Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

18 October 2011

#OccupyBaltimore Discourages Sexual Assault Victims From Contacting Police, Offers Counseling for Perpetrators

I was in downtown Baltimore Monday morning taking care of some business, so I thought I’d stroll a block over and check out the “Occupy Baltimore” crowd. Well, the word “crowd” might  be an overstatement. There were about as many people as there would be homeless people on a normal day, only with tents and literature rather than Starbucks cups for holding spare change. And it’s the literature I found most interesting.

Among the literature I picked up off of their table was one titled “Security Statement.” What it said, and what it implied, was rather disturbing:

As the Security Committee of Occupy Baltimore, we release this statement to ensure the safety of our newly forming, delicate yet strong community.
Sexual abuse and assault are dehumanizing acts for the survivor as well as the abuser. It strips people of their right to safety, dignity, and respect, basic values which embody many of the intentions behind Occupy Baltimore. As a vibrant community, we recognize and give power to these values and the rights of survivors.
OK, saying you’re against “sexual abuse and assault” isn’t controversial, but do you really have to say it? Why isn’t it understood? As it turns out, that’s just the beginning of the weird. The entire “Security Statement” is about sexual assault and abuse.
Sexual abuse or assault at Occupy Baltimore is in violation of our values, and will not be tolerated. It is an explicit policy of Occupy Baltimore to prohibit abuse by any members of the community upon another person. Violation of this policy will result in the abuser no longer being welcome at the occupation.
So sexual abuse or assault are against “explicit policy” and will get you shunned? What about arrested? Those things are crimes, after all. Shouldn’t Occupy Baltimore, like every other group or individual, encourage people to contact the police to get these predators off the street? You’d think so, but you’d think wrong:
Though we do not encourage the involvement of the police in our community, the survivor has every right, and the support of Occupy Baltimore, to report the abuse to the appropriate law enforcement.
So if someone were sexually assaulted, a horrible experience, they wouldn’t be discouraged to contact the police, the “occupy community” would rather handle it internally. That’s just perverse.

The “Reporting Procedure”:
Any member of the Occupy Baltimore community who believes he/she/they have been a victim of, are aware of, or suspect a commission of sexual abuse, are encouraged to immediately report the incident to the Security Committee. T (sic)
The point person for dealing with these situations will be Koala! (sic) Largess, (443) 642-XXXX.
Survivors of Sexual Abuse will be given the support, resources, and assistance needed for their emotional and physical health.
So if you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, don’t call the police; call someone named “Koala.” You can’t make this up, mostly because women’s groups would be protesting you if you did. 

And that’s just side one:
The Occupy Baltimore prohibits retaliation against any member, survivor, or outside person who reports in good faith a complaint of an abuser or who participates in any related inquiries. False accusations of sexual abuse in bad faith can have serious consequences for those who are wrongly accused. Occupy Baltimore prohibits making false and/or malicious sexual abuse allegations, as well as providing false information during an inquiry. Anyone who violates any part of this policy will not be welcome at Occupy Baltimore.
They’re setting up their own court system here, where the ultimate punishment, no matter the severity of the offense, is banishment from a tent city. This is sexual assault we’re talking about here, not taking someone’s cupcake out of their lunch in the fridge.

The last part is “Investigation and Follow-Up”:
Occupy Baltimore’s Security Committee will make every reasonable effort to keep the matters involved in the allegation as confidential as possible while still allowing for a prompt and thorough inquiry.  All allegations of abuse will be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated.
If the survivor wishes to involve law enforcement, in order to obtain physical evidence of the assault, you must report the incident within 72 hours or the assault as collection and preservation of evidence is critical. Occupy Baltimore will also work to supply the abuser with counseling resources to deal with their issues.
The Occupy Baltimore Community has a Zero-Tolerance policy for any sexual, physical, or mental abuse of or by a community member.
So allegations of sexual assault will be kept from authorities. They “do not encourage the involvement of the police,” but if you’re gonna do it, do it within 3 days. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough episodes of “Dateline” to know you report these things immediately, not after seeking guidance from the Hippie Council. And, in typical liberal fashion, they offer counseling not only to the victim but the perp as well.

Maybe everyone can join together for a nice drum circle at the end of the day and let bygones be bygones.

