Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UN Peacekeepers and Child Rape

via Shakesville

Widespread child sex abuse by UN peace troops and aid staff, says charity

The basic gyst of this article is that peace keeping troops are raping children, either by force or by coersion. Children are being pressured to sell their bodies for food and other commodities. These soldiers are abusing their authority in the worst kind of way.

If any one has any information on how to put pressure on the UN to bring these rapists to justice, I would be extremely interested in knowing. I'll google the topic some more to see if some letters can't be written to tell the United Nations what's up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blogging Hiatus

Sorry for the light blogging, we've been wrapping up things at work for vacation. I'll be at the beach with no internet access for the next week so unless someone else writes something there won't be any entries for a few more days.

Happy Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perceived Sexual Harassment of Young Girls

A new study concerning the way sexism is perceived by young girls has been published. The authors of the study surveyed 600 girls between the ages of 12and 18, from California and Georgia who come from varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers.

Perhaps more important than the existence of sexism, is the way in which girls interpret the harassment. The study, which will appear in full in the May/June issue of Child Development, Vol. 79, Issue 3, under the title "Perceived Experiences with Sexism Among Adolescent Girls", notes that there are cultural factors which influence whether any given girl interprets sexist comments as an external problem (i.e. indicative of the shortcomings of the sexist) or as indicative of their own "flaws."
Girls who had been exposed to feminist ideas, either through the media or an adult such as a mother or teacher, were more likely to identify and report sexist behavior than were girls who had no information about feminism. Girls who reported feeling pressure from their parents to conform to gender stereotypes were also more likely to perceive sexism. Girls who felt atypical for their gender and/or were unhappy with stereotypical gender roles were most likely to report sexism and harassment.

Christia Brown and Campbell Leaper who authored this study noted that it is important that girls learn that sexism is an external problem because frequent sexual harassment can lead to low self-esteem and the expectation and acceptance of demeaning behaviors in heterosexual romantic relationships, and sexist remarks.

H/T Feministing

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shame on you, Judge Phillip Brown!

Via Feministing

Basically, The "Honorable" Phillip Brown has decreed that you can't be raped if you aren't a virgin.

I'm not sure exactly what I want to say about this particular matter that doesn't involve me typing expletives in all caps. Except this.

Women have the right to sexual autonomy, regardless of how they dress, regardless of how many sexual partners they've had. Women have the right to say no to boyfriends, fiances, and husbands. Even if a woman says yes to 99 men before the 100th man rapes her, its still rape.

I don't know why that's so hard to understand!

Dennis Rodman charged with domestic violence

CNN.com is reporting today that ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman was charged with domestic violence Wednesday for assaulting his girlfriend, Gina Peterson, in a Los Angeles hotel room last month. Rodman was arrested on April 30, after Peterson called hotel security. According to police, Ms. Peterson suffered injuries to her arm. Rodman's spokesman and attorney do not deny his culpability, but instead they are trying to minimize this serious offense with some very familiar language.
Rodman spokesman Darren Prince says Rodman had had too much to drink when he got into an altercation with Peterson. Prince says the couple are still dating.
"We look forward to a successful resolution of this misdemeanor matter," said Rodman's attorney, Paul Meyer

Having too much to drink is not an excuse for violent behavior. That they are allegedly still together is not evidence of innocence. Many women stay in abusive relationships for one reason or another, that does not excuse the abuser's past or future actions. Finally, while the charge may be a misdemeanor, Rodman's attorney is trying to make it sound like he shoplifted a candy bar. A person who made his career off of his physical abilities is accused of beating up on someone who cares about him, and is likely a great deal weaker than him. That is a serious offense even if the penalty does not reflect it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Innocence in Florida: the Wrongful Incarceration Act

The Innocence Blog had a post yesterday detailing the problems with the proposed Wrongful Incarceration Act in Florida. This piece of legislation which is currently waiting on the Governor's signature was proposed as a method of making it easier for those who are found to have been wrongfully convicted to receive financial compensation from the State without having to engage in the current legal quagmire necessary to be eligible for an amount higher than the sovereign immunity imposed $200,000 cap. While the Wrongful Incarceration Act has emerged as something that does not achieve it's primary stated goal, the main controversy is the "clean hands" portion of the Act which will prevent anyone who has been convicted of a prior unrelated felony from being able to collect any form of compensation from the State. The Tallahassee Democrat quotes Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project in Florida, who sums up the controversy quite effectively.
"You're innocent when we release you but you're not innocent enough to be compensated?" said Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida. "These two ideas just don't jibe together."

