Jan 07
Her eye on the news

A woman who has been in a vegetative state for at least 14 years recently gave birth, prompting an investigation into the Phoenix facility where she had been receiving care.

The woman is a patient of Hacienda Healthcare, an organization of more than 40 programs that bills itself as “leading provider of specialized medical care and social services for Arizona’s infants, children and young adults who are medically fragile or chronically ill, including those with developmental disabilities.” But the patient’s pregnancy is an indicator of sexual abuse taking place in one of Hacienda’s facilities. Also troubling are reports that the woman’s caretakers did not notice she was pregnant until she was in labor.

From what I’ve been told she was moaning,” an unidentified source told local CBS affiliated KPHO. “And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”

With a nurse’s help, the woman delivered a baby boy on December 29. The child is reportedly healthy.

Sexually assaulting a vulnerable adult is a felony in Arizona, and a spokesman for Phoenix police told the Washington Post that authorities are investigating the case. Arizona’s Department of Economic Security has conducted health and safety checks at the facility, and Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement that it is “conducting a comprehensive internal review of our processes, protocols, and people to ensure that every single Hacienda resident is as safe and well cared for as possible.”

The unnamed source told KPHO that in light of the incident, male staff are now required to bring female employees with them if they enter a female patient’s room.

This is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the Hacienda organization. In 2017, a male resident complained about staffers walking through his shower room, and Department of Health and Human Services records from 2013 reveal that staffers had heard a fellow employee making sexual comments about patients. The employee was fired.

According to the Post, it is not clear if police have identified any suspects in the recent case. The KPHO source said that the woman needs 24-hour care, and many people would have had access to her room. When asked if the woman would have had any means of defending herself from an abuser, the source replied, “No. None whatsoever. And not even able to communicate the fact that she was pregnant.”

A spokesperson for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Tasha Menaker, told KPHO  that people living with disabilities are three more times at-risk of sexual violence than people without disabilities, and is worried there could be more alleged victims.

“In sexual assault cases, it’s not uncommon that perpetrators have multiple victims and so that would be a concern for us,” she said.

“Our hope is that there will be a thorough investigation that identifies the person who did this and for some reason we weren’t to see a thorough investigation, we would take further steps,” said Menaker.

“There’s an infant involved which is evidence and so I think the first place to begin would be a DNA test of that child and that’s something the police department has the capacity to do,” she added.

“As an organization, Hacienda HealthCare stands fully committed to getting to the truth of what, for us, represents an unprecedented matter,” David Leibowitz, spokesman for Hacienda HealthCare, said in a statement.

Watch an anonymous source being interviewed about a woman who gave birth while under long-term care in a vegetative state:


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Woman gave birth to baby 54 days after doctors declared her brain dead

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Cracking down

Tens of thousands of people attend Coachella each year, and amidst this throng of music lovers, harassment is not uncommon. So, as the Daily Beast reports, the festival is taking steps to ensure that Coachella offers a safe space to all attendees.

Coachella announced on its website that it plans to deploy trained “safety ambassadors” throughout the festival grounds to “facilitate access to care services for anyone in distress.” Tents staffed with trained counsellors will be available to those who need support. Festival organizers also that they are implementing a “zero tolerance” policy for harassment of any form—“be it sexual, physical or verbal.” Anyone who violates the policy risks being removed from the festival and having their wristband, which costs nearly $600, revoked.

A Teen Vogue article published last year highlighted the extent to which harassment is a problem at Coachella. Of 54 women who were interviewed for the piece, all had experienced sexual assault or harassment. The author, Vera Papisova, wrote that she was groped 22 times during the 10 hours she spent reporting at the festival.

But harassment is not a problem that is confined to Coachella. A 2018 survey os more than 500 concert-goers by the advocacy group OurMusicMyBody found that 92 percent of female fans had experienced harassment. Sixty percent of fans who identify as transgender had been subjected to homophobic or transphobic violence, and 31 percent of men who identify as LGBTQ reported experiencing physical and non-physical harassment.

Across the globe, festivals are responding to the issue in different ways. Electric Forest in Michigan, for instance, offers women’s-only campgrounds. The St. Jerome’s laneway festival in Australia has launched a helpline for attendees who feel unsafe. Sweden recently hosted a festival exclusively for women, transgender and non-binary music fans, which was founded in response to reports of harassment at the country’s largest music festival.

Since Coachella’s announcement of its “zero tolerance policy,” some activists have wondered whether the new measures will go far enough. “It’s very easy to say we are against harassment, but how are you making that happen?” Maggie Arthur of OurMusicMyBody tells the Daily Beast. “So often we see zero-tolerance policies as the end-all be-all, but in practice they don’t really take into consideration what the person who’s being harmed wants or needs.”

Read more at the Daily Beast.


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All out there

Days after she announced that she was launching an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential bid, Elizabeth Warren hit the campaign trail in Iowa. While addressing a crowd in Sioux City, Warren fielded a question connected to an issue that has dogged her since Donald Trump’s rise to power.

“Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald more fodder to be a bully?” one attendee asked, according to the Washington Post.

“I’m glad you asked that question,” Warren responded. “I genuinely am. I’m glad for us to have a chance to talk about it.”

Trump has long attacked Warren over her claims that she hails from Native American ancestry, repeatedly mocking by referring to her as “Pocahontas.” Last October, in an early sign that she was seriously considering a presidential run, Warren released a video in which she revealed the results of a DNA test showing that she had some Native American heritage. The genetic analysis was done by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante, who concluded that the majority of Warren’s DNA comes from Europe, but the that “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”

The video did not stop Trump from continuing to mock Warren, and even the president’s critics argued that releasing the DNA results had been a misstep, a sign that Warren had caved to his antics. But in Iowa, the Massachusetts senator revealed why she wanted to bring some clarity to the discussion about her ancestry.

“I am not a person of color; I am not a citizen of a tribe,” she responded to an attendee at Sioux City’s Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, according to the Post. “Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes, and only tribes, determine tribal citizenship, and I respect that difference. I grew up in Oklahoma, and like a lot of folks in Oklahoma, we heard stories about our ancestry. When I first ran for public office, Republicans homed in on this part of my history, and thought they could make a lot of hay out of it. A lot of racial slurs, and a lot of ugly stuff. And so my decision was: I’m just gonna put it all out there. Took a while, but just put it all out there.”

Read more at the Washington Post.


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A new ruling in Saudi Arabia requires courts to notify women about their divorce via text message, putting an end to a practice known as “secret divorces.”

As the Telegraph reports, Saudi men are able to quickly divorce their wives by making a verbal statement and getting it verified in court. Husbands previously did not have to inform their wives that the marriage was over, meaning that women often missed opportunities to pursue alimony payments.  The Saudi Ministry of justice called the new ruling “a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients.”

The new measure is part of a series of social and economic reforms ushered in by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has started allowing women to vote, lifted its notorious ban on women driving, and opened its sports stadiums to female spectators.

But critics note than many of the country’s oppressive policies remain in place. Women still require the consent of a male guardian to perform aroster of basic activities, like applying for a passport, travelling abroad, getting married and getting a divorce.

Suad Abu-Dayyeh of the global rights group Equality Now told Reutersthat the new ruling is “a tiny step, but it is a step in the right direction.” Still, she adds, the “male guardianship system is a core issue and it must be dismantled. It controls women in each and every step of their lives.”

Read more at the Telegraph.


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A year on from a stunning Associated Press expose that revealed that the Vatican had long ignored the rape of nuns worldwide by ordained Catholic priests, an Indian nun’s decision to speak out — and another AP investigation — has uncovered a similar history of silence and abuse within the predominantly Hindu nation. This summer, a 44-year-old nun accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the patron of her community of 81 sisters, the Missionaries of Jesus of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. Her accusations prompted a two-week public protest from her fellow nuns in rural Kerala — a Catholic stronghold — and an ongoing police investigation. Speaking to AP, many nuns said that they too had faced rape and other forms of sexual abuse. But unlike their sister, they didn’t dare to go public about what they had endured.

According to Sister Josephine Villoonnickal, a nun who moved back to Kerala to support her “survivor sister” in wake of her decision to come forward, few have come forward in support of the victim outside of her fellow nuns. The victim, Villoonnickal said, had told her sisters of what was happening and repeatedly reported his actions to church authorities before deciding to speak to police.

“‘Even if you have to die, don’t submit yourself,’” one priest told the victim during confession, according to Villoonnickal. ”‘Be courageous.’”

Mulakkal, who has denied the charges against him, was showered with flower petals from a throng of supporters upon his recent release from prison and return home.

Another nun, who like many others spoke only on the condition of anonymity, recalled fending off a sexual assault from the priest who was meant to lead her and her other sisters in reflection. He was in his 60s — she in her 20s. She spoke to her mother superior about the incident and wrote an anonymous letter to the church, but his behavior was never acknowledged publicy by authorities. But to speak out herself, she said, would have meant risking stigma, shame, or even expulsion. So she stayed silent.

“It’s a fear of being isolated if I speak the truth,” she said. “If you do that, you have to go against your own community, your own religious superiors.”

Speaking with AP, several other nuns shared their own stories of alleged abuse — and how the church, society, and shame conspired to silence them.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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