It’s rather disturbing that this group of semi-organized (at best) amateurs would set up a parallel, internal system of justice that discourages involving law enforcement like they were their own country. What’s more disturbing is that assault victims might abide by these suggestions, and perpetrators of such a crime could get away with only a shunning by this small group and some counseling.


Sophie:  Evidently, there must be some pattern of sexual assaults developing in the Occupy camps across the country because this isn't the first time that I have heard of such a "keep it in the collective" position on sexual abuse.  It is, however, the first time that I have seen evidence of there being an encouragement or preference for such.  Further, over the weekend, a young woman in Ohio was raped by her assigned "tent mate" at the Occupy Cleveland camp.  She did not report it to anyone at the camp, but, instead, waited until she returned to classes on Monday and told a professor.  Why would she have waited?  Why didn't she seek help from her comrades at the camp immediately?  I'm not questioning her account.  I am wondering whether there is some sort of unspoken....or maybe even spoken....rule that made her believe that she wouldn't have been assisted and supported by the Occupy protestors.  Perhaps, as we have seen with the hundred plus million killed in the quest for collectivist nirvana, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.


SEATTLE -- A man accused of exposing himself to children at least five times across Seattle was arrested early Tuesday morning.

Officers had been given a composite sketch of the suspect and detectives learned he had been at Westlake Park taking part in the Occupy Seattle protests.

Occupy Events Nationwide Marred by Reports of Sexual Harassment, Assault

John on October 19, 2011 at 2:04 am 

The Occupy movement has a serious, nationwide problem with sexual harassment, assault and even alleged rape. While local media has dutifully reported on these incidents, the national media hasn’t noticed the problem. As you’ll see, there is even evidence that some Occupy outposts are subtly discouraging the reporting of assaults to police.

Let’s begin with this report of sexual harassment at Occupy Oakland in yesterday’s Oakland Tribune:

City officials said Tuesday they may have to shut down the Occupy Oakland tent city in coming days because it is attracting rats, alcohol and illegal drug use…
This comes on the heels of increasing reports of illegal drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, and sexual harassment in and around the camp of about 100 tents, Boyd said.

This is far from the first time an occupy site has been marred by such things. A man exposing himself was just arrested in Seattle:

A man has exposed himself to several young girls in North Seattle was arrested about 1 a.m. Tuesday, Seattle police said…
Investigators identified the 29-year-old man, who had a birthday Friday, and said they saw on an Internet page that he planned to attend the Occupy Seattle protest.

According to this story, Occupy Portland now has a sexual assault team in place:

Blue armbands are peacekeepers. Medics wear red. Police liaisons wear wear yellow, media specialists wear orange. Purple is food, green legal issues and those who need sexual assault advocates look for pink.

Why do they need this? Because there was a reported sexual assault there just over a week ago:

Police said they are investigating a possible sexual assault in Chapman Square where the Occupy Portland protesters are camping…
Officers were flagged down Friday night at 11:15 p.m. at SW 5th Avenue and Main Street by protesters, Simpson said. Officers learned a woman may have been sexually assaulted in a tent in the square, but she did not want to be identified.

But this isn’t happening just in Portland. At the flagship Occupy event in New York a man was arrested last week after drunkenly groping several women in Zuccotti Park:

protesters got fed up with 27-year-old Dave Park, who frequently showed up drunk to Zuccotti Park and allegedly groped several women, protesters said.
After repeated incidents and failed intervention attempts by Occupy Wall Street’s security team, the protesters finally went to the NYPD for help in removing Park, according to Paul Isaac, a member of the security team.

But in a twist, the victim has declined to press charges:

Police sources said Park will likely not be charged with sexual assault because the victim declined to file a criminal complaint…At a recent meeting of Occupy Wall Street’s nonviolent conflict de-escalation group, those present discouraged protesters from going to police unless absolutely necessary.

It’s not hard to see that the Occupy movement is worried about the bad press such charges might bring. And that’s not only true in New York. Yesterday Derek Hunter reported on the “Security Statement” pamphlet he picked up at Occupy Baltimore. It seems designed to discourage victims of assault from going to police:

Occupy Baltimore’s Security Committee will make every reasonable effort to keep the matters involved in the allegation as confidential as possible while still allowing for a prompt and thorough inquiry.  All allegations of abuse will be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated.
If the survivor wishes to involve law enforcement, in order to obtain physical evidence of the assault, you must report the incident within 72 hours or the assault as collection and preservation of evidence is critical.

