Towards Thriving Cover

December 29, 2016

Earlier this year, the Idaho’s Attorney General’s Office charged John R. K Howard of Dietrich, Idaho, a white high school player who was accused of kicking a coat hanger into the rectum of a black high school football player with a disability with “forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object.” On Friday, December 16th, the Deputy Attorney General handling the case offered a plea agreement that amended the charge to “felony injury to a child” along with an Alford plea, allowing the defendant to avoid personal accountability for his actions. The recommended sentence is three years of probation. The Idaho Coalition has voiced public opposition and significant concerns regarding the impact of the Attorney General’s actions and statements in court during the plea agreement.

The Magic Valley newspaper reported that the Deputy Attorney General stated in court that the act itself was “not a sex crime.” Under Idaho Code, forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object occurs whenever a “person who, for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse, causes the penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal opening of another person, by any object, instrument or device against the victim’s will by use of force or violence or duress.” The Idaho Coalition’s position is that the original charge of “forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object” was the correct charge. By amending the charge and stating that the behaviors were “not a sex crime” the Idaho Attorney General’s office contradicts that sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient, such as forcible sodomy. The impact contradicts that sex crimes are about power and control and minimizes Howard’s demonstrated pattern of power and control over the survivor through name calling and by “humping” the survivor.

The Deputy Attorney General also stated that it “was not a racially motivated crime” even though there was a pattern of racial slurs and stated that it was a “vulnerable victim motivated crime.” Earlier this year, the newspapers reported that the law suit filed by the survivor’s family against the school stated that the attack came after months of racist abuse and bullying by white students against the victim, the lawsuit alleges. The survivor “was taunted and called racist names by other members of the team which names included ‘Kool-Aid’ ‘chicken eater’ ‘watermelon’ and [the N-word].”

The Deputy Attorney General went on to say “that probably would have happened to anyone that was in the same circumstances and same mental state as the victim here.” This statement shifts the responsibility away from the offender and normalizes violence against people with disabilities.

Accountability is part of love. We seek accountability from Idaho’s Attorney General through a public statement after Judge Stoker’s order banning the attorneys from talking to the press and a commitment from their office to learn about implicit bias on gender, race, and ability. Last week, we met with the Attorney General along with Senator Cherie Buckner Webb, Christine Pisano, Executive Director, Idaho Developmental Disability Council, and Dr. Lisa Bostaph, BSU, and all shared our concerns about the Deputy Attorney General’s statements and the impact of the case. We are continuing to work with concerned leaders such as yourselves from the anti-violence community as well as the disability community and the Black community.

We seek accountability from the Dietrich School District in undoing a culture of hate and violence. We are coordinating a letter that we are sending to all of Idaho’s Superintendents next seek on the responsibility of schools to create safe environments for learning under Idaho Code, Title IX, and other federal laws.

We have been in contact with the family’s attorney, who shared that the family is devastated by the handling and the outcome of the case. We hope that the survivor and his family find solace in the significant state and national coverage, including the BuzzFeed and Huffington Post coverage of the Idaho Coalition’s statement on Facebook released the day after the plea agreement.

We look to Idaho’s community at large to change our culture of hate and ugliness by sending letters to your local newspaper. Here’s a sample template and the addresses for many newspapers.

Finally, as we move into the New Year, all of us at the Idaho Coalition share our deep appreciation for your dedication to responding to and ending gender violence – abuse and rape – in our communities. We are grateful that you choose to belong to the Idaho Coalition. Together we will move forward with courageous love and mutual responsibility.

We Choose All of Us,

Kelly Miller
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence

Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Statewide Report Released

During the 2016 legislative session, Rep. Melissa Wintrow sponsored legislation regarding Idaho’s sexual assault forensic exam collection kits (Rape Kits). As part of this legislation, the Idaho State Police Forensics Lab was in charge of conducting an audit with Idaho’s law enforcement agencies to determine the number of forensic kits at law enforcement offices that have not been submitted to the Lab for testing. The results of this audit were posted on Thursday December 21st and can be found here.

With the recent legislation, law enforcement is required to submit all kits for testing unless it has been determined that: 1) no crime has been committed or 2) the victim desires that the kit not be tested. If law enforcement determines that no crime has been committed, a prosecutor must review the case and sign off in agreement that there was no crime.

The recent legislation applies to all kits collected after July 1, 2016. Prior to this legislation, it was common for kits to remain at a law enforcement office because the kit did not contain evidence that would be useful for the charging of the crime, i.e. the kit might show DNA evidence but the issue is whether the contact was consensual or was forced (the victim says she was raped, the perpetrator says it was consensual). In those cases, the testing of the kit would only confirm that yes, there was sexual contact but it would not be able to prove that the contact was nonconsensual. So prior to the recent legislation, those kits were often not submitted for testing.

As you are reviewing the data for your law enforcement agencies, we encourage you to contact them to engage in a discussion regarding the numbers they are reporting. As stated above, many of the kits that agencies are reporting as untested are the cases revolving around consent. This points to the need for continued conversations and training with law enforcement about what consent looks like and how to conduct interviews with individuals who have been sexually assault in a trauma-informed manner. It also points to the continued need for training around gender and racial bias.The data also calls into question those agencies where no sexual assault exams were performed. What is at play in that community to account for survivors not feeling comfortable in reporting?

