Sexual Assault

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

Updated 6:10 p.m., March 5 

Lawyers for a woman who says she was sexually assaulted in Austin are asking a court to force Travis County prosecutors to answer questions and provide evidence after learning of a prosecutor’s phone call that they say defames the woman.

Tom P / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News uncovered hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention, or SBC, church leaders and volunteers who faced sexual misconduct allegations in a recent investigation, “Abuse of Faith.” Reporters found that church leaders often knew about the abuse and did little, if anything, to stop it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council last month approved an independent review of how the police department handles sexual assault cases. Mayor Steve Adler, who voted in favor of the review, says he has confidence in Police Chief Brian Manley and the work of the department. But, Adler says, he wants to get at the core of what he calls the "greatest challenges" facing the department in completing sexual assault investigations.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Police Department agrees with most of the results of a state audit that found police wrongly classified a number of rape cases in 2017, according to a letter Police Chief Brian Manley sent the Texas Department of Public Safety on Monday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin will conduct an independent review of sexual assault investigations handled by the Austin Police Department. The Austin City Council voted unanimously Thursday to undertake the audit, which was spurred by community concerns over how the department classifies and investigates cases.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

A new group that aims to improve the response to sexual assaults in Austin and Travis County was announced yesterday. Its formation comes after public concern over how investigations have been handled. But that concern isn't new: There has been a group in place for nearly three decades tackling these issues, and the work hasn't been easy. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and former state Sen. Wendy Davis announced the creation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Healing Work Group today in response to concerns about how sexual assaults are handled in Travis County.

The group will focus on collecting data about sexual assaults to better advocate for survivors.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Police Department has ordered a third-party audit of sexual assault investigations after state auditors found it misclassified certain rape cases.  

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced sweeping rules on how colleges handle cases of sexual assault and harassment that she says will fix a "failed" and "shameful" system that has been unfair to accused students.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Cody Wilson, founder of the 3D-printed gun firm Defense Distributed, has been accused of sexual assault of a minor last month, a second-degree felony. In a press conference today, the Austin Police Department said the self-styled "radical libertarian" and gun-rights activist was last seen in Taipei, Taiwan and that he missed a flight back to the United States.

Callie Hernandez for KUT

Three women have sued the City of Austin and Travis County, alleging their sexual assault cases were inadequately handled because of their gender. The class-action lawsuit claims that sexual assault survivors “have been denied equal access to justice and equal protection of the law.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

The Texas primaries are less than a month away, with many officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, up for reelection. Abbott announced on Tuesday what some are calling a big campaign push – it’s a “preventing, protecting, punishing” proposal aimed at rape kit testing backlogs, sexual misconduct in the State Capitol, and stronger penalties for human trafficking and prostitution.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of sexual assault at the former site of the National Training Center for USA Gymnastics. The property’s owners, Bela and Marta Karolyi, were recently implicated in a widespread sexual assault and abuse scandal that ended with the imprisonment of former USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

The forces arrayed against Alabama judge Roy Moore are mounting. A fifth woman has come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama’s Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Lawmakers in Texas may have to focus on problems closer to home, though, based on reports that are now coming to light.

Photo credit: Martyna Borkowski for Rubenstein/Flickr Creative Commons

From Texas Standard.

More allegations surfaced over the past week involving high-profile American men with a history of sexual harassment and molestation. From Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to comedian Louis C.K., these revelