Category

Sexual Exploitation

Let’s unite to support justice for the millions of brave women who’ve survived sexual assault

By | Blog, News and Events, Planned Parenthood, Sanctity of Life, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

This week I am scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine federal funding of DNA analysis — with the goal of promoting justice for victims of crime.  As a survivor of assault and attempted rape on a Virginia running path, I am honored to testify in regard to the reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act, a program within the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that funds the processing of DNA rape kits.

First enacted in 1994 by President Clinton, VAWA has been a hotbed of conflict, deeply dividing party lines — with both sides taking part in public mud-slinging and scare tactics. But, now more than ever, it is time to try to find common ground, and focus on bringing justice and relief to the millions of brave American women who have survived violence and sexual assault.

Over the twenty-four years of VAWA’s existence, the Office of Violence Against Women has distributed over 7.6 billion dollars to VAWA grant recipients.  During this time, Concerned Women for America has had a love-hate relationship with VAWA.  The fight against sexual exploitation is one of CWA’s seven core issues, and as the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization, we applaud any efforts to reduce violence or bring support to victims.

However, we believed combating violence against women was (in most cases) most effectively organized at the state level.  In addition, we have been concerned over the lack of conscience provisions for faith-based service providers.  For example, in 2011 after five years of providing services to sex trafficking victims in 44 states, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was denied participation in the program which many believed was due to their position on abortion and HHS preference for “full-range” of family planning services.

Equally frustrating is the lack of oversight and accountability, fraud, and abuse of VAWA funds. We know that between 1993 and 2010, the Inspector General reviewed twenty-two individual grantees that received VAWA funding.  Of those twenty-two, twenty-one grantees were found to have some form of “violation of grant requirements” which included unauthorized or unallowable expenditures, slipshod record keeping, and failure to report in a timely manner. And these are just a few examples.

The Debbie Smith Act is one small program within VAWA.  This program is an abundantly worthy effort and an example of the kind of work that can be achieved when we work together on a bipartisan basis.  The program has made great strides in helping states begin the hard work to clean up the backlog of unprocessed DNA but we can do better.  Through the Debbie Smith Act, we have spent over $1.2 billion to clean up state rape kit backlogs since 2004. However, due to a lack of accountability and prioritization in this program, we still have little to no idea of whether or not these funds have reached this objective.

What we do know is that in many states the rape kit backlog is still unaccounted for, and in some cases forgotten, such as in the instance of the eleven thousand kits found in an abandoned Detroit warehouse; some of these kits lay unopened and wasting for twenty five years while rape victims waited for justice.

In recent years, CWA has realized we would rather work to improve the Act and focus real and effective help to women.  Instead of raging at the darkness, we are ready to light a candle.  It is for this reason I will testify for the Debbie Smith Act, in a spirit of bi-partisan cooperation and to be sure that the next reauthorization of Debbie Smith will promote justice for victims of sexual assault. That I am sure, is something on which we can all agree.

To that goal, when I testify, I will ask the Senate Judiciary Committee for greater accountability in the Debbie Smith Act — specifically to account for the rape kit backlog — and for prioritizing the processing of rape kits over other crimes. As a condition of receipt of funds, states must be willing to come clean about the number of rape kits awaiting processing.  

Secondly, we must prioritize the DNA processing of the sexual assault kits of rape victims. We understand that processing other types of crimes can increase the chance of getting DNA hits for perpetrators of sexual assault through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and we fully support those efforts. But let’s not forget that the first priority should be for the victims who have been waiting for justice for many years, often while enduring significant physical and psychological trauma. Justice demands that every woman represented in each of those forgotten rape kits be accounted for and their evidence processed.

Rarely can I remember a time when our nation was so deeply divided on current issues.  In an era of bi-partisan name-calling, dirt-throwing, and rampant distrust, now more than ever we must unite on an issue on which we can agree: justice and relief for the millions of brave women who have survived violence and sexual assault.

Now is the time for us to demand justice and accountability from both state and federal governments.  Each of the rape kits waiting represents a woman praying that the monster who violated her will be prosecuted before the statute of limitations’ clock runs out.  Let’s make that happen.


Editor’s Note: A version of this article was published by Fox News. Click here to see it there.

President Trump signs anti-sex-trafficking bill

By | Blog, News and Events, Press Releases, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

Washington, D.C. — This morning, President Trump signed H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), into law. 

Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, had this to say: 

“The President is standing up to Silicon Valley and standing with victims of abuse. FOSTA is the biggest anti-sex trafficking bill that has been signed into law since The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003. This bill closes the loophole that allowed bad-actor websites to not only knowingly facilitate prostitution and sex trafficking, but also to profit from the ads selling women and children against their will.

“Evangelical women see this as ‘caring for the least of these.’ This is a huge victory for all the victims who have been impacted by the compliance, negligence, and intentional exploitation by websites like backpage.com that allowed them to be sold and repeatedly raped.  Concerned Women for America strongly supported this legislation to the point that we were able to thwart efforts by big-money media to sink the bill.

“President Trump signed this bill today, but the reality is that even before the bill was signed, it was driving change. Backpage.com, a classified ad listing service, was seized by the Department of Justice for ‘knowingly facilitating’ prostitution ads as well as covering up sexually trafficked children while publically pretending to do something about it. Not even a full day had passed after the Senate’s passage before the first website that advertised ‘adult escort’ services had been shut down.

“CWA is thankful to our friend, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), for putting countless hours into writing this bill, working with other members, the Department of Justice, state and local law enforcement, and victims to improve this bill, and seeing it through to the end. Lives are being changed, because of her willingness to stand up for those who need an advocate. We are honored to have stood alongside her in this process and championed the cause.”


For an interview with Penny Nance contact Annabelle Rutledge at [email protected] or 916-792-3973.

Senate Passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act

By | Blog, News and Events, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

Washington, D.C. — Penny Young Nance, the CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, issued the following statement following the Senate passage of H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). The legislation now heads to the president’s desk: 

“Yesterday the Senate made crucial strides to curtail the gruesome practice of selling human beings online, a practice our laws were never meant to enable. Once the president signs FOSTA, survivors and law enforcement will have new tools available to hold bad actor websites that are knowingly participating in sex trafficking accountable.

 “While the Internet has given us so much good, Congress could not have foreseen the depravity and exploitation that it has caused, and if they could have, they certainly would have never condoned this behavior. The laws put in place to foster innovation were never meant to enable sex trafficking. This concept is so obvious; it is absurd that we even had to clarify it.

 “This is a victory for law enforcement officers who are working relentlessly to combat sex trafficking in their communities. This is a victory for prosecutors and the 50 state attorneys general who support FOSTA and who have asked for better tools and resources so that they can better prosecute those involved in sex trafficking. Perhaps most importantly, this is a victory for victims who have encountered substantial obstacles while trying to achieve justice against those found complicit in their trafficking.

“I applaud the tireless work of Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and her staff who have worked on the federal, state, and local level to preserve the freedom of the Internet while holding bad actor websites accountable. I also applaud Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), House and Senate leadership, and all those involved in making this legislation stronger and moving it forward.”

Senate Passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA)

By | Blog, News and Events, Press Releases, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

Washington, D.C. — Penny Young Nance, the CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, issued the following statement following the Senate passage of H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). The legislation now heads to the President’s desk:

“Yesterday the Senate made crucial strides to curtail the gruesome practice of selling human beings online, a practice our laws were never meant to enable. Once the president signs FOSTA, survivors and law enforcement will have new tools available to hold bad actor websites that are knowingly participating in sex trafficking accountable.

“While the Internet has given us so much good, Congress could not have foreseen the depravity and exploitation that it has caused, and if they could have, they certainly would have never condoned this behavior. The laws put in place to foster innovation were never meant to enable sex trafficking. This concept is so obvious; it is absurd that we even had to clarify it.

“This is a victory for law enforcement officers who are working relentlessly to combat sex trafficking in their communities. This is a victory for prosecutors and the 50 state attorneys general who support FOSTA and who have asked for better tools and resources so that they can better prosecute those involved in sex trafficking. Perhaps most importantly, this is a victory for victims who have encountered substantial obstacles while trying to achieve justice against those found complicit in their trafficking.

