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An Updated Definition of Rape
January 6th, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Susan B. Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women.

In a victory for survivors of rape and their advocates, the Attorney General announced a newly revised definition of rape for nationwide data collection, ensuring that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.

The change sends an important message to all victims that what happens to them matters, and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable.  It was because of the voices of survivors, advocates, law enforcement personnel and many others that FBI Director Robert Mueller was able to make this important change within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS).

 “Forcible rape” had been defined by the UCR SRS as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”  That definition, unchanged since 1927, was outdated and narrow. It only included forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina.

The new definition is:

“The 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.” 

For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men.  It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape.  This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. 

Furthermore, because many rapes are facilitated by drugs or alcohol, the new definition recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol.  Similarly, a victim may be legally incapable of consent because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with individual state statutes.  Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent. 

The UCR is the national “report card” on serious crime; what gets reported through the UCR is how we, collectively, view crime in this country.  Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR SRS.  Even though most states have more expansive definitions of rape in their criminal codes, they had to report the smaller number of crimes falling under the more narrow UCR SRS definition.  This meant that the statistics that were reported nationally were both inaccurate and undercounted.

Because the new definition is more inclusive, reported crimes of rape are likely to increase.  This does not mean that rape has increased, but simply that it is more accurately reported.  In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood. 

The new UCR SRS definition of rape does not change Federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the Federal, State or local level, it simply means that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.     

The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) worked closely with White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal and the Office of the Vice President, as well as multiple DOJ divisions, to modernize the definition.  The change was supported by external partners such as the National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major City Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs, and the Police Executive Research Forum. 

For more information about the Office on Violence Against Women, visit ovw.usdoj.gov. We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

World AIDS Day 2011
December 1st, 2011 Posted by

On this World AIDS Day, the Department of Justice reconfirms its leadership role in combating discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. We  remain committed to realizing our mission under President Obama’s landmark National HIV/AIDS Strategy, to address the stigma and discrimination still experienced by those living with HIV/AIDS. 

People with HIV and AIDS are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives federal civil rights protections to persons with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, and state and local government services.  Earlier this year, the Justice Department issued letters to the attorneys general of all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories to request their assistance in addressing the illegal exclusion of individuals with HIV/AIDS from occupational training and state licensing. 

Under the ADA, the Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement with Modern Hairstyling Institute Inc., a private cosmetology school in Puerto Rico, for delaying the admission of an HIV-positive individual. That settlement agreement requires the school to remove questions about applicants’ HIV/AIDS status and to promptly enroll the aggrieved individual in its cosmetology program.

Last year, the Justice Department reached a consent decree with Wales West LLC, owner and operator of Wales West RV Resort and Train and Garden Lovers Family Park in Silverhill, Alabama.  It was alleged that Wales West LLC violated Title III of the ADA when it unlawfully denied full and equal access to an RV park to a child and his family because the child has HIV. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Wales West LLC, upon learning that a guest family’s two-year-old child has HIV, banned the family from using the common areas of the RV resort, such as the swimming pool and showers.  Under the terms of the consent decree, Wales West LLC will establish policies, procedures and training practices to ensure that patrons and their families are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.  

In commemorating World AIDS Day, Attorney General Holder stated:

“The Department of Justice, through its Civil Rights Division, will continue to vigorously enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act, which protect people with the virus from discrimination in virtually every aspect of their daily lives.  We will continue our outreach and education efforts directed both at informing those with the virus of their rights to non-discrimination under federal law and at dispelling the myths, fears and stereotypes about the virus that help to perpetuate unlawful discrimination.   We will continue to work with our federal partners under the Strategy toward the common purpose of ensuring that no American feels it necessary to hide his or her status out of fear that disclosure will lead to unlawful discrimination.”     

World AIDS Day 2011 is a powerful reminder of this call to action, and the Justice Department will continue to lead the way in combating stigma and discrimination, improving education and outreach, and doing our part to realize President Obama’s vision under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  To learn more about our enforcement efforts, please visit www.ada.gov/aids/ada_aids_press.htm.