While this statement very concisely explains the Act's opposition, perhaps an example mentioned earlier in the same article better highlights exactly what kind of people will no longer be eligible for compensation.
Orlando Boquete, who in 2006 was exonerated from a sexual battery and burglary conviction based on DNA evidence, won't have an easy road to compensation either. The new law prevents those with prior felonies from receiving automatic compensation, but Boquete's prior felony is a conviction for escaping while serving his wrongful imprisonment.

It's important that states like Florida and others are beginning to publicly deal with the reality of wrongfully convicted individuals. I hope this is a continuing trend. However, this particular piece of legislation is truly a step backwards.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Every Day Activism: Speak up!

First off, I have to admit that this topic is so terrifying to me that I am having trouble trying to appropriately form this blog post.

The thing is, what I am about to suggest is so mundane, and so obvious, that I am wondering why I feel such fear. And I know why. Its the same fear I've felt, and I'm sure many others feel, when they are about to speak their mind about a topic or course of action they know will probably be unpopular.

I keep telling myself that this blog has a small readership, that most people will be sympathetic to what I'm about to say. But still, I'm feeling slightly queasy, and I'm finding I'm using the backspace button a little more than usual.

And all I want to say is, that I encourage everyone to be brave enough to look their friends and family in the eye and say, "That's not funny."

"What's not funny?" you may ask. Oh my goodness, a myriad of things. I feel like I have been asked to be complicit to hateful speech dealing with class, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, differently-abled people, etc. ad nauseum. Yes, until I get sick. I cannot count the times when all I wanted to do is look at some one and say, "That's not funny" and have been stricken to my very core with absolute dread about what the consequences may be.

For example, I was hanging out with some acquaintances just last week, and one was retelling a story about how he informed a female student that the only thing she was qualified to do was be a prostitute. I was outraged. I wanted to just lay into this guy. How dare he, as a person who is supposed to be encouraging this child, insinuate to her that the only thing she was good for was for some one to pay her to have sex? This person who was supposed to be teaching her, and guiding her, and opening intellectual doors for her? This person, who has age, experience, and education-- who should know that some people have difficulty learning things the way the majority of us do-- how could he tell her that? Instead, my eyes got wide, and I said "You did not!" And the other people around us continued to joke and laugh about it-- and I just... stood there, because I was afraid. I didn't used to be so scared of telling people what I thought, but that was before I realized that people generally don't like their opinions being questioned-- and often will react violently if some one dares to do so. I have lost friends, been called various names, and been made to feel like I was wrong for wanting to protect people, for believing that everyone is flesh and blood and has feelings like me. Furthermore, I have been chastised by family and friends who were embarrassed when I felt the need to point out that someone was being a bigot. Getting folks to think about why we feel fearful when confronting hateful speech, or why we defend the speakers is basically the goal of this post. Why are we so afraid of offending those who clearly mean to cause offense to others?

I'm just speaking from personal experiences, but I think there is a couple of reasons why intelligent folk will all stand around and listen to bigoted speech and ideas. (You may notice that a lot of the examples that I am about to talk about deal with sexist speech/ideas. I tend to give examples of the speech that hurts me personally, because I can best speak to that experience.) Firstly, I think people who say "shocking" things are seen as cool and edgy. They don't feel constrained by the manners that permeate polite society. Maybe it seems they are just saying "what everyone else is thinking". Secondly, I think we're afraid of seeming too "sensitive". Its becoming less socially acceptable to be empathetic. Thirdly, we don't want to become targets ourselves.

To address the first issue, I've got news for all of you-- picking on people who have less privilege than you do isn't really all that edgy-- its in fact just taking a crack at easy prey. Its reinforcing old stereotypes-- dare I say it, its backwards thinking. Example: going to a rally for Hillary Clinton with a sign that reads "Iron my shirt." That's not edgy, my friends! That's not gutsy, that does not take courage. All that takes is a poster board, a marker, and an ideology that says that women should not have power, they should be at home taking care of men, and their children.

Addressing the second and third issues, by not saying anything, by not disagreeing with some one when they say something you know to be degrading, humilating and damaging to another group of human beings, you are being complicit with the ideas being espoused. And this is what happens, y'all. One person says something that's hateful and degrading. And then the people around them laugh and joke-- and validate that person's opinion. If a person's idea about the world is never challenged by those closest to him or her, what incentive does he or she have to change? If those who disagree are seen as the "other", people outside this persons realm of influence, its easier for the speaker to believe that their opinion is acceptable. And sometimes that opinion is really quite dangerous. You would probably hesitate to become friends with a convicted rapist, but would you sit idly by a friend wearing a Its not Rape; Its Suprise Sex! t-shirt?

