Throughout April, Project Consent has gathered news stories for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). As #PROJECTSAAM2018 comes to a close today, let's round up the latest from this week:
After decades of women speaking out against the defamed celebrity, Bill Cosby was finally found guilty of sexual assault by a Montgomery County jury. Cosby was found guilty on three counts, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Dozens of women spoke up of rape and sexual assault by Cosby over the years, but it still took this long to put him behind bars. Cosby’s alma mater Temple University also rescinded his honorary doctorate.
The New York Times published a series of reactions from some of Cosby’s accusers and their allies upon the jury decision.
In much worse news regarding powerful men, a $5 million lawsuit accusing music producer and mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct was dropped. Jennifer Jarosik filed the lawsuit in January, claiming that Simmons had raped her at his home after they had begun a working relationship. Simmons’ defense rebutted that Jarosik had expressed romantic interest in Simmons. Both Russell Simmons’ and some public reaction showed a clear unwillingness to understand the definition of consent and personal boundaries.
Just because someone shows affection does not mean they consent to have sex--rape is still rape.
Also this week, Indian guru Asaram Bapu was found guilty of raping 16-year-old girl in 2013; he now faces life imprisonment. Violent public protests ensued as the former spiritual guru had built up a following over previous decades. These disgusting responses showcased the prevalence of the public to continue to support powerful men, even when they commit the most horrific of crimes.
Amidst a rise in rape cases in India, a 13-year-old boy was arrested in Mumbai for raping a 6-year-old girl. The boy lured the the girl, who was his neighbor, claiming he was interested in playing with her. After crying and running away, the girl told her mother what had happened and she called the police. The boy has since been sent to a juvenile detention center.
In more heartening news, more than 200 domestic workers and farmworkers from the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance made their voices heard to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Both national alliances are trying to change the “small firm exemption” Title VII provision which makes it virtually impossible for domestic workers to make sexual harassment claims. While sexual harassment is legally a form of gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, businesses of fewer than 15 people are exempt from the act. This means that nannies, housekeepers, farmworkers, and other domestic workers are not being given the protection they need from sexually harassing and assaulting bosses. The women from the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance met with Senator Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to lobby for change.
As for Project Consent, this week marked our one year anniversary of winning a Webby award for our campaign, "if it's not yes - it's no." We are hoping to follow up with another campaign by creating a film series, "change the conversation, change the culture" but we need your help to fund this project. Be sure to spread the word and check out our indiegogo for more information!