Category: Women’s Rights

Man rapes his 12 year old daughter, manages to avoid prison 

Martin Blake, a 40-year-old Montana man, has pleaded guilty to one count of felony incest after he was caught raping his 12-year-old daughter. Initially, prosecutors in the case charged Blake with several counts of incest rape against the young girl, but as part of the Montana man’s plea agreement decided to allow Blake to admit guilt to a single charge

Blake agreed, as part of his plea deal, to a 100-year prison sentence for his horrendous crimes, with 75 years of that sentence suspended. In total, the admitted child sex offender agreed to a sentence that would have kept him imprisoned and off the streets for 25 years. However, at his sentencing hearing on Friday at Valley District Court, the public was shocked and stunned by the judge’s actions in court.

During the hearing, Judge John C. McKeon opted not to sentence Martin Blake to a single night in prison. Rather, he sentenced the Montana man to a nothing more than probation for the next three decades. 

The Glasgow, Montana community is so furious over the admitted child sex offender’s sentence that a petition has been created to have the judge that presided over Martin Blake’s case removed from the bench. The Petition To Impeach Judge John McKeon has already gathered nearly 10,000 signatures.

NBC Montana also reports that the judge in the Martin Blake case has spoken publicly in his own defense. According to McKeon, the Montana man’s own family sent letters to the court begging for leniency in the case.

Additionally, the judge who handed down the prison-free sentence for Montana man Martin Blake added that nobody in the family spoke on the behalf of or in defense of the 12-year-old rape victim during the sentencing hearing.

The mother of the victim, reportedly walked in on Martin Blake sexually assaulting her daughter gave a statement to the court begging for her daughter’s rapist to be treated, not imprisoned.

Likewise, the victim’s grandmother also spoke out on behalf of the Blake. According to the victim’s grandmother, Martin Blake’s young sons would have been harmed and “devastated” if their father was imprisoned for two-and-a-half decades.

Reportedly, an evaluation by the court indicated that Martin Blake could be successfully and safely treated and monitored within the local community.

In addition to his 30 years of probation, Montana man Martin Blake was also sentenced to 60 days in jail, but given credit for 17 days that he’d already served. He is also going to be required to undergo “sex offender treatment.” According to the judge in the case, Blake’s sentence was “quite restrictive and quite rigorous.” Judge McKeon is reportedly due to retire next month.

New court ruling may help stop child marriage in India

Last month, in a landmark ruling to protect child brides, the Supreme Court of India declared that sex with a minor girl under the age of 18 would be considered rape regardless of whether the man is her husband or not. With this ruling, the Court finally put to rest the confusion over the age of consent to sexual relations in the context of marriage, namely, child marriage. This is a major step forward in protecting victims of child marriage in India, and possibly discouraging the practice.

India’s recently released census data reveals that nearly 12 million Indian children were married before the age of 10 years. As many as 65 percent of these married children were female. Despite the disturbingly high rate of child marriage in India, ambiguities and anomalies in the different laws relating to women and children in India have contributed to the lack of clarity on the age of marriage and consent to sexual activity.

In 2006, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act set the age of marriage at 18 years for girls, and 21 for boys. As per the law, child marriage is punishable with both imprisonment and a fine, as long as a complaint was filed within one year of the marriage and the marriage itself was considered “valid as performed.” The prevalence of child marriage, however, has continued unabated not only because of poor implementation of the law, but also because of deeply entrenched cultural and societal norms that enable the practice to continue with impunity.

Though the Child Marriage Act addressed the issue of a child marriage more broadly, it did not address sex with minor brides. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prescribes the age of consent for sexual intercourse as 18 years, meaning that any person having sexual intercourse with a girl child under 18 would be statutorily guilty of rape even if the sexual activity was with her consent. Unfortunately, the same provision carves out an exception whereby sex with a wife between the age of 15 and 18 years is not considered rape. Therefore, the law implied that, if a girl child between 15 and 18 years of age is married, her husband can have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her, without being penalized under the IPC.

