The top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases has been suspended after a lawyer who worked for him recently reported he’d groped her and tried to kiss her at a sexual-assault legal conference more than two years ago.
Two separate sources with knowledge of the situation told Stars and Stripes that the Army is investigating the allegations levied against Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse, who supervised the Army’s nearly two dozen special victim prosecutors — who are in charge of prosecuting sexual assault, domestic abuse and crimes against children.
January 12, 2014
A 27-year-old Los Angeles pharmacist has sued the Los Angeles Police Department over injuries she sustained when she was thrown from a moving squad car. The New York Daily News reported that Kim Nguyen says she fell from the car as she struggled to escape sexual assault by a police officer.
“He was grabbing my left inner thigh, trying to — I’m assuming — opening my legs,” she said in her deposition about the incident.
Horrifying surveillance video shows a half-naked Nguyen tumbling from the police car into the street. She was badly injured and only regained consciousness when she emerged from a six-day medically induced coma.
Her injuries included a badly broken jaw, a brain concussion and soft tissue injuries all over her body.
The nightmare began when she and two male friends were waiting for a cab at 2:00 a.m. outside a restaurant in Los Angeles. The trio, Nguyen said, had been drinking.
A squad car pulled up to the curb and officers handcuffed her and bundled her into the back seat, saying she was being arrested for public intoxication. The car pulled away from the curb without either of Nguyen’s companions.
According to Nguyen’s deposition, one officer remained in the back seat of the squad car. He fondled her chest and yanked her head around by the ears before pulling up her skirt and trying to force her legs open.
It was then, she said, that the door behind her abruptly swung open and she was thrown from the vehicle.
Her attorney Arnoldo Cassillas said to KCAL that his client spent two weeks in the hospital with her jaw wired shut. All of her teeth were shattered in the fall and had to be pulled. She is suing for criminal negligence.
The LAPD told KCAL that it does not comment on pending litigation.
I’ve been linking to this recent study (cited below as “Jana et al., 2013”) a lot in discussions on trafficking and how ‘rescue’ orgs perpetuate violence against sex workers, but I know that it’s behind a pay wall. So I’m posting a summary of what the article said, for those who can’t access it. This is an excerpt from an academic paper I wrote on sex worker organizing in India and how it functions as a form of resistance to interpersonal and structural violence. If you’re going to quote it, link back to me. Thanks. (A link to the other source cited here: SANGRAM/VAMP Team, 2011)
Sex workers in the Sonagachi red light district of Kolkata, West Bengal have been organizing formally since 1995 as the DMSC [Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee], and they’ve been notably successful in helping the trafficked women and children in their midst. (Jana et al., 2013) The group has implemented a total of thirty-three self-regulatory boards, eight in Kolkata itself and twenty-five elsewhere in the state. (Ibid) Through community outreach and careful documentation of the changes that are noted in these outreach efforts, the members of DMSC identify trafficking victims and provide “assistance with reintegration— to return home or find alternative placement.” (Jana et al., 2013:2) Unlike the state, sex worker organizations do not detain or forcibly repatriate victims but provide them with options from among the community’s social and financial resources. (Jana et al., 2013) (SANGRAM/VAMP Team, 2011)
The DMSC also has several programs in place to help prevent trafficking through educational and economic empowerment of women and their children, including “savings and credit schemes [that] have reduced dependency on sex work.” (Jana et al., 2013:1) Further, all of these initiatives protect the privacy of the victims first and foremost, unlike the state-sponsored raids. (Jana et al., 2013) The success of these programs is therefore measurably greater than those initiated by local police and NGO’s: a full 80% of successfully rescued trafficking victims in the state of West Bengal between the years of 2009 and 2011 were rescued by DMSC. (Ibid)
ETA: And here’s why you should start listening to actual sex workers and stop relying exclusively on academia as the only valid source of information, i.e. fuck you and your respectability politics (another excerpt)
There is one final method of sex worker organizing that serves as a form of resistance against violence, and it is often overlooked because the violence it combats is indirect. It is a method of resistance present in both Jana et al.’s study on human trafficking and the case review written by Ahmed and Seshu: getting involved in academic research. Smarajit Jana is a member of DMSC, and Meena Seshu is the head of VAMP. Through their insistence on shaping academic discourse, they are challenging institutionalized prejudices against sex workers and sex work experiences and producing a new scholarly body of knowledge that can affect the amount of funding given to structurally violent governments and NGO’s for the purposes of ‘rescuing’ workers.
Sex workers need to be leading this discourse, and I made damn sure to cite those directly involved instead of perpetuating neocolonialist academic bullshit. The fact that I couldn’t out myself as a sex worker in this paper because of the threat of expulsion was enraging and humiliating, and I wish to god I could call out the whorephobia in that course from a position of authority without risking my education.
In conclusion: FUCK THAT SHIT (Ibid)
Ok so this is my post. Sex workers who do sex work by choice do exist. Sex workers who enjoy their jobs do exist. Sex workers who feel empowered by their jobs are out there and exist. But do not speak as if they are the norm and they speak for all us current and former sex workers. As a Black genderfluid person who has done sex work to survive rather than live in complete poverty and in circumstances I did not want to live in, that was my choice. But it was a choice that was funneled through my gender, my race, my status as a felon, my status as someone without a lot of financial capital, my status as a queer person.
