Call for men to ‘step up’ puts Sen. Hirono in the spotlight
By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Friday, September 21
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, one of only four women on the 21-member Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh the same questions on sexual harassment she has asked dozens of other nominees.
Had Kavanaugh “made unwanted requests for sexual favors” or committed verbal or physical harrassment of a sexual nature since he became a legal adult? And had he ever faced discipline or settled with anyone over that kind of conduct?
Kavanaugh said “no” to both questions at his confirmation hearing earlier this month. But few in the room, or watching on television, knew at the time how relevant Hirono’s questions would prove to be.
A little more than a week later, a California professor named Christine Blasey Ford contended that at a house party in the 1980s, a drunken, 17 year-old Kavanaugh tried undressing her and muffling her cries on a bed before she fled. Kavanaugh denies that account.
Ford’s accusation has upended his previously smooth confirmation process for Kavanaugh — and thrust the often low-key Hirono, 70, into the spotlight as one of the most outspoken senators in Ford’s defense.
“I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change,” Hirono said Tuesday, stealing the show at a press conference that featured several high-profile Democrats.
Hirono told The Associated Press Thursday in an interview that her “shut up and step up” comment hasn’t just resonated with women.
“I have talked to a lot of men who are really happy I said that, because they want to be part of the movement,” Hirono said.
Hirono’s outrage — and her commitment to holding male nominees accountable — has a deep history. When she was a child, her mother fled an abusive marriage in Japan and took Hirono and her brother to Hawaii, crossing the Pacific in steerage of an American ship.
“There is an environment where people see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing,” Hirono said this week about the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct. “That is what we have to change.”
Hirono became a state legislator in 1980, where she says she worked on improving sexual assault laws. The issue remained important to her as she became Hawaii’s lieutenant governor in 1994, a member of the House in 2007 and eventually replaced longtime Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2013. She has kept a mostly low profile in her 12 years in Washington, but that has changed in the past year.
At a news conference Thursday, Hirono and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand defended Ford and said the Judiciary panel is being unfair to her. President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have rejected Ford’s request for an FBI investigation of her accusation, which she says should take place before she testifies. Gillibrand accused Republicans of “bullying her.”
As Hirono arrived at the press conference, people cheered her arrival, with several yelling her name. Her newfound political celebrity was also apparent earlier in the day, when protesters against Kavanaugh’s nomination greeted her with cheers and applause at a Senate office building. Some of the protesters snapped selfies with her.
“They knew who I was and came up and encouraged me, and I thanked them,” Hirono said. “It was very energizing.”
It wasn’t the first time Hirono has interacted with protesters. Earlier this year, she was one of just a few senators who mingled among a large group in the same Senate Hart Office building who were opposing the Trump administration’s separation of families at the border. Hirono often calls herself the only immigrant in the Senate, and she is the sole senator who was born outside the United States to parents who were not citizens, according to the Senate Historical Office.
She acknowledges her profile has risen in recent months, saying “The Trump administration gives me so many more opportunities to be verbal and vocal.”
Hirono’s public ascent has also come amid health troubles, as she announced last year that she had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. She is still undergoing immunotherapy treatment.
“She’s a badass,” said Christina Reynolds of the advocacy group EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates. “The fact that she’s getting up there and calling it out, I think it’s inspiring for us to watch.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says Hirono may have seemed soft-spoken over the years, but adversaries shouldn’t forget that she has a “spine of steel.”
Hirono is encouraging other women to be active in politics, predicting their frustration will be felt in the outcome of the midterm elections.
“We work really hard to get elected,” Hirono said. “Nobody hands anything to us.”
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Dustin Weaver contributed to this report.
Rediscovering America: A Quiz on the Supreme Court
By Jeffrey Sikkenga
The U.S. Supreme Court has played a large role in U.S. history, at times reflecting the mass sentiment of the era and at other times disregarding popular views to extend rights to our citizens. The court, which begins its next term on October 1, has been much in the news lately.
The quiz below, from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, provides an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of the court and several of its landmark decisions.
1. Who was the first chief justice of the Supreme Court?
A. John Rutledge
B. John Jay
C. John Blair
D. James Iredell
2. Which U.S. president later served as chief justice of the Supreme Court?
A. William Howard Taft
B. Warren Harding
C. Franklin Pierce
D. James Polk
3. Which article of the Constitution established a Supreme Court?
A. Article II
B. Article III
C. Article IV
D. Article VI
4. The Judiciary Act of 1789 divided the United States into 13 judicial districts and set the number of Supreme Court Justices, including the chief justice, at what number?
