Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Zero Rape Initiative

At Tuesday's Board meeting I attempted to introduce a concept that would ensure that regional autonomy would govern exactly who could have access to recruiting our students on the EO Smith campus and through school resources.

At issue was a revised edition of the region's equal access for recruiters policy. My contention was and continues to be that any school governed by an elected Board of Education has the right to set the local qualification for recruiters to be welcome to recruit.

At the top of my list of such qualifications is the insistence that any organization, university, or government agency be free of rape incidents for the past 12 months.

A vote was taken and the entire issue was voted down by everyone but myself.

The reason this even occurred to me is the story of LeVena Johnson's brutal death. David Love's story, LaVena Johnson: Raped and Murdered on a Military Base in Iraq bubbled up on my educational news radar.
The U.S. Army officially ruled her death a suicide, saying she shot herself in the head, case closed. But this is where the story begins.

Johnson's family knew something was wrong. They had talked to her on the phone a few days earlier, and she was in a great mood as usual, and was planning to come home for the holidays, earlier than expected.

Questions were raised when Johnson's family viewed her body. There were suspicious bruises, and while the military claimed that this right-handed soldier had shot herself in the head with an M-16 rifle, the gunshot wound was on the left side of her head.

But the truth began to make itself known when the family received the autopsy report and photos they had requested under the Freedom of Information Act:

The 5-foot tall, 100-pound woman had been struck in the face with a blunt instrument, probably a weapon. Her nose had been broken, and her teeth knocked back. There were bruises, teeth marks and scratches on the upper part of her body. Her back and right hand had been doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. Her genital area was bruised and lacerated, and lye had been poured into her vagina. The debris found on her suggested her body had been dragged.

And despite all this mutilation, she was fully clothed when her body was found in the tent, with a blood trail leading to the tent.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Army has refused to investigate. Through an online petition, demanded an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

I investigated a bit further. A PBS documentary called Rape in the Military added evidence of a pattern of neglect on the subject.
Since NOW first aired its investigation into rape and sexual assault in the military last year, the Pentagon has released new reports in which one-third of military women say they've been sexually harassed. And the number of women reporting assault and rape has essentially remained the same—even though the military says it has invested serious resources to combat the problem.

I don't believe LeVena Johnson committed suicide. Furthermore, the military needs to fix the chronic rape and cover-up problem.

No School Board in this country should allow any branch of the government or any institution access to their student body for recruitment unless they can attest they've had a previous rape-free twelve months. This policy allows everyone equal access under these conditions and it allows for unfortunate incidents to be followed by remedial prevention.

Such a policy safe-guards all schools from institutions where chronic rape occurs.

The argument that zero rape history doesn't exist is bogus. The government routinely legislates impossible goals for schools yet the suggestion that they "aim high", "hold themselves to a higher standard", or reorganize because they fail is greeted by political nervous breakdowns.

As a society a zero tolerance for rape policy makes as much sense as an intolerance for drugs, bullying, unhealthy food, and so on. Let's keep repeat offending institutions away from our kids until they clean up their acts.

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