Fighting Revenge Porn

How to Fight Back When Your Sexual Privacy is Compromised Online

screen-shot-2015-02-28-at-8-24-06-amFinally, some good news for people who have been (or who have been anxious about becoming) victims of revenge porn! December 2015 marked the first time that a law specifically referencing and criminalizing revenge porn has been on the books in North Carolina. This addition to our legal system was added after an alarming case of privacy infringement occurred at Hough High School in Cornelius, NC. Authorities say that dozens of students had been blackmailed, and nearly a hundred nude photos were released.

Despite the law’s origins, it doesn’t only apply in cases related to minors. Breaking this law now constitutes as a felony offense, and is defined as “releasing explicit photos or videos of a person without their consent, with intent to harass, extort, or intimidate.” North Carolina is now one of twenty-six states with revenge porn laws, up from a mere sixteen at the start of 2014. We are also one of only six states that classify the non-consensual distribution of explicit materials as a felony. In most states, it is only classified as a misdemeanor (often jumping to a felony for a repeat offender).

Luckily, it’s not only lawmakers who are starting to see the need for these restrictions and ramifications. In the summer of 2014, Microsoft (including Bing, OneDrive, and Xbox Live) and Google created sites specifically dedicated to the anonymous reporting of revenge porn. Many other companies followed their lead during the rest of 2015, and have included privacy and harassment clauses in their community guidelines, as well as created anonymous reporting forms. Participating sites now include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pornhub, and Tumblr. This commitment, by some of the largest search engines and social media sites in use today, helps to combat one of the biggest issues that face victims of revenge porn: the daunting and near-impossible task of removing their stolen images from the Web.

By using the links and forms outlined by C. A. Goldberg PLLC, that focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent, victims can anonymously report images that have been posted without their consent. While these companies don’t have the ability to remove images from the Internet entirely, this new reporting system does render reported images unsearchable on their specific sites and search engines, giving some privacy and control back to victims. Continue reading “Fighting Revenge Porn”

Mythbusting HB 2

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center works to end sexual violence and its impact for all people. To this end, we are committed to sexual violence prevention efforts that are informed by research and analysis, not fear and misinformation.

The following is a statement from the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) about the recently passed HB 2 legislation. As a member agency of NCCASA and with a commitment to diversity and nondiscrimination, we support their statement.

[HB 2] overrides a recently passed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, prevents local governments from enacting a range of nondiscrimination and employment policies, and requires all public facilities, including schools, to allow restroom access only on the basis of “biological sex.” This bill specifically excludes LGBTQ people from legal protections and jeopardizes billions of dollars in federal funds that NC schools receive under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.

A central argument in this case was about the prevention of sexual violence and the use and safety of public bathrooms. NCCASA is deeply committed to the prevention of all sexual violence, and it is essential that any efforts to do so are rooted in fact. What we know to be true is that the majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victim knows in a familiar place, rather than by a stranger in a public place. 200 cities across the nation have protections in place similar to the Charlotte ordinance, and none of them have reported an increase in sexual violence related to these protections.

On the other hand, physical and verbal assaults on transgender people in public bathrooms are not rare, and over 50% of transgender people have experienced sexual violence. We cannot end sexual violence unless we are committed to ending sexual violence for all people. What will actually prevent and end sexual violence is for us to create a culture in which respect for the identities and bodily autonomy of others is a deeply held value. Policies prohibiting discrimination based on one’s sexuality and gender identity, like the one passed in Charlotte, are a positive step toward ending sexual violence.

NCCASA

The Center maintains a commitment to providing excellent and culturally competent services to survivors of all genders, including support for survivors of gender-based or trans-phobic sexual harassment and specialized support groups for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.

If you or someone you care about could use some support, please get in touch with us via our 24-Hour Help Line or by coming into our office during business hours. No appointment needed.

Legislative Updates from NCCASA

The following are legislative updates from the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA), provided by Executive Director Monika Johnston-Hostler and Staff Attorney Joe Polich.

New Laws Passed – Long Session 2015

Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015 – Session Law 2015- 62

Signed by Governor on June 5, 2015

  • Increases wait times and administrative burdens for those seeking and providing abortion services
  • Provides for electronic filing of all 50B and 50C proceedings in all counties in North Carolina
  • Changes the age definitions for statutory rape crimes in NC from “13, 14, or 15 years old” to “15 years old or younger.”