5. What did the landmark 1963 Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright, guarantee?
A. The right to a trial by jury
B. That evidence obtained unconstitutionally cannot be used in court
C. That suspects must be advised of their rights prior to questioning
D. That defendants have the right to an attorney even if they can’t afford one
6. What key Supreme Court case found “that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place”?
A. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez
B. Dred Scott v. Sanford
C. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
D. McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents
7. The Supreme Court initially met in what city?
C. New York City
8. Who is the most recent woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court?
A. Ruth Bader Ginsberg
B. Elena Kagan
C. Sandra Day O’Connor
D. Sonia Sotomayor
9. Who was the longest-serving justice in court history and how long did he serve?
A. John Marshall for 34 years
B. Anthony Kennedy for 30 years
C. James Wayne for 32 years
D. William O. Douglas for 36 years
10. The Supreme Court’s power of “judicial review” was affirmed in the 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison. What does “judicial review” mean?
A. That the court can declare an executive action or a law unconstitutional
B. That the court has jurisdiction in all cases involving disputes between two states
C. That the court has original jurisdiction in all cases involved ambassadors
D. That the court alone decides which cases it will review
Answers: 1-B, 2-A, 3-B, 4-A, 5-D, 6-C, 7-C, 8-B, 9-D, 10-A
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jeffrey Sikkenga, a professor of political science at Ashland University, is an adjunct fellow of the Ashbrook Center and author of Ashbrook’s coming compendium “The Supreme Court: 35 Core Decisions.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Sexual assault among adolescents: 6 facts
September 21, 2018
Professor of Sociology, University of New Hampshire
Postdoctoral researcher, University of New Hampshire
David Finkelhor receives funding from the US Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control.
Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Christine Blasey Ford’s account of allegedly being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were teenagers is provoking both informed and uninformed comment from politicians. Still more private conversations about the subject are happening in homes and offices around the country.
There is a large body of social science research about what are called “peer sexual assaults” that is relevant to these discussions. We are experts on violence, including sex offenses against children and youth, and our research focuses on surveys to document those realities and track the trends.
Here are six basic facts about sexual assault among adolescents.
What does research say?
1. Assaults among people under the age of 18 are common: 18 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys say that by age 17 they have been victims of a sexual assault or abuse at the hands of another adolescent.
This estimate, and those in the next three points, come from a national survey on violence of over 6,000 youth ages 10 to 17, conducted between 2008 and 2014.
2. Most assaults between adolescents do not involve sexual intercourse. Penetration occurs only in 15 percent of cases.
3. Failure to disclose or report the assault is common. Most – 66 percent – of adolescent victims did not tell a parent or any other adult about the assault. Only 19 percent reported the assault to the police.
4. Victims have a variety of reactions to the assault. For example, the level of fear at the time of the assault runs the gamut: 32 percent reported being very afraid, but 26 percent said they had not been afraid. The rest reported being a little afraid.
5. Impacts of assault can be serious and long-lasting. Both sexual and non-sexual assaults in adolescence are associated with higher-than-normal levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic symptoms and risks for being assaulted again. This is one of the most reliable findings in the growing science of how negative childhood experiences lead to poorer physical and mental health later in life.
6. Some youth who commit sexual assault are serial offenders, but most are not. The re-offense rate for such youth is 5 percent, lower than for adults who commit a first assault, and has been declining over time, possibly due to more awareness and better intervention.
Experts on sexual assault agree that education for young people is one of the most important ways to diminish the incidence of sexual assault: Among the tools educators use are lessons about consent, good decision-making, refusal skills and the empowerment of bystanders to intervene.
A number of educational programs with such components have been formally evaluated and shown to be effective, including programs such as Safe Dates, Shifting Boundaries, Green Dot and the Fourth R.
Surveys suggest that sexual assaults of adolescents and adults have been declining or flat over the last 25 years, not increasing. Still, far too many young people suffer from these offenses and their effects. Expanding educational programs is an obvious and crucial priority for bringing down this toll.
What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?
Updated September 20, 2018
Sarah L. Cook
Professor of Psychology & Associate Dean, Georgia State University
Lilia M. Cortina
Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Management & Organizations, University of Michigan
Mary P. Koss
Regents’ Professor of Public Health, University of Arizona
Sarah L. Cook has received funding from the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Eunice K. Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Centers for Disease Control. She is a memberof the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.
Lilia M. Cortina has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Mary P. Koss receives funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.
University of Michigan and Georgia State University provide funding as founding partners of The Conversation US.
A California psychologist has alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were in high school in Maryland.
As the nation debates the accusation, the terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – are cropping up daily in the news. This isn’t new – the #MeToo movement over the last year has put those terms in more common circulation.
Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.
But what does each term mean?
We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades.
Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.
The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.
All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.
Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.
In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.
When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.
A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.
Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.
Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.
Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.
Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.
One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.
A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.
Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.
Come-ons, put-downs: They’re both bad
In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.
These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.
We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding.
Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Feb. 7, 2018.