In the nation's Veteran's Administration hospitals, a dark secret is lurking. VA statistics show that hundreds of sexual assaults, including rapes, forcible medical examinations, and inappropriate touching, occur in hospitals for veterans each year. A bill recently proposed in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2074, would use several strategies to ensure that service members are protected from sexual assaults and have ways to report any assaults that do occur.
According to studies conducted by SWAN, the nation's largest organization advocating for female members of the U.S. armed services and female veterans, women have recently been using VA health care rather than private health care in record numbers since returning home from missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this uptick in VA use may not be good for the women involved: studies have shown that sexual assault survivors receiving services from the VA are significantly less satisfied than those who receive healthcare from private providers.
SWAN runs a helpline for female armed services members who have been subjected to sexual assault, discrimination, or harassment. According to testimony from SWAN's policy director, women have reported extreme incidents of sexual assault and harassment. In one case, a veteran's psychiatrist raped her but the veteran was told that her word alone could never lead to the psychiatrist being disciplined in any way.
In another VA hospital, a technician has been reported repeatedly for sexually inappropriate conduct. A police officer at the facility reports that the technician has been reported to his employer repeatedly but continues to work in his technician capacity, in close proximity to female patients even after being accused of rape at least twice.
If H.R. 2074 becomes law, the VA would be required to implement a comprehensive reporting system for rapes and other types of sexual assault. The law would also track incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment at VA hospitals so that the VA could develop a better understanding of where problems were occurring and how to stop sexual assault in the future.
Currently, reporting sexual assaults can be confusing and difficult for female veterans. In many cases, women report that their complaints are not taken seriously. In some situations, women have even been retaliated against because they made complaints about sexual harassment or assault. Having a consistent reporting system could lead to complaints being addressed more promptly and with more significant consequences for sex offenders caught assaulting patients or staff at VA hospitals.
What are sexting laws?
Sexting is the act of an individual (usually a minor) sending an explicit message or image electronically. The term is amalgamation of “sex” and “texting” reflecting its roots in irresponsible text messaging. However, the term now refers to the distribution of these messages and images through any electronic means such as email, instant messaging and social networking. The widespread acceptance and prevalence of sexting among teenagers and young adults is cause for concern for many adults and legal experts alike.
What are the dangers of sexting?
The ever present danger of sexting is that materials shared between two or more individuals may inevitably end up in the hands of others, either through careless or malicious actions on the part of the original party. The material in question can be used for blackmail and other means of gaining leverage on an individual depicted in the explicit material. The advent of digital photography and webcam transmissions for home use has also made the creation of explicit material far easier for minors and which leads to the material in question to be easily reproduced.
Especially for minors, age may become a factor and child pornography statues may be considered, even if the individual possessing the material is also a minor. This is a felony crime and could subject the offender to a lifetime on the sex offender registry. Some lawyers and legal experts have since campaigned to excuse minors from these charges or to lessen the charges to a misdemeanor. No federal remedy has yet to be prescribed that would standardize the legal penalty for the creation, transmission or possession of explicit material between minors.
How prevalent is sexting?
Studies have shown that at least a quarter to a third of teenagers and young adults have sent explicit photos of themselves and more than half have sent suggestive or explicit text messages to another individual.
How has sexting law been applied in court?
South Riding, Virginia – Ting Yi Oei, an assistant principal at Freedom High School investigated allegations of sexting among the students. He discovered one lewd, but non-explicit photo on a student’s phone. He was instructed to save the photo as evidence although the investigation was inconclusive. Local law enforcement became involved after a complaint from a parent and they also concluded the picture to be non-explicit. This did not stop an overzealous prosecutor from filing charges against Oei for misdemeanor failure to report child abuse for not notifying the parents of the girl in the photo (although he was unaware of her identity)
After refusing to resign, the prosecutor dropped the misdemeanor charge and upgraded the charges to possession of child pornography, a felony offense punishable by five years in prison. The prosecutor continued to add charges to the case including contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Oei’s lawyer was finally able to get the charges dropped after proving that the nudity in the photo, which was not explicit, did not make the image pornography.
Still Oei’s reputation has been tarnished by the ordeal. Overzealous prosecutors following a loose interpretation of child pornography laws have filed charges on multiple occasions against adults and children alike for procession of lewd material depicting a minor.
Wyoming County, Pennsylvania – The American Civil Liberties Union helped three teenage girls file federal suit against a local prosecutor that threatened to prosecute them under child pornography law. Explicit photos of the girls were found on cell phones belonging to other students at their school, which promoted the prosecutor, District Attorney George Skumanick Jr to investigate. Under PA state law, possession of child pornography carries a felony sentence of seven years and registration as a sex offender for 10 years.
The prosecutor defended his actions by claiming that he has offered the parents of the girls an alternative, to force the girls into six months of probation with drug testing. The parents refused and the ACLU stepped in, charging the prosecutor with violating the girl’s civil rights. The suit filed by the ACLU disputes that the images are pornography as neither sexual activity or genitalia are depicted in the pictures. They also argued for a violation of the fourteenth amendment which reserves a parent’s right to raise their child by trying to force the girls into a mandatory education program. The ACLU won an injunction against the further prosecution of the case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the prosecutor was voted out of office. (Mitchell v. Miller)
Prosecutors across the country have charged teens with varying degrees of child pornography production, distribution and possession which many legal experts believe is a gross distortion of a law meant to protect minors from predatory adults. The charge usually result in community service and not felonies, but momentum has grown to absolve teenagers from prosecution under child pornography laws altogether.
Atlanta, Georgia – In some cases, the debate over sexting has led to other debates over underage sex between consenting minors. Genarlow Wilson spent two years in jail after being videotape as a seventeen year old having oral sex with a minor. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction which signifies changing attitudes about teen sexuality and consent. This legal thinking is gradually seeping into sexting laws as there is a growing consensus that minors cannot be tried by pornography laws intended for adults.
What are lawmakers doing regarding sexting laws?
Some state representatives in Connecticut, Vermont, Ohio, Utah and New York have introduced bills and legislation in their respective legislative bodies that would lower the penalty for minors down to a misdemeanor. Other bills, such as one introduced in Vermont would legalize sexting between two individuals but would bar further distribution of the material. For other jurisdictions, the law remains vague and subject to the judgment of prosecutors, most of whom file charges to teach the offenders a lesson but enforce lesser punishments, such as probation.
The list of federal political sex scandals in the United States is huge, and documented scandals go as far back as 1796. Some sex scandals have received more media attention than others, and the list of federal political sex scandals in the United States listed below consists of scandals that have received most media attention in the last couple of decades.
Mark Sanford, 2009
The former South Carolina governor stopped answering his phone and responding to emails on June 18, 2009. There were several rumors about his whereabouts, but he told a reporter he’d been in Buenos Aires when he arrived to the airport in Atlanta. He eventually made an announcement to the media that he was visiting another woman in Argentina and publicly apologized to his wife and children. He announced he would resign from the Republican Governors Association after the scandal.
John Ensign, 2009
Ensign admitted that he had an affair with Cindy Hampton from 2007 to 2008. She was wife of Doug Hampton, who worked Ensign’s Senate Office. Doug Hampton sent a statement to the Fox News that claimed he was dismissed after the affair, and Ensign eventually admitted to the affair.
David Vitter, 2007
Senator Vitter’s number was found on a list owned by the “D.C. Madam.” Hustler Magazine found Vitter’s number, and they contacted him. He made a statement the next day and admitted to the sex scandal. He was strong advocate of abstinence-only education and had similar conservatives views.
Kwame Kilpatrick, 2008
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and city official Christine Beatty were accused of having a sexual relationship, and both parties denied the claims in court. Kilpatrick eventually admitted to the affair and was ordered to spend four months in jail for obstruction of justice.
Larry Craig, 2007
Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after he gestured lewd behavior to an undercover officer in a bathroom. He pleaded guilty and announced he would resign after his term.
Barney Frank, 1989
Barney Frank was the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. Frank was accused of having sex with a male prostitute named Steve Gobie, and he even let Gobie live at his home. Frank maintained he office.
Bill Clinton, 1998
This is perhaps the biggest sex scandal on this list of federal political sex scandals in the United States. Clinton was accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied that he had sex with Lewinsky, but later admitted he had sexual relations with her. He faced impeachment but was never removed from office.
Eliot Spitzer, 2008
An IRS investigation found that New York governor Spitzer transferred about $10,000 to a business called the Emperor’s Club. It was proved he met with a call girl that charged $1,000 per hour, and he resigned from office.
John Edwards, 2008
Edwards admitted that he had an affair and father a child with Rielle Hunter. The affair occurred when his wife had incurable breast cancer in 2004. He was indicted on six felony charges for trying to use campaign funds to cover up the affair.
Anthony Weiner, 2011
Representative Weiner accidentally sent a public photo of his penis to a woman in Seattle in 2011. He initially claimed his account was hacked, but he confessed to sending the photo on June 6, 2011. Weiner resigned after pressure from Congress.