As per the Court’s opinion, this effectively “denied such a girl the right to bodily integrity and to decline to have sexual intercourse with her husband.”

The Court’s latest decision rules that this distinction contained in the IPC between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child was “arbitrary, discriminatory, and not in the best interest of the girl child.” According to the Court, the distinction is contrary to the spirit of the Indian Constitution, specifically Article 15(3) [discrimination on basis of sex, caste race and place of birth] and Article 21 [right to life] of the Indian Constitution.

In short, India now explicitly criminalizes sex with a minor girl, regardless of marital status.

Child rights advocates, gender experts, and civil society in general have welcomed the Court’s decision as a step forward toward empowering and protecting girls. However, one must also acknowledge that implementation of such laws is always an uphill battle, particularly when the onus is on the child bride herself to step forward and lodge a complaint against her husband. Even if a child bride finds the courage, is supported by her in-laws or family, and wishes to file a complaint, there is the possibility that local police officers may refuse to file the case, or try to dissuade her and push her into coming to a compromise with the family or community.

“Nice guy” murders woman for turning down his marriage proposal

Berks County, PA-  Christopher R. Tucker, 34, of Albany Township, has been charged with murder and criminal homicide for allegedly killing 19-year-old Tara Serino, state police said. She was last seen by her family Monday.

Tucker asked Serino to marry him at his Berks County home some time between Monday and Tuesday. She said no and then told him she was involved with other men. Tucker allegedly told police he then snapped, choking Serino until he thought she was dead. He then poked her eyes out, snapped her neck and beat her with a hatchet, police said.

He wrapped Serino in a rug and left it in his home as he fled to Illinois, police said.

Authorities in Champaign County, Illinois, picked Tucker up at a truck stop after he tried to break into a farmer’s combine and took him to a hospital for evaluation. There police executed an arrest warrant from Pennsylvania State Police.

Troopers searched Tucker’s home following his confession to detectives and found Serino’s body. He’s being held in an Illinois jail.

Attorney information for Tucker was not immediately available. State police are working to extradite him back to Pennsylvania.

Teacher takes upskirt photos of students; faces no legal action

Andrew Corish, a teacher from an all-girls school in Croydon, U.K. has admitted he used his phone to film up students’ skirts and stored the images and videos on his phone. As a punishment for preying upon young girls and taking advantage of his position as an assistant headteacher, he potentially faces a classroom ban.

He will not go to prison, because what he did technically, does not constitute a criminal offense, as upskirt photos are not illegal.

Cornish initially pleaded guilty to voyeurism, but a month later the judge rejected the plea, ruling that the students weren’t in a place where they could reasonably expect privacy, such as in their homes or a changing room, and therefore Corish’s actions don’t constitute voyeurism. The Crown Prosecution Service applied for indecent images of children charges to be added, but the judge ruled the images “were not of an indecent nature”.

Without facing any legal ramifications, Corish’s behaviour was examined by The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) misconduct panel, in which Corish admitted all the allegations in a witness statement. The panel chair ruled that Cornish’s actions “involved breaches of the teachers’ standards” and it will consider whether to recommend sanctions or a ban to the education secretary. It will consider whether to recommend sanctions or a ban. Despite admitting his guilt, Corish hasn’t immediately been banned from entering a classroom.

Arrest warrant issued for Rose McGowan in drug case 

Harvey Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan is facing arrest for possession of a controlled substance. 

On Monday, McGowan, 44, tweeted to her followers that a warrant had been issued for her arrest in Virginia.

“Are they trying to silence me? There is a warrant out for my arrest in Virginia. What a load of HORSES–T,” McGowan wrote.

Airport police allegedly found traces of narcotics in belongings she left behind at Washington Dulles International Airport after she arrived on a flight from Los Angeles earlier this year. 

