Entries in Sexual Assault (8)


Kleenex Designer Goes Public as Survivor of Sexual Assault

Courtesy Christine Mau and No More(NEW YORK) -- In 2010, Christine Mau, a brand design director for Kimberly-Clark, was named one of Advertising Age's "Women to Watch."  She created the oval-shaped Kleenex box and added rainbow colors to tampon wrappers and feminine pads.

But at the height of her creative success, none of her corporate colleagues knew Mau's back-story: She was a child of poverty who suffered sexual abuse and assault, first at the hands of her father and later a boyfriend.

The fortuitous intervention of bystanders -- a high school teacher and, later, college friends -- saved her from a life of violence.

"People don't want to talk about it because of the associated stigma," said Mau, now 48, and the public face of a campaign called NO MORE to prevent sexual assault and to drive new awareness to stimulate bystander action.

"Every sound bite gets out there and breaks the silences and brings more power to survivors," said Mau, whose personal story inspired NO MORE.  Kimberly-Clark, in turn, gave her full support.

On Wednesday, as the controversial Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial begins, a coalition of advocacy groups has united under a new universal message and logo Mau helped design.  It is the first national prevention initiative that has been backed by every major organization that fights domestic violence and sexual assault.

"The smallest things can have a huge impact," said Mau, who hopes that the new logo -- a blue circle with a hole in the middle -- will do for sexual assault what the pink ribbon has done for breast cancer and the red ribbon for AIDS.

The Steubenville rape case shocked the nation as two football players, Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, were charged with the rape of a drunken 16-year-old girl last August.  Both have pleaded not guilty.  The case sparked a debate, in part, because three other students took photos and video of the attack and did nothing to help the alleged victim.

A study released Wednesday before a Congressional hearing reveals that half of all young Americans surveyed (51 percent) know a victim of sexual assault or dating violence.  Of the 700 women aged 15 to 22 surveyed, 53 percent said they would find it difficult to help; 40 percent said they wouldn't know what to do if they witnessed such a crime.

One in three young women and nearly one in two young men say they would not even know how to recognize the signs of sexual assault.

The national, randomized study was conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications and funded by the Avon Foundation for Women in conjunction with Seventeen magazine.

The new symbol has been embraced by celebrities including Twilight Actress Ashley Greene and Mariska Hargitay of television's Law and Order SVU, who is president and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation.  Others include CBS sportscaster James Brown and singer Jasmine Villegas.

The logo, gender-neutral and "the color of safety and the color of the sky," represents zero tolerance and a circle of support around a victim, according to Mau.  It will be used on signs and posters and attached to the bottom of emails from all the advocacy groups.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Military Still Lags in Assisting Victims of Sexual Assault

Protect Our Defenders(NEW YORK) -- For Jenny McClendon, joining the Navy meant "being there for each other, struggling, pulling together, being a team."

Growing up with a father in the Marine Corps, she always expected to serve her country in some capacity, she said, but it was the Navy that really captivated her.

"The Navy seemed exciting," McClendon told ABC News.  "The idea of going out on the high seas, it was exhilarating."

But McClendon's ideals about serving her country were upended when she attended training camp in San Diego in 1997.  Her class officer started to verbally harass her and other female cadets, she said, asking them "if their vaginas hurt," and calling McClendon "bitch" and "feminazi."

When McClendon reported the harassment to a higher-ranking officer, telling him, "This is not the Navy I signed up to serve in, this is not the America I signed up to serve," she said she was ostracized by her fellow service members.

Out at sea on a Navy ship, where McClendon said "you're pretty much trapped," she recalled how a petty officer 2nd class -- one rank above her -- would order others out of the room so that he could grope her.  The groping escalated to rape.

Fearing ostracism or reprisals if she complained, McClendon started wearing multiple layers of clothing to evade further attacks.  When she finally did report the rape to her senior chief, she said he told her, "To this command, you are a known feminist, lesbian and Democrat.  You're going to prove that you're just trying to get this guy into trouble."

McClendon's ordeal happened 16 years ago, but it's just one in a list of military sexual-abuse scandals that goes back to the Navy's 1991 Tailhook Convention, where 100 officers sexually assaulted more than 80 women.  Five years later at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground, a dozen Army officers were charged with sexually assaulting female trainees.  More recently, at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, 32 basic training instructors are under investigation for allegedly attacking at least 59 victims beginning in 2008.