I’ve watched enough Law and Order SVU to know what kind of evidence has to be collected withing 72 hours. They’re talking about physical evidence of rape and yet the pamphlet says “If the survivor wishes to involve law enforcement.” If?! Should that even be a question in a case of alleged rape?

Which brings us to the latest and worst story. Yesterday a 19 year old learning disabled woman who attended Occupy Cleveland Saturday alleged she was raped by a stranger she shared a tent with:

The tone of this report is shocking. A girl claims she was raped and the reporter frets this will ruin the good work done by the movement? What work? They’re camping in a park, not curing cancer. The producers of this package even allow someone at the camp to insinuate the girl’s a liar.

Obviously I don’t know the facts but the pattern emerging around the country certainly puts it within the realm of possibility. Let’s wait for the police to investigate before we start hand-wringing about the fate of the movement.

Meanwhile, the national media needs to stop looking the other way at this growing problem. If there are this many reported incidents in just a few weeks, there are likely many unreported ones. That’s especially true given the apparent desire by organizers to handle everything, even rape, as an internal security matter.

Put it this way, can you imagine this many sexual allegations being connected to the Tea Party and no one in the media mentioning it? It’s simply inconceivable.



Occupy Baltimore: Sexual Harassment, Threats and a Culture of Silence

John on October 21, 2011 at 9:32 am 

New evidence emerging from the digital messaging board of Occupy Baltimore indicates that sexual and verbal harassment of women at the camp has been a widely discussed problem for nearly two weeks. Several women who have visited the camp report being harassed, including sexually inappropriate language and touching. Despite this, other group members continued to suggest that group problems be handled internally, even stating that calling the police on someone is a “violent act.” In addition, those making complaints are warned to be careful what they say on public forums lest the information fall into the hands of the media.

On Oct. 8 a woman named Beth described, in her own words, what happened after police were called to remove a homeless man from the Occupy Baltimore camp:
A group was angry as police had been called in for a drunk man – or something like that. I didn’t make the call but I watched this group move pretty darned close to the police. I called out for them to calm down and the group seemed to think I was the person responsible for bringing the police. They literally turned on me as I sat behind a table serving soup – and pressed up against the table and one member moved in and blocked me on the right. He started yelling “f-you” with his fingers in my face. The entire crown was pretty much yelling – more cries of f-you. I tried to yell back that they had no right to do this to me that I was trying to stop trouble and that I had a right to do that. It was only when another man intervened and screamed at the group to shut up that they finally began to dismantle.

A policeman came by on his bike and told me he was sorry to see what had happened to me and that he had waited there to make sure they didn’t physically assault me. Ok. So I am at OccupyBaltimore and I need a cop to protect me from my own group? Wow. I was quite shaken up and this is violence. And it is not ok.
Had I needed the cop – had they touched me – the trouble would be on as they would have possible been arrested. That gets no-one anywhere good. I am obviously angry. Furious, in fact. heartbroken. I have been there on and off since Tuesday. I have worked hard to get the message out and I have brought people and donations in. I never anticipated this violence from within. I was first. Who is next?
Five days later on October 13th, another thread started after a visitor to the OB camp left a comment on the group’s Facebook page. This thread is titled “Occupy Baltimore, Safe Place for Women”:

“I just stopped by Occupy Baltimore for the first time. In the 30 minutes I spent there, I had 3 different men speak to me in a sexual manner. I was really excited to be going into a safe space of equality and it just really dissapointed me. What can we do to make this a safe space for women???”
Several people chime in about the possibility of more training or other ways to deal with the problem. Then a woman named Susan adds:

I have been down there nearly every day and yes, I avoid eye contact and conversation with most of the men. I have had three creepy interractions. [sic]
At this point, someone named Jessica pipes in about watching what is being said in public:
I want to make a quick interjection, that we need to be really really careful, not in issues that we bring up on the google groups, but how we bring them up…I don’t disagree that it’s a dude-fest down there, but there are A LOT of really strong women who are really actively participating, and who feel totally comfortable being there. I think it’s clear TO US that these concerns are being taken seriously, but perhaps not to everyone on this google group, and there are A LOT of people following this group, including people in the press. [Emphasis added]
So, I would just add a little caveat against inflammatory language or accusations on here. The press is watching us closely, and they need to know that we’re dealing with these issues seriously and reasonably, with a great deal of understanding and compassion, and most importantly, as a community.
The discussion continues about what to do and at one point someone named Paul notes that the threats are not limited to women:
We are all so sorry that this is happening.  I have also heard  two cases of men being threatened, both by someone who participates in the ga. [general assembly] What can we do, in a way that is consistent with our values? Obviously education and security and compassion and faith in community are needed components, but anything else?
Calling the police is not part of the discussion. It’s all about ways to deal with the problem “as a community,” i.e. internally.

Four days later on Oct. 17th a new thread is started by a contributor named Dan:
A few points of observation for discussion. No answers provided here, because I don’t have any. I hope someone on this list does.
- Where trust being abused
- We’ve created a cop-free space before we’ve created a safe space for everyone, and now we’re asking people to live and sleep with people who have been abusive IN THIS SPACE. I don’t care about (albeit relevant) police records, I care about the actions that have happened IN THIS SPACE which have been physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and silencing others through intimidation. FUCK THAT.
Later the same morning another thread is started by Christa. This thread is about inappropriate touching:

Hey folks,
Just a reminder, please don’t touch people without asking. Yesterday seemed to be the worst day for me down at the park with several people I had never met before finding it appropriate to touch me. This ranged from wrapping an arm around my waist to caressing my arm. These are behaviors that contribute to folks not feeling safe at the site.
But on the same day these discussions were taking place, another member had started a thread titled “Calling the cops?” Here’s how it begins:
I’ve only stopped by the occupy site on I think four occasions. On TWO of them, once near the beginning and once last night, I witnessed police arrive to ask someone to leave, almost certainly because they were called by someone else at occupy. (It doesn’t seem like the police would just randomly show up and pick a person out of the crowd who just happened to be causing problems for other occupy participants, which is what happened in both cases).
This is very disturbing to me. Is it really culturally acceptable in the occupy space to call the cops on someone to eject them from the space?  If not, is anything being done to make it unlikely for this to happen again? Discussion, training, devising alternate strategies?
I’d re-iterate the point made by a fellow I forget who was from NYC on one of the other occasions I was at the site: Calling the police on someone _is_ a violent act, you are placing them at risk of police violence (getting arrested is violent in and of itself, as is long-term imprisonment or the ‘extra’ touches the police may give you).
He goes on to say that this obviously doesn’t apply in all cases including cases “when victims of violence or faced with imminent threat of serious physical harm.” Nevertheless, the clear sense of this post and of the group in general is that police should not be involved if it is at all possible to avoid it. Again, this is being said even as others in the group are getting fed up with inappropriate touching, language and sexual harassment.

Perhaps this helps put in context the Occupy Baltimore security pamphlet which Big Journalism’s Derek Hunter reported on Tuesday. The gist of his story was that an OB produced pamphlet, while not denying women who have experienced a sexual assault the right to call police, seemed to be subtly discouraging them from doing so. Hunter’s report made local news and was even reported on by the AP. The AP contacted four experts who were unanimous in saying the pamphlet was problematic:
The heads of three rape crisis centers and a nurse who runs the forensic division at an area hospital also called the message dangerous.
But as you can see, the problem is much deeper than one pamphlet. Indeed, the pamphlet is really just one tangible expression of the ethos of the Occupy Baltimore group and, perhaps, the entire Occupy movement. The desire to maintain a good media image along with a general hostility to police presence produces a powerful incentive for individuals not to report problems but to keep them contained within the group. As a result, only a handful of the threatening and/or potentially criminal incidents taking place inside the Occupy camps are being reported to responsible authorities.  As Beth’s story illustrates, even being suspected of having called the police can cause other occupiers to turn on and further victimize you.

City parks were never intended to be impromptu tent cities, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these intentionally police free zones are fertile ground for incidents of sexual harassment, theft, assault and worse. And it’s very doubtful these are isolated incidents. Hopefully those in positions of responsibility in Baltimore and elsewhere will consider the experience of these women (and men) at Occupy Baltimore when deciding how long to allow these camps to continue.


No comments: