Nearly a week after Indonesia quake, hope fades for missing
By TODD PITMAN and NINIEK KARMINI
Thursday, October 4
PALU, Indonesia (AP) — She lay inside a medical tent in the stifling midday heat, wincing in pain at the deep gashes and cuts that covered her body. But all Anisa Cornelia could think about was the love of her life — the man she was supposed to marry this month.
She had not seen him since a deadly tsunami smashed into the Indonesian city of Palu last week, separating the pair possibly forever as they strolled along a sandy beach at twilight.
“Where is my fiancé? Please, do you have any news?” the badly bruised 22-year-old pleaded as medical staff came to check on her in the courtyard of Palu’s main hospital.
“Everyone is still searching for him,” replied Dr. Andi Sengrengrele, pursing her lips in sympathy. “You have to be patient, OK?”
One week after a magnitude 7.5 quake spawned a deadly tsunami on the island of Sulawesi, countless people have yet to find their loved ones — both survivors and the dead.
As of Thursday, the government put the death toll at 1,424, with 113 people missing. Many families, though, never registered their losses with police, while others failed to identify them before they were buried anonymously in mass graves.
Lisda Cancer, who heads the local police’s Department of Victim Identification, said about 600 of the bodies buried in Palu alone were unclaimed. Until Wednesday, authorities had been photographing them in hopes that relatives could identify them later.
“But we had to stop because the corpses we’re recovering now have decayed too much,” Cancer said. “They’ve become a public health hazard, and the new instructions are to bury them immediately.”
The disaster has overwhelmed local authorities. On Thursday, a private ambulance brought the corpse of one man who had been found in the road to two hospitals, including the one where Cornelia was being treated. Both facilities turned them away.
Before the vehicle drove away, a woman in a red headscarf who had been searching for her missing daughter for a week began weeping. Hospital staff said they had received her body, but had released it for burial already in one of Palu’s mass graves.
Cornelia said she met her fiancé, 25-year-old Iqbal Nurdiansyah, seven years earlier through friends at school. She was attracted to his warm personality, his bushy eyebrows and his handsome face.
Three years ago, he took her to her favorite restaurant, on Palu Bay, and proposed. A two-week wedding ceremony was set to begin Oct. 15, culminating in a reception at a hotel called the Swiss Bell, which also overlooked the beach.
On Sept. 28, the couple was walking along the sandy shore after an early dinner with eight members of Nurdiansyah’s family. Nurdiansyah remarked how beautiful the sunset was, and he organized a group photo.
Then, suddenly, the ground shook under their feet.
People who had been playing volleyball and relaxing in cafes along the shore began screaming, “Earthquake! Earthquake!”
As terrifying as the tremor was, Cornelia and her husband-to-be thought they had escaped the disaster unharmed.
Shortly afterward, though, she heard a roar and turned to see a huge wave rushing toward them — the largest she had ever seen in her life. All of them began to run. The last time she saw Nurdiansyah, he was trying to scoop up two of his young nieces to save them.
Cornelia, who could not swim, swallowed salt water as she was sucked beneath the powerful wave and flipped upside down, “left and right, like a spinning ball.”
Miraculously, she was still somewhere on the beach, largely unscathed and able to stand up. But then a second wave struck, this one lower and much faster. The wall of water dragged her at least a kilometer (mile) inland, shredding her entire body — head to toe — among smashed blocks of concrete, broken wooden planks and swirling garbage.
When the water finally began to retreat, she found herself alone — pinned between a metal fence and the stage of a soccer field. A man helped her up and she limped in the darkness, past smashed cars that had been thrown onto piles of debris and a naked man whose clothes had been ripped off by the waves.
Of the nine others who had been on the beach with her that day, only one is known to have survived — a 5-year-old niece of Nurdiansyah. Two others have been confirmed dead, while six are still missing.
At the hospital Thursday, Cornelia’s 44-year-old mother, Ray Djangaritu, tried to console her.
Friends had searched hospitals without luck, but maybe he was taken to another city as other wounded survivors had been, she said. Cellphone networks have been down or limited for much of the week, making it hard to communicate. “I believe he’s still alive,” she said.
Tears seeping from her eyes, Cornelia held onto that hope.
“I still want to marry him, even if God returns him with a disability, no hands or blindness,” she said. “I can see for him, as long as I am healthy.”
Associated Press journalist Andi Jatmiko contributed.