According to the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, 2,420 servicewomen reported they'd been victims of sexual assault in 2011.

A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, undertaken in response to women taking new positions on the frontlines of combat, found that although the Defense Department had "taken steps" to meet the health needs of deployed servicewomen, it still fell short when it came to providing medical and mental health services to victims of sexual assault.

The GAO report found, for example, that first responders, including chaplains, victim advocates and health personnel, did not always have a clear understanding of where to take sexual assault victims for a forensic examination, which has the potential of becoming doubly problematic, as the current guidelines state that forensic evidence is only to be collected up to 72 hours after the attack.

The report also found that some health care providers became confused by medical provisions that seemed to conflict with their command obligations, especially when it came to keeping a victim's identity confidential.  As a result of this continued confusion, military women were not comfortable reporting sexual attacks.

But the ongoing Lackland investigation, and the release of the documentary The Invisible War, which examines sexual assault in the U.S. military and is up for an Academy Award, have driven policymakers to act.

Last April, days after outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saw The Invisible War, he announced changes in how sexual assault allegations would be handled within the armed forces.

The changes included elevating the authority to prosecute sexual assaults to colonels rather than leaving it to unit commanders -- such as the one who initially presided over McClendon's case -- perhaps in the hope that this would encourage more women to come forward.

According to the Defense Department's own estimates, only 14 percent of sexual assaults were reported in 2010.

Panetta also announced that a Special Victims Units would be created for each branch of the military, and a record would be retained of the outcome of disciplinary and administrative proceedings related to sexual assault, and that these records would be kept in a central place.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Study Reveals One in Five Women Are Victims of Sexual Assault

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly one in five women have either been raped or have been the victims of an attempted rape during their lifetimes, according to a report released Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study also found that 25 percent of women have suffered a beating at the hands of an intimate partner, while over 16 percent have had someone stalk them.

Overall, 36 million people in the U.S. say they were victims of some form of domestic violence during the past year, the CDC reports. That includes men, with one in seven claiming they were at the receiving end of violence by a partner.

Linda Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, remarked, "That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people. I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population."

These updated figures suggest that the government has greatly underestimated the problem.  For instance, The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network last year estimated that 272,350 Americans were victims of sexual violence, and only 84,767 assaults defined as forcible rapes were reported in 2010.

But Wednesday's  report put the number of women who were either raped or nearly violated at about 1.3 million last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sexual Abuse: Does Society Train Boys to Be Silent Victims?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When the abuse began, Paul Treml was 14 years old, a schoolboy athlete, 5-feet 6-inches tall and 115 pounds.

His abuser, he said, was a decade older and seven inches taller, a hulking ex-college athlete who almost made it to the pros and who ran the youth sports league in Treml's Pennsylvania hometown.

For 21 years after that torture ended, Treml, now 53, kept the details secret from his even closest kin.

He started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, trying to blot out the fear, shame, guilt, hurt and assorted confusions about his sexuality that abuse survivors and the clinicians who treat them say are particularly acute for sexually assaulted males in a culture still prone to telling boys not to cry and to always be ready to defend themselves.

Sexual predators, clinicians say, are keenly aware that those complexities fuel male reluctance to discuss what happened.

"Boys are less likely to disclose," says University of Massachusetts clinical psychologist David Lisak, who works with male victims and victimizers.  Convicted Catholic "priests understood this dynamic and picked boys partly because they are less likely to be believed," he said.

Allegations that Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Penn State University, was a serial child molester have brought those fraught realities to the fore at a time when, by the most frequently cited reference, an estimated one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18.

"As a kid, you're completely frightened by what's happening to you.  You don't know what to do or what to say," said Treml, a regular public speaker on sexual abuse of men and boys.

"In my mind, no one would believe me. Or they'd think it was my fault or I was asking for this or I was homosexual.  Those emotions become so powerful you become numb.  Then you just go into denial," added Treml.

While rape is traumatic for everyone, boys and men are more likely than girls or women to keep that violence to themselves for extended periods of time -- if not, forever -- and to grapple with a host of mental and emotional ills that accompany their decision, clinicians say.

"It's somehow much more shameful for a male to admit to being abused.  It not only stirs their sense of weakness about being victimized but also the whole issue of sexual attitude and identity," says Dr. David Reiss, who, during more than 25 years as a practicing psychiatrist, has mainly treated adults who were abused as children, including sexually assaulted males.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sex Offenders Often Minimize Behaviors, Say Experts

Jose Luis Pelaez/Stone(NEW YORK) -- Although former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky denied he sexually abused young boys in a national media interview, psychiatrists say one characteristic shared by many sex offenders is the tendency to downplay inappropriate behaviors.

Sandusky admitted to NBC’s Bob Costas that he “horsed around with kids,” and showered with them after workouts, but insisted there was no sexual attraction to the boys.

“It’s a general characteristic of sex offenders to minimize the severity of their actions,” said Dr. Jon Shaw, professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine.  Shaw stressed his comment refers to sex offenders in general and not to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

Sexual molestation, said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Harold Bursztajn, is a crime of opportunity that is much more an expression of vanity and aggression than of sexuality.

“There’s a need to protect one’s vanity, which leads people to minimize and rationalize their behavior,” said Bursztajn, a forensic psychiatrist and senior clinical faculty member at Harvard Medical School.  Bursztajn was also referring to offenders in general and not specifically to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

While Sandusky said he only engaged in non-sexual hugging and touching, a former graduate assistant said he saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old child in the shower.  Sandusky denied that the assault occurred and said the graduate assistant’s account was “false.” Sandusky referred to the incident as “horseplay.”

Bursztajn explained that in cases involving accusations of sexual abuse, experts need to look at all the details and context of each situation before determining whether crimes were committed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Why Do Sex Crimes Against Boys Often Go Unreported?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sex crimes against boys, like the ones that allegedly occurred at Penn State University at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, often go unreported -- not just by educators and witnesses, but by the victims themselves -- because of the discomfort society feels about male-on-male assaults, particularly in the "hyper-masculine" world of sports.

Authorities say head coach Joe Paterno never went to police about Sandusky's alleged involvement with young boys, even after his graduate assistant coach told him he had witnessed an attack in the school's locker room back in 2002.

The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, testified to a grand jury that he heard slapping noises and looked in the showers and saw a naked 10-year-old boy "with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."

But even McQueary, who was 28 at the time, only called his father and waited to report to Paterno the next day.

Experts in child abuse say that Paterno and others could and should have done more.

"There is a certain stigma attached to male-on-male assaults," said Jennifer Marsh, hotline director for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).  "We expect men to be protectors and we find it's much easier to discuss if it's a female victim.

"When a man is a victim it brings it more into their realm -- what if they were involved in this themselves?" she said.  "It's certainly difficult for male victims to reach out and tell what happened, too.  Loved ones shy away and feel uncomfortable."

More than 10 percent of all child abuse victims are male and nearly half of them are under the age of 18, according to RAINN.  An estimated 93 percent of the victims know their attacker.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jaycee Dugard Sparks Powerful Reaction from Abuse Survivors

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Watching Jaycee Dugard describe overcoming the scars from her 18 year abduction gave Janice Norwood hope that her daughter, missing for 22 years, is still alive and that she will see her again.

"Seeing Jaycee Dugard and her mother, I just...that would be so awesome and I just got to believe it's going to happen someday," Norwood said.

Norwood, 62, was one of nearly 15 million people who tuned in to Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Dugard, the California woman abducted at 11 and held captive in a backyard compound for nearly two decades. Dugard and the two daughters she gave birth to in that backyard prison were rescued in 2009.

The 31-year-old Dugard gave a rare glimpse into life of an abducted person and the way a predator operates. For Norwood, whose daughter Kimberly disappeared in 1989 at age 12, watching Dugard gave her a window into how her daughter might be living if she's alive.

"I have wondered so many times like what she's been put through...I have thought of Kim being drugged up, of being tied up, locked up...I try not to think about that," Norwood said.

Norwood's daughter, Kim, disappeared walking home from a friend's house in their Hallsville, Texas, neighborhood. Norwood still looks down her driveway when she's watering the grass or plants hoping her daughter will appear. She said she gathered strength from watching Dugard's mother, Terry Probyn. Probyn described working tirelessly to find Dugard and said she always had a gut feeling her daughter was still alive.

Norwood was one of hundreds who flocked to Facebook to thank Dugard for her bravery. As soon as the interview aired, viewers tweeted and posted comments about the impact of Dugard's story on them.

One person commented, "the next time someone tells me they can't, I will say three words, 'Jaycee Lee Dugard.'"

A woman posted on Sawyer's Facebook page that Dugard is a "universal lift for the human spirit."

