Monthly Archives: November 2010

Sexual Assault Still the Most Under Reported and Under Prosecuted Crime in US

Ninety-four percent of men who rape will never spend a day in jail. That statistic, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, applies to a Sam Hughes resident, who a woman says raped her at 3 a.m. on April 24, 2009, according to a police report obtained from the Tucson Police Department.

She agreed to sleep over at his house after a night of drinking with him, the report said. The victim told police she pretended to be asleep during the assault because she felt afraid he would hurt her — she later drove herself home and took a shower before calling the police, according to the report.

However, like many women who have been raped, she chose not to press charges. Despite vast improvements in legislation, advocacy, and DNA testing since the birth of the anti-rape movement, sexual assault still gets ensnarled within blurry definitions of consent and shameful stigmas. Women remain reluctant to report cases of rape, and seek prosecution.

FBI uniform crime statistics recorded 88,097 forcible rapes in the U.S. in 2009, with a per capita rate of 28.7 per 100,000 people, an apparent reduction from 1992, which saw the highest per capita rate of 42.8. The FBI estimated 21,407 arrests for forcible rape in 2009, a rate of about 25 percent.

Accordingly, Arizona had 2,110-recorded rapes for 2009 in Arizona with a per capita rate of 32.0, and 226 total arrests, a rate of about 11 percent. Tucson recorded 204 rapes reported in 2009.

However the FBI statistics utilize the oldest definition of rape around. They define rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This definition does not include forced oral or anal sex, penetration with objects, sexual assault against men or by women, and does not account for the high number of cases that go unreported.

Therefore it provides only a small window through which to view the pervasiveness of sexual assault. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 60 percent of victims never report their rape to police.

Angela Baldasare, former director of community education and outreach at the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, said under-reporting is largely due to “misinformation and rape myths within our culture that are pretty deeply embedded, and that serve as justifications for sexual violence.”

Some of these rape myths remain deeply embedded, particularly the idea that women somehow deserve to be sexually assaulted. “Either they’re asking for it, they wanted it, or they put themselves in dangerous situations; therefore it’s their fault. Those kinds of things really still act to stigmatize the victim,” Baldasare said.

According to the National Institute for Justice 2005 report on sexual assault on college campuses, 1 in 5 young women experience rape during their college career. Half of all student victims do not label the incident “rape,” and in 80 – 90 percent of these cases, the victim and assailant know each other, the report said.

It’s mostly not “the stranger lurking in the bushes” that commits the majority of sexual assaults in the U.S., though that certainly can and does continue to happen.

“Typically what we see are sexual assaults that arise through a social setting. They met someone through a friend or online, so there is a basic relationship there,” Sgt. Juan Alvarez of the University of Arizona Police Department said. Alvarez also said that more often than not, alcohol is involved.

“That’s where the line gets blurry. Those cases are hard to prosecute because it’s difficult to determine if there was consent or not, especially if the parties were too intoxicated,” Alvarez said. However, Arizona state law says a person who is incapacitated, even by self-induced intoxication, can’t give consent.

“We need to find the actual evidence that sexual assault occurred. Bruising, tearing, ejaculation, a used condom somewhere, statements from witnesses, and forensic evidence – we try to get the whole picture. If we can develop probable cause then we’ll make an arrest,” Alvarez said.

DNA testing and “rape kits” are useful in gathering evidence that sexual assault occurred, and can help verify a victim’s story. Yet even with the advent of DNA testing, arrests and prosecutions for sexual assault remain low. One possible reason for this? An extraordinary number of DNA samples collected from rape kits don’t get tested.

In Nov. 2009 CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteylan uncovered thousands of untested rape kits sitting in storage. According to the report, the arrest rate for sexual assault in the U.S. in 2008 was 25 percent. However, the arrest rate was 70 percent in New York City. Why? Because they test every rape kit.

In 2000, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner D-N.Y., initiated the DNA Backlog Elimination Act, which secured nearly $1 million in federal funding for the first time for rape kit testing in addition to the $12 million in funding that came from New York City.

Weiner also co-authored the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2002 with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. It provides $25 million in federal funding per year to help eliminate the DNA backlog. As a result of this legislation, New York City has eliminated its DNA backlog.

However, many experts believe greater diligence in testing DNA plays only one part in addressing the issue of sexual assault. In cases where the victim and offender know each other and the offender acknowledges sexual contact, DNA evidence becomes irrelevant. In these cases, the primary issue becomes consent, and prosecutors remain reluctant to pursue these cases.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Susan Eazer, supervisor of the special victims unit responsible for prosecuting sexual assault cases said “most of these cases usually never make it past investigation.”

Eazer said when deciding which cases to pursue, they’ll only go after cases that have a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction. “In many (acquaintance rape) cases, I know that no matter how hard we fight, no matter how credible the victim is, the jury is not going to convict,” Eazer said.

This is where those long-standing rape myths factor in, and why women remain reluctant to report cases of acquaintance rape. Moreover, Eazer said she’s seen the re-victimization and vilification of victims during the prosecution process destroy women’s lives.

Eazer also said she believes we have yet to experience the cultural shift that views sexual assault as a serious crime, particularly within our own justice system and in the minds of jury members.

In this regard, Erin Strange, the violence prevention specialist with the OASIS Program for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence at the University of Arizona said she thinks we are fighting “an uphill battle.”

While she sees the importance of encouraging women to report sexual assault to police, her focus with the OASIS program revolves around the idea of prevention through education and advocacy, and teaching women how to protect themselves and reduce the risk factors.

She also indicated a great need to educate men. “Going forward I think what we need to do is focus on that idea of consent, and really give people clues as to what it means and how you know you have it. And if you are ever confused, you have to ask,” Strange said.

Strange says she feels overwhelmed when she thinks about trying to change the larger culture, but feels empowered and able to make a difference on a community level.

Maintaining a presence and “getting out there” on campus and in the community to raise awareness and talk about these issues is key, she said. “We’re trying to reach as many people (on campus) as possible because what they learn here then goes out into the community and it’s a trickle effect,” Strange said.


Child Amputees in Developing Countries Face Great Challenges

Rodrigo Cortez and Mallory Lemmons

When he was 2, Rodrigo’s parents chose to amputate his lower right leg just above his ankle. Because of a birth defect, Rodrigo was born missing a bone and most of his foot.

Each month since his amputation for the last 8 years, 10-year-old Rodrigo Cortez of Nogales, Sonora crosses the border into the U.S. with his family on a 1-day humanitarian medical visa to receive free prosthetic care at the St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic in Nogales, Ariz.

Like clockwork every first Thursday of every month except July, St. Andrew’s Church transforms into a hustling and bustling medical clinic. The 35-year-old makeshift clinic acts as a lifeline to those it serves. It provides free, specialized medical care to children living in Mexico who can’t afford or can’t access the crucial medical care they need at home.

During his visit to the clinic on Nov. 4, Rodrigo had a mold taken of his lower right leg for a new prosthesis. “Next month we’ll do a practice fitting, and if that looks good then we’ll finish it the following month,” his prosthetist Dr. James Druwe said. He should be able to wear it home in January.

A thin, tall and quiet young man, Rodrigo sat patiently in a chair in a small and crowded side room just behind the main worship hall of the church, as Mallory Lemmons, a resident with Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Tucson, Ariz., took the mold of his leg.

Mallory first wrapped Rodrigo’s leg in plastic wrap, slid a tight, white sock just above his knee, and inserted a long rubber tube to the end of the sock. She marked the bones in his leg with a pencil on the outside of the sock, which will transfer onto the inside of the mold. She then submerged a ball of rolled up plaster into a bucket of water, and began to wrap it around his leg.

The plaster dried within a matter of about 5 minutes, after which Mallory sawed through the first layer with an electric saw, just above the rubber tube, and just deep enough so she could finish cutting through the mold with scissors. Using the rubber tube as leverage, she tugged the mold off of his leg.

Rodrigo is fortunate to receive the care he does, and in fact St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic helps in it’s own small corner of the globe to fill a critical void in prosthetic care for child amputees. Without prosthetic care, amputees can experience a diminished quality of life, increased discrimination, and limited mobility. Prosthetic care often allows amputees to integrate and become fully functioning members of society.

Amputations among children in developing countries generally originate from birth defects, as in Rodrigo’s case, or from traumas. Lemmons said that most of the juvenile humanitarian cases she saw from developing countries while attending the University of Texas Southwestern Orthopedics and Prosthetics School in Dallas, Texas came from birth defects, many of which result from malnutrition. “Mothers aren’t getting the nutrients they need during pregnancy,” Lemmons said.

According to the World Health Organization, mineral deficiencies contribute greatly to birth defects, particularly iron deficiencies. The 2004 Bulletin of the World Health Organization estimated that birth defects in developing countries could be reduced by one-third simply by fortifying wheat flour with iron and folic acid.

Amputations from traumas in developing countries can often occur as a result of natural disasters, particularly from earthquakes. Project Medishare estimates that 6,000 – 8,000 people suffered amputations as a result of the Magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. 1000 of them were children. Lack of building codes in poor, developing countries like Haiti leave the population much more vulnerable to severe injuries, including limb loss, during natural disasters due to falling rubble.

Yet traumas in developing countries can also occur in war zones from weapons, especially from landmines. According to UNICEF, children in at least 68 countries face the threat of death or limb loss from landmines. They estimate the presence of 37 million landmines on the African continent, and 10 million in Angola alone. As a result, Angola has 70,000 amputees, 8,000 of which are children.

UNICEF says that children are especially vulnerable to landmines. Signs to warn them of their presence are useless if they are illiterate or too young to read. Also, children often mistake landmines for toys; their curiosity often leads them to pick up the weapons. At that point, it’s too late. Their lives change forever.

Aside from accessing the necessary surgical and prosthetic care they need, one of the greatest challenges for child amputees in developing countries, whether from birth defects or from trauma, remains the burden they bear of social stigmas and discrimination.

s.e. Smith, contributing founder of Feminists With Disabilities said, “Children with visible disabilities experience social disadvantages as a result of prejudicial attitudes.” This can include diminished access to education, either because it’s not accessible due to mobility issues, or because “People simply believe they are not worth educating,” Smith said.

“They also face unwanted negative attention from both adults and other children, and experience bullying and depression at much higher rates than non-disabled children,” Smith said.

This is where clinics like St. Andrew’s can make a huge difference in providing the resources child amputees need to integrate into society more easily. The care they receive leaves them less vulnerable to ostracism, and gets them closer to living the life they would otherwise live without an amputation.

At the St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, “We improve quality of life 100 percent. Because they may not be walking, they may not be running, they may not be playing with their friends without the prosthesis,” Druwe said.

Yet, while the monthly care provided at St. Andrew’s is a blessing, it’s still not equal to the care patients in developed countries would receive. “The tough part about doing a clinic like St. Andrews is that we only go down once a month. That’s better than what most people get in developing countries, but if they’re out in the middle of nowhere, the follow-up care can be very challenging. But it is extremely important, especially with a new prosthesis,” Druwe said.

Doctors need to regularly check the skin on the stumps of newly amputated limbs. Also, new prosthesis need adjustments so they fit comfortably and correctly. This is especially important for children, who need a new prosthesis approximately every year as they outgrow them. Druwe said he likes to see patients once a month at a bare minimum, but prefers to see patients on a weekly or biweekly basis during this stage, an option not available to most children in developing countries.

Yet for children like Rodrigo who have no other option, the monthly care he receives at St. Andrew’s Children’s clinic makes all the difference in the world, and he will keep coming to the clinic until he turns 18. After that, he must find care on his own through one of the many nonprofits, or non-governmental organizations that provide prosthetic care in Mexico, such as Limbs For Life, the World Rehabilitation Fund, or the Barr Foundation.

In the meantime, Rodrigo gets to run and play with his friends, something for which his mother, Consueula Ceniceros told translator Luz Villalba, she is very grateful for. Were it not for St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, “He would probably be on crutches because we wouldn’t have the means to have this done for him,” Ceniceros said.


A Little Slice of Humanity

This is a rough draft of an article that will hopefully appear on Border Beat, a University of Arizona School of Journalism Electronic Publication.

Evelyn chose the lavender butterfly design for her new Ankle-Foot Orthosis, more commonly referred to as braces. It’s no wonder she chose butterflies because they match her fluttering and energetic personality.

Evelyn Salomon Camacho from Nogales, Sonora has crossed the border with her mother and sister every first Thursday of every month for the last 6 years. On those days, she receives orthotic care from St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, which provides free specialized medical care for Mexican children who otherwise can’t access it. Evelyn was deprived of oxygen at birth, which led to deformity in both of her legs, as well as mental disabilities.

Evelyn getting her new orthotic shoes

Evelyn could hardly sit still as she waited for volunteer orthotists to put the finishing touches on her new braces. Maybe she was also hamming it up for the camera. Or perhaps it was the chaotic fluttering about of orthotists, prosthetists and patients within the small, cramped space. Whatever the case may be Evelyn could hardly contain her excitement, and jumped out of the big, black chair she was sitting in on a few occasions.

According to Luz Villalba who translated for Evelyn’s mother, without the braces to help her walk, Evelyn loses her balance easily, and is very unstable. Yet her condition over the last 6 years has steadily improved. In fact, the braces are only meant to serve as a correctional device. The hope is that with time, Evelyn will someday walk on her own without them, Villalba said.

That hope would not be present among Evelyn’s family if not for the orthotic care she receives at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic. Indeed, the orthotic care provided at the clinic can mean the difference between having the ability to walk, and having little to no mobility for the children it serves. Yet it’s not only the braces that Evelyn and the other children need.

Evelyn up and walking in her new shoes and braces

Mike Meyers, founder of the Shoebox Ministry that provides orthopedic shoes to the children at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, explained that the braces are useless if the children can’t find shoes big enough to accommodate them.

“People were coming back some months later, and when they would come back they (the braces) were still brand new. They couldn’t find a shoe that was wide enough or deep enough to accommodate the foot and the brace. Consequently, they weren’t getting the benefit of the braces,” Meyers said.

This realization provided the inspiration for the Shoebox Ministry. In fact that day, Meyers brought 6 cases of orthotic shoes with him. Evelyn received a pair, along with her new butterfly braces.

On that note, it was no surprise that gratitude seemed to be the common theme running through St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, not only with the patients and their families because of the life-changing medical care they receive, but also with the volunteers and doctors. They seem to very much enjoy providing these services free of charge to those who really need them.

Certified Orthotist Holly Olszewski, who adjusted Evelyn’s braces, said she enjoys volunteering at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic. “It’s always nice to help, especially with kids – they’re usually pretty excited to get the new braces,” she said.

She also said that she is not required to donate her time. “Most of us really like coming down here, so you know we have to kind of fight for the spots to get to come down and work with the kids,” Olszewski said.

Unfortunately, the children in need must also fight for spaces at the clinic. St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic can only accommodate 200 – 250 children per month, though it would certainly like to accommodate more. Nonetheless, the St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic serves as a great example of an organization making a huge impact in it’s little slice of the world, as Evelyn Salomon and her family can certainly attest to.

Watch the process of Evelyn’s braces get adjusted and fitted, and see Evelyn receive her orthopetic shoes here: Evelyn St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic from Living in Exile in Arizona on Vimeo.


Live Blogging Nir Rosen Talk at University of Arizona

I’m going to be “Tweeting” Nir Rosen’s talk at the University of Arizona today.

From his website: “Born in New York City in 1977, Nir Rosen is a freelance writer, photographer and film-maker who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and other popular tourist destinations. His book on Iraq “In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq,” was published by Simon and Schuster early in 2006.”

Rosen will be discussing his new book “Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World.”

For live updates, follow me @LivingInExileAZ on Twitter.


Miracle Workers

Evelyn Salomon Camacho

Today I traveled to the St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic in Nogales, Arizona with my multimedia journalism class. I felt extremely privileged to experience the amazing gifts the volunteers at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic give to their patients. Every first Thursday of every month except July, St. Andrew’s Church transforms itself into a medical clinic for impoverished children from Mexico with serious health and medical problems. The clinic also provides cleft palate, orthopedic and eye surgeries. All medical care given to patients at the Clinic is free of charge.

The most uplifting, inspiring and amazing aspect of St. Andrew’s clinic lies in the fact that it operates entirely upon the generosity and kindness of volunteers and donations, and has done so for over 35 years. Some of the volunteers have been with the clinic since its inception. It operates like clockwork, albeit in very small and hectic working spaces. But within these spaces, miracles happen for the families that go there.

I primarily hung out in the Orthotics section of the clinic, as I have an interest in amputees and prosthetics.  Prostheses range greatly in price depending on the technology and the type. Lower end prostheses run anywhere from $3,000 – $15,000, and higher end prosthesis can cost upwards of $40,000 – $50,000.

Amputees without prostheses face a much lower quality of life, particularly children. Without this clinic, these children would have very different lives – many of them would have very limited mobility, or would need to rely upon crutches to get around. The services that the clinic provides allows many of these children to run and play sports, and experience more normal childhoods.

Rodrigo Cortez

Some of the families travel for hours to get to the clinic, and must sometimes wait 2-5 hours at the border itself to cross over. The families enter on a Humanitarian Medical Visa, good for only 1 day. No doubt the journey is worth the time and effort given the difference it makes in their lives.

Many of the volunteers express that they get “hooked” into volunteering. Giving back on this level must indeed be addictive. These people provide much-needed medical care to people in great need who would not have access otherwise. Given the state of the world and the results of the recent mid-term elections in the U.S., the experience of visiting St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic restored my faith in humanity and our potential to be a healing force in the world.

I should also mention the parents of the children who come to the clinic. Like all parents, they want the very best for their children. At the clinic, they are given the knowledge and skills to care for their children’s conditions, and their children are given the care they need, and that all children in need deserve. Like the doctors, these parents work miracles on a daily basis with their love, patience and care.

St. Andrew’s Clinic taps into the very best and brightest of the human spirit of cooperation and giving, particularly across borders and boundaries, especially at a time when we are being encouraged to distrust and despise those we view as “other.” I feel so very blessed to have witnessed such goodness, and so many miracles today.

Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on my visit to St. Andrew’s Clinic, which should be up at Border Beat, a University of Arizona School of Journalism publication, within the next week.

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