Roundup: Huge Increase in Number of Reported Sexual Assaults, Dallas County Reconsiders Ban on Condom Distribution

Caroline Kennedy supports Roe; incidence of rape and sexual assault much higher than previously reported; Dallas County health workers still not allowed to distribute condoms; Katha Pollitt on Rick Warren.

Caroline Kennedy Opposes Restrictions on Abortion Rights, Supports Same-Sex Marriage
In campaigning for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy has not yet made her platform or political philosophy known.  But the New York Times has obtained answers to 15 preliminary questions probing her views on same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, workplace union organizing, and immigration, among other subjects.  On marriage: “Caroline supports full equality and marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.”  On abortion:

…Ms. Kennedy appears to oppose restrictions on abortion rights, including laws that would require young women to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion. But asked if she would support any state or federal restrictions on late-term abortions, Ms. Kennedy did not directly address issues like so-called partial birth abortion, instead simply offering an endorsement of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault Much Higher than Previously Reported
Via Jill Filipovic at Feministe: The Department of Justice has begun gathering statistics on "private" crimes using a real person rather than a computerized system.  Writes Jill, "The new statistics, which were gathered by real people instead of a computerized voice, show a 42 percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25 percent increase in rape and sexual assault."

Human Rights Watch has more analysis:


The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.

And HRW also offers policy recommendations:


  •   The Obama administration should appoint a special adviser on violence against women in the US;
  •   Congress should restore full funding to the Office on Violence Against Women;
  •   The Department of Justice, through the National Institute of Justice, should authorize comprehensive studies that more accurately track sexual and domestic violence in the US, especially among individuals who are least likely to be surveyed by the National Crime Victimization Survey;
  •   Congress should increase funding for sexual and domestic violence prevention, intervention, and treatment programs;
  •   Congress should amend the federal Debbie Smith Act, a grant program designed to eliminate the rape kit backlog, but that states can and have used for other kinds of DNA backlogs;
  •   The US should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to prevent, protect against, and punish violence against women.

Dallas County Health Workers Still Not Allowed to Distribute Condoms

A Dallas Commissioners Court decision prohibits condom distribution by health workers, even as the number of those infected in Dallas County has been steadily increasing, reports the Dallas Morning News:

Before 1995, county health workers routinely ventured into local communities to hand out condoms and needle sterilization kits to those with the greatest risk of infection. But that year, a narrow majority of commissioners voted to end the practice, saying it encouraged illegal and immoral behavior.

"Any barrier to receiving condoms needs to be eliminated," Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, a Dallas nonprofit, told the Morning News. "It’s better to go in the communities that are high risk because they may not come to you."

Katha Pollitt on Rick Warren: "A Bridge Too Far"

In the Los Angeles Times, Katha Pollitt invites readers to try a thought experiment:

To understand how angry and disappointed many Democrats are that Barack Obama has invited evangelical preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural, imagine if a President-elect John McCain had offered this unique honor to the Rev. Al Sharpton — or the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. I know, it’s hard to picture: John McCain would never do that in a million years. Republicans respect their base even when, as in McCain’s case, it doesn’t really return the favor.

Pollitt adds, "Only Democrats, it seems, reward their most loyal supporters — feminists, gays, liberals, opponents of the war, members of the reality-based community — by elbowing them aside to embrace their opponents instead." 

Pollitt discusses Warren’s beliefs on abortion and gay marriage, but also notes the Saddleback Church approach to heterosexual marriage:

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s "leadership" even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances. Never mind if she’s an accountant and he flunked long division, or if she wants to beef up the kids’ college fund and he wants to buy shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. The godly answer is supposed to be "yes, dear." Is elevating this male chauvinist how President-elect Obama thanks women, who gave him more than half his votes?