The options available for Black and brown girls to do their dream jobs, to never sacrifice their pride, to never do jobs they do not want to do are few and far between. Sex work is sometimes an avenue that provides us revenue or a way to survive. It is not always our top choice. But like many Black and brown women do regularly, we swallow our pride to feed ourselves, our family, our loved ones, pay bills, whatever.
Capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy are disgusting. Anti-blackness is disgusting. These things place beautiful human beings in positions where they have to do things to make money and to survive they don’t always want to do. But that doesn’t make us less. Just because you would rather clean toilets or work at McDonalds or write or sell photos or whatever rather than fuck or dance or massage or whatever other sex work some of us might do to survive DOES NOT MAKE YOU BETTER THAN US. you made your choice based on the limited choices you have. sex work isn’t inherently dirty or bad. treating women like objects are. murdering women (trans* and cis) for being involved with sex work is wrong. treating us like we are less than you because we have sex or do other sexual activities is wrong. men who think they can get our services for free are wrong. locking us up is wrong.
If you want to ask about sex work and you aren’t in the field, make that clear. If you want to learn from us, you better make sure that’s what you want. And at the end of the day, sex workers of various backgrounds have various opinions and views. I do not speak for all sex workers. No one sex worker does. Someone who is a Black trans* woman and doing full service sex work in DC might have a bunch of different things to say on the topic than I as a Black perceived women but genderfluid middle class chunky stripper/service via the strip club industry sex worker. Regardless tho, we are humans. We are worthy. We are beautiful. We are hustlers. We are survivors. And none of you non sex workers are better than us. None of us. Respect our words and respect our boundaries and when you don’t, you are worse than a lot of people who already treat us like garbage just for being us.
quoting myself because i can. don’t even be fucking w/ sex workers, former and current. just don’t.
I decided to become a human rights activist when I realized how easy it was for officials to make a decision and force women to be examined in the most intimate parts of their bodies. Russian officials should not stay unpunished, they cannot have this kind of absolute power over us.
Maria Alyokhina, one of the recently freed Pussy Riot members on her prison sentence, including forced gynecological examinations almost every day for three weeks.
Alyokhina & bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were freed from prison after nearly two years for singing a song about Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral. The two were released as part of an amnesty initiated by Putin and backed by the Russian parliament last week, which is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution. The women qualify because they have young children.
Alyokhina told Russian television that had she been given the chance, she would have turned down the offer of amnesty, and served out the remainder of her sentence, which was due to finish in March.
December 25, 2013
A New Mexico woman claims in a federal lawsuit that she underwent a brutal and inhumane six-hour full-body cavity search by federal officers that included anal and vaginal probes that made her feel like an “animal.”
The woman, a Lovington, N.M. resident, also is suing University Medical Center, where she was forced to have an observed bowel movement, was X-rayed, had a speculum exam, vaginal exam and had a CT scan.
The suit claims the hospital “violated her” and then gave her the $5,000 bill.
The lawsuit names the El Paso County Hospital District’s Board of Managers, University Medical Center, Drs. Michael Parsa and Christopher Cabanillas, two unknown supervising U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and two other CBP officers only identified by their last names of Portillo and Herrera as defendants. The doctors and the agents could not be reached for comment.
The 54-year-old woman, who is not identified in the suit, is asking for an unspecified amount of money and to end the policy that gives federal agents and officers the authority to stick their fingers and objects up people’s cavities when they search for drugs.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court in El Paso on behalf of the woman who was stopped as she crossed at the Bridge of the Americas a year ago. Despite the six-hour search at the port and then later at UMC, no drugs were found.
The woman is identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was first frisked and strip-searched at the port of entry, where officers stuck their fingers inside her rectum and vagina. When that search came up negative, she was taken to University Medical Center.
"These extreme and illegal searches deeply traumatized our client," ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in the news release. "The fact that our government treated an innocent 54-year-old woman with such brutality and inhumanity should outrage all Americans. We must ensure that government agents never put another person through a nightmare like this ever again."
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a prepared statement that the agency could not talk about a specific lawsuit.
"As a practice CBP does not comment on pending litigation," the statement said. "CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off-duty."
University Medical Center also declined to get into specifics of the lawsuit.
"Hospital policy is to obtain consent from all patients who receive medical services at UMC," spokeswoman Margaret Altoff-Olivas said in a statement. "Because this case involves litigation, UMC will not be commenting further."
The search took place at about 2 p.m. Dec. 12, 2012, when the woman was coming back from seeing a family friend, whom she calls “uncle” and tries to visit once a month.
As her passport was swiped, a CBP officer told her she was “randomly” picked for a secondary inspection, where Portillo and Herrera frisked her through her clothing.
"One of the agents ran her finger over Ms. Doe’s genital area during the frisk," the lawsuit said.
Then the woman was told to squat as one of the officers “inserted her finger in the crevice of Ms. Doe’s buttocks.” The frisk did not show any evidence of contraband or drugs, the lawsuit said.
Then the woman was told to stand in a line with other people as a drug-sniffing dog walked by.
The officer with the dog “hit the ground by her feet, but did not hit the ground by any of the others in the line,” the lawsuit said. “The dog responded by lunging onto Ms. Doe and landing its front paws on her torso.”
Ives said she does not believe this was a proper signal to indicate a drugs were present, but officers used it to continue the search.
The woman was taken to another room and asked to take off her pants and crouch as her anus and vagina were examined with a flashlight, the lawsuit said.
The woman, now crying, was taken to University Medical Center after the strip search did not find anything.
"During the car ride to the Medical Center, Ms. Doe asked if the agents had a warrant," the lawsuit said. "One of them responded that they did not need a warrant."
While handcuffed to an examination table, the woman was searched again by both officers and Cabanillas and Parsa. She was given a laxative and had a bowel movement in a portable toilet in front of both officers, the lawsuit said.
Then the woman’s abdomen was X-rayed, but there were no signs of drugs or any other contraband in the woman’s body. A speculum was used to probe her vagina and Parsa’s fingers were used to inspect both her vagina and rectum while the door to the examining room was left open, the lawsuit said.
At this point the lawsuit claims, “Ms. Doe felt that she was being treated less than human, like an animal.”
The last test was a CT scan of the woman’s abdomen and pelvis, which resulted in no evidence of illegal activity being found.
The lawsuit said after the CT scan one of the officers told the woman she could sign the medical consent form and CBP would pay for the exams, but if she did not sign, she would be charged. The woman refused to sign and eventually she was charged more than $5,000 for the examinations.
According to the lawsuit, she repeatedly refused to consent to any of the searches.
University Medical Center’s search of patients policy states, “Associates, members of Medical Staff, Residents or Allied Health Professionals may search a patient only when necessary to comply with a search warrant.” Under the subhead procedure, the policy states, “…unless a patient consents, an invasion of the patient’s body to obtain evidence requires a search warrant.”
A warrant was not obtained, the lawsuit said.
"However, in practice, the Medical Center staff and CBP agents routinely conduct invasive cavity searches without warrant, consent or sufficient suspicion to justify the searches," the lawsuit said. "When Ms. Doe expressed dismay about the unreasonable searches she suffered, a Medical Center employee responded that these procedures were routinely followed when an individual is brought in by CBP agents."
In a phone interview, Ives said searches like the one the 54-year-old woman went through are illegal and becoming common among law enforcement.
"When the less intrusive search didn’t find any evidence of drugs, more intrusive searches should have not been used," Ives said. "Any one of those searches should have eliminated any suspicion of drugs. A second search should make it clear and at most a third search should have been the last."
She said: “The fact that this happened to a 54-year-old woman should outrage anyone. She did ask to talk to an attorney and she did ask for a warrant. I don’t know what guarantees there are to our rights other than a lawsuit like this one that hold the government agencies responsible.”
Last month, a Deming man sued Deming police officers who gave him three enemas, two anal probes and a colonoscopy after he was suspected of having drugs. The search found nothing, and lawyers for the man said the warrant used to conduct the search failed to show probable cause.
I can’t even say how bone chilling & terrifying this story is to me. I’ve passed through these border checkpoints hundreds of times, & this could have happened to anyone at any time for no reason at all. CBP agents are some of the biggest scum of the earth.
December 15, 2013
California officials voted Thursday to overturn a discriminatory rule that prevented sex workers who are physically or sexually assaulted from receiving money from a special victim compensation fund intended to help the victims of violent crimes. The change in policy means that sex workers will now be eligible for state assistance to pay for medical and related expenses they incur as a result of the assault.
Members of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board said they were compelled to change the “repugnant” rule after hearing the testimony of sex workers who have been assaulted and left without recourse or support following the crime, simply because of their job. Prior to the change, sex workers who were raped while working were not eligible for compensation because sex work is illegal in California, but the new policy recognizes that “rape is rape, period,” according to board chairwoman Marybel Batjer.
“Victims of this violent crime deserve compensation, regardless of circumstance,” she added.
As the Press Democrat reports, Carol Leigh, a representative of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network, was among the women who testified before the board. Leigh said she was raped by two men who entered the massage parlor where she worked. “[The men] took a knife to my throat and demanded sex and money,” she testified. “I realized that, as a sex worker, I was a sitting duck, that the system, basically, was set up so that I felt that I couldn’t go to the police. … The rapists know, and they see us as targets.”
“I think we sent a big message today from this board for the state of California, that we are now going to mirror some of our other states that feel the same way. It’s a national issue,” Michael Ramos, district attorney in San Bernardino County, said following the vote.
“It really opens the way for women who have suffered a very violent and traumatic act to get recognition from the state that something terrible happened and that you can get compensated for it,” Rachel West, of the U.S. PROStitutes Collective, said of the change.
But the fight for sex workers’ rights in California and elsewhere continues, said Maxine Doogan, an organizer for the Erotic Service Providers Union. “We would like the state of California to adopt the Obama administration policy on prostitution, which is that prostitution should not be discriminated against in seeking public services.”