The Conversation: Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Why Indonesia’s tsunamis are so deadly
October 2, 2018
Professor, Southern Cross University
Anja Scheffers 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.
Southern Cross University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
The magnitude 7.5 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, that struck Indonesia days ago has resulted in at least 1,200 deaths.
Authorities are still gauging the extent of the damage, but it’s clear the earthquake and tsunami had a devastating effect on the Sulawesi region, particularly the city of Palu.
It’s not the first time earthquakes have caused mass destruction and death in Indonesia. The tsunamis that follow are particularly damaging. But why?
A combination of plate tectonic in the region, the shape of the coastline, vulnerable communities and a less-than-robust early warning system all combine to make Indonesian tsunamis especially dangerous.
Indonesia covers many complex tectonic environments. Many details of these are still poorly understood, which hampers our ability to predict earthquake and tsunami risks.
The biggest earthquakes on Earth are “subduction zone” earthquakes, which occur where two tectonic plates meet.
In December 2004 and March 2005, there were a pair of subduction zone earthquakes along the Sunda Trench offshore of the west coast of Sumatra. In particular, the magnitude-9.1 quake in December 2004 generated a devastating tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people in countries and islands surrounding the Indian Ocean.
But only looking out for these kinds of earthquakes can blind us to other dangers. Eastern Indonesia has many small microplates, which are jostled around by the motion of the large Australia, Sunda, Pacific and Philippine Sea plates.
The September quake was caused by what’s called a “strike-slip” fault in the interior of one of these small plates. It is rare – although not unknown – for these kinds of quakes to create tsunamis.
The fault systems are rather large, and through erosion processes have created broad river valleys and estuaries. The valley of the Palu river, and its estuary in which the regional capital Palu is located, have been formed by this complex fault system. Studies of prehistoric earthquakes along this fault system suggests this fault produces magnitude 7-8 earthquakes roughly every 700 years.
The sea floor shapes the wave
Another important factor for tsunamis is the depth and shape of the sea floor. This determines the speed of the initial waves. Strong subduction zone earthquakes on the ocean floor can cause the entire ocean water column to lift, then plunge back down. As the water has momentum, it may fall below sea level and create strong oscillations.
The bulge of water moving outward from the centre of a earthquake maybe of limited height (rarely much more than a metre), but the mass of water is extremely large (depending on the surface area moved by the earthquake).
Tsunami waves can travel very fast, reaching the speed of a jet. In water 2km deep they can travel at 700km per hour, and over very deep ocean can hit 1,000km per hour.
When the wave approaches the shallower coast, its speed decreases and the height increases. A tsunami may be 1m high in the open ocean, but rise to 5-10m at the coast. If the approach to the shoreline is steep, this effect is exaggerated and can create waves tens of metres high.
Despite the fact that the waves slow down near the coast, their immense starting speeds mean flat areas can be inundated for kilometres inland. The ocean floor topography affects the speed of tsunami waves, meaning they move faster over deep areas and slow down over submarine banks. Very steep land, above or below water, can even bend and reflect waves.
The coastlines of the Indonesian archipelago are accentuated, in particular in the eastern part and especially at Sulawesi. Palu has a narrow, deep and long bay: perfectly designed to make tsunamis more intense, and more deadly.
This complex configuration also makes it very difficult to model potential tsunamis, so it’s hard to issue timely and accurate warnings to people who may be affected.
Get to high ground
The safest and simplest advice for people in coastal areas that have been affected by an earthquake is to get to higher ground immediately, and stay there for a couple of hours. In reality, this is a rather complex problem.
Hawaii and Japan have sophisticated and efficient early warning systems. Replicating these in Indonesia is challenging, given the lack of communications infrastructure and the wide variety of languages spoken throughout the vast island archipelago.
After the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster, international efforts were made to improve tsunami warning networks in the region. Today, Indonesia’s tsunami warning system operates a network of 134 tidal gauge stations, 22 buoys connected to seafloor sensors to transmit advance warnings, land-based seismographs, sirens in about 55 locations, and a system to disseminate warnings by text message.
However, financing and supporting the early warning system in the long term is a considerable problem. The buoys alone cost around US$250,000 each to install and US$50,000 annually for maintenance.
The three major Indonesian agencies for responsible for earthquake and tsunami disaster mitigation have suffered from budget cuts and internal struggles to define roles and responsibilities.
Lastly, the Palu tsunami event has highlighted that our current tsunami models are insufficient. They do not properly consider multiple earthquake events, or the underwater landslides potentially caused by such quakes.
No early warning system can prevent strong earthquakes. Tsunamis, and the resulting infrastructure damage and fatalities, will most certainly occur in the future. But with a well-developed and reliable early warning system, and better communication and public awareness, we can minimise the tragic consequences.
With earthquakes that occur very close to the beach – often the case in Indonesia – even an ideal system could not disseminate the necessary information quickly enough. Indonesia’s geography and vulnerable coastal settlements makes tsunamis more dangerous, so we need more and concerted efforts to create earthquake and tsunami resilient communities.
AccuWeather’s U.S. winter forecast for 2018-2019 season
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – October 3, 2018 – The return of an El Niño weather pattern will have a significant influence on the winter season.
Mild air will linger in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic before cold weather takes hold in January and February. Some I-95 cities will notice a significant temperature dip compared to last year.
Meanwhile, an active southern storm track will send snow and ice to parts of the southern Plains this winter.
El Niño to influence weather in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, eastern Ohio Valley
Once again, El Niño will influence the winter weather across the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes.
The season will start out mild for much of the region before colder weather digs in its heels in January and February.
“New York City and Philadelphia may wind up 4 to 8 degrees colder this February compared to last February,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.
In the mid-Atlantic states, a few big snow storms are likely. Most of the action will dodge the far Northeast, however.
In the Great Lakes, lake-effect snow will be less frequent than normal, despite above-normal water temperatures. An uptick is possible in late winter, but, for the season as whole, residents will receive less than they are accustomed to.
Cold air and storms to blast the Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast
A very active winter is predicted for Southeast, Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast this season.
January and February will be particularly conducive to snow and ice threats, with multiple storms forecast for the region.
As cold shots become more frequent from mid- to late season, the central and western Gulf Coast will be susceptible to frost and freezes.
It will bear a stark contrast to the winter of 2017-2018, when February brought well above-normal temperatures to the area.
Come late winter, Florida will need to be on alert for severe weather and flooding.
Mild start to the season for Western Ohio Valley, Midwest, central/northern Plains
Similar to areas farther east, the Midwestern states and central and northern Plains will enjoy a mild start to the season before cold outbreaks arrive later on.
January and February are predicted to bring a dramatic change in temperatures, Pastelok said.
Snowfall in these regions is likely to remain below normal, with storms occurring less frequently than usual.
“It won’t be a big year for snow in the major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis,” he added.
Snow and ice to strike the southern Plains
An active southern storm track will spell snow and ice events for parts of the southern Plains this winter.
While December could welcome a few storms, they are expected to become more frequent in January and February.
Areas from Dallas, and north of Houston, stretching into Little Rock will be susceptible.
Meanwhile, blasts of cold air could be problematic for area farmers.
“Anytime you get these deep shots of cold air like we’re calling for in the late season, there’s always big threat in agricultural areas around central Texas,” Pastelok said.
“We’re worried there could be shots of cold getting down into the mid-20s in some places.”
Heat and dryness to dominate the Southwest
A typical El Niño brings wet and cool weather to the Southeast; however, the pattern is forecast to be a bit different this season.
The interior Southwest is likely to end up drier, with more precipitation reaching central California, particularly mid-season.
According to Pastelok: “It will still be a bit of a down year as far as moisture goes. El Niño may not give them what they need and they could go back into drought next year.”
At times, the region may experience slightly above-normal temperatures, especially in February.
Cities such as Flagstaff, Albuquerque and Las Vegas could run as high as 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
Snow and rain may target the Northwest and Rockies
A phenomenon known as a pineapple connection could take place this winter, drawing a deep flow of moisture into the western U.S.
“Places on the West Coast could get hammered,” Pastelok said.
Central and Northern California to Oregon are likely to experience the heaviest precipitation, with flooding and mudslides not out of the question.
January into very early February is forecast to be the stormiest period for the Northwest and Northern California before conditions dry out in February.
“Ski areas from Washington to central and northern California will have a good year with an extra boost possible from the late December and January pattern,” Pastelok said.
About AccuWeather, Inc. and AccuWeather.com
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Ex-rap mogul ‘Suge’ Knight sentenced to 28 years in prison
By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer
Thursday, October 4
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Thursday sentenced former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight to 28 years in prison for running down and killing a man whose loved ones in court described him as a deeply devoted family man and peacemaker in his community.
The courtroom was filled by nearly two dozen relatives of 55-year-old Terry Carter, including a 96-year-old aunt who like many of them cried and consoled one another.
“He was so much more than the person the defendant killed with his truck,” said Carter’s sister Jessica Carter, one of eight family members who spoke in court.
Knight pleaded no contest two weeks ago to voluntary manslaughter on the eve of a trial on murder and attempted murder charges that could have resulted in a life sentence if convicted. He wore a large cross and orange jail attire during Thursday’s sentencing, which drew to a close a nearly four year court saga over the fatal 2015 confrontation.
He did not look at the family as they spoke of their sorrow and anger.
The victim’s daughter Crystal Carter called him a “low-life thug,” ”career criminal” and “a disgusting, selfish disgrace to the human species.”
“I ask that you sentence this unrepentant, remorseless, cold, callous menace to society to the maximum of 28 years,” she said.
Another daughter, Nekaya Carter, said she hopes that the end of the courtroom saga can bring her some peace.
“I wanted justice for my dad and now we’ve finally got it, kind of,” she said. She then addressed Knight directly despite the judge’s instructions not to. “My dad can finally rest in peace while you live out the rest of your life in prison.”
In January, 2015, Knight had been fighting with a longtime rival, Cle “Bone” Sloan, through the window of his pickup truck outside the burger stand near where promotional filming was being done for the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.”
Sloan had worked as an adviser on the film, which portrayed Knight in his early days as the co-founder of Death Row Records.
Knight backed into Sloan with his truck and wounded him before running over Carter, who later died from his injuries.
Knight’s numerous defense lawyers had contended he was acting in self-defense.
There have been disputed accounts of why Carter had been at the scene, but his family said he often acted as a community mediator and peacemaker.
“This wasn’t no cat who went after nobody,” Carter’s brother-in-law Damu Visha said in court. “He helped people.”
The death was captured on surveillance video, and family members described their anguish in having to see it repeatedly, and chastised the media for showing it so often.
The prison sentence represents the low point of a long decline for Knight, one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop. At his pinnacle in the mid-1990s, he was putting out wildly popular records that are now considered classics from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur.
Shakur was in Knight’s car when he was killed in a drive-by attack in Las Vegas in 1996.
He answered procedural questions but did not address the court Thursday.
Voluntary manslaughter would normally bring a sentence of 11 years in prison, but Knight’s previous felony convictions including robbery and assault trigger California’s three strikes law and take the sentence to 28 years. It wasn’t immediately clear how long he would have to serve.
The agreement also clears Knight in two other cases, both from 2014. He was accused of stealing a camera from a woman and of sending threatening text messages to “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray.
Family members said they were especially upset to have received no remorse from Knight or his family members.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen, who issued the sentence, appeared moved by the family’s words and offered his own condolences.
“If it hasn’t been said by anyone else, Coen said, “let me tell you, that my heart goes out to you.”
Most victim’s family members spoke of the need to forgive Knight for their own peace of mind.
“I hope and I pray that we find forgiveness,” Terry Carter’s cousin Patricia Hawkins said. “But it won’t be today.”
Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .
The Conversation: Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Ted Turner has Lewy body dementia, but what is that?
October 3, 2018
Melissa J. Armstrong
Assistant Professor, Neurology, University of Florida
Melissa J. Armstrong is the director of the University of Florida Health Mangurian Headquarters for Lewy Body Dementia, one of 24 Lewy Body Dementia Association Research Centers of Excellence.
University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Ted Turner recently announced that he has Lewy body dementia, a diagnosis that the late comic and actor Robin Williams was given after his death.
The disease is frequently unrecognized even by doctors, despite the fact that Lewy body dementia is the second most common dementia.
In one study, almost 70 percent of people diagnosed with Lewy body dementia saw three consultants before receiving the diagnosis. For a third of people with the disease, getting the correct diagnosis took more than two years.
October is Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month. As a physician specializing in Lewy body dementia, I often hear patients and families describe delays in getting a diagnosis. It doesn’t have to be this way. Awareness is critical, particularly as new opportunities emerge for diagnosis and treatment.
What is Lewy body dementia?
The word “dementia” describes a condition affecting a person’s memory and thinking that is a decline from how he or she used to function and that is severe enough to affect day-to-day life. Alzheimer’s disease dementia and Lewy body dementia are the two most common types.
