exploitation of college women though the use of a private Facebook page.

The town and gown are now in an uproar.  Once again, the university is in the national spotlight for another instance of sexual misconduct.  This time via the use of social media.

So far two rallies have been held protesting the rape culture that pervades this town and campus.  One of the rallies was held yesterday. It included a speakout and then a march from the entrance gates of the University Park campus to Fraternity Row where the Kappa Delta Rho House is located.

I was the first speaker at the rally.  The following is the written version of my speech. Thank you to Michele Hamilton, NOW Mid-Atlantic Region Board Member, Vice President of Pennsylvania NOW, and President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and Marian Bradley, NOW Northwest Regional Director and Past President of Montana NOW for their assistance in putting these ideas together.

Once again, PSU has garnered a national demerit in the public’s view due to allegedly inappropriate sexual misbehavior.

We’re concerned that this mistreatment of women continues to happen in the PSU community.

These actions by KDR have resulted in the appropriate suspension of the fraternity. It also resulted in both police and campus declarations to further investigate what and how this happened. We applaud the University and the national office of KDR for taking these actions. We also applaud the State College police for their pro-active investigation.

We also believe that these types of sexist activities need to be reviewed within the greater milieu of the Penn State environment. This review needs to determine what additional policies and protocols should be implemented to prevent such future acts by members of the community and to hold perpetrators accountable for their misogynistic actions.

The PSU President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment was charged by President Barron to “[combat] sexual misconduct and to [engage] all employees and students in a direct call to action.”   We call on PSU to add this social media bullying type of assaults to this review.

In addition to calling upon PSU to review their policies, we are also asking the public here and across the country to view these actions within the larger scope of online harassment of women. Here’s what we are talking about.

Gamergate. Doxing. Revenge Pornography. Swatting. Posting of pictures of hazing and of nude and unconscious women without their consent. Threats of rape and death via social media. These are all forms of cyber bullying that we have recently heard about across the country. And most of the victims have been women.

In light of these social media attacks, Pennsylvania NOW and Ni-Ta-Nee NOW ( the local NOW chapter) have signed on as organizational supporters of Representative Katherine Clark’s (D-MA) “Dear Colleague” letter sent to her Congressional colleagues in an effort to highlight concerns about gender violence on all forms of social media. This letter, through Congress’ oversight and review process, urges the US Department of Justice to “intensify their efforts to combat cyber stalking, harassment, and threats.”

After the speak-out, we marched to the Kappa Delta Rho House about 12 blocks away.  During the march several reporters came up to me for additional comments.  One of the reporters – Hannah Sarisohn for the PSU Daily Collegian asked me about the Task Force appointed by President Barron that I mentioned in my speech.

During our conversation, she asked me what I thought of the make-up of the student portion of the oversight committee. She told me that the only two student representatives are a sorority sister and a fraternity brother.  No other part of the student community is represented on this task force.  I said, “that’s not right. That’s not enough.”  She then used part of what I said in the article she wrote:

Joanne Tosti-Vasey, resident of Bellefonte and regional director for the Mid-Atlantic region of the National Organization for Women, said while the task force is a good step, more than fraternity life needs to be looked in to.

“We have students not in greek life who need representation. [Undergraduate students, graduate students, students of color,] LGBTA students and students with disabilities, everyone needs representation,” Tosti-Vasey said. “The task force needs to include people from all of these backgrounds.”

Finally, here are some of the pictures I took at the Rally and March:

Signs at that protest rally that say "Kick down rape culture" and "This is not satire."

The protest started and ended at the entrance gates to the Penn State University. About 50 people participated. These are a few of the signs seen at the rally.

picture of more protesters and signage at the Window of Opportunity Speak Out and March

More protesters and signage at the Window of Opportunity Speak Out and March

Picture of a toddler and her mother carrying a sign that says, "I want to grow up in a town what I know I am safe."

The youngest protester (three years old) at the rally carried her own sign on the shoulders of her mother. Here she is with her mother Gina Thompson of Bellefonte, PA who is speaking to one of the reporters that covered the event.

Picture of protesters shouting "Shame on You" in front of the Kappa Delta Rho House in State College, PA

After the speak-out, most of the protesters marched about 12 blocks to Fraternity Row to bring our protest to the front door of Kappa Delta Rho, the fraternity whose members created the online Facebook page that is now under investigation for potential criminal activities. Afterward we marched back to the Gates at PSU to wrap up the rally.

