Week of July 30th

House of Representatives Votes Overwhelmingly to Increase VAWA and VOCA Funding!

Congressional staff told key sources that they had received so many calls from victim advocates that they simply had to support amendments related to victim service funding. 

On Wednesday (7/25/07) night, the full U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for 4 amendments to increase funding for VAWA by $29 million and for VOCA by $10 million in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. Overall, the House bill represents a $100.4 million increase in funding over last year’s budget for sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. 

U.S. House urges Japan to apologize for WWII sex abuses
The Associate Press reported last week that the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution “urging Japan to formally apologize for forcing thousands of women to work as sex slaves for its military during World War II.”

Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), sponsored the bill. He made the following statement about the bill’s passage:

"Today is a truly historic occasion. I am thrilled that the Members of the House of Representatives passed H.Res. 121. In doing so, this deliberative body sent a clear message to our good friend, the government of Japan, that historical reconciliation is not just a concept to be championed, but has very real consequences in the lives of the many women institutionally victimized during World War II. The Japanese Imperial Armed Forces coerced some 200,000 'comfort women' into sexual slavery. The women endured gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide. To this date, they have still not received a proper apology from the government of Japan. The passage of H.Res. 121 marks an important step forward in the healing process for these women, and brings us closer to demanding accountability and justice for present-day crimes against women and young girls. One need only look to Darfur, Bosnia, and East Timor for contemporary examples of such abuses. Historical reconciliation is crucial to prevent future atrocities.”

The resolution is nonbinding but it has caused concern in Japan. Japanese officials, in Tokyo, say that leaders have previously apologized for “the Imperial Japanese Army's coercion of women into military brothels in the 1930s and 1940s.” Some Japanese politicians say the claim that women were “sex slaves” has been exaggerated and the term should not be used to describe the women because they were paid.

Historians have discovered documents showing the involvement of the Japanese government in this matter. In 1993, the government “issued a carefully worded official apology,” but Parliament did not officially approve of the apology. Japanese officials have denied victims restitution, claiming postwar treaties provided the women with adequate compensation.

Prison Sexual Assaults

Shelli DeRobertis, from the San Bernardino County Sun reported, “at least 200 inmates at the California Institution for Men participated last week in a survey about sexual assault behind bars.” In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act was signed into law. A portion of the law “requires annual surveys to be conducted in 10 percent of the nation’s prison’s each year. The purpose of the survey is to study the incident rates of sexual violence amongst inmates – including between inmates and staff – to help reduce sexual assault in detention facilities.“

The most recent survey will be completed by the end of August. The results of the survey and the “three highest ranking prisons with the most sexual assault incidents” will be identified for Congress. In October, Congress will review the findings. Prison administrators are expected to offer insight into the issues surrounding silence prison sexual assaults.

The survey is being conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and they expect over 120 prisons, 300 jails, with over 80,000 inmates participating in the survey.  Survey respondents reported in 2005, “6,241 allegations of sexual violence, up from 5,386 in 2004.  Of those numbers, 38 percent of allegations involved staff sexual misconduct, 35 percent nonconsensual inmate-on-inmate sexual acts, 17 percent staff harassment and 10 percent abusive inmate-on-inmate sexual contact.”

Facebook hears accusations about sexual predators

The online social network, “Facebook, the online social network, has stolen some of MySpace's momentum with users and the media. Now, it is being subjected to the same accusations that it does not do enough to keep sexual predators off its site,” reported Brad Stone.

The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal said, "There is no question that Facebook is encountering some of the same problems that MySpace has posed. They should be held accountable, and we intend to do so." The attorney general said they are looking into additional cases of “of convicted sex offenders who had registered on Facebook…and state officials have contacted Facebook and asked it to remove the profiles.”

Facebook has proposed an alternative way to identify convicted sex offenders. The company is considering “building a database of names and e-mail addresses for convicted sex offenders that could be compared to the membership rolls of Internet sites.”

CALCASA Executive Director Interviewed on “The Conversation”

On Tuesday July 31st, CALCASA’s Executive Director, Suzanne Brown-McBride was interviewed on National Public Radio’s, The Conversation.

Ross Reynold’s, Se
nior Host of The Conversation, said lawmakers in Washington State “are calling for a special session of the state legislature to pass tougher laws on sex offenders.” Some lawmakers are considering tracking sex offender via GPS devises, zoning laws and tougher sentencing standards.

Brown-McBride said GPS and other policy changes can be an effective tool when used in conjunction with supervision of sex offenders. The public needs to be aware that GPS technology, tougher sentencing requirements and other policy changes have limitations. It is important for lawmakers to speak to victims, victim advocates and those who work with offenders. Resources must be committed to sex offender supervision, housing, and community education. Communities need to think about what will happen when sex offenders come out of institutions.