Lewy body dementia gets its name from the abnormal protein clumps that are seen on autopsies of the brains of people with Lewy body dementia. The protein alpha-synuclein clumps into spheres that can be seen using a microscope. These are called Lewy bodies because they are named after the scientist who first described them, F. H. Lewy.
Lewy body dementia is an umbrella term that includes two different conditions: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
In dementia with Lewy bodies, a person develops memory and thinking problems before or at the same time as he or she develops movement problems that resemble Parkinson’s disease.
In Parkinson’s disease dementia, a person who has experienced Parkinson’s disease movement problems for years then also develops trouble with memory and thinking.
These two conditions share many of the same features. In addition to memory and thinking problems and movement problems, people with these conditions can have fluctuations in their alertness and concentration, hallucinations and paranoia, acting out dreams during sleep, something called REM sleep behavior disorder, low blood pressure with standing, depression and daytime sleepiness, among other symptoms.
Correct diagnosis essential
Getting the correct diagnosis is critical for patients and families. While no one wants to hear that they have a disease that currently can’t be cured, patients and families often feel relief that they finally have an explanation for what’s happening.
The diagnosis of Lewy body dementia is often missed, however, due to lack of awareness by physicians, patients and families. Even for people eventually receiving a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, research shows their first diagnosis is commonly incorrect. In that study, 26 percent of people later diagnosed with Lewy body dementia were first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 24 percent were given a psychiatric diagnosis like depression.
Knowing the correct diagnosis lets patients and families connect to resources such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association, an organization dedicated to helping people living with this disease. The organization provides education on Lewy body dementia, helps patients and families know what to expect, links patients and families to support and resources and connects them to research opportunities.
Once a diagnosis is made, physicians can also suggest potentially helpful treatments. Medications can include carbidopa/levodopa, a drug that helps with slow movements, and drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors, which were developed for Alzheimer’s disease but may also help people with Lewy body dementia.
Avenues for research
There is a great deal that we still need to learn about the Lewy body dementias. Increasing research is a priority of the National Institutes of Health.
In 2017, experts published new criteria for the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies, aiming to improve accurate diagnosis. In 2018, the Lewy Body Dementia Association identified 24 Research Centers of Excellence to create a network of centers working to better understand and treat the disease.
There are also currently multiple research studies trying to find drugs to help people with Lewy body dementias, including studies to investigate drugs hoped to improve thinking in dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Scientists also hope to learn more about the alpha-synuclein protein clumps in the Lewy body diseases. Recent vaccine studies suggested that the human body might be able to create antibodies against alpha-synuclein. This could be the first step toward a vaccine. If effective, a vaccine would prompt the immune system of people with these diseases to create antibodies to attack and clear the protein clumps.
With advances in diagnosis and treatment, there is reason for hope.
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article originally published Oct. 5, 2017.
Kavanaugh sexual assault hearing evokes early Soviet mock trials
Updated October 3, 2018
Erica Stone Drennan
Ph.D. Candidate in Russian Literature, Columbia University
Erica Stone Drennan received a Harriman Institute PepsiCo Research Travel Fellowship and funding from the Columbia University Mogilat Endowment to conduct research in Russia.
Before last week’s Senate judiciary hearing into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was scheduled, Republican Senator John Cornyn complained that the proceedings would amount to a “show trial” – a public spectacle with a predetermined outcome rather than a serious inquiry into the truth.
Last week’s riveting testimonies by Kavanaugh and his accuser, 51-year-old psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, did at times remind me of the early Soviet mock trials that are the focus of my dissertation research as a scholar of Russian literature and culture.
Public mock trials – not to be confused with the rigged show trials that would later occur under Stalin’s regime – were something of a craze in the decade after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Performed in factories and workers’ clubs, these fictional judicial proceedings were an entertaining way to educate Soviet citizens about their country’s new laws and Communist values.
A 1920 mock trial of the Communist Party leader Vladimir Lenin, for example, aired criticisms against Lenin in order to refute them.
Staged trials of drunkards taught the audience moral lessons about the evils of alcohol. And a 1924 mock trial of the Bible highlighted inconsistencies in this religious text in order to undermine the authority of Christianity.
The fictional trial scripts were published by state-run presses as short pamphlets, with up to 100,000 copies of each circulated. I have reviewed dozens of the copies housed in Moscow’s Lenin Library and the Russian State Archive of Literature and Arts.