“I applaud the tireless work of Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and her staff who have worked on the federal, state, and local level to preserve the freedom of the Internet while holding bad actor websites accountable. I also applaud Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), House and Senate leadership, and all those involved in making this legislation stronger and moving it forward.”

For an interview with Penny Nance, contact Annabelle Rutledge at [email protected] or 916-792-3973.

Not Your Grandfather’s Pornography: the Problem, the Harm, and a Policy Response

By | Legal, News and Events, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

As the country wrestles with the widespread problem of sexual assault (as embodied in the recent “#MeToo” phenomena) and how to respond to it, we must consider the multiple factors that lie at the root of the issue. The rapid spread of online pornography, with its decisive sexual objectification of women, is one area that should be explored and prioritized among policymakers.

The violent, sexual subjugation of women is not an unfortunate byproduct of pornography but one of its main selling points. Physical and mental abuse of women is not uncommon — both on and off camera — in the porn industry. It is an industry that rewards risky sexual behavior and preys on the minds of both young men and women by appealing to their prurient instincts and feeding their most debased desires.

Pornography, taken as a whole, lacks any serious societal value, and whatever value it may have is greatly outweighed by the numerous unintended consequences it continues to produce in our society.

This paper discusses the problem of online pornography, the numerous harms that make it a public health hazard, and suggests a three-pronged approach (three “E”s) to tackle the issue going forward: education, enforcement, and empathy.

International Women’s Day: Is #MeToo Yesterday’s Hashtag, or Will it Bring True Change?

By | Blog, Defense of Family, News and Events, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

Five months out from the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the subsequent launch of #MeToo, we find ourselves celebrating International Women’s Day on Thursday with a focus on gender parity.

Concerned Women for America members join in the celebration. Thankfully, American women enjoy more freedom, opportunity and legal protection than most, if not the entire, world. This is no secret.

The majority of legal immigrants to the United States are women who yearn to join our ranks. Even Hillary Clinton recognized this fact when she said in 2015: “There has never been a better time in history to be born female.” We are doctors, lawyers, and governors. We are CEOs and astronauts. Women are on the move.

First, are women actually more inclined to speak up about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace today than they were five months ago? Did the show of support from Hollywood during the awards season or black-garbed senators during the State of the Union really change anything?

Last year saw women take on the tough topic of sexual assault, but we should take a moment to reflect on the current cultural phenomena of the #MeToo movement. What started here has spread to become an international inflection point for women to discuss sexual harassment and assault. It is no surprise that even other Western nations struggle, because this is a matter of the heart. Mankind is broken.

While the movement has left a trail of abusive men and women who have been fired from their lofty positions, or are at least are under investigation, it’s difficult to say with any authority that it will permanently change our institutions.

It took over 30 years for one Harvard professor, who was accused of sexual harassment over three decades by female colleagues and students, to finally be placed on leave. Women left their jobs at Harvard because of this man during all these years and only now are seeing justice.

However, despite decades of stories filtering out from the ivory towers of academia, for the most part, higher education is slipping undeservedly under the radar. One will know things have changed when universities stop predatory professors.

Secondly, is Hollywood serious?  Several Hollywood actresses have indeed broken their silence and named the men who made their lives a living hell. Those men have fallen hard from the top, but then Hollywood chooses this week to give an Oscar to Kobe Bryant, who was arrested and charged with sexual assault in 2003 after a 19-year-old woman accused him of rape. The case against Bryant was dropped a year later when the woman said she wasn’t willing to testify in court.

Hollywood also has made a huge show of appointing Anita Hill as head of a commission against sexual harassment. Yet, it was Hill who defended President Bill Clinton during one of his many alleged sexual escapades, several of which were reportedly unwanted advances. Conservative women are left to wonder Hollywood is just content to score political points.

And when is Congress going to come clean?  A few members have resigned in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but others are hiding behind a secret list from the Office of Compliance that paid over $17 million in taxpayer money to settle workplace disputes – including sexual harassment settlements.

This is only in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate paid separately and also concealed the identities of the guilty. The taxpayers rightfully deserve to know how our money was spent and which lawmakers were involved.

The whole ordeal is rife with contradictions and seems to always be one step forward and two steps back.

What about lower-paid working women?  Is the demand for zero tolerance of boorish behavior going to trickle down to them? Thus far, there are no stories of the hospitality industry and restaurant chains clamping down on grabby bosses or patrons.

So what makes a woman working a blue collar job who is sexually harassed think she stands a chance of not facing retribution should she report what is happening? This becomes real when reporters cover stories of new accountability at places like McDonald’s and TGI Fridays.

The final question: When will the #MeToo movement realize that there can be no left or right litmus test for members? You think the mean-girl stage ends in high school, but no.

“You can’t sit with us” has just turned into “you can’t stand with us.” Many women feel as if they have no recourse in the public square, because in order to join other women in the #MeToo movement they think they must be liberal feminists.

So as women celebrate living in an exceptional nation, it’s good to consider ways to improve our nation for all women, regardless of socioeconomic class or political bent. The #MeToo movement needs consistency and inclusion in order to be both sustainable and effective. If gender equality is to happen, it must first happen among women leading the way by embracing the Golden Rule for each other.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was published by Fox News. Click here to see it.

Another Hard-fought Victory This Week – Sex Trafficking

By | Blog, House Legislative Updates, Legislative Updates, News and Events, Senate Legislative Updates, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

This week the House passed a sex trafficking bill (H.R. 1865) that would allow state attorneys general and victims to sue websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. This bill was created to target sites like Backpage.com, which is currently under Senate investigation because of the hosting of ads that promoted the trafficking of minors. The legislation passed changes Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which the first circuit ruled shields websites from lawsuits over user-generated content.

This bill was a fight from the very beginning. Fortunately, human trafficking is a big issue nationally, and generally, everyone agrees it is a horrid practice that must be stopped. However, this issue has a lot of money surrounding it, and that means there are a lot of anti-sex trafficking groups with a lot of opinions about how this type of legislation should be handled. This issue also touched the bipartisan golden child of Congress: the tech industry. Democrat and Republican leadership are both heavily funded by the tech industry, and, unfortunately, they hated this bill when it was originally introduced, so we had our work cut out for us.

CWA worked with Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Missouri) office almost weekly for a year, meeting and strategizing how to get people in D.C. on board with something for which states were asking. The original bill was altered several times to appease not only the trafficking groups, but also was altered per DOJ’s request. When it passed, it was supported by all 50 state attorneys general. The final bill is a reflection of what should happen in Washington. Everyone: groups, congressional Democrats and Republicans, and the administration, worked together (eventually, not everyone was on board initially) to make a stronger and better piece of legislation.

We were not happy with the Senate counterpart for the House bill. It is what I would refer to as a “pat ourselves on the back” bill; it seems like it is accomplishing something, and it sounds really good, but ultimately it was not as strong as the House bill, and we had major concerns. Unfortunately, we were one of the few who did have major concerns with only the Senate language, and many sex trafficking groups loved the Senate language, but we vocalized those concerns and worked with Rep. Wagner’s office to educate members and leadership on why the House bill is better.

H.R. 1865 passed the U.S. House by a vote of 388-25.   The Senate will take up the House-passed bill the week of March 12.  Congratulations to Rep. Wagner who led the charge on the passage of this bill.  CWA worked long and hard on this legislation.  We look forward to seeing it through to passage in the Senate, also.

 

Nassar Case Demonstrates Harms of Pornography

By | LBB, Legal, Sex Trafficking / Pornography, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

The pornography cancer that continues to consume our nation reared its ugly head again as the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar concluded this week. The former USA Gymnastics doctor was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who told him, “I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

Nassar abused more than 150 girls over the past two decades. He got less than what he deserves.

But those getting acquainted with the case now might miss that, just like virtually every other predator in the history of sexual assault, Nassar fed, groomed, and rotted his brain on pornography before and after abusing girls for years.

It was pornography that did him in…

Read the rest of this op-ed as featured exclusively on CNSNews.com.


Mario Diaz, Esq. is Concerned Women for America’s legal counsel. Follow him on Twitter @mariodiazesq.