BLOG 6/11/15

August 11, 2015 NOW Calls for Overhaul of Criminal Justice System in Light of Police Brutality CrisisStatement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

Washington, DC – What can be said about the state of our criminal justice system when, in the past two weeks alone, five women of color have been found dead inside correctional facilities?

Raynetta Turner, 43 years old. Arrested in Mt. Vernon, NY for shoplifting. Found dead in her cell within 48 hours after being arrested.

Kindra Chapman, 18 years old. Arrested in Homewood, AL for stealing a cell phone. Committed suicide within 24-48 hours after being locked up.

Joyce Curnell, 50 years old. Arrested in North Charleston, SC on a bench warrant for shoplifting. Found dead in her cell within 24-48 hours of being locked up.

Ralkina Jones, 44 years old. Arrested in Cleveland, OH for assaulting her ex-husband and his car with a tire iron. Found dead in her cell 2 days after her arrest.

Sandra Bland, 28 years old. Pulled over in Waller County, TX for making a lane change without signaling. Found dead in her cell 3 days later.

Our criminal justice system is in crisis. Police officers are seemingly trained as if they are a military occupying force and believe that Black and brown people are all presumptively dangerous insurgents. They are also, seemingly, trained to believe that their personal safety is threatened whenever a Black or brown person fails to be utterly compliant and utterly submissive to an officer’s every command, however whimsical (like instructing Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette on pain of being tasered).

Once in custody, prisoners too often receive shockingly poor medical care — even though many prisoners, like Raynetta Turner, Joyce Curnell and Ralkina Jones, have serious medical conditions.

NOW calls on the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into how five Black women can die while in custody in just a two-week span. NOW also calls on the Obama administration and on Congress to make a top priority of identifying and eliminating the systemic racism that pervades criminal justice in the U.S. What we are facing is nothing short of an emergency – we need answers, we need action, and we need sustainable change.

Antiracist feminists of all colors know that, in the words of Dr. King, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we cannot trust the police to treat our Black and brown sisters and brothers with respect and fairness, how can we trust them at all? CONTACT Elise Coletta, elise@now.org, (951) 547-1241

June 25, 2015 by Amber Feiler, Ohio NOW intern.  Slut shaming has been a feminist issue for a long time, and continues to be relevant.  What is slut shaming? – Well, it is when a woman is victimized, made fun on, or insulted based on her sexuality, choice of clothing, etc.  This goes hand in hand with victim blaming.

“What was she wearing? Was she drinking? She should know better. Boys will be boys.”

A victim is never at blame, I repeat, A VICTIM IS NEVER AT BLAME.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  This should be common knowledge, yet the issue still exists.

What I am not sure of, is what is worse?  The misogynists who continue to slut shame and victim blame, or other women who partake in these emotional scaring actions?  It has become standard to judge a woman”s clothing choices, and honestly, it starts in childhood.  Girls are examined by their parents before leaving the house, to assure her outfit is appropriate.  This practice means well, but does more harm than good.

Public schools have dress codes that directly target young girls.  If a girl is showing too much skin, or wearing something too form fitting, they are “distracting the boys”, and will be sent home.  We are having adults decide that our minor’s bodies are sexual objects and giving them the message that their body is just for man’s desire.

While slut shaming and victim blaming is slowly getting better, the progress is indeed slow.  Protests have been occurring in schools across America, fighting the sexist dress codes.

My biggest desire, is for slut shaming and victim blaming to be diminished, so any future children of mine don’t have to deal with the emotional damage these actions cause.

April 22, 2015  Cyberstalking and Online Threats  Cyberstalking and online threats have become an increasingly pervasive problem that disproportionately affects women and girls. Last week NOW partnered with the National Task force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women and the National Council of Women’s Organizations in coordination with The Victims’ Rights Caucus (Representatives Judge Poe (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA), co-chairs) and Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) to sponsor a provocative Capitol Hill briefing with panelists:

  • Michelle Garcia, Director of the Stalking Resource Center
  • Zoe Quinn, Video Game Developer and Co-founder of Crash Override
  • John Wilkinson, Attorney Advisor at AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women
  • Danielle Keats Citron, Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

About 2,300 people watched the briefing which was live streamed via Twitter. The recording is not currently available, but we’ll send a link when it is. See the new fact sheet about Cyberstalking and Online Threats.

Loretta Lynch, AG Nominee A deal is close on the abortion language in the trafficking bill. Following that vote, the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, nominee for attorney general, may be voted on this Wednesday, April 22 or Thursday, April 23 or maybe next Tuesday. We expect the vote to be close. If you haven’t called your senators yet, please do. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your senator. Or visit the Senate website for the direct office number.

The delay has been disgraceful. Push the Senate to hold a vote on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for AG and demand that they #Confirm Lynch.

women marriage 2Marriage Equality to be argued at U.S. Supreme Court April 28 Two and a half hours of oral arguments in the marriage equality cases before the U.S. Supreme Court will be heard on April 28. NOW activists will rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on that day. Check for local demonstrations as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted review of cases from four states – Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. These cases are on appeal after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned district court rulings striking down the states’ marriage bans — creating a conflict with four other federal appeals courts that have invalidated similar state marriage bans. NOW Foundation signed on to an amicus brief a summary of which can be here.

A recording of the oral arguments will be posted on Friday, May 1.  A decision is likely to be released by the end of June. A favorable ruling could legalize same-sex-marriage in all 50 states while an unfavorable one could leave as few as 18 states with marriage equality. Stayed tuned.

A summary of other U.S. Supreme Court Cases for which NOW Foundation signed on to amicus briefs is on the NOW Foundation website.

NOW Opposes FratPAC Position on Campus Sexual Assault NOW signed on to a letter drafted by the National Alliance to End Sexual violence to oppose the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee’s (FSPAC or “FratPAC”) misguided and dangerous position on sexual assault, specifically their recommendation to defer any campus judicial proceeding until completion of criminal adjudication (investigation and trial).

We are sending a letter to every member of Congress saying we oppose this wrongheaded approach – especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. FSPAC had planned to lobby Congress next week in support of their position, but recent reports indicate they may be toning down their opposition.


April 8, 2015 Poor women will face more problems
if 20-week abortion ban proposal is adopted: Anita Rios, Ohio National Organization for Women – op-ed

Caption: Guest columnist Anita Rios is President of the Ohio Chapter of the National Organization for Women and of the Toledo Chapter of NOW, and was the Green Party’s candidate for Governor of Ohio in 2014. She was born and raised in the Toledo area, is a graduate of the University of Toledo, a former mental health case manager, and a wife and mother. Having had an abortion prior to Row v Wade she is dedicated to maintaining access to abortion for all women. She argues against the proposed 20-week abortion ban.
 
April 8, 2015 State should move toward total elimination of abortions: Denver Sallee, Lake County Right to Life – op-ed
Caption: Guest columnist Denver Sallee has been married to Marsha for 50 years. He is the father of four and grandfather of 16. Additionally, he serves as president of Lake County Right to Life, co-chairs HELP Pro-Life Apostolate at Saints Helen, Edward and Lucy parishes. He argues in favor of total elimination of abortions.

 SANDUSKY PROTEST AGAINST RAPE

February 2, 2015  Demonstrating outside in Sandusky Ohio in the middle of winter, at night no less, is not what I want to be doing with my Friday night. But that is exactly what I will be doing this evening from 7:45 to 8:15 at the Bill Cosby show at the State Theater. In the face of the numerous allegations from women that he drugged and raped them Ohio NOW could not sit quietly and fail to speak out. We had to let those women know that we stand with them and that we believe them.

Despite the fact that the statute of limitations has passed and that most of the victims did not come forward for many years and did not press criminal charges it is not hard to believe that so many women were too intimidated to come forward. Our criminal justice system does not make it easy for the victims of rape to pursue charges against their attackers. When that attacker is a well known and much loved icon it is conceivable that so many women would remain silent for so long. But first one women came forward then another and another and now a picture has emerged of a predator hiding behind the facade of a wise fatherly figure.

It will be cold out tonight, the temperature will be around 15 degrees, but I will wear several layers of clothing and my heavy boots and wool hat. I hope other brave souls come out to join me and my husband. We will be holding a signs that says, “rape is not funny”.

I will let you know how it turns out.

HOW IT TURNED OUT

It was indeed cold Friady night when Robert, my husband, and I demonstrated outside of the Bill Cosby Show at the State Theater in Sandusky, but we were dressed for it and it wasn’t too bad. We arrived a bit later than we hoped due to Robert working late and the hour long drive, and joined the two women who were already there. Not a good turnout but it did get a lot of news coverage with TV stations from Toledo and Cleveland there with cameras. One of the two women who we joined was NOW activist Bev Penfield from the Oberlin chapter. The other woman was a concerned citizen who felt she had to come out and show support for the victims.

We stood with our signs and did encounter several of the patrons who were attending the show and were interviewed by the newspaper. Most of the passers by expressed agreement with our signs that said “rape is not funny”. One man hollered from his truck that “people are innocent until proven guilty”. The reporter from the newspaper also made this point. This is a position that I agree with very strongly and I expressed that it was not an easy decision for me to make to stand with the accusers.