A Message from the Attorney General on the Defending Childhood Initiative
November 21st, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

I am happy to tell you about an important upcoming event in the fight to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence in the United States.  Last month we established the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, composed of leading experts from diverse fields and perspectives.  The Task Force will spend the next year examining the extent and nature of the problem of childhood exposure to violence in the U.S. and identifying policies and promising practices to address it.

Now we are pleased to announce that the first hearing of the Defending Childhood Task Force will take place in Baltimore on November 29 – 30, at the University of Maryland law school.  Other hearings will be held over the next several months in Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit.  Look on the Defending Childhood Task Force website for details about the hearings and information about community listening sessions and other opportunities to give your input.

We expect these hearings to inform and guide the Defending Childhood Initiative’s work to ensure the safety and health of all our children.  In the past few years the Justice Department has been working with leading researchers to take an in-depth look at the problem of children exposed to violence, and what we learned has been a wake-up call, and warning bell, for all of us. We learned that the majority of our kids – more than 60 percent – have been exposed to crime, abuse, and violence — many in their own homes. Ten percent of children in the United States have suffered some form of abuse or neglect; one in sixteen has been victimized sexually. And both direct and indirect exposure to violence is having a profound negative impact on the mental and emotional development of young people across the country.

For me, this issue has been both a personal and professional concern for decades. As a judge, as a U.S. Attorney, and as the Deputy Attorney General, protecting children at risk and in need was at the forefront of my work. Today, as our nation’s Attorney General and as a parent, it remains a top priority.

For more information about the Defending Childhood Initiative, visit justice.gov/defendingchildhood.

A New Standard for Effective Collaboration
November 14th, 2011 Posted by

Today Attorney General Holder traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to join Prosecutor General Radhaméz Jiménez Peña in signing an important asset sharing agreement that marks the culmination of a major international fraud case.

This agreement, which relates to an estimated $37 million in criminal assets that are currently being recovered by U.S. and Dominican officials, represents the opening of an historic new chapter in the strong record of law enforcement cooperation that has long defined the relationship between these two nations.

These millions stem from the case of the so-called Benitez Brothers, who defrauded the Medicare Program to the tune of an estimated $80 million. But the United States could not recover these assets, or ensure justice, alone. Fortunately, thanks to unprecedented levels of cooperation between American officials and their Dominican counterparts over a period of more than two years, we were able to conduct an exhaustive investigation and build a strong case.

With this agreement, these two nations set a new standard for effective collaboration. 20 percent of all assets recovered from this case with the office of the Prosecutor General of the Dominican Republic, who will put them to good use – improving prison facilities, combating organized crime, and providing security for witnesses who are crucial to the successful prosecution of criminal cases.

Today’s signing ceremony marks the fourth time in ten years that America’s government has recognized – through asset sharing – the remarkable forfeiture assistance that Dominican authorities have afforded to the United States. It reaffirms our common values, as well as our ongoing commitment to the goals that the United States and the Dominican Republic share: protecting our citizens, strengthening our borders, improving public safety, reducing recidivism, and preventing and combating gang- and drug-fueled crime and violence.

But today’s agreement is more than an encouraging step forward, and an affirmation of the shared desire to increase cooperation and collaboration, on one specific case. The U.S. and the Dominican Republic have entered into negotiations for a permanent agreement that will govern the asset sharing relationship long into the future. We look forward to the rapid conclusion of these negotiations, and to the timely adoption of such an agreement.

The Justice Department and the Attorney General are grateful to the attorneys, investigators, and law enforcement officers – in the United States as well as the Dominican Republic – whose efforts proved so instrumental in helping to bring the Benitez Brothers to justice.

Justice Department Honors Veterans
November 9th, 2011 Posted by

On Wednesday the Department of Justice held its Veteran’s Appreciation Ceremony to honor and pay tribute to Department Veterans and to observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Attorney General Eric Holder hosted the event in the Great Hall with Director Robert S. Mueller III of the FBI, a Vietnam Veteran, as the keynote speaker.