“Her personal belongings that were left behind from a flight arriving on Jan. 20 tested positive for narcotics,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department. “Our police have attempted to contact Ms. McGowan so that she can appear in a Loudoun County Virginia court to respond to the charge.” The charge against her, he told Deadline, is a felony.

Airport police, he said, “have been issued a bench warrant and entered it into a national law enforcement database.”

McGowan has accused Weinstein of raping her in 1997, and claims that one of the disgraced producer’s close associates offered her $1 million to remain silent about the assault.

Quebec judge suggests victim of sexual assault should be flattered because she’s overweight

A Quebec judge will be subject to an official complaint over comments he made during a sexual assault trial suggesting the teenage complainant was “flattered” by the accuser’s attention.

Cab driver Carlo Figaro, 49, was accused of forcibly kissing and licking the face of a 17-year-old girl who was his passenger. Figaro also fondled the victim, touching her breasts and genitals over her clothes. Figaro was found guilty in May and has not yet been sentenced. He is appealing the conviction.

During the trial Judge Jean-Paul Braun remarked, “It can be said that she is a little overweight, but she has a pretty face huh?” He also suggested the victim may have been “flattered” because between the victim’s weight and strict religious upbringing “that is perhaps the first time that a man is interested in her.”

Audio recordings of the court proceedings show that Braun also went back and forth with Crown prosecutor Amélie Rivard, suggesting there are degrees of consent and questioning exactly which actions required Figaro to get the victim’s consent.

The judge said it is not the same to consent to kiss someone and to “mettre … la main au panier,” a French expression that usually refers to touching someone’s rear end. He described the non-consensual kiss as an “acceptable gesture.”

Braun also commented in his written decision on the appearance of the 49-year-old taxi driver.

“He looks good and doesn’t seem his age,” the judge stated. “We can see from his testimony … that he has nice manners and that he likes to wear cologne: with Versace when he goes out, and with other less-expensive colognes during the week.”

In his decision, Braun said that while the victim perhaps didn’t make it clear that she didn’t want to be kissed, through her body language and words, she did make it clear that she didn’t consent to what happened after that.

When asked about Braun’s comments Wednesday morning, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée told reporters they were “unacceptable” and that she would be filing a complaint with Quebec’s magistrates council.

Lawmaker Eddie Bernice Johnson thinks women are to blame for sexual harassment

When the accusations leveled against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th District) says she was angry and disappointed in the man who supported many of her Democratic colleagues in D.C.

She also believes women bear as much responsibility for preventing sexual harassment and assault. Johnson said in a statement– 

“I grew up in a time when it was as much the woman’s responsibility as it was a man’s — how you were dressed, what your behavior was,” said Johnson, who represents Texas’ 30th Congressional District. “I’m from the old school that you can have behaviors that appear to be inviting. It can be interpreted as such. That’s the responsibility, I think, of the female. I think that males have a responsibility to be professional themselves.”

When asked if it’s time to stop talking about what women are wearing and instead discuss abuses of power, the congresswoman insisted her message is meant to empower women to prevent harassment and assault.

“I think we also need to start talking about the power that women have to control the situation. There’s law enforcement, you can refuse to cooperate with that kind of behavior. I think that many times, men get away with this because they are allowed to get away with it by the women,” Johnson said.
Johnson also expressed disappointment that more women didn’t come forward sooner, saying women need guidance to stand up against harassment and report it.

On social media, where millions have engaged in the #MeToo campaign, some of responses blame victims of assault or harassment.

“I know the impact of those words, and I know it keeps women from coming forward,” said Jan Langbein, CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support in Dallas.

She said questions about a victim’s attire or whether a victim’s behavior invited abuse contribute to a culture of silence and prevent victims from coming forward, especially if the perpetrator is in a position of power.

“I think reasonable people want to try to figure out a reasonable answer for why something like this happens, and I think perhaps sometimes when we think maybe it’s an ethnicity other than mine, or it’s another economic group, or it’s the victim’s problem, then maybe it won’t happen to me,” Langbein said. “It’s a lot easier for society to blame a victim and wash our hands of it. The cure to this will be really hard work. It will be changing opinions and changing society’s ideas of what power can do and not do and holding people accountable.”

Following this report, Johnson released another statement Thursday attempting to clarify her message. That statement is below in its entirety.

“Sexual assault and harassment has no place in our society. This is something I believe deeply. And at each turn of my professional life, I have made it my mission to fight for women’s rights,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “I do not blame the victims of sexual assault for the actions of their assailants. I do acknowledge that my comments regarding behavior and attire come from an old school perspective that has shaped how some of us understand the issue, but that does not detract from the fact that criminals need to be held accountable for their actions. I will never condone those who feel they can abuse the power of their positions to sexually assault and harass women, and I will always encourage victims to come forward so that we can hold these criminals accountable. Thanks to the testimony of brave women like Anita Hill, students on college campuses, and most recently the victims of Harvey Weinstein’s attacks, we are able to have a public dialogue about the systemic issues that we face as a society. Ultimately, we need to unequivocally support the victims of sexual assault and harassment as best we can while working to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. And supporting all women in this fight will continue to be my life’s work.”

Judge backtracks on giving rapist custody

Judge Gregory Ross recently came under fire after ordering that convicted rapist Christopher Mirasolo could have joint custody to the boy he fathered with a 12-year-old girl nine years ago. Now that the case has caught media attention, the judge has vacated the order and removed custodial rights for Mirasolo. 

In a statement, Sanilac County Prosecutor James Young says he wants to “express our apologies for the manner in which this case was handled.”Ross had signed a paternity order on Sept. 22 naming Mirasolo as the father of the boy. Mirasolo was ordered to pay child support and was granted joint custody and parenting time.

When it became public the boy was conceived through rape, public outcry was widespread, and people gathered on the courthouse lawn in protest Tuesday.

Rebecca Kiessling, the victim’s lawyer, said she was disappointed with the ruling. “There is still a problem,” she said. “Her signature wasn’t on the (original) consent order. They are not allowed to issue a consent order without her consent.”

She also said Ross’s decision did not address the issue of child support.

“The judge just completely vacated the order,” Kiessling said. “She did not get child support. She is entitled to child support.”

In his decision, which he read in court, Ross wrote: “The question that everyone is asking is ‘How could a judge do such a thing?’ The answer is that this judge was not aware, did not have knowledge of the fact that the defendant raped the plaintiff and the child was born as a result.”

He said he was presented with a paternity petition which he reviewed and there was nothing unusual in the order.

“It has been suggested that I ‘rubber stamped’ this order,” he wrote. “I do not rubber stamp orders. I felt it was routine. I did not ‘rubber stamp’ it.” Both Ross and Young said procedures will be reviewed.

“The Family Division of the Circuit Court will be reviewing its procedures also,” Ross wrote. “This should not happen to anyone.”

Sandra Potter, of Peck, is founder of Dreamcatchers for Abused Children and one of the organizers of Tuesday’s rally at the Sanilac County Courthouse.

“Giving a twice-convicted sex-offender any type of custody and parental rights is unprecedented,” she said.

Mirasolo pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Sept. 6, 2008, assault of the child’s mother, who was 12 at the time. 

He was discharged from the department of corrections on Dec. 20, 2010. 

Mirasolo pleaded no contest to third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in a March 29, 2010, incident involving a 15-year-old girl

Both victims spoke during Tuesday’s rally.

“I was kidnapped and raped by Christopher Mirasolo,” said the woman who was 12 at the time of the assault. “He told me he would kill me if I told anybody he had raped me.”

In a response to objections of his being awarded custody of his son, Mirasolo said his relationship with the boy’s mother when she was 12 was romantic. 

“The Defendant absolutely denies that he forcibly raped or threatened to kill the minor child’s mother. In further response, the Defendant states that the Plaintiff became pregnant while the parties were in a romantic relationship that lasted several months. The relationship occurred when the Defendant was 18 years old and the Plaintiff was approximately five years younger than the Defendant,” reads the response filed by Mirasolo’s lawyer. 

Twitter suspends Rose McGowan for talking about sexual harassment 

Actress Rose McGowan said in an Instagram post overnight that her Twitter account had been temporarily suspended, following a tweet in which she accused the actor Ben Affleck of prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, including toward her.
“TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE,” McGowan wrote on her Instagram page, shortly after midnight Eastern time on Thursday. She included a snapshot of a message from Twitter saying she would only be able to send direct messages from her account unless she deleted tweets that violated Twitter rules.

The screenshot announced a temporary freeze that prevented her from tweeting, retweeting or liking for 12 hours. Unlike a full suspension, this measure leaves her account visible.

The message in the screenshot said that the lock was in effect because McGowan’s account had “violated the Twitter rules.”

It was not clear which tweets had resulted in the suspension. However, on Tuesday, after Affleck tweeted that the allegations against Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him a liar, saying he had long been aware of what Weinstein had done.

McGowan reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997 following a hotel room incident at the Sundance Film Festival, and in recent days has been vociferous in her support of women who have stepped forward to reveal that the producer had sexually harassed them or worse. She has also attacked Hollywood players who failed to criticize Mr. Weinstein, writing in a tweet “you all knew.”

Twitter declined to comment on the matter, citing privacy and security reasons.

Illinois passes law that prohibits companies from gender based price discrimination

SPRINGFIELD, Il. – Companies in Illinois are no longer allowed to charge women more than men for services such as dry cleaning and salon appointments. Legislation that increases transparency in pricing among some service providers and exposes gender-based price discrimination has been signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said most folks assume that this type of discrimination would have disappeared by now, but it hasn’t. She said women have long been charged more for certain services – which doesn’t make it right.

“Women pay more for dry cleaning, and you’ll also see it in some hair salons, where women will pay more for the same services, and tailors,” she said. “So, it’s just trying to make sure that women do know what the prices are, so that they can ask, ‘Is there a reason for a price difference?’ ”

Bush sponsored Senate Bill 298, which requires hair salons, barbers, dry cleaners and tailors to provide customers with a price list for services upon request. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Last year, the same senator’s “pink tax” legislation repealed state sales tax on feminine hygiene products. She said it’s another part of the effort to remove economic barriers for Illinois women.

“My hope is that the law will make service providers take a second look at what they charge women,” she said, “because what women pay, you know, these are dollars that are coming out of our family.”

Bush said gender inequity is a problem across the country. In a study published in late 2015, New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs compared nearly 800 products of more than 90 brands and found, on average, products for women and girls cost seven-percent more than similar products for men and boys.

A synopsis of the bill reads:

“[This bill] Amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Provides that no seller may discriminate, with respect to the price charged for services of similar or like kind, against a person because of the person’s gender. Provides that nothing in the provisions of the amendatory Act: (1) prohibits price differences based specifically upon the amount of time, difficulty, or cost of providing the services; or (2) alters or affects the provisions of the Illinois Insurance Code or other laws that govern health care service plan or insurer underwriting or rating practices. Requires certain sellers to: (a) clearly and conspicuously disclose to consumers in writing the pricing for each standard service provided; (b) provide consumers with a complete written price list upon request; and (c) display in a conspicuous place at least one clearly visible sign, which reads: “ILLINOIS LAW PROHIBITS DISCRIMINATION WITH RESPECT TO THE PRICE CHARGED FOR SERVICES OF SIMILAR OR LIKE KIND, AGAINST A PERSON BECAUSE OF THE PERSON’S GENDER. A COMPLETE PRICE LIST IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.” Contains provisions concerning remedies and civil liabilities. Defines “standard service”.