Ireland Images, Blessings Sayings

Last April, my friend Mary Vollero was invited to show her video —The Long Goodbye — about the last days of the Garman Opera House at the international Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival in Schull, County Cork, Ireland.  FYI, I previously blogged about the demise of our town’s historic theatre, which you can see here, here, here, and here. After losing the court battle, the Bellefonte Borough Council had the theatre torn down between December 30, 2013 and January 15, 2014 (additional pictures can be seen in my Facebook “RIP Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre” album.

When Mary told me she had been accepted at the festival, I teasingly said, “Could I come in your suitcase?” She laughed and then a couple of days later called me and asked if I’d like to go with her.

picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey and Mary Vollery

Left: Joanne Tosti-Vasey
Right: Mary Vollero

So on May 21, 2014, the day after the two of us helped staff our precinct for the Pennsylvania 2014 Spring Primary, we left for Ireland and flew to Cork and then drove to Schull in West Cork. We attended the festival in Schull for several days and did a bit of touring in County Cork.  We drove/took a ferry to tour West Cork, including the Altar Wedge Tomb, Bandon, Goleen, Long Island – Inishfada, Macroom, Mizen Head, and Schull.

We both took lots pictures of our trip. We also stopped in Bandon to pick up an Irish cloak that I ordered and paid for online in April after finding out I was headed to County Cork. This is the same store that my sister had purchased the  green Irish cape for me as a gift for our mutual birthday in 2013 (see picture above of me with Mary Voller0). Here’s a picture of me wearing the heavier-weight Irish cloak I had custom-made by Siobhan Wear, picked up in Bandon, and brought home with me.

Picture of Joanne wearing her custom made Irish cloak

Joanne at home wearing her custom-made Irish cloak in the fall of 2014.

Mary then turned her pictures into a subtitled video with Irish music.  I think she captured our visit quite well.  Here it is:

“May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.”

And,

“May your day be touched with a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart, and warmed by the smiles of the people you love.”

− two of the Irish blessings included in this photographic video: my wish to all my readers.

Montana and Pennsylvania NOW Respond to Judge G. Todd Baugh

On September 24, 2013, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW submitted a complaint about Judge G. Todd Baugh to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.  In my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of Pennsylvania NOW, I worked with Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW, to craft the original Complaint. You can read a summary of and public delivery of this complaint to the Commission here.

Marian Bradley standing next to the boxes of signed petitions calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh from the bench.

Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW speaking at the delivery of the NOW complaint to the MT Judicial Commission.

Judge Baugh responded to our complaint on November 13, 2013.  The Commission sent us a copy of his response on November 19, 2013.  They gave us twenty days to review and advise the Commission on the factual accuracy of Judge Baugh’s response.    Our response was faxed to the Commission on Saturday morning, December 7, 2013.

In our initial Complaint, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW alleged that Judge G. Todd Baugh violated the following three Ethics Rules:

  • Rule 1.2 says, “promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
  • Rule 2.2 says, shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.”
  • Rule 2.3 says, “shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, …socioeconomic status, …”

In his response to our Complaint (and in the press), Judge Baugh acknowledges that he violated Rule 1.2 but denies any violation of Rule 2.2 or 2.3.  We believe he is in error and continues to violate these two rules in addition to Rule 1.2. Judge Baugh claims in his response to our Complaint that he did not violate either Rule 2.2 or 2.3 because he “read” the materials presented to him. He then goes on to say, “Some phrases [of what I read] stuck in my mind, but it was inappropriate to repeat them.”

We reviewed his complaint and saw additional comments of continued disregard for the performance of his duties and bias in sexual assault cases. For example as just mentioned, Judge Baugh says that he now won’t repeat whatever it was that “stuck in his mind” but was “inappropriate” to repeat.  This along with many other statements during and after the sentencing trial, in the press, and in his response all point to error in his refusal to acknowledge his violation of all three ethics rules.

Our response directly supports our initial Complaint of the violation of Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.3 based upon Judge Baugh’s response. We added additional comments about this particular case. In addition, we included supporting information as to what other judges throughout the country have said in relation to adjudicating and sentencing in sexual assault cases in general.  We believe that this supporting commentary from fellow judges backs up our concerns about the mishandling of this case.

The following is a copy of the Response that we filed on Saturday

// FINAL PDF- Response to Baugh Complaint Response December 7_ 2013

We believe that Judge Baugh violated all three rules (1.2, 2.2, and 2.3).  He agrees with us that he violated Rule 1.2 in that he failed to promote public confidence and failed to avoid impropriety in his statement and minimal sentencing of Rambold.

We disagree completely in his refusal to acknowledge the violation of Rules 2.2 and 2.3.  He did NOT uphold and apply the law relating to the sexual assault of a minor.  He did not perform his duties fairly and impartially.  His words, his conduct throughout this case and in the media, and his response to our Complaint continue to show bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Judge Baugh’s statements and behavior need more than a letter of censure which he claims he was told by a member of the panel in October  that he would get.  Judge Baugh listened to the recommendations of the Defendant and not to the law.  Again, with his Response to our Complaint, Judge Baugh continues to show that he has no regard for the law in the area of sexual assaults of minors and thus believes that censure is the correct remedy for violating “only” one rule – Rule 1.2.  He takes no responsibility whatsoever for violating Rules 2.2 and 2.3.

Hopefully the Judicial Standards Commission will do the morally and legally right thing, find that he violated all three rules, and remove Judge G. Todd Bench from the bench. And if the case is remanded back to the local court by the Supreme Court for resentencing, we hope that this case will be given to another judge.

Montana and Pennsylvania NOW File Judicial Conduct Complaint Against Judge G. Todd Baugh

Today (September 24) at noon MDT, Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW delivered a complaint to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh and requesting that the Montana Court System require mandatory sexual-assault training of all judicial employees.

This complaint was created over the last 3 weeks or so by Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW, with the assistance of the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum.  Marian Bradley, President of MT NOW and I, in my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of PA NOW worked very closely with Lynn Hecht Schafran, Director of Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program and Carol Tracy, Executive Director; Susan Frietsche, Senior Attorney; and Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney at the Women’s Law Project.  These four women assisted us in crafting the legal wording for this complaint.  We thank them their knowledge and assistance.

We would also like to thank We are Ultra Violet and Fitzgibbon Media for their participation in this effort.  We are so grateful to Ultra Violet for their work in gathering signatures for their petition and sharing those names with us and for the time, energy and unending support they have given us. And our thanks to Fitzgibbon Media for their help with scheduling media, press releases and all things media related.

The complaint focuses on Judge G. Todd Baugh’s judicial mishandling of a highly publicized rape case, his statements blaming the victim, and his failure to follow state law in sentencing Stacey Rambold who plead guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent of a 14-year old Hispanic girl who later died from suicide.

In the complaint, we present the background of the case, a summary of Judge G. Todd Baugh’s misconduct, cite the portions of the judicial rules of conduct that were violated, and cite thousands of witnesses.  These witnesses include more than 250,000 people around the world who are calling for either a resignation or removal of Judge Baugh (see here, here, here, and here for the wordings of the four on-line petitions), media reports from two prominent journalists (here and here), and 350 sexual assault survivors who signed a letter calling for the removal of Judge Baugh.  The complaint was delivered to the Commission with copies of the signatures of the petition signers, the letter from the sexual assault survivors, and links to the two news articles condemning Judge Baugh’s actions.

The following is a copy of the complaint that we filed:

Judicial Standards Commission State of Montana COMPLAINT Re: Judge G. Todd Baugh filed September 24, 2013 by Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW

Marian Bradley standing next to the boxes of signed petitions calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh from the bench.

Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW speaking at the delivery of the NOW complaint to the MT Judicial Standards Commission.

Note that under Montana state law, once a complaint is filed, all proceedings remain confidential unless the matter is referred to the Montana Supreme Court for potential judicial disciplinary action.  So unless the state’s Supreme Court becomes involved, the public will not know the results of our complaint.  But meanwhile you can see what we are demanding.

And a last-minute addition. On Monday afternoon, September 23, Marian Bradley talked to the Montana Attorney General’s office (Tim Fox-R is the AG). She asked about the possibility of NOW filing an amicus brief to the Montana Supreme Court in relation to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Baugh’s sentence in the Rambold case. They informed her that anyone is free to seek permission to file such a brief and then directed her to the office of the Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court for more information on that process.

So stay tuned….

Honoree, Distinguished Worldwide Humanitarian Award

Three days ago I got a call asking if I would accept a Distinguished Worldwide Humanitarian Award from Worldwide Who’s Who. I said yes. This is their announcement.

Marquis Who's Who Humanitarian Award

Tosti-Vasey, Joanne 1385793Dr. Tosti-Vasey is an optimist and believes that in the civil rights field, one oftentimes runs up against barriers; being flexible and being willing to look for a different way to achieve goals helps in the movement towards equality.

 
 
 
 

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