A version of this article appears in print on October 11, 2016, on page A1 of the New York Times.
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.
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.
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.
Petition to Yellowstone Bar Association: Rescind Lifetime Achievement Award Being Given to G. Todd Baugh
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:
Outrage! Baugh to receive Yellowstone Bar Association’s lifetime achievement award
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.
Helping Reduce Rape Culture: Two Legislative Ideas
I live close Penn State University where the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity’s online cyber bullying activities using Facebook to show explicit pictures of nude and/or inebriated women occurred. As a result of this action and the now ongoing investigations by both Penn State University and the State College Police, Erin Matson’s idea of reducing the legal age for alcohol consumption might be something that states might want to consider. I don’t know where I stand on this, but Erin does make a decent argument here.
Drinking age is a state, not a federal issue. So, if the drinking age were to be lowered, it would have to go through the state legislatures and be signed into law. Just like when the drinking age was raised back in the 1980’s.
To some extent, the same is true for any law that might be enacted to deal with online cyber-bullying and stalking, often known as revenge porn. If interstate commerce is involved in the bullying and stalking, federal law can and has been created (see here and here). If not, then this issue has to be dealt with at the state level.
States across the country have recently enacted or are considering bills to punish perpetrators of revenge porn and online cyber bullying or stalking. Here in Pennsylvania, legislators passed a “revenge porn” bill known as the “UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE AND DAMAGES IN ACTIONS FOR UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE Act;” it became law on September 8, 2014. It however does not cover online bullying outside of dating or marriage relationships since the law restricts coverage to a victim who is a “current or former sexual or intimate partner.” This law makes the non-consensual dissemination of such images a misdemeanor offense.
I understand that the PA legislature may now revisit this bill to expand the law to cover such types of bullying activities outside of an intimate relationship as a result of the KDR incident. When they do, I would recommend that they expand the law to all forms of cyber bullying and stalking in addition to any non-consensual dissemination of such images. This would include severe harassment and bullying threats that place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.
This proposal would, I believe, help create a state-based law similar to federal law (18 U.S.C. 875 and 18 U.S.C. 2261a) that “ makes it a federal crime to transmit threats of bodily injury in interstate commerce and criminalizes the use of electronic communication to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”
Finally, there will be a Congressional hearing on on-line cyber-bullying and stalking on April 15. This hearing is being set up by Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) with the assistance of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This hearing will focus on concerns about gender violence in all forms of social media. I’ll post a comment here once I find out where and at what time the hearing will be held.
Social Media Attacks on Women: Rape Culture at Penn State and Kappa Delta Rho
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 –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:
Seeking Justice for Cherise
In August 2013, Yellowstone County (Billings), Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to thirty days in jail for raping one of his 14-year-old students . Baugh had followed a recommendation from Rambold’s lawyer by giving Rambold a sentence of 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and a one day credit for time served. Even worse, the judge showed gender and racial bias against Cherise Morales—the 14 year old, Hispanic girl who Rambold raped. During the sentencing hearing, Baugh stated that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she was “older than her chronological age.”
Upon hearing about this incident, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, former PA NOW president and current member of the PA NOW Executive Committee contacted Montana NOW President Marian Bradley. After consulting with each other, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW decided to coordinate a state and national action to push back against this egregious behavior and use of rape myths.
We focused on both the unethical behavior of Judge Baugh and on working to overturn the illegal sentence handed down on Rambold.
The Ethics Complaint Against Judge Baugh
First, we focused on a petition to sanction Judge Baugh. The first step was to help get a groundswell of people calling for the Montana Judicial Standards Commission to review and sanction Judge Baugh for his behavior. Working with We are Ultraviolet and Fitzgibbon Media we gathered over 130,000 signatures calling for the state to sanction Judge Baugh. Meanwhile we contacted Legal Momentum (a national women’s advocacy organization that houses the National Judicial Education Program on Gender Bias in the Courts) and Pennsylvania’s Women’s Law Project to assist us in crafting our complaint.
Using these petition signatures, we publicly delivered our complaint on September 24, 2013 against Baugh urging the Montana Judicial Standards Commission and the Montana Supreme Court to
- Remove Judge Baugh from the bench for his misconduct related to his handling of and speech about the rape case involving the sentencing of Stacey Rambold; and
- Implement a mandatory judicial education program for the judiciary on the fair adjudication of sexual assault cases to help the Montana justice system develop techniques to minimize victim re-traumatization while safeguarding the rights of the defendant.
As a result of this complaint and several others, Judge Baugh acknowledged on December 7, 2013 that he violated one of the three ethics rules we alleged he had violated. He said that he had failed to “promote public confidence in the independence, integrity,and impartiality of the judiciary,” and did not “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” But he refused to acknowledge that he used racial and gender bias in handing down the sentence and as a result, did not uphold the law. So we submitted a response detailing the rape myths he used in creating the sentence and in not following the law with the minimum, mandatory two-year sentence.
Then Baugh, in an effort to avoid the sanctions he could see coming, announced in January that he would not be seeking reelection in 2014. A couple of weeks after this announcement, the Montana Judicial Standards Commission announced that they were sending a recommendation to the Montana Supreme Court to use their oversight powers to sanction Judge Baugh.
The Amicus Brief
Meanwhile, on December 6, 2013, the Montana Attorney General’s office filed an appeal before the Montana Supreme Court. They are asking the court to remand the case back to the Yellowstone County District Court for sentencing that would follow the state law’s mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. They are asking for, at minimum, a four-year sentence.
NOW once again weighed in. Knowing that it is possible for advocacy groups to file “friend of the court” amicus curiae briefs, we contacted two members of our network of women’s legal advocacy organizations—The Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum—to see if there was any interest in pursuing this amicus. They put us in contact with Legal Voice and the Sexual Violence Law Center. Both of these organizations are based in Seattle, Washington and serve women in Montana. As a result, all six organizations agreed to file an amicus.Attorney Vanessa Soriano Power and other members of the law firm Stoel Rives LLP took the lead in writing our brief and petitioning the Court to add our brief to their review of this case.
Montana’s Supreme Court rarely accepts amicus briefs, but did in this case. The amicus brief we filed focuses on rape myths and their inappropriate impact in adjudicating and sentencing in sexual-assault cases. We are asking the court to take the effect of these types of myths into account when making their decision in this case and, upon remand, to assign the case of Stacey Rambold to a new judge for appropriate and legal re-sentencing.
What’s Happening Now?
Both cases were sent to the Montana Supreme Court for review. We heard on April 25 (the 10th anniversary of the March for Women’s Lives in Washington DC that brought out over one million people) that the decisions on what type of sanctioning Judge Baugh will receive and whether or not Stacey Rambold will be re-sentenced is pending.
This morning, the Montana Supreme Court handed down their decision in the Montana v. Rambold case (copy of the opinion can be seen here). The Court listened to the arguments presented by both the Attorney General’s office and by NOW. They overturned (“vacated”) the 30-day sentence and remanded the case back to the Yellowstone County Courts for re-sentencing in line with the minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines. In addition, they have ordered the county to assign the case to another judge for Rambold’s re-sentencing.
The last two paragraphs of the opinion indicate that the Court heavily relied on our amicus in ordering the remand:
¶21 On remand for resentencing, we further instruct the court to reassign the case to a different judge to impose sentence. We have considered several factors to decide whether a new judge should be assigned to resentence a defendant in a particular case, among them; whether the original judge would reasonably be expected to have substantial difficulty in putting out of his or her mind previously-expressed views determined to be erroneous, whether reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice, and whether reassignment would entail waste and duplication out of proportion to any gain in preserving the appearance of fairness. Coleman v. Risley, 203 Mont. 237, 249, 663 P.2d 1154 (1983) 10 (citations omitted). In State v. Smith, 261 Mont. 419, 445-46, 863 P.2d 1000, 1016-17 (1993), we remanded for resentencing to a new judge when the judge’s statement at trial evidenced bias against the defendant. Even where bias did not require reassignment to a new judge, we have reassigned where media coverage and public outrage “have snowballed to create an appearance of impropriety.” Washington v. Montana Mining Properties, 243 Mont. 509, 516, 795 P.2d 460, 464 (1990).
¶22 In the present case, Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice. The idea that C.M. could have “control” of the situation is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks any control over the situation whatsoever. That statement also disregards the serious power disparity that exists between an adult teacher and his minor pupil. In addition, there is no basis in the law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s “chronological age” and the court’s perception of her maturity. Judge Baugh’s comments have given rise to several complaints before the Judicial Standards Commission, which has recommended disciplinary action by this Court. Those complaints will be addressed in a separate proceeding. Under these circumstances, we conclude that reassignment to a new judge is necessary to preserve the appearance of fairness and justice in this matter.
Meanwhile the sanctions against Judge Baugh are still pending. This was confirmed in this morning’s opinion announced by the Montana Supreme Court: Judge Baugh’s comments have given rise to several complaints before the Judicial Standards Commission, which has recommended disciplinary action by this Court. Those complaints will be addressed in a separate proceeding.
We feel strongly that our work on this case shows our commitment to looking out for the women, children and families of our states and our nation. This behavior by our teachers and our judiciary should not and will not be tolerated. Our vigilance will continue.
— blog written by Joanne Tosti-Vasey and Marian Bradley
Montana’s Judge Baugh Must Go!
Are you upset about Billings (Yellowstone County), Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh’s alleged misuse of his judicial powers in a rape case in Billings, Montana? Here’s something you can do about it.
A petition has been started on the Ultraviolet website regarding Judge G. Todd Baugh. In part, it says,
Earlier this week, Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh gave a teacher who raped his 14-year-old student a 30-day jail sentence. Even worse, the judge said the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she was “older than her chronological age.” THIS is rape culture at its worst.
And here’s an additional piece of information: this young girl committed suicide in 2010 after the 2007 series of rapes perpetrated by Stacey Rambold.
There are several petitions out on this issue. One goes directly to Judge Baugh. A second one goes to the Montana Secretary of State. This one goes to the Montana Supreme Court and the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.
The one going to the Department of State is inappropriately targeted. Oversight for the judicial system in not held within the Department of State. That’s because of our constitutional requirement that we keep separate the duties and responsibilities of the executive and judicial branches of government.
These two judicial-branch entities in Montana have oversight on judicial affairs and the conduct of the judiciary. So this site is the CORRECT place to go if you want to sign a petition calling on the removal of MT’s Judge Baugh.
Once again, you want to let Montana know that Judge Baugh must go, click here to sign. Thanks!