Though the trials were scripted, actors were encouraged to improvise their lines, and the audience could often participate in the show as jurors.
The verdict, however, was almost always predetermined to reflect the Soviet government’s idealized vision of this new Communist society.
Trying acquaintance rape
One 1925 fictional trial, The Trial of Citizen Fedor Sharov Accused of Spreading Gonorrhea, reveals that there’s nothing new about the “he said, she said” aspect present in judging sexual assault allegations – including those lodged against Kavanaugh.
Sharov is a fictional 21-year-old factory worker accused of bringing his fellow worker, 19-year-old Anna Nikolaeva, to a private room in a bar, where he gets her drunk and rapes her.
The mock trial focuses on whether Sharov gave Nikolaeva gonorrhea, with the aim of teaching the Soviet public about the spread and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
But in the script, the prosecutor also seeks a charge of rape against Sharov, arguing that his sexual assault is also a crime.
Like the accusations against Kavanaugh, which allege that he physically assaulted Ford at a party in high school, this mock trial tackles not stranger rape but sexual violence committed by an acquaintance.
Nikolaeva explains that before the rape Sharov had pursued her aggressively. When she rebuffed him, he insisted, saying he wanted “to be more than your comrade” – a statement that demonstrates Sharov’s retrograde attitudes about gender.
In Soviet Russia, women were supposed to be equal to men.
Other characters in the mock trial condemn Sharov for harboring “old ideas and views about women,” with one witness even saying the rape allegations don’t surprise him.
Ultimately, the prosecutor uses Sharov’s misogyny to argue for a guilty verdict, declaring that the defendant sees his female co-workers and fellow students not as comrades, but as people “to seduce and ruin.”
Women’s dubious credibility
Even in allegedly gender-equal Soviet Russia, Nikolaeva struggles to convince the men in power that she was raped.
The judge begins the proceedings by asking whether she told anyone about the assault. Like many sexual assault survivors, Nikolaeva says she did not.
In Soviet Russia, women were to be seen as comrades and co-workers — not sexual objects. Ignite Nivinsky, “Who was there to tell?” she asks. “I was ashamed.”
The defense attorney proposes that perhaps Sharov raped Nikolaeva because “he really liked” her, equating sexual violence with affection.
Even the prosecutor offends his star witness by asking if she has sexual partners “other than Sharov.”
The trial concludes with a mixed verdict: Sharov is convicted of infecting Nikolaeva with gonorrhea but acquitted for her rape because Nikolaeva willingly accompanied him into the bar.
He said, she said
Other Soviet mock trials on sexual health demonstrate similar disregard for women’s experiences.
In the 1925 Trial of a Prostitute and a Procuress, Stepan Klimov accuses the sex worker he visited, Zinaida Evdokimova, of knowingly infecting him with syphilis, which she vigorously denies.
Klimov claims he did not sleep with anyone other than Evdokimova. And as a prostitute she must have known she had syphilis, the prosecution insists.
Evdokimova tearfully explains that she could not have intentionally infected Klimov because she would have sought treatment had she known she was ill.
“No one wants to rot alive,” she says.
As her defense attorney points out, the government’s case is based entirely on assumptions and the victim’s testimony.
Nevertheless, Evdokimova is convicted.
A referendum on abortion
The issues debated in the 1923 Trial of the Midwife Lopukhina Who Performed an Abortion Operation that Resulted in the Death of a Woman also feel modern.
Its purpose was to teach the Soviet public about abortion, which had just been legalized in 1920. Russia was the first European country to allow the procedure, but only when performed by a doctor, at his discretion, in a clinical setting.
As each side debates the merits of the midwife’s actions, the trial effectively becomes a referendum on this new woman’s right.
Numerous characters, including the doctor and expert witness, imply that women who have abortions should be ashamed. The judge explains that, before performing the operation, doctors should “take all measures…to dissuade her.”
This may sound familiar to those who follow the abortion debate in the United States.
Has anything changed?
At least some of the social issues troubling early Soviet Russia are still on trial in the United States today.
Modern Western society has long been publicly grappling with how to judge women’s voices, rights and experiences – debates that for over a century have descended into “he said, she said,” victim-blaming and shame.
Washington, D.C. today differs from 1920s Soviet Russia in many ways. But when it comes to gender matters, I have found, sobering and unexpectedly, significant similarities.