I took this stand because for me the story that the accusers are telling has the ring of truth because of the very prominent position that Bill Cosby holds in our society and because of the bias against rape victims that exists in the criminal justice system.

I believe that most Ohio NOW activists hold the same position on this that I do but not all. One state board member wrote to me to say that Ohio NOW should not make a statement against Mr. Cosby and made the case for his innocence. Unfortunately neither Mr. Cosby nor his accusers will have their day in court because the statute of limitations has passed. Does that mean that we should not take a position because it will always be a situation of he said she said? I don’t think so. On the contrary I think it is important that we address these allegations particularly because of how many women have come forward and the prominent position that Bill Cosby holds. For aspiring models and actresses to step forward and accuse America’s icon of fatherhood wisdom “Heath Huxtable” of rape the risks surely outweighed the gains. Even now when Cosby’s star has somewhat waned these women are being accused of being attention seeking crackpots, of seeking financial gain, and of being “part of a conspiracy to smear Bill Cosby”(by Cosby Show co-star Phyllica Rashad). In my opinion this clearly demonstrates why it took so long for them to come forward.

A couple of women did try to out Cosby but were silenced. One wrote about it in her memoir and was told to remove that passage by her publisher. Another woman sued him and had found 13 women who would testify that he had also drugged and raped them but that case was settled out of court. It seems plausible to me that Bill Cosby got away rape for so long that he felt he was immune form prosecution and he still is. It is not surprising that his defenders keep recounting how kind and generous he has been to them. Rapists hide their behavior behind a facade of respectability and in Cosby’s case he has hidden behind the warmth generated by the fictional character he played. None the less his behavior was apparently an open secret in Hollywood.

As we were standing out in the cold last night Bev Penfield told me that in one of the interviews she did she was asked “what do you hope to accomplish by being out here”. She said that she felt she had to make a statement in support of the victims. I agree with her, and am glad that Robert and I made the trip out to Sandusky to stand with her and in some sense with the brave women who have stepped forward to speak truth to power. I know we can not resolve this and certainly not by a demonstration,

but silence plays a pivotal role in allowing rapists to get away with their crimes and the very least we can do is to stand up for those who speak up.

HOW MUCH INFLUENCE DOES OHIO RIGHT TO LIFE HAVE WITH THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH?

On October 27, 2014, the Chandra Law Firm and the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation sent a public-records request to the Ohio Department of Health asking for email and phone communications between the department and Ohio Right to Life. The department has refused to produce these documents.

The request is of the type that journalists and engaged citizens send all the time. Journalists and advocacy groups make requests like this all the time – and so can you. The Department of Health might think it can get away with ignoring our request, but it’s going to be a whole lot harder for them to ignore us if they’re flooded with requests from scores of pro-choice Ohioans.

Complete this simple webform to request records from the Ohio Department of Health.

Your action is needed to force the Health Department to open their files. They cannot be allowed to continue taking orders from Ohio Right to Life and keep secrets from Ohio women.
NOW keep abortion round sign

KEEP ABORTION LEGAL IN TOLEDO!

In 2013 we saw the closing of Toledo’s first and oldest abortion clinic, the Center for Choice, due to the State of Ohio’s unnecessary requirement that all abortion clinics obtain a transfer agreement with a local hospital. Now we are seeing Capital Care Toledo’s only remaining abortion clinic facing the threat of closure and fighting to remain open. The Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund ( The Aggie Fund) is committed to helping to maintain access to safe and legal abortions for women in the Toledo area as part of our mission to assist low income women in obtaining abortions. In keeping with this mission we have made a commitment to assist with funding for abortions through Capital Care.

In November we provided a check for $2000 to Capital Care to be used to defer the cost of abortions for their patients. We would like to be able to provide a similar amount to Capital Care on at least a quarterly basis. This will prevent women from having to travel out of town for care and help them pay for the procedure. In addition this will allow the management of Capital Care to devote their scarce resources to funding their legal fight to keep the clinic open.

Your donation will help The Aggie Fund to help Capital Care stay open by providing financial assistance to their patients. We are an all volunteer 501c3 non-profit organization and at least 90% of the money we raise goes directly to abortion assistance.
Your donation is tax deductible and will assist women in the Toledo area.

To donate please make your check out to: The Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund
and mail to us at: PO Box 4878, Toledo, Ohio 43610
If you need a receipt please let us know and one will be mailed to you.

Also remember to let others know that Capital Care remains open for business and is performing abortions in Toledo. It is imperative that we support their effort to stay open.
Please contact us if you would like more information on The Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund or a brochure on Capital Care services.

Thank you for your very important support.
The Officers of the Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund
Anita Rios, President (419-243-8772, rhannon@toast.net)
Marcie Wahba, Secretary
Colleen Eldridge, Treasurer