The ceremony honored the extraordinary group of 19,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines who contribute to the Department’s missions as agents, attorneys, investigators, and support staff in offices all around the world. Attorney General Holder reflected on the legacy of service of the Veterans who chose to bring their skills and talent to the Department of Justice:

“Many of you have helped to lead the Department’s activities to protect the employment rights, voting rights, and financial security of veterans across the country. And today, on behalf of President Obama and my colleagues across the Administration, I’d like to thank you, once again, for your service. I also want to reaffirm the Department’s commitment to standing with you – not just on Veterans Day, but every day of the year – as we take this work to the next level.”

As a direct result of the Presidents Executive Order on the Employment of Veterans, The Justice Department’s Veterans Employment Office was established in March of 2010. Its mission is to recruit Veterans into the Department of Justice workforce as well as support training and retention of these Veterans. The office does this by participating in job fairs, transition workshops, seminars, and other Veteran specific events, as well as partnering with military transition and career centers, military installations, and through community outreach.

The Veterans Employment Office also works with the Office of Management Programs to incorporate veteran specific training and information for Justice Department human resources and hiring managers to attract and advance dedicated employees who have served their country.

Veterans looking for information about continuing their service with a job in the federal government should visit fedshirevets.gov

View Photos from the Event

Our Continuing Efforts to Prevent Youth Violence
November 8th, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of  Attorney General Eric Holder.

Throughout my career, I have seen the devastating effects of youth violence far too often.  As a prosecutor and a judge; as a U.S. Attorney, as Deputy Attorney General – and, above all, as the father of three teenage children – I’ve been determined to make the progress that our nation’s young people deserve.  

In September of 2009, this country was shocked by a video depicting the brutal beating and murder of a 16-year-old Chicago honor student.  That savage attack was seared into our collective memory, and it left an indelible mark on the community where it took place.  But, tragically, it is just one horrifying example of the violence that many young people face every day, in cities and towns across this country.

In response to this crisis, last year, President Obama directed the Departments of Justice and Education to partner with other federal agencies – and with representatives from six cities – to launch the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of committed stakeholders dedicated to stopping the brutality and bloodshed that devastates too many of the youngest members of our society.  The six cities participating in the Forum — Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, Calif. and San Jose, Calif. — have made great strides toward developing and implementing comprehensive crime prevention strategies tailored to eradicating the violence that has ravaged their communities and stolen so many promising futures.

Last week, teams from these cities — comprised of law enforcement officers, policy and public-health experts, educators, researchers, city officials, social services providers, community and faith leaders, and concerned parents — gathered in Washington, D.C., to share their progress in using cost-effective and evidence-based strategies to prevent youth violence and help formerly incarcerated youth become productive citizens. 

Also last week, at a hearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security,  Congressmen Bobby Scott, John Conyers, and Steve Cohen congratulated Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, and this Administration for our efforts on the Forum and urged us to keep up the important work. 

It’s clear that these efforts are already beginning to take hold.  For example, the City of Memphis launched a Crime Prevention Unit this year that includes 90 officers focused on reaching youth before they come in contact with the criminal justice system.   Meanwhile, officials in Chicago have established a Youth Shooting Review panel — a pilot project that reviews fatal and non-fatal shootings, drawing on both public health and criminal justice perspectives, to gain a more substantive understanding of their causes and context.  The panel will identify patterns, gaps in key services, and effective strategies to prevent shootings among school-age youth.  

Forum participants have also taken steps to better understand, and more thoroughly address, the joblessness, illiteracy, violence, and other challenges that formerly incarcerated young people often face when they return to their communities.  To improve the outcomes for these youth and help them become contributing community members, San Jose, Calif. has become part of a county-wide Reentry Network.  The Network provides assessment and programming to youth who are both in custody and in the community, along with resources to help them transition to a more stable, self-sufficient and successful lifestyle.

In each of these six cities, the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention has brought local experts together with federal officials and other key stakeholders, in order to share best practices; to develop strategies for reducing brutality among, and directed toward, young people; and to address and overcome common challenges. 

I’m proud to say that the work we are leading is sending an unmistakable message that, in this country, we will not give up on our children.  And it’s ensuring that the priorities we set now will allow America’s next generation of leaders to break destructive cycles and seize tomorrow’s opportunities.

 
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