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Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern

My Take

HERVotes Blog Carnival – Turning “Ifs” into “Whens”: College Students Like Me Need Reauthorization of a Full VAWA

Posted by Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern | Posted on: February 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

This blog was originally published on June 29, 2012. We are re-publishing it today in honor of the HERVotes blog carnival on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Author Dana Bolger is a former NWLC intern, feminist, and student activist. You can follow her on Twitter at @danabolger.

I dream of a day when men on college campuses no longer rape with impunity.

If that day comes, my safety and well-being will be valued more than my laptop’s. Students found responsible for sexual assault will receive more than slaps on the wrist.

If that day comes, the rape of an intoxicated woman, or a girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, or a man, will finally be considered “real” rape. There will be no such thing as “gray rape” or “acquaintance rape” or “date rape.” It will all be called by its proper name, the only name: Rape.

If that day comes, victims will no longer be blamed for the crime another person perpetrated against them. Faculty and students will be taught to recognize the signs of dating violence and domestic abuse. The officials who adjudicate disciplinary decisions will receive training appropriate to understand the complex psychology behind the cycle of abuse, rather than being told – as one disciplinary committee member was at my college – that “it’s pretty much common sense anyway.”

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has the potential to begin a journey on which each “if” will turn into a “when.”

But right now, the VAWA bill is languishing in Congress, the surprising target of an effort to turn the issue of violence against women – a problem that everyone should agree merits action – into a partisan battle. On Tuesday the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women rallied on Capitol Hill in a renewed effort to push the reauthorization bill through Congress before the end of the summer.

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The Wage Gap: It’s Personal

Posted by Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern | Posted on: August 22, 2012 at 11:46 am

I remember looking at the male intern sitting beside me and being angry.

It was May 30, 2012, the second day of my summer internship. I was at the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act. A woman was testifying to members of Congress about how she was continually paid thousands of dollars less than her male coworker.

Let me remind you: it was May 2012. Not 1960.

The woman testifying was AnnMarie Duchon. She said, “I have a daughter and when she grows up and looks back at how Mommy didn’t have fair pay, I want her to think it was some historical event that was eradicated years ago.”

AnnMarie and her daughter

I looked at the male intern sitting next to me and wondered how it could be that the wage gap had not been “eradicated.”

I wondered how it could be that when we graduate from college, chances are he will be paid more than me, even if we do the same job—just because he is a man.

I wondered how in 2012 stories like AnnMarie’s could still be commonplace.

And these realizations made me angry.

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Olympic Champions Say: “I Definitely Owe My Career to Title IX”

Posted by Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern | Posted on: July 30, 2012 at 03:17 pm

“I’m on top of the world right now. I still know I can go faster.”

That’s what Dana Vollmer said last night after winning a gold medal and setting a world record in the 100-meter butterfly.

In addition to being an Olympic champion, Vollmer is a big supporter of Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

In ESPN’s video, “Title IX Is Mine,” Vollmer says, “Talking with my mom about not having athletic teams even available to her made me realize how privileged I am at getting to have those. Looking at a younger generation, they might not even realize that this wasn’t always available, this isn’t how it’s always been.”

Vollmer isn’t the only Olympian championing Title IX. Last Saturday, Jessica Hardy won a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. She explains, “As a child, I probably wouldn’t have even had the drive to compete if I couldn’t really go anywhere with it. So getting the chance to go to college, be recruited, swim beyond high school is my life’s dream.”

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“Football runs this University.” – How Sport Culture Enabled Rape at Penn State

Posted by Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern | Posted on: July 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

“I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away…”

That’s how former Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno explained his failure to notify the authorities of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assault of a young boy.

But as the Freeh report released last week concluded, it wasn’t the university’s procedure Paterno was afraid to jeopardize, but its reputation.

After all, to be consistent with the law, university procedure should have required Paterno to speak up.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (aka “the Clery Act”) requires colleges and universities to publicly disclose the number of reports of criminal offenses—including sexual assaults—that occur on their campuses each year.

Under the Clery Act, Paterno had a legal obligation to inform the proper authorities after learning of the sexual assault an assistant coach had witnessed. Instead, Paterno sat on the report. He even delayed speaking with his supervisors so as not to “interfere with their weekends.”

Ultimately, Paterno and then-University President Graham Spanier decided not to report the sexual assault to campus police. The Department of Education is now investigating potential Clery Act violations at Penn State.

In addition to their failure to report, Paterno and Spanier neglected to investigate the assault: to determine the identity of the victim, take action to protect him, and remove Sandusky from Penn State facilities. As a result, they “provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims.”

This “consistent disregard [for the] welfare of Sandusky’s child victims” points to a deliberate practice of valuing the university’s football program over children’s—or students’—safety. Indeed, the Freeh report specifically noted that “a culture of reverence for the football program…. [was responsible] for [the] failure to protect…victims.”

This bizarre moral compass may help explain earlier eyebrow-raising disciplinary decisions regarding Penn State football players:

In 2002, a player who admitted to sexual assault was allowed to play in a bowl game during his two-semester suspension.

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Turning “Ifs” into “Whens”: College Students Like Me Need Reauthorization of a Full VAWA

Posted by Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern | Posted on: June 29, 2012 at 01:30 pm

I dream of a day when men on college campuses no longer rape with impunity.

If that day comes, my safety and well-being will be valued more than my laptop’s. Students found responsible for sexual assault will receive more than slaps on the wrist.

If that day comes, the rape of an intoxicated woman, or a girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, or a man, will finally be considered “real” rape. There will be no such thing as “gray rape” or “acquaintance rape” or “date rape.” It will all be called by its proper name, the only name: Rape.

If that day comes, victims will no longer be blamed for the crime another person perpetrated against them. Faculty and students will be taught to recognize the signs of dating violence and domestic abuse. The officials who adjudicate disciplinary decisions will receive training appropriate to understand the complex psychology behind the cycle of abuse, rather than being told — as one disciplinary committee member was at my college — that “it’s pretty much common sense anyway.”

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has the potential to begin a journey on which each “if” will turn into a “when.”

But right now, the VAWA bill is languishing in Congress, the surprising target of an effort to turn the issue of violence against women — a problem that everyone should agree merits action — into a partisan battle. On Tuesday the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women rallied on Capitol Hill in a renewed effort to push the reauthorization bill through Congress before the end of the summer.

Read more...