If you are contacted by local media, we would suggest the following talking points:

  • Sexual assault root causes are the devaluing of and power and domination over girls and women and people who are gender non-conforming, and is connected to and fueled by intersecting oppressions such as racism, ableism, and homophobia.
  • Less than 36% of sexual assault are reported to law enforcement because of the shame and blame that is attributed to survivors.
  • For individuals who are impacted by sexual assault, providing them alternatives to the criminal justice system such as counseling, civil legal assistance, advocacy and support is essential. Many individuals do not find “justice” through the criminal justice process and instead find justice through restoration healing and support.
  • Please also feel free to reach out to Jennifer if you have additional questions or would like more information.

    From Surviving to Thriving: One Woman’s Story

    Some days you happen to talk to someone who has a beautiful story to share. Today was one of those days. Triumphant stories are not told often enough, but we all have them. Advocates are so engaged in the work, you often do not stop to share the joy of witnessing survivors in their healing journey. Whether for lack of time (your own or someone else’s), or not wanting to brag, or not knowing who might be as excited as you are, these stories live in your heart, perhaps only getting beyond a very small circle of colleagues or loved ones.

    Let’s celebrate this woman, and the family of advocates who support her! Some minor details will be changed to protect privacy.

    “Monica”, still only in her twenties, has experienced significant trauma and loss throughout her life. She came into shelter with Priest River Ministries, battered, both physically and mentally. Challenged with drug and alcohol abuse issues, she also has developmental disabilities, which puts her at even greater risk. Monica had been in jail, was then in shelter, and ended up back in jail. Once released, she went back to Priest River Ministries shelter, and sought counseling, transportation assistance, advocacy, and other supports. While in shelter, she got clean and sober. Then she got a job at a local store. Priest River Ministries continued to provide client centered advocacy and support, and Monica continued to break through barriers.

    Monica found a place to live, but when the roommate tried to make her exchange sex for housing, she courageously left and went back to Priest River Ministries for assistance. She knew she deserved better, and she knew where to go for help!

    With the assistance of Priest River Ministries and Idaho Coalition Transitional Housing funds, Monica obtained her very first apartment on her own, and is truly thriving! Monica is clean, sober, and doing great at her job. She volunteers with Priest River Ministries. She stands up for herself, and asks for assistance when she needs it. Monica believes in herself and in the possibilities of a full and joyful life, of healthy relationships, and beloved community.

    We honor the strength and courage of Monica, and the steadfast advocacy and support of the Priest River Ministries team. We honor all of you, and your untold stories, and invite you to share them. Please contact any of us at the Idaho Coalition or me, Melissa at at, or 208-841-1704.

    Salmon, Idaho: Mahoney Family Safety Center

    Travel down Main Street in Salmon Idaho, perhaps on your way to a wilderness river trip, or taking the back roads to Montana, you’ll pass one of the most remote domestic and sexual service organizations in Idaho – Mahoney House Family Safety Center. Director Scott Brand refers to Salmon as “an island surrounded by land”. Named after the family who generously donated the late 1800’s house in the center of town, Scott says they work to make Mahoney House not only a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence service provider and emergency shelter, but also a visible and accessible community resource for folks who may never have thought they would enter the doors of Mahoney House.

    Scott, Jo (Assistant Director), and Jan (Community Outreach Specialist), swap hats to cover all the bases, and each day is different. Emergency shelter, advocacy, parenting and smoking cessation classes, support groups, counseling, and case management are housed within the walls of Mahoney, but much of the work is done in the community as well.

    Scott believes that prevention and education is the best way to end the cycle of violence, and he works closely with middle and high school students, providing education, transformative community and group experiences, and character building. ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) training transformed our work, says Scott. It’s a framework that seems to be taking hold in Salmon, and helping pave the way for more comprehensive, trauma informed approaches with children in and out of schools, and adults. “One caring adult can make a profound difference in kids’ lives” says Scott, after discussing a recent cross-country ski trip with a group of 7th and 8th grade boys, many who had never been skiing and had multiple ACEs. The conversations over the picnic lunch with the boys was partly where the magic happened. Healthy masculinity, empathy and respect are common themes. Young men learn how to support others and not fight through modeling and coaching. “We need to be investing in those who have few or no other people investing in them,” says Scott. The majority of these young men have no other male figure in their lives, with mothers barely making ends meet due to an even worse gender pay gap than in other parts of Idaho (women earn 62 cents on the dollar to men, 13 cents less than Idaho’s average).

    So far, the majority of youth work has been with young men, but Mahoney is looking to hire a Programs Coordinator who will also work with young women, and has recently hired another counselor who works well with young people. Scott, Jo and Jan are working to educate and infuse trauma informed approaches not only at Mahoney House, but in the schools and through multidisciplinary groups such as the Substance Abuse Task Force and Community Resources Action Coalition. They’re seeing more people stop in to Mahoney House for broad based resources, which is exactly what they are striving for: connect community members with the people and resources they need, even if it’s not domestic or sexual violence at that particular time, and; be a safe and respected resource.

    Scott has accomplished a lot in 15 short months of being the ED of Mahoney House, but he says Mahoney House wouldn’t be nearly as strong without the positivity and hard work of Jo and Jan. He also credits other Mahoney team members, support from Mahoney’s former Director Denise Bender, and the Idaho Coalition, for helping him “earn his wings”.

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