Dugard recounted the abuse and manipulation she suffered at the hands of her abductors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido. She also emphasized how she's worked hard to overcome the horror she suffered.

Dugard gave the interview and released her memoir, A Stolen Life, because she doesn't want to keep any more secrets.

"Why not look at it? You know, stare it down until it can't scare you anymore," Dugard told Sawyer.

That confidence and bravery resonated with several abuse survivors.

A teenager commented, "I suffered molestation for eight years from my biological father before I told my mom. It's been four years since I've told and I still have not talked about it to my therapist. Hopefully, this will give me courage to overcome my fear of telling her. Thank you."

Another sexual abuse survivor wrote, "It's so easy to 'give in' to the pain and horror of it and let what happened become you. She [Jaycee Dugard] has shown me in so many ways, that now at 51, I have no excuse for not moving on and and helping whoever I can. Thank you, Jaycee, for being who you are."

Beth Hughes, 53, said that she was glued to the television when Dugard recounted her abuse. Memories of the molestation she suffered as a child came flooding back.

"Wow, here's a girl 18 years held captive and she's sharing her story and it just made me think...if more people, not just Jaycee talk about their journey and their recovery from the pain of it, I think a lot more people will be healthy mentally."

Dugard described shutting off a "switch" to survive in the oppressive environment of her captors. "You just do what you have to do to survive," she told Sawyer. Dugard said that she doesn't feel a rage building inside of her towards the Garrido couple. Instead, she refuses to let them have any more of her. Dugard's desire to build a future resonates with Hughes.

"You can't get the time back, you can only go forward...that clicked when I saw Jaycee," Hughes said. "I feel like I needed to help even one person whose struggling with things that happened to them in childhood and it's affecting them in adulthood," Hughes said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reporter Calls Attention to Sexual Violence Against Female Journalists

TheGracies[dot]org(LOS ANGELES) -- Lara Logan, the CBS reporter who was sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo's Tahrir Square the night that longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, opened up about the brutal attack in an emotional interview on 60 Minutes Sunday. The reporter said she decided to go public to call attention to sexual violence against female journalists, offering a tearful recollection of the horrific night she thought would be her last.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying," Logan told CBS News' Scott Pelley. "I thought, 'Not only am I going to die, but it's going to be just a torturous death that's going to go on forever.'"

Logan said her clothes were torn off and her muscles were agonizingly stretched as she was separated from her crew and swallowed into the 200-to-300-strong mob. She recalled the flashes of cell phone cameras taking pictures of her naked body as her merciless attackers raped her with their hands.

"I didn't even know that they were beating me with flagpoles and sticks and things because I couldn't even feel that because I think the sexual assault was all I could feel, was their hands raping me over and over and over again," Logan said in the interview.

Logan was one of as many as 100 journalists who were assaulted, threatened or detained during the uprising. But the sexual nature of her attack left a psychological scar that many victims struggle to talk about.

"The physical wounds heal," Logan told the New York Times last week. "You don't carry around the evidence the way you would if you had lost your leg or your arm in Afghanistan."

Logan, 40, spent four days in the hospital following the Feb. 11 attack, which she described as being raped by the hands of the 200- to 300-strong mob. With the help of 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, she released a statement that she had "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" -- a revelation that Logan told the Times, "didn't leave me to carry the burden alone, like my dirty little secret, something that I had to be ashamed of."

"You never want to force trauma victims to talk," said Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. "But what you're seeing her do is willingly processing the trauma."

Klapow said discussing a traumatic experience can help victims adapt and accommodate the horrific thoughts, even though the memory will never disappear.

"Basically she's saying what's likely playing out in her head over and over again. She's verbalizing many of the intrusive thoughts she's experiencing and processing them, so that they're no longer as anxiety-provoking," he said.

Trauma in the line of duty can make it difficult for victims to return to work, Klapow said, and although he couldn't comment on Logan specifically, Klapow said it's "entirely plausible that someone who has gone through what she has could suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome," adding that sexual violence can also impact relationships and intimacy.

"While this was in no way an intimate act, the two are tied together," he said. "It's not unfathomable that she could have issues with physical intimacy."

Logan, who returned to work at CBS News Wednesday, said she doesn't plan on giving more interviews on the attack -- a decision that Klapow called "protective."

"Dealing with trauma like this doesn't necessarily mean talking about your trauma over and over," Klapow said. "As a psychologist I applaud her for coming forward and telling her story, but I also support her in her wish not to make this her life cause."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio