7-23-20 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez denounces 'sexist slur by congressman'
US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given a speech rejecting a colleague's apology after he allegedly used a sexist slur in an argument. The New York City Democrat took to the House floor to accuse Republican Ted Yoho of accosting her on the steps of the US Capitol on Monday. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, who is often a target of conservatives, said the words showed a "pattern" of bad behaviour by men. Mr Yoho denies saying the slur and has called for civility. "This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural," she told lawmakers, calling it a culture "of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that." She added that she was prepared to let the incident go until Mr Yoho "made excuses" by citing his wife and daughters in a speech on Wednesday. Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she was entering Congress to vote when Mr Yoho, a Florida congressman, and Texas Congressman Roger Williams approached her as they departed the chamber. She said he called her "disgusting" and said "you are out of your freaking mind" in what a reporter who also witnessed the incident called a "brief but heated exchange" about recent comments Ms Ocasio-Cortez made about crime being linked to poverty. Ms Ocasio-Cortez - a member of the so-called "squad" of young female Democrats - said she told him he was being "rude". Then, as Mr Yoho walked away, he was overheard by reporters using an extreme swear word and calling Ms Ocasio-Cortez a "bitch". Mr Yoho's office has denied this, and instead said he had exclaimed "bullshit" to himself as he was leaving. In a passionate speech on Thursday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez rejected Mr Yoho's comments on the House floor one day earlier, in which he apologised for the "abrupt manner of the conversation" with her and said he was "very cognizant"of his language because he was married and had daughters. "I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of the country in mind and the people we serve," Mr Yoho told his colleagues. "I cannot apologise for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country," he added.
7-23-20 Australian gymnastics: Former athletes speak out on 'abuse' culture
Dozens of Australia's former top gymnasts have spoken out to allege instances of mental and physical abuse within the nation's elite programme. In stories shared online, many argued that coaches normalised a "toxic" environment. Gymnastics Australia has acknowledged the allegations, saying it wishes to improve the sport's culture. It follows a similar reckoning for the sport in the US and UK, where an inquiry has been launched. Many of the Australian gymnasts said they had been motivated to speak up following the release of a Netflix documentary about the cover-up of sexual abuse within the USA Gymnastics team. The case of Larry Nassar, the US team doctor, gained global attention following accusations from top Olympians. He was jailed in 2018 for molesting hundreds of young gymnasts. Though none have alleged sexual abuse, generations of former gymnasts have posted publicly about damaging experiences. strong>Their allegations include: Pressure over their weight and incidents of food deprivation; some detailed experiences with bulimia, Pressure to train and perform through injuries such as broken bones, Being coerced to perform stunts beyond their ability, Widespread violations of adult-child supervision guidelines, A "toxic" environment of criticism and negativity. Chloe Gilliland, a gold medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, said she had felt depressed and anxious at her "peak", and left the sport for her own wellbeing when she was 17.She said was regularly insulted by her coaches, called stupid and overweight, and isolated from her teammates. She added she had suicidal thoughts. Olivia Vivian, who began in the sport when she was nine, said she learnt as a child to hide experiences from her parents. She represented Australia at the 2008 Olympics but after reaching that level became "a broken athlete and a broken person," she wrote on Instagram. She said she only rebuilt her love for the sport after moving to the US, where she found a "positive and supportive environment".
7-22-20 Sydney police 'asked woman to remove tampon' in strip-search
Police in Sydney asked a young woman to remove her tampon during a strip-search, a law enforcement review has found. It was among instances of police misconduct uncovered in an investigation into five controversial strip-searches across Sydney last year. Most took place at music festivals and left those searched feeling humiliated and degraded, the report said. New South Wales Police said it would consider the findings of the report. The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission report called on the police force to apologise to one of the young women involved, and noted in another case that an officer had been suspended from duty. The cases were reviewed either after parents of the women complained or they received coverage in local media. Questions over the legality of the searches - all targeting drugs - was a "recurring" issue, the report said. It has added to public scrutiny of searching practices and calls for reforms. In one instance in January 2019, police strip-searched two young women outside a Sydney casino - one was asked by an officer to remove her tampon. A review of that incident "revealed a lack of clarity for [officers] regarding the lawfulness of such a request", the report said. That prompted a review of other cases where complaints had been made and no drugs had been found. In another case, a young performer at the Secret Garden festival was ordered to pull down her underwear and bend over before being spoken to unprofessionally and laughed at by male officers, the report said. A woman strip-searched at another festival was made to squat and cough and wasn't given adequate privacy. The review found that in many cases, police reported not knowing what they could do in a strip-search. It noted a new manual was introduced last August to instruct officers correctly. But the examples raised questions over the legality of police conduct, pressure to conduct searches, and poor communication and record-keeping, the report added.
7-21-20 France domestic violence: Senate to vote on bill lifting patient confidentiality
France's parliament is due to vote on a bill later on Tuesday intended to protect victims of domestic violence. The bill introduces an exception to medical confidentiality in the event of "immediate danger". The bill was approved last week by the National Assembly, and is going before the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. According to government figures, a woman is killed in France by a partner or former partner every three days, one of the highest rates in Western Europe. The bill authorises doctors or any other health professional to break patient confidentiality when they "consider in conscience" that violence puts the life of the victim "in immediate danger" and that there is a situation of control. The text also increases the penalties for harassment within the couple, increasing sentences to 10 years' imprisonment in cases where it led the victim to commit suicide or to attempt to commit suicide. In order to protect children, the proposed law also opens up the possibility of suspending parental authority in case of domestic violence, it adds. Last year, 149 women were said to have died as a result of domestic violence, the new Minister for Gender Equality, Elisabeth Moreno, told deputies last week, quoting figures from advocacy groups. Since the start of 2020, at least 39 women have been killed by their spouse or former spouse, according to a tally kept by the AFP news agency. Some advocacy groups activists have previously argued that the government measures do not amount to very much or lack the funding to be truly effective.
7-21-20 Indonesia vows to end practice of bride kidnapping
Indonesian officials are vowing to end the controversial custom of bride kidnapping on the remote island of Sumba, after videos of women being abducted sparked a national debate about the practice. Citra* thought it was just a work meeting. Two men, claiming to be local officials, said they wanted to go over budgets for a project she was running at a local aid agency. The then 28-year-old was slightly nervous about going alone but keen to distinguish herself at work, so she pushed such concerns aside. An hour in, the men suggested the meeting continue at a different location and invited her to ride in their car. Insisting on taking her own motorbike she went to slide her key into the ignition, when suddenly another group of men grabbed her. "I was kicking and screaming, as they pushed me into the car. I was helpless. Inside two people held me down," she says. "I knew what was happening." She was being captured in order to be wed. Bride kidnapping, or kawin tangkap, is a controversial practice in Sumba with disputed origins which sees women taken by force by family members or friends of men who want to marry them. Despite long-standing calls for it to be banned by women's rights groups, it continues to be carried out in certain parts of Sumba, a remote Indonesian island east of Bali. But after two bride kidnappings were captured on video and widely shared on social media, the central government is now calling for it to end. Inside the car, Citra managed to message her boyfriend and parents before arriving at a traditional house, with its high peaked roof and solid wooden pillars. The family who kidnapped her, she then realised, were distant relatives from her father's side. "There were lots of people waiting there. They sounded a gong as I arrived and started doing rituals." An ancient animist religion, known as Marapu, is widely practised in Sumba alongside Christianity and Islam. To keep the world in balance, spirits are appeased by ceremonies and sacrifices. "In Sumba, people believe that when water touches your forehead you cannot leave the house," Citra said. "I was very aware of what was happening, so when they tried to do that I turned at the last minute so that the water didn't touch my forehead." Her captors told her repeatedly that they were acting out of love for her and tried to woo her into accepting the marriage.
7-20-20 Amber Heard: Johnny Depp 'threatened to kill me many times'
Actor Johnny Depp "threatened to kill" ex-wife Amber Heard "many times", the US actress has claimed. She described a "three-day hostage situation" during which she claimed Mr Depp was on a "drug and alcohol binge". Mr Depp, 57, is suing the publisher of the Sun over an article that referred to him as a "wife beater" - but the newspaper maintains it was accurate. He denies 14 allegations of domestic violence on which News Group Newspapers is relying for its defence. Ms Heard took to the witness stand at London's High Court on the 10th day of the case, and her written witness statement was also submitted to the court. In it, she accused Mr Depp of verbal and physical abuse including screaming, swearing, issuing threats, punching, slapping, kicking, head-butting and choking her, as well as "extremely controlling and intimidating behaviour". "Some incidents were so severe that I was afraid he was going to kill me, either intentionally, or just by losing control and going too far," she said. Ms Heard, 34, claimed Mr Depp had a "unique ability to use his charisma to convey a certain impression of reality" and "he is very good at manipulating people". "He would blame all his actions on a self-created third party instead of himself, which he often called 'the monster'. "He would speak about it as if it was another person or personality and not him doing all these things." She said in the beginning of their relationship, he would be "intensely affectionate, warm and charming" and it felt like she was "dating a king". Ms Heard said Mr Depp had pursued her romantically while they were filming The Rum Diary in 2009 and they spent time together sometimes with the director "just drinking wine and talking". But she said nothing happened between them at that point because she was in a relationship. "After that shoot, I didn't hear from him directly, although he would send me gifts," she said. The next time they saw each other was when they were promoting the same film in 2011. She said his publicist invited her to meet Mr Depp and the director in a hotel room for a drink, but when she got there it was just Mr Depp. "Our romantic relationship then began," she said.
7-20-20 Japanese athletes suffered abuse, says Human Rights Watch report
Young athletes in Japan have suffered physical, verbal and sexual abuse during training, a report by Human Rights Watch says. The report, recording the experiences of more than 800 athletes in 50 sports, comes in the week that would have marked the start of the Tokyo Olympics. "The abuses include punching, slapping and excessive or insufficient food and water," said HRW's Minky Worden. The Japanese Olympic Committee has been contacted for a response to the report. The Japan Sports Council, also mentioned by HRW, has also been contacted. In 2013, the JOC promised to take steps to eradicate abuse among its sports federations after an internal survey revealed more than 10% of its athletes had been victims of bullying or harassment. It also cut funding to its judo federation for a time after coaches were found to have physically abused female athletes. "Human Rights Watch is calling on Japan to take decisive action and to lead in tackling this global crisis," added Worden, who is HRW's director of global initiatives. The report is based on interviews, an online survey that drew 757 responses and meetings with eight Japanese sports organisations. Of the 381 survey respondents aged 24 or younger, 19% indicated they had been hit, punched, slapped, kicked, knocked to the ground or beaten with an object while participating in sports. A total of 18% reported experiencing verbal abuse, while 5% reported sexual assault or harassment while participating in sport as children. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement: "We acknowledge the Human Rights Watch report. Harassment and abuse is unfortunately part of society and also occurs within sport. "The IOC stands together with all athletes, everywhere, to state that abuse of any kind is contrary to the values of Olympism, which calls for respect for everyone in sport."
7-13-20 Ubisoft: Sexual misconduct probe sees three senior heads resign
Three senior executives at game-maker Ubisoft have stepped down amid an investigation into sexual misconduct. The French company's chief creative officer, Canadian studios head, and global HR chief had all left their roles, Ubisoft said. Ubisoft is a major player in the games industry, best known for the Assassin's Creed franchise. The resignations came just before its annual showcase of new games, which made no mention of the allegations. In a tweet ahead of the event, Ubisoft said: "Because all the content has been pre-recorded, we wanted to recognise that the issues we're currently dealing with won't be addressed directly in the show." The company has already seen one of its most senior executives depart and another placed on administrative leave. Many of the allegations have been made anonymously online, with a particular focus on the company's Canadian studios. Ubisoft has not publicly made any specific allegations against its own staff as its investigation continues. But Both French media and the gaming press have published allegations the company ignored complaints of sexual misconduct and had a culture of harassment, sometimes fuelled by alcohol consumption at company events. Ubisoft said the latest three executives to step down "are a part of the comprehensive work the company is doing to improve and strengthen its workplace culture". Chief creative officer Serge Hascoët "has chosen to resign from his position" with immediate effect, the company said. Mr Hascoët was widely seen as a key figure in the company, with games journalist Jason Scheier calling him "the most powerful creative force" with the power to single-handedly "greenlight or cancel a project". Canadian studios managing director Yannis Mallat is also leaving the company immediately. "The recent allegations that have come to light in Canada against multiple employees make it impossible for him to continue in this position," Ubisoft said. And global head of HR Cécile Cornet "has decided to step down from this role, as she believes it is in the best interest of the company's unity".
7-13-20 Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon accused of four years of sexual harassment
A former secretary for the mayor of Seoul - who died last week in an apparent suicide - has accused him of four years of sexual harassment. Park Won-soon was one of South Korea's most influential leaders and was seen as a possible presidential candidate. His body was found in woods on Friday - after a note to his family was found - and his funeral began on Monday. His death came just a day after the secretary made a police complaint about his behaviour. More than 500,000 people signed a petition saying Mr Park's state-run five-day funeral should not go ahead. At a news conference on Monday, lawyers for the alleged victim said the mayor sexually harassed her for four years. The woman said the mayor sent her pictures of himself in his underwear, and called her into the bedroom in his office, asking her to hug him. The woman said she asked for help from Seoul City Hall but was ignored. She said the abuse continued even when she changed departments. "I should have reported this in the beginning," the alleged victim said in a letter that was read at the news conference. "I wonder if had, I wouldn't be blaming myself now." She said she was "questioned all night" after complaining to the police, and that she was shocked by her former boss's death. "The word death was something I could not have spoken of - even during my hardest times. It was truly so disappointing and I still do not want to believe it. "I wish the dead good will." After a huge search, Mr Park's body was found on Friday in woods at Mount Bugak in Seoul. He left a note for his family, which was publicly released after his death. The petition on the South Korean presidential website, where people regularly start campaigns, was signed more than 560,000 times. "Do the people need to watch a fancy five-day funeral for a famous politician whose sexual harassment allegation led to his suicide?" it asked.
7-8-20 Parisian graffiti artist accused of rape and sexual assault
A group of 25 women have accused a well-known Parisian graffiti artist of rape and sexual assault. The women filed a joint complaint with the public prosecutor in Paris on Tuesday, saying the alleged attacks took place over the last 11 years. Known for his tag "love runs the streets", the artist, identified as Wilfrid A, has denied the allegations. Several of his tags have been erased and replaced with "the rapist runs the streets". The attacks allegedly took place between 2009 and 2020, mostly in the Montmartre district in Paris's 18th arrondissement. All the women were aged between 16 and 26 when they say they were assaulted. Wilfrid A is reportedly in his 50s. Joseph Cohen-Sabban, a lawyer representing Wilfrid A, told Franceinfo his client "denies the facts" and "doesn't even know who is attacking him". He added that the artist plans to "defend himself". Two lawyers specialising in sexual assault, Valentine Rebérioux and Louise Bouchain, are representing the women. "We have never seen a case of this magnitude," Ms Rebérioux told Franceinfo, saying they had received more than a hundred testimonies in the space of just 10 days. Ms Rebérioux said he had a pattern, contacting each of them "for professional purposes, boasting about his fame and influence". He then offered to help them and sent them an address which was in reality his home, she said. "That's when things went wrong." A woman identified as Chloé told Le Monde newspaper that she met Wilfrid A in front of her school in 2015, when she was 16 and he was 50. "He told me that I was magnificent, that I could be a model, that he worked in fashion," she said. He invited her to a photo shoot at his house. Chloé said during the shoot Wilfrid A told her she looked "ugly" and gave her alcohol and marijuana, telling her: "You have to turn me on." "While I was in a daze, he lay on top of me, telling me that it was okay to sleep with your photographer," she told the paper. French magazine NEON published an investigation into Wilfrid A in late June, detailing the accounts of 16 women contacted by the artist. According to the magazine, Wilfrid A was twice detained for rape in 2013 and 2019.
7-6-20 Ryan Adams apologises for 'mistreating' women
Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams has written a lengthy apology for his past behaviour, a year after he faced allegations of sexual misconduct. "There are no words to express how bad I feel about the ways I've mistreated people through my life and career," the musician said in open letter. "All I can say is that I'm sorry." Last year, seven women told the New York Times that Adams had offered to help them with their careers before things became sexual. One of them, identified only as "Ava", showed reporters more than 3,000 explicit texts she said she exchanged with the star when she was 15 and 16. The story also contained accusations of psychological abuse from the musician's former wife, Mandy Moore, who told the paper: "Music was a point of control for him." Adams' initial response was to threaten legal action, in a tweet that said the newspaper was "going down". He quickly deleted that message and apologised to anyone he had hurt, "however unintentionally"; while his lawyer said Adams "unequivocally" denied exchanging inappropriate messages with someone he knew to be underage. Adams said his new apology was prompted by an extended "period of isolation and reflection" during lockdown. "I've gotten past the point where I would be apologising just for the sake of being let off the hook and I know full well that any apology from me probably won't be accepted by those I've hurt," he wrote, in a letter published by the Daily Mail. "I get that and I also understand that there's no going back." He acknowledged that many people would view his statement as "the same empty apology" he'd used in the past but added, "this time it's different". "Having truly realized the harm that I've caused, it wrecked me, and I'm still reeling from the ripples of devastating effects that my actions triggered. "No amount of growth will ever take away the suffering I had caused," he continued. "I will never be off the hook and I am fully accountable for my harmful behaviour, and will be for my actions moving forward."
7-3-20 Outrage as Indian judge calls alleged rape victim 'unbecoming'
An Indian judge is under pressure to delete comments from a court order that questioned the behaviour of a woman who alleged she was raped. Granting bail to the rape accused last week, Justice Krishna S Dixit of the Karnataka High Court said he found the woman's statement "a bit difficult to believe". Justice Dixit went on to ask why the woman had gone "to her office at night - at 11pm"; why had she "not objected to consuming drinks with him"; and why she had allowed him "to stay with her till morning". "The explanation offered by her that after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep is unbecoming of an Indian woman," the judge said, adding that it was "not the way our women react when they are ravished". His remarks set off a storm of protest. Outraged Indians asked if there was a "rulebook" or a "guide" to being a rape victim. An illustration was widely shared online which, drawing on several recent court rulings, mocked up "An Indian judge's guide to being the ideal rape survivor". Aparna Bhat, a senior Delhi-based lawyer, wrote an open letter to the chief justice of India and the three female judges of the Supreme Court in response to the ruling. "Is there a protocol for rape victims to follow post the incident which is written in the law that I am not aware of?" she wrote. "Are 'Indian women' an exclusive class who have unmatched standards post being violated?" Appealing to the Supreme Court judges to intervene, Ms Bhat said the judge's remarks showed "misogyny at its worst", adding that not condemning them would "amount to condoning". Madhu Bhushan, a women's rights activist in Bangalore, where the Karnataka high court is located, described the language used by the judge as "shocking" and "absolutely uncalled for". "His comments are objectionable at several levels," she told the BBC. "What does he mean by 'our women'? And 'ravished'? It's so Victorian, so outdated, it takes away from the seriousness of the issue, which is violence against women." Ms Bhushan said she was not questioning the order itself, but asked "why did he have to pass these comments on her conduct?" "It's preposterous to say women don't behave like this. It has nothing to do with law, it's judging her behaviour," she said.
7-1-20 Ed Henry: Fox News anchor fired over 'wilful sexual misconduct' claim
Fox News has fired one of its leading anchors over claims of "wilful sexual misconduct" involving a colleague several years ago. Ed Henry co-presented the America's Newsroom programme, which is broadcast mid-morning every weekday. His former co-host Sandra Smith gave viewers the news on air on Wednesday. Fox News said it received a complaint last week and fired Mr Henry after hiring a law firm to investigate. He has not yet commented. The 48-year-old's profile has already been deleted from the network's website, and the page for America's Newsroom now lists Smith as the sole anchor. Fox News said the complaint was made on 25 June by the lawyer of a former employee. Mr Henry was suspended the same day and has now been fired based on "investigative findings" from the law firm, according to an internal memo provided to the Reuters news agency. On Wednesday's programme, Smith read a statement from Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace, saying they had taken the decision as part of an "effort to bring full transparency" to the matter. "We strive to maintain a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees," they added. Smith said rotating anchors would co-host the programme with her until a replacement is named. The former employee has not been identified. Mr Henry joined Fox News from CNN in 2011. He has served as the network's chief national correspondent and previously hosted several weekend shows. He is not the first Fox News figure to face allegations of sexual misconduct. Former chairman Roger Ailes resigned in 2016 after being accused by former employees of sexual harassment. The case against him was made into a 2019 Hollywood film, Bombshell, which starred Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie. After Mr Henry's departure, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson called for the network to release former employees from non-disclosure agreements.
7-1-20 Harvey Weinstein: Some accusers denounce $19m 'sellout' settlement
Two lawsuits against Harvey Weinstein are to be settled for a proposed $18.9m (£15.3m), the New York Attorney General has announced. The fund would be distributed between dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. However, lawyers representing six of the women who have accused the disgraced film producer have criticised the proposal as a "complete sellout". Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for rape. The settlement, announced on Tuesday, would resolve a lawsuit filed in 2018 against Weinstein, his production company and his brother by the New York Attorney General's office. It would also settle a separate class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of women who accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault. "After all the harassment, threats, and discrimination, these survivors are finally receiving some semblance of justice," Attorney General Letitia James said. "Women who were forced to sign confidentiality agreements will also be freed from those clauses and finally be able to speak." The proposed settlement will still require approval from a federal judge and bankruptcy court. Lawyers Douglas H Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer, who represent six accusers, criticised the proposed settlement because it did not require Weinstein to accept responsibility or personally pay out any money. "The proposed settlement is a complete sellout of the Weinstein survivors and we are surprised that the attorney general could somehow boast about a proposal that fails on so many different levels," they said. "While we do not begrudge any survivor who truly wants to participate in this deal, as we understand the proposed agreement, it is deeply unfair for many reasons." However, another of Weinstein's accusers, Louisette Geiss, said: "This important act of solidarity allowed us to use our collective voice to help those who had been silenced and to give back to the many, many survivors who lost their careers and more. "There is no amount of money that can make up for this injustice, but I'm extremely proud of what we've accomplished today." In February, Weinstein was convicted in New York City of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act, and later sentenced to 23 years in jail.