Joe’s take: Electronic filing is a huge success in pilot counties in North Carolina – including Alamance and Guilford counties. Electronic filing increases access to the civil legal system and streamlines the court proceedings in general. In counties with electronic filing, all parties will leave the hearing with copies of any pertinent orders and those orders will already be filed with the Clerk of Court.

No-Contact Order/No ExpirationSession Law 2015-91

Signed by Governor on June 19, 2015

  • Creates Chapter 50D, which provides a non-expiring civil no-contact order for victims of sex offenses that resulted in a criminal conviction
  • Violation of a 50D order is an A1 misdemeanor (the most serious misdemeanor charge)
  • There are increased penalties for the commission of a felony that violates the order

Joe’s take: the 50D order does not require victims of sexual assault to re-live the experience in open court every year to renew their order. However, the major shortcoming to the new 50D order is that it requires a criminal conviction of the perpetrator, which we know is difficult at best to obtain. On the plus side, these orders “have teeth,” violations carry serious consequences.

Protect Our Students Act – Session Law 2015-44

Continue reading “Legislative Updates from NCCASA”

The Untested Rape Kit Backlog – Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this story, you can access it here

In the last post, we covered what a rape kit is, and the scope of the rape kit backlog. In this post we will pick up with the progress and challenges of getting to the bottom of the backlog.

Successes so Far

rape-kits-backlogFifteen states and dozens of municipalities have made the pledge to get to the bottom of the backlog, with huge success: thousands of kits have been processed, identifying hundreds of serial rapists. After a 2011 call by the Ohio Attorney General to process old rape kits, over 8,000 kits were sent to Ohio’s state crime lab, and over 4,000 have been tested so far. These tests have resulted in 1,474 matches with the national DNA database—over 35% of kits that had been sitting in storage had a match. What is even more staggering is that at least 200 suspected serial rapists have been identified. Houston mayor, Annise Parker, prioritized the processing of rape kits, even though it cost $5.9 million. They turned up 894 DNA hits on the national database.

North Carolina

The State Crime Lab of North Carolina prides itself on processing rape kits sent to their lab immediately. However, even “immediately” still means survivors are waiting 18 months to 2 years for results. According to a recent report, the state crime labs are struggling with recruitment and retention of scientists, many of whom leave after only a short time for better paying jobs in the private sector. The state is taking steps to decrease turnaround time for DNA evidence by opening a new lab and hiring additional scientists, and the General Assembly is considering salary increases to improve retention. An unfortunate consequence of the delay is that after two years of waiting, it is harder to secure a conviction, and sometimes survivors just want to move on.

In Charlotte, where they have their own crime lab, a spokesperson for the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department stated that even though there is a backlog of 1,019 kits, this number should not be taken seriously, because over 600 of those were from cases that had been closed. But a major argument for the processing of kits in the backlog is to find hits even in closed cases. For example, a kit that was not processed due to lack of evidence could produce a match with DNA previously entered for a no-suspect rape case, or another rape case closed for lack of evidence—putting the pieces together can strengthen both cases and help get serial rapists off the streets. Continue reading “The Untested Rape Kit Backlog – Part 2”

The Untested Rape Kit Backlog – Part 1

The CSI Effect

textrib-rapekits-003Crime shows on TV make it look so easy. You see investigators talking with the weeping victim, and then the scene cuts to someone walking in with coffee in one hand and a file folder in the other. The results came back from the lab and they’ve got a match. Unfortunately, in real life, evidence collection and processing after a sexual assault is often a traumatic, time-consuming procedure, fraught with prejudice, victim-blaming, and political pressures.

What is a Rape Kit?

A “rape kit” is shorthand for the process that a survivor can choose to undergo within 72 hours of a sexual assault to preserve evidence that may link the perpetrator to the crime. Essentially, the survivor’s body is the scene of the crime, and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) collects samples of anything that might contain DNA or other physical evidence, such as swabs of the mouth and genitals, the survivor’s clothing, and brushings from the survivor’s body. The SANE nurse also takes pictures and documents any injuries. Samples of the survivor’s blood, saliva, and hair (both head hair and pubic hair) are taken to compare to any other evidence found. The survivor’s full medical history as well as an account of the assault is recorded. The rape kit collection usually takes four to six hours to complete, during which time the survivor is discouraged from eating, drinking, or using the bathroom. The evidence is then packed up in a box and handed over to law enforcement.

