Sarah’s News Roundup 02.02.19

In April 2018 the Trump administration quietly – so quietly that that the media have only just found out about it – changed the definitions of both domestic violence and sexual assault.

Essentially the terms have been restricted so that the Department of Justice can only use them in regard to behaviour that constitutes a felony or misdemeanour crime.

However this also means the DoJ will not fund or implement programs to help those experiencing emotional, economic or psychological abuse that hasn’t yet escalated to physical or sexual violence.

The decision has been condemned by activists as psychological violence can be as devastating as physical or sexual violence.

They worry that if grants are restricted according to the new definition, funding to programs combating domestic violence may be solely to agencies that work with victims of crime and this would mean that countless survivors would not have the resources needed to escape or improve their situations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of US women are believed to have experienced psychological abuse from an intimate partner; that these unexplained changes of definitions were made without an official announcement is horrifying.

Police arrested Dakota Theriot, the man who killed five people including his parents, girlfriend and her brother and father, at his grandmother’s house in Virginia, 1,100 miles away from where the shootings took place in Louisiana.

His grandmother had been in contact with local police as she feared Theriot might go there and had officers waiting for him at her property.

Theriot was charged with first degree murder, illegal use of weapons and home invasion.

Louisiana Sheriff Webre described the shootings as “one of the worst domestic violence incidents I’ve seen in quite a while”.

A bill that would have allowed late term abortion in Virginia has led to a conservative outcry with critics labelling it “infanticide” and Trump saying: “Do you remember when I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb? That’s what it is. That’s what they’re doing. It’s terrible.”

The Democrat bill sought to change the current law to allow late term abortion if the mother’s physical or mental safety is at risk or in cases where the fetus has severe deformities or is not viable outside the womb.

It would also have required only one doctor to sign off the procedure rather than three which is currently the case.

In the UK a mother has been found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation for the first time ever.

Despite it being illegal since 1980s and at least 5,000 women and girls being on UK records as having been cut only three previous cases have gone to court and they were all acquitted.

FGM campaigner Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity said convictions are hard to secure because cuttings were “hidden in secrecy.”

“People are scared to come forward, professionals are scared to come forward to report this. The fact that we have a conviction today is a really historic moment.”

The New York State Legislature has passed a bill that will increase the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse.

The Child Victims Act will allow survivors of child sexual abuse to file criminal charges until their 28th birthday and to seek prosecution against their abusers in civil suits until their 55th birthday.

It also includes a one year “look-back” window during which survivors of any age or time limit can come forward to prosecute.

State Senator Brad Hoylman said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote: “For years, survivors of child sexual abuse have looked to Albany for justice and for years, their pleas have gone unanswered. We can never right the wrongs of past abuse. But we can give you the opportunity to seek redress against your abusers and the institutions who harbored them.”

Representative Jackie Speier has nominated Christine Blasey Ford for the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

The award, which is usually reserved for public officials, was created in 1989 by Kennedy’s family to honor him and “recognise and celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most”.

Speier said of Dr Ford: “She is the face of women speaking truth to power in the fight for equality. She is the face of every sexual assault survivor who has had to defend herself or himself when it is the perpetrator who should be on trial. She spoke of so many who have been robbed of justice. And she did all of this knowing she was guaranteed to suffer ceaseless character assassination attempts, torment and abuse.

She is an inspiration to us all.”

Sarah x



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