Three resources for parents to teach their teens about consent

Last week, a District Court judge ordered a new trial for a former University of Iowa honors student who was convicted of rape in 2012, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press. Evan Pfeifer had sex with another student on the Pentacrest lawn in Iowa City in 2010. She later accused him of rape, while he claimed the encounter was consensual. Judge Douglas Russell vacated Pfeifer’s conviction because "a prosecutor asked witnesses improper questions to shore up the alleged victim’s credibility, and his defense lawyer gave him ineffective counsel."

I can’t speak to what happened on that night in 2010, but many similar tragedies could be avoided if teenagers understood consent properly before entering the world of dating and sexual exploration. Young men who rape may see themselves as opportunists rather than predators, like the frat boy who calmly described his method of forcing sex on an unwilling target, seemingly unaware he was outing himself as a violent criminal. Or they may genuinely believe that a woman incapacitated by heavy drinking consented to sex with them, only to be blindsided later by a rape accusation.

Training girls to protect themselves against sexual assault is worthwhile, but changing the culture requires teaching boys and girls what consent looks like. Three of the best resources I’ve found are linked below.

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Weekend open thread: Media ethics edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

The Washington Post’s media critic Eric Wemple caught syndicated columnist George Will red-handed in a flagrant conflict of interest.

This case highlights Will’s intersecting lines of influence. He’s a director of the Bradley Foundation, an entity with more than $800 million in assets and 2013 grants totaling nearly $34 million to organizations in Wisconsin and across the country, including big-time Beltway entities like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society. His column is syndicated to about 450 newspapers. Keeping those two worlds separate is quite a job, as the Nov. 19 column demonstrates: Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist’s kind words, WILL may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest – an offense of which Will has been accused before.

Click through to read the whole column, including Will’s response. The columnist is unrepentant: “I do not see how disclosure of my connection to Bradley, and Bradley’s connection to WILL, and WILL’s connection to the school choice program, would be important to readers.” That suggests he will not hesitate to pull the same stunt again. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register should drop Will’s column if they don’t share his views on what constitutes full disclosure.

Speaking of the Register, Lynn Hicks (up to now the newspaper’s executive business editor) is taking over this month as editorial page editor as Randy Evans retires from that position. Evans will be missed. Seven people will serve on the Register’s editorial board going forward: President and Publisher Rick Green, Executive Editor Amalie Nash, Lynn Hicks, Rox Laird, Andie Dominick, Clark Kauffman, and Brian Smith. Laird has been writing editorials at the Register for about 30 years, Dominick since 2001. Kauffman is a longtime investigative reporter who just joined the editorial board in September of this year. Smith “is taking on a new engagement editor role that emphasizes reaching new audiences and connecting with the community”; up to now he has been an associate digital editor for the Register.

It’s probably too much to hope for the Register to make the politics and opinion sections of the website easier to navigate. Every newspaper owned by Gannett seems to operate with the same horrible template now. So I’ll settle for hoping that in the future, the Register will disclose any family connections between subjects of guest columns and members of the editorial board.

Rolling Stone magazine is backing off from a widely publicized story about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. There were red flags in the original story, and some other journalists have questioned why no one from Rolling Stone interviewed the alleged perpetrators of the gang rape. I agree 100 percent with Olga Khazan: “this whole episode is terrible news for survivors of rape on college campuses and elsewhere.” Whatever did or did not happen to “Jackie” (the subject of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article), the collapse of this story undermines advocates working to get colleges and universities to address the real problem of sexual assault on campus.  

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McChicken Sandwich

(This has been bothering me too. The woman's nose was broken, but some media accounts are playing for laughs with comments like "Definitely not a happy meal." - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I read that a guy in Des Moines was arrested for hitting his wife with a McChicken sandwich. Which is hilarious because it involved a McChicken sandwich.
And then you read the rest of the story and realize that he battered his pregnant wife because he didn't like what she brought him for lunch. He smacked her around with the sandwich and smashed it into her face until her nose was broken. Plus he knocked the phone from her hands when she tried calling the police for help.
But the media is treating it like a joke because it involved a McChicken sandwich.

Memorial Day open thread

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

I’ve posted Memorial Day-related links in past years at this site, but I learned only last year that Memorial Day became an official federal holiday only recently, in 1971. That’s surprising, given that the tradition of remembering American war dead on a special day in May goes back to the 1860s. The Iowa National Guard’s website includes brief histories of Iowa soldiers’ involvement in U.S. wars since the mid-19th century and a stunning photo of thousands of men standing in the shape of the Statue of Liberty.

The horrendous shooting rampage in Santa Barbara on Friday night has prompted a wave of new commentaries about mental health, violence against women, and gun violence generally. It’s so upsetting to know that the authorities couldn’t do a thing to disarm the perpetrator, even though his family had been trying to get him help and warned police weeks ago that he was posting YouTube videos about his murderous and misogynistic fantasies.

For many people, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, so I’m re-posting a link to a piece that’s worth re-reading every year: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.  

What will it take to get the gun show loophole closed?

How many more tragedies need to happen before elected officials have the guts to close the gun show loophole? The latest high-profile beneficiary of this loophole was the mentally ill attacker in the recent shootings near the Pentagon.

Law enforcement officials say [John Patrick] Bedell, a man with a history of severe psychiatric problems, had been sent a letter by California authorities Jan. 10 telling him he was prohibited from buying a gun because of his mental history.

Nineteen days later, the officials say, Bedell bought the Ruger at a gun show in Las Vegas. Such a sale by a private individual does not require the kind of background check that would have stopped Bedell’s purchase.

Republican politicians fall all over themselves trying to prove how loyal they are to the National Rifle Association. Some are against any kind of background checks for people who want to carry firearms in public. Too many Democrats are afraid to stand up to this NRA-approved extremism. Meanwhile, a Republican pollster’s recent survey of gun owners shows that they understand the need for reasonable limits:

Mr. Luntz queried 832 gun owners, including 401 card-carrying N.R.A. members, in a survey commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the alliance of hundreds of executives seeking stronger gun laws. In flat rebuttal of N.R.A. propaganda, the findings showed that 69 percent of N.R.A. members supported closing the notorious gun-show loophole that invites laissez-faire arms dealing outside registration requirements.

Even more members, 82 percent, favored banning gun purchases to suspects on terrorist watch lists who are now free to arm. And 69 percent disagreed with Congressionally imposed rules against sharing federal gun-trace information with state and local police agencies.

Fortunately, it looks as if a proposal to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons is unlikely to advance during this year’s legislative session. That bill’s main advocate is Iowa House Republican Clel Baudler. He serves on the NRA’s board and doesn’t even support steps to remove guns from domestic abusers. (Last fall, Baudler suggested that murder victim Tereseann Lynch Moore might not have been killed by her estranged husband if she had been carrying her own gun.) Not that Baudler is an isolated case; a disturbing number of Iowa Republican legislators opposed a recent bill to get guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers and people subject to a restraining order.

CORRECTION: I spoke too soon above. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have idiotically revived the NRA’s pet bill, which “would give Iowa one of the loosest gun-permit laws in the country.” Bad for public safety, bad politics. No one who wants to increase the number of Iowans carrying concealed weapons is going to vote for Democrats.

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