It may be easy to say, its just a t-shirt! Its a free country! People have the right to say what they want! But then you have become complicit to the idea that rape victims shouldn't complain about being raped. "Its just suprise sex! Who doesn't like surprises? Its almost like the rapist gave the victim a gift!" If that type of thinking doesn't offend you, then I don't really know if I want to be talking to you. But if it does, do you want to sit idly by without adding your opinion to the dialog?

And I know we all have a friend who makes jokes that are of a questionable content, and how easy it is to make excuses for that person. Oh, dont' mind him/her, that's just the way he/she is! S/he's just joking! Its nothing personal!

Unfortunately, sometimes it feels very personal. And the more excuses we make for that friend of ours, the one that likes to tell the racist jokes, or thumps their wrists limply against their chest while saying "Retard!" or who emulates a lisp when quoting homosexuals, the more we excuse bigoted world views.

I feel I have more to say on this matter, but I'm going to leave it here for now. I realize that I have rambled on without offering any sort of advice, but the thing is, I don't know, I am still struggling with this problem. Perhaps I can revisit this issue later with a clearer idea of how to combat the fear of revealing your inner activist.

Romona Moore

Trigger Warning

As Sean Gardener reports, in Spring of 2003 a Hunter College honor student named Romona Moore told her mother that she was going to the Burger King down the street and would return shortly. When Romona had not returned by the next morning, her mother Elle Carmichael called 911. The police grudgingly agreed to file a missing persons complaint, but said that Carmichael would have to call the precinct after 7pm (the 24-hour mark of Ramona's disappearance) to prompt an official investigation. That evening when Carmichael called the precinct as she was told, the grieving mother was informed that no complaint should have been filed, the case was being marked "closed," and no further action would be taken.
Instead, it was Romona Moore's life that was closed. While detectives were offering reasons why they couldn't start an investigation, she spent nearly four days chained up in a basement only a few blocks from her home. She was repeatedly raped and tortured by two young psychopaths who eventually beat her to death on the day that the police grudgingly started searching for her. Her family's amateur investigation found her before the police did.

The family made up missing person fliers which they posted all around the neighborhood. They called Romona's friends and canvassed the area she was last seen in. Their efforts revealed that she had stopped at a friend's house on the way to the Burger King, but had probably never made it to the restaurant. They also called the media (who declined to get involved) and their local politicians who put pressure on the police to investigate. Four days after the initial report, the police department agreed to open an investigation. However, the department's official stance on the issue was that Romona had runaway and did not want to be found. The department and Det. Wayne Carey (the officer assigned to the case) took this attitude despite the fact that Romona had no history of irresponsible behavior and had never missed a day at school. Carey's own recounting of the last phone call he had with Carmichael before Romona's body was found reveal the mindset he was operating from.
"She said to me she didn't like the way I was handling the case, and I wasn't doing enough," Carey testified during the murder trial while being grilled by defense attorneys about the police investigation. "I said . . . 'I have done everything you've asked me to do. I've looked everywhere. I've talked to everyone you wanted me to. I can't find her. I can't find your daughter. She doesn't want to be found. I can't find her. I'm not a magician. I cannot pull her out of my hat.' I said, 'If I could, I would.' And after that, we—I have not spoken to her since." [emphasis added]

As it turns out, Romona was being held captive, tortured, and eventually murdered just a few blocks from her home. The two men who kidnapped Romona, Troy Hendrix and Kayson Pearson, felt so confident about what they were doing that they even showed her off to visitors. Romando Jack, then 19 is the last person other than Hendrix and Pearson who saw Romona alive.
As they sat on a couch passing a joint, Jack later recalled, Hendrix said out loud: "Say hi, bitch." Baffled, Jack asked: "Who y'all talking to?" Hendrix and Pearson pulled up a tarp on the floor, and under it was Romona Moore, lying on her side, dressed only in a hoodie and underwear. Romona's hands were tied behind her back, and she had a chain around her neck. There were bandages on a wrist and ankle, covering up wounds the pair had inflicted while trying to saw off her limbs. Romona was bleeding from a cut near her nose; her face was beaten and puffy. The men had cut the webbing between her fingers. Three cigarette burns formed a triangle under one eye.

Jack testified that Hendrix and Pearson made Romona recount the details of her abduction and subsequent daily torture. Afterwards, Jack attended a baby shower and then drove home to Maryland without mentioning to anyone what he had seen. He testified that he was "scared." Including the horrifying details of Romona's condition is key here in demonstrating the level of violence involved. Romando Jack was not the only person to see Romona in this condition, yet no one offered so much as an anonymous tip until it was too late. If those circumstances aren't enough to make someone come forward, what is? Cara at Feministe weighs in on this issue, stating:
There are many reasons that people do nothing, and sometimes they are justified. It may be believed (often very rightly) that doing the “right thing” will result in more violence or more severe consequences than turning a blind eye. Sometimes one’s own life is on the line. But I don’t see that this was the case here, either for the police officers that refused to even open an investigation, or for the man — probably numerous men — who saw Moore after she had been tortured raped and was probably about half-dead, and did nothing. Not even an anonymous phone call . . . that is, not before it was too late.

I read stories like these, and I find myself wondering where the hell the good people who do something are. And sometimes I wonder how “good” we can really call the people to do nothing. SAFER has an excellent post about bystander training and learning to be the person who does something. Despite our hunches and hopes for ourselves, I don’t think that any of us truly know if we are that person until put in the position. But at the very least, I want to believe that we can learn from the fatal mistakes of others.

Weeks after her disappearance, an anonymous call was made to Elle Carmichael indicating the location of Romona's body. Carmichael called the police but was told that no one was available to respond at that time. When the police finally arrived on the scene, Romona's family had already discovered the body. Protests (which largely fell on deaf ears)were held in front of the 67th precinct to have Det.Casey removed from his position, and "Romona's Law" was proposed by City Councilmen. Earlier this month, after five years of fighting, a Federal Court judge has ruled that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a racial bias lawsuit against the NYPD on behalf of Romona and her family.

Detective Wayne Carey was eventually removed from his position at the 67th Precinct. He was promoted to the Brooklyn South Homicide task force for helping to solve Romona's murder. Carmichael's case is only in the preliminary stages of gathering evidence, but her and her attorney's are confident they will be able to prove a pattern of discrimination.

"I don't see any other reason but race and class," Carmichael says of the lack of initial response by the NYPD to the case of her missing daughter. "If this was a white kid, they would never had done this. I had to say to the detectives one day: 'You know, I feel the same emotions and pain as a white person.' "

H/T Feministe

Monday, May 12, 2008

Middle School Students Attack Assistant Principal

Police charged two 13-year-old Calverton Middle School students with attempted rape after they broke into their school and assaulted one of the assistant principals.

The administrator was able to fight off the students and call police. The students were indentified using footage from the school's security camera, and arrested when they showed up for school the following day.

The students' bravado in showing up to school 24 hours after the attack makes clear that they felt there would be no consequences for their actions.
Head of the city's teacher' union Marietta English said what happened at Calverton over the weekend is another example of what's gone wrong.

"It goes back to these students thinking there is no consequence for their behavior. They came back to school on Monday thinking that they were going to go to class as usual. They didn't think anything was going to happen to them. It's ridiculous," she said.

When things like this happen, how can anyone still claim that our society doesn't make light of violence against women?

Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore schools, has one piece of wisdom and hope to interject into the scenario.
I think it's tragic for a school...everytime a school has an incident like this it is devastating. And I think it's tragic in the life of the child. We cannot forget that every incident is an opportunity to intervene.

This why we keep this blog. "Every incident is an opportunity to intervene." Every incident has the potential to be a learning experience and a chance for us to improve. That being said, it is interesting that there is so much focus on how sad this incident is for the perpetrators and the other students with very little being said about the well-being of the assistant principal. And while we appreciate that steps are being taken to examine how these kids might be rehabilitated, and highlight the effect that violence has on the community at large; it is a fine line to walk between victim blaming and denying the significance of the victims' experience.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Life Imitates "Art"

Last month we talked about Abortion Man , a "superhero" brought to you by Damon Wayans' WayOutTV. Abortion Man's evidently hilarious superpower was to, at the behest of hesitant fathers, beat up pregnant women until they miscarried. I said it then and I'll say it now, violence against women is not funny.

It's disgusting, and not just because I'm a humorless feminist, but because of tragedies like this .
A judge sentenced two teens to life in prison for a beating that injured a pregnant woman and killed her unborn child.

Alfonso Price, 16, and Jebrell Wright, 17, will be eligible for parole in 23 years for their convictions on murder, felonious assault and kidnapping charges in the July 2007 attack. Authorities said the pair attacked 18-year-old Kerria Anderson, who told Price she was pregnant at the time with his unborn child.

The teens stomped Anderson in the hallway of an Over-The-Rhine apartment building after she refused to get an abortion, investigators said, and the fetus suffered fatal injuries. [emphasis mine]

Alfonso Price was a child himself when this incident occurred. Teenagers shouldn't have to be parents, and he may have been feeling scared or desperate and no one could blame him. But that does not excuse his actions. Price could have chosen to wait for DNA testing, to push for adoption, to try to have further discussions about abortion, or he probably had the privilege of simply choosing to walk away. Instead, we live in a society that is so hostile towards women that a 16-year old and his friend can discuss the situation and agree that the best plan they can come up with is to "stomp" on a pregnant girl on the chance that she will miscarry or at least be scared enough to have an abortion.

It's my view that "humor" like Abortion Man is one of the reasons we live in a society where this type of thing can happen. We make light of violence against women everyday and this is where it gets us. Two teenagers' lives are ruined, and one will probably never be the same again and it isn't funny.

To Kerria Anderson, all I can say is that I don't understand and I don't know what you're going through, but I hope that you get the support you need to move forward and feel safe again.

DNA testing has since shown that Alfonso Price was in fact not the father.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Part 5 Innocence in Mississippi

The State of Mississippi is fortunately encountering pressure from the community to remove Dr. Steven Hayne, whose false testimony led to the wrongful conviction of both Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, as medical examiner. The Innocence Project has already filed an official complaint against Dr. Hayne.
For months, Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne has come under fire for years of false forensic testimony, unethical methods, nepotism and potential illegal activities. His flawed autopsies led two innocent men to spend a combined three decades in prison before they were exonerated earlier this year. He claims to work 110 hours a week and conduct 1,500 autopsies a year – earning him more than a million dollars annually.

On Sunday, the Hattiesburg American posted an editorial criticizing the state of Mississippi's slow response to what is truly a serious problem. The author of the editorial quotes three different district attorneys who say that they have found no problems with Dr. Hayne's work and are sure that he hasn't been a problem in their district. This response comes despite the fact that Dr.Hayne claims to perform on average 1500 autopsies each year. The recommended average by the National Association of Medical Examiners is 250 per year with an absolute maximum of 325. Given these numbers, the author of the editorial asks, how can the district attorneys be confident in the results?
"I have found him to be competent. I think he's qualified and I have encountered no problems or irregularities," said Jon Mark Weathers, district attorney for Forrest and Perry counties.

Jones County District Attorney Tony Buckley concurred.

"I don't think any of his actions he's being investigated for affects our district, in my opinion," Bowen said. "I just don't see a problem with him in this district."

Covington County District Attorney Eddie Bowen also said he had no issue.

This strikes as three ostriches putting their heads in the sand. How can these DA's be at all confident in Hayne's work given the information that has come out about the pathologist?

I hope that the only motivation behind these reactions is a desire to maintain a calm working environment. However, I can't help but suspect that due to the high potential for rampant lawsuits these DAs along with other state officials may want to avoid exposing flaws in their system and therefore uncovering large numbers of wrongful convictions. I realize that most state governments are strapped for cash and that a large number of overturned convictions could be a public relations nightmare as well as a financial one, but freeing innocent people is just simply more important than all of that.

Monday, May 5, 2008

International Violence Against Women Act

Here in the United States the Violence Against Women Act has provided many invaluable resources to domestic violence survivors. While there is room for improvement, and an on-going movement to protect VAWA's funding, we must remember that violence against women is a global epidemic. Apart from being a gross human rights violation, widespread violence against women actually stunts the economic growth of a nation.
Violence prevents women from:

Working: Violence reduces a woman's ability to work and provide for her family. In India, for example, a survey revealed that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days.
Staying at Work: In Kenya, 95 percent of the women who had experienced sexual abuse in their workplace were afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs.
Getting an Education: Research shows that violence against women - including sexual assault, intimidation, and abuse - takes place in schools. Girls who are exposed to or experience violence are less likely to complete their education. A study in Nicaragua found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children.
Building Strong Communities: Women who experience violence are less able to benefit from and contribute to healthy communities.

The international situation parallels the plight of domestic violence survivors in the United States. According to StopFamilyViolence.org, studies show that a domestic violence survivor's degree of financial independence is the best predictor of whether or not she will return to her abuser. The CDC estimates that, "Victims of intimate partner violence lose 8,000,000 days of paid work each year--the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs and 5,600,000 days of household productivity."
The good news is that violence against women is preventable and that there are proven solutions that work. The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), if passed, would, for the first time, comprehensively incorporate these solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs - solutions such as promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo - within two months. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty - freeing millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.

We have the power at home and abroad to send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated. For a concise explanation of IVAWA and to sign the petition of support, please visit Women Thrive Worldwide.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Innocent man released from Prison after 27 years

Charles Chatman is the 15th prisoner to be released in Dallas County after DNA evidence, preserved by the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, proved his innocence. He was a free man as of May 15, 2008. Sadly, Chatman was up for parole on three separate occasions-- and was denied all three times because he maintained he did not commit the 1981 rape that resulted in his imprisonment.

The New York Times reports Chatman is not angry at the woman who identified him as her rapist, but instead angry at the system which kept him wrongly imprisoned.

According to The Innocence Project, There have been 216 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United states since 1989. Factors that lead to wrongful conviction include incorrect eye-witness testimony, lab error, junk science, false confessions, and the use of "snitches", or jailhouse informants who would receive special treatment or lesser punishments for providing testimony, no matter what its veracity.

Unfortunately, due to these factors, innocent people spend time in jail- years of their lives that can never be regained. Even more tragic is that some innocent prisoners may be put to death due to faulty evidence. Sixteen of the 216 prisoners exonerated thus far have spent time on death row. Surely, since America claims so vociferously to be a 'culture of life', 16 innocent men who came very close to receiving death penalty is shameful to us indeed.

Thankfully, The Innocence Project has a list of priority reforms that can help cut down on wrongful convictions, and a list of things anyone can do to help keep innocent people out of prison.

Petition for Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act

Via Postpartum Progress

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance's online petition supporting the Melanie Blocker Stokes Mothers Act for postpartum depression was up to 13,000 signers as of April 30th.

The Mothers Act is meant to:
• Encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the research into the causes of postpartum conditions and find treatments.
• Establish a national public awareness campaign to increase awareness and knowledge of PPD and psychosis.
• Make grants available for programs that develop and offer essential services to women with PPD.

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance there has been an on-line movement against the Act under the mistaken belief that it is a push to require new mothers to take medication when in fact it is just a push to increase funding for a better understanding of PPD, expand funding oppurtunities for those who provide PPD support services, and create new support services.

Each year more than 800,000 women develop a diagnosable postpartum mood disorder and we still no very little about the cause. Please click here and sign the petition today, it only takes a minute and it can make a big difference.

Take it Seriously Part 3: Aarone Thompson

Deidra at Black and Missing but not Forgotten has posted the story of Aarone Thompson, a 6 year-old in Colorado who was killed by her father Aaron Thompson and his girlfriend Shely Lowe after years of abuse including denial of food, cruel punishment, and denial of medical care. Aarone's death is solely the fault of her father and his girlfriend. This post isn't meant to assign blame to anyone other than the abusers. What we wish to point out is that this death (and many others) could possibly have been prevented if friends, family, and other bystanders had acted on the information they had.

While the depth of the abuse the children in the Thompson-Lowe home suffered may have been unknown,the indictment against Aaron Thompson reveals a pattern of abuse that was not kept secret.

The [Lowe's]sister told a therapist that Lowe and Thompson punished Aarone for "peeing" by putting her in a coat closet. It goes on to explain that sometimes it would be part of the day, other times it would be part of the day and all through the night. The sister also remembered the last time she saw her sister, saying she was in the closet and was going to be there all night as punishment for "peeing."

Aarone's bed-wetting is also detailed in the indictment as it was Lowe's responsibility to clean her. Aarone's older sister explained that she heard Thompson giving Aarone a "whoopin'" in the middle of the night. Another sister also said Aarone got "whooped" with a belt by Thompson for "peeing" in the closet.

In two paragraphs there are three adults who have been made aware of this child's circumstances, including a therapist who ought to recognize the signs of abuse and should know what avenues to take for reporting it. In addition, the indictment goes on to report that Aarone's grandmother stated that she had never met the child and never seen any pictures. During the course of the police investigation it came to light that there were no credible reports of anyone having seen Aarone for 18 months prior to the time that Thompson reported his child missing.

So many times when any kind of domestic abuse culminates in murder, friends and family will report things that were said or done that they just didn't take seriously. Sometimes they legitimately think there is nothing to worry about, but all too often people do not intervene because they don't want to get involved in "someone else's business" and end up looking foolish.

Family violence is not a private matter. It is a blight on our community and there needs to be a visible public stance that it will not be tolerated.