Are Women Safe at Occupy Protests?

This article was originally posted at The Crawdad Hole.

It’s a fair question to ask, considering the continuous reports of rape and sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment coming from the Occupy protests. And it’s a shame that women have to worry first about becoming crime victims when all they want to do is help make the world a better place. I’ve been worried about this angle from the very beginning, when the word on everyone’s lips was that Occupy Wall Street wanted to recreate Tahrir Square in America. I had to ask then, and it’s a more compelling question today: You mean the Tahrir Square where Lara Logan was raped?

And rapes and sexual assaults are happening, 12 by my latest count, with the movement barely six weeks old. That’s a pretty abysmal track record, and in the comparison wars between OWS and the Tea Party, a very bad mark. I don’t recall seeing any reports of sexual assault or rape coming from Tea Party protests. Why is this more liberalized movement more inclined to perpetrate these sorts of crimes?

I can’t answer that question, though I have my own ideas. I haven’t been to any big time Occupy protests, just my little dinky standing occupation in my hometown of Indianapolis, where no tents are allowed. (You still couldn’t pay me to stay overnight.) So maybe it’s time we took a look at the warning signs coming from women who have attended, and enumerate the crimes themselves so women who choose to go to an event can go forearmed with the knowledge that they may be putting themselves at risk, and take action to protect themselves.

Wanting to change the world is a great thing, but getting victimized in the process really sucks. Just ask Donny the Punk.

If all you ever saw of women at OWS was this video, you might be inspired and inclined to go:

But this is what some other women are actually saying about it, and it’s just as important:

The conversation started with the early case of the insensitive, pro-rapist advice given to the women of OccupyBaltimore. But before that, there were warning signs, such as this tale from a Slutwalker about her experience at both protests, in which she claims that Slutwalk was a way more powerful experience for her. Pretty early on, Reena Walker published this screed on Facebook about the reception of black women at OWS.

Now, the movement is so comfortable with the evident misogyny in their midst that there is even a popular website dedicated to OWS babes. That website caused quite a stir when dcblogger posted it under the title “Misogyny at Occupy Wall Street” at Corrente. Dudebros came out of the woodwork to declare: “Shit! We can’t even look at hot women anymore? What’s wrong with feminists today?”

And it’s gotten so bad at Zuccotti Park proper that  women have created a female-only sleeping space.

Ms. Hardikar’s…speaks to a growing community of women who agree with OWS’ message, but who worry that their basic human rights might be getting lost in the shuffle. For that reason, Ms. Hardikar created a Safer Spaces Working Group in the General Assembly. … They have created their own female-only sleeping space in a section of Zuccotti Park.

Left-identified feminists are beginning to pay attention and report on the misogyny that characterizes the OWS movement and which is evident in the crimes against women happening across America. I have been tracking these events and to date we have at least 12 reports of rape or sexual assault events at Occupying protests across America (and one in Europe). Here they are: Continue reading

#AmbersArmy Blues: Google Edition

[This post has been modified to redact the opening, which was causing arguments and contributing to the problem with Google to be overlooked. I will address the issue of the original opening in another post soon, so that we can focus on what to do about Google for now. ]

Update: I put a new petition up. Sign it if you agree.

***

I have the blues today. We’re losing this battle.

Why are we losing this battle? Corporate apathy. The biggest distributor of this video is now Google, Inc. via YouTube. Google, whose corporate motto is supposed to be “Don’t be evil” is, in fact, perfectly okay with evil being distributed on its networks and servers. #AmbersArmy has flagged thousands of YouTube videos at this point, and yet YouTube allows it to continue to be uploaded every single day. Porn spambots are now leading the distribution charge. We can’t keep up, especially when only about 15% of the folks actually signed up for #AmbersArmy are active. Yet it is impossible to reach out to Google, or YouTube. They don’t have any useable contact information so that someone working to stop the illegal distribution of child porn on their servers and networks can actually alert them.

One would think that 14 years after its founding (ironically, the same year Amber was born), and five years after its acquisition of YouTube, the company might have given some thought to the problem of child pornography and how their company is complicit in the distribution of it, but they haven’t. I can already pin-point the problem: all of Google’s executives officers are male. Every single last one. And its workforce is predominantly male, too. It’s a problem, and being discussed in even the most unlikely of places (registration required).

The solution is simple, and Google ought to be ashamed of itself and its corporate profile that the solution hasn’t yet occurred to them. They have flagging features on most of their products. Flag a video, report a Blogger (also owned by Google) post, whatever. But there is not an option on any of these sites to flag the product as child pornography or abuse. Why not? Isn’t this a no-brainer? Prioritize complaints! Send illegal stuff like child porn and child abuse straight to the top of the pile of reports. No, this simple solution has not yet occurred to the entirely male hierarchy of Google, Inc. We already know that far too many people have been normalized to viewing child pornography and slut-shaming the victims, and now you know Google is complicit in it too (PDF).

But you should see how fast they address copyright infringement issues. THAT, you can report directly and easily, and Google jumps. WTF?

But how do we fight this? My voice alone cannot bring down the shame that will be required to force Goggle to address this issue. Continue reading

Update for #AmbersArmy & what to do with links going forward

Report from Facebook:

Okay folks, #AmbersArmy has done a FANTASTIC job of killing well over 100 copies of the video since this thing started, as well as flagging comments that include links. We forced Yahoo Answers to remove countless threads asking for copies of the child porn as well. We are succeeding in driving this thing underground at least, which makes it much more difficult for the general public to access.

We should continue to monitor YouTube daily for the time being, flagging videos. They remove them right away when we do, and it is the easiest way to access the video for young people, and for folks who may not be tech savvy.

For OTHER links going forward, please continue to search and do your best to report the presence of the video to the websites on which you find them, and then e-mail a copy of the link to peacocksandlilies@gmail.com. Include the term “#AmbersArmy” in your subject line. Let’s refrain from posting more non-Youtube, non-FB links here for the time-being. We have a team member who has technical skills way beyond my own and she is going to tackle them, which she can now do because the stream has slowed so much. I will make sure she gets a copy of the links.

As a reminder: DO NOT post clickable links on the #AmbersArmy page, unless they are FB or YouTube links that were not removed after you flagged them.

#AmbersArmy Update for Friday, October 21, 2011

We experienced a major setback last night as people started uploading the video to YouTube again. We succeeded in shutting down another 50 or so copies between last night and today. It is now being posted on a few porn sites, and we are going after them too. It occasionally shows up elsewhere on the web, but we are finding and reporting sites pretty quickly. We will continue to police the situation, but more help is always needed at #AmberArmy on Facebook.

I want to be sure to include some love here for two very special ladies, bloggers who have helped us spread the word on the internet. What About Our Daughters is a website that serves to empower black women. Here’s their About page info:

What About Our Daughters was founded on April 18, 2007 in response to an Oprah Winfrey show entitled “After Imus:Now What” . The original purpose of the blog was to encourage Black women to organize to “Stop Funding Foolishness.” In other words, to use economic power to  to impose economic sanctions on those who are producing destructive images of Black [w]omen and girls. We’ve evolved since then. Gotten some media attention, founded Blogging While Brown, Michelle Obama Watch, and proven over and over again that when men and women of character come together, we can change the world.

Unapologetic, Uncompromising, and Unbowed in defense of Black women and girls.

The Blogmother, who runs WAOD, was kind enough to highlight our efforts in her article about the girl and the response from the black community, which she posted Wednesday. Thanks to her efforts, #AmbersArmy has grown tremendously.

The other person I want to thank is Christelyn Karazin, who blogs at Beyond Black and White. Here is their About page.

Christelyn Karazin is the co-author of “Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” (to be released April 2012), and runs a blog, www.beyondblackwhite.com, dedicated to women of color who are interested and or involved in interracial and intercultural relationships. She is also the founder and organizer of “No Wedding, No Womb,” an initiative to find solutions to the 72 percent out-of-wedlock rate in the black community.

Christelyn was among the first to publicize our efforts and to help us build support for this campaign, writing an article for MadameNoire magazine on Tuesday, October 18. She called me this evening to interview me and is also publicizing our efforts on Beyond Black & White. Check out Beyond Black & White for the interview (audio is posted).

Please show these women some linky love in your blog updates, and by clicking through the links to their places. They have been tremendously supportive and are dedicated activists. I thank them!

#AmbersArmy Update

Update: As of 9:00 EDT this evening, every link of which we are aware is dead there is one link left of which we are aware. I expect more will be posted, but we have even slowed that process down considerably by our presence in the discussion streams on Twitter and Facebook. We have killed well over fifty links (wish I’d counted). We will continue to monitor the situation.

***

We were wrong about Memphis. The girl is from Baltimore. The Baltimore PD is involved in the case and so is the Baltimore School district. According to her twitter account, Amber changed schools today. She is also identifying her perpetrators on her twitter feed, and to avoid the legal issues involved in that, as well as to give this girl some peace, I won’t share her new Twitter handle here. I’m also no longer using her last name here, since we don’t know with certainty what the girl’s real name is. Lesson learned about internet gossip. I’m just so glad the police are involved.

We contacted the Baltimore PD and shared our information with Detective Hansen of the Child Abuse taskforce. We forwarded him the (now) four links we have left, including a new fbcdn.net link. However, we are happy to report that we killed a new tumblr link that had popped up in less than 15 minutes. Tumblr, unlike Facebook and Twitter is on these links very fast. They are obviously dedicated to preventing the distribution of child pornography in ways that Facebook and Twitter simply are not.

One of #AmbersArmy’s soldiers is also working with Google and YouTube to create filters to prevent people from accessing it. Google is another company that appears to care about policing its own.

In the meantime, we will continue to police Twitter for live links and try to find new ones so we can have them removed. If you want to help, join us at #AmbersArmy on Facebook.

On a sad note, I and other #AmbersArmy activists are now being cyber-bullied ourselves by someone going by the handle ThaThick Chick on Facebook. I’ve blocked her, so she’s just spinning her wheels with me. As I said early on: Sticks and stones, yo. She can’t touch me. And I won’t stop. No one is entitled to child porn, even if they think they are.

#AmbersArmy Gets the Police Involved!

I just got a call from Lieutenant Felecia Adams, who I’d spoken with earlier today when I called, of the Memphis PD Sex Crimes Unit. I told her what I knew and what we’d been doing. I’ve forwarded her the live links we still have (three now) and what some of us think is Amber’s twitter account. She thanked us for our work and was really impressed that a group of people banded together to protect this girl.

Of course, she couldn’t offer any details on the case, but at least we now know something is coming of it. There is law enforcement movement on this case. And we are making it happen. We are standing strong for Amber, and for other girls out there who need to know we have their backs. We are #AmbersArmy!

 

UPDATE! #AmbersArmy: A Major Victory!

Update: We have since found two additional fbcdn.net links to the video, which means that FACEBOOK IS HOSTING THE VIDEO! Here is the domain information:

Domain Name: fbcdn.net

Administrative Contact:
Domain Administrator
Facebook, Inc.
1601 S. California Ave
Palo Alto CA 94304
US
+1.6505434800
Fax: +1.6505434800
domain@fb.com

E-mail ’em, call ’em, fax ’em, whatever it takes. Just DO IT! We have begun to notify the press to pressure Facebook.

#AmbersArmy on Facebook for more info…

***

We killed the original link that went viral! The link that started with http://video.l3.fbcdn.net. I have been tracking down how to do this for two days, messaging Facebook Executives, hassling their press team, spamming their help pages & blog and so have other people. This is a major victory.

That said, I want to report that #AmbersArmy on Facebook is growing by leaps and bounds, and that is having an effect. We were having a hard time getting FB to respond to our reports of the video on their servers, but we started seeing action after we had about 50 people join. We’re up to 87 as I write this. This just goes to show how participation can help magnify the noise on something like this and change the tide. My frustration early was clearly unwarranted. I know I’m an impatient person and I work on it, but keep in mind it’s that same impatience that caused me to act and now look where we are. People are starting to get empowered about it. I hope Amber gets our message that we have her back. Excellent! Keep going, it’s working!