In North Carolina, if the survivor is not filing a police report right then, the box is put in storage for up to one year and can be retrieved if and when the survivor decides to press charges. If an investigation is opened, the DNA collected from the survivor’s body can be compared to the DNA of a suspect if there is one, or entered into the national DNA database to see if there is a match with anyone already known to law enforcement. DNA can confirm known suspects, identify unknown suspects, or eliminate suspects from the investigation. Continue reading “The Untested Rape Kit Backlog – Part 1”

Affirmative Consent Legislation Proposed in NC

Get excited y’all because NORTH CAROLINA IS CONSIDERING AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT LEGISLATION!!! Currently, California is the only state that has passed an affirmative consent law, but, as you can see on this map from affirmativeconsent.com, 14 more states – including North Carolina – are currently considering similar laws. At the end of last month, North Carolina State Senators Floyd McKissick (D; Durham, Granville) and Jeff Tarte (R; Mecklenburg) submitted an Affirmative Consent Standards Bill to the N.C. State Legislature, which is very similar to the one in California.

Continue reading “Affirmative Consent Legislation Proposed in NC”

Protections for Transgender Survivors under VAWA

The 2012 winter may not have been as cold as this past year, but it was surely chilling when the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize an amended version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These amendments included enhanced protections for immigrant, Native American and tribal, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) survivors of domestic and sexual violence. But with the 113th Congress, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was passed and signed into law on March 7, 2013. Although not all the provisions were adopted into the new law, considerable steps were taken in protecting a population that is so often overlooked: the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

Continue reading “Protections for Transgender Survivors under VAWA”

Safe Passage of Safe Harbor

Safe HarborNo one can deny that the most recent North Carolina Legislative Session was, to say the least, controversial.  But amid all the controversy came the passage of SB 683, otherwise known as the Safe Harbor Act. We first brought you news of this legislation back in April.  At the time, it was in the form of HB 825, a bill seeking to eliminate criminal prosecution of prostituted minors.  In their final vote on the bill, the NC House removed that particular provision, but it was thankfully restored by the Conference Committee before being unanimously passed on July 25 and signed into law by the governor on July 29, 2013.

Thanks to the Safe Harbor Act, North Carolina is now a safer and more supportive state for prostituted minors and all survivors of trafficking.  In addition to prostituted minors no longer facing criminal prosecution, all victims of trafficking can now have their prostitution offenses erased from their criminal record when it can be proven that they were forced into prostitution or were under 18 at the time of the offense. Continue reading “Safe Passage of Safe Harbor”

Call to Action! Proposed bill would de-fund sexual assault and DV agencies

Update: SB 664 was withdrawn in committee. Thank you for all your calls and emails to your representatives asking them to stand against this bill! However, the budget committee removed funding for displaced homemakers programs from the NC budget, which was one piece of SB 664. This would impact local agencies such as the Compass Center. Visit their website for more information about this issue.

Urgent call to action:  contact your representatives today to urge them to protect the Center, our sister organizations, and survivors of sexual and relationship violence across North Carolina by opposing SB 664!

SB 664 threatens to severely undermine services to survivors in our state by restructuring state funding to victim services agencies and establishing impractical eligibility requirements for that funding.  For example, under the new requirements, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and the Compass Center would be ineligible for funding because Orange County does not have a domestic violence shelter.  And we are not alone.

Continue reading “Call to Action! Proposed bill would de-fund sexual assault and DV agencies”

New Bill Aims to Protect Child Victims of Human Trafficking

Did you know that today in North Carolina, children who are victims of human trafficking can be prosecuted?  It’s true.  In our state, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is legally viewed in many cases as prostitution, a crime committed by the minor in question rather than against him or her.

The US Department of Justice estimates that the most frequent age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is 12-14 years.  And what’s more, GEMS reports that 70-90% of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of child sexual abuse.  Current practice is to treat these already vulnerable and traumatized children as criminals — despite the fact that they are not choosing prostitution themselves but are being forced or coerced into it (i.e. trafficked) by their pimps/boyfriends.  But, as of this week, change is on the horizon!

Continue reading “New Bill Aims to Protect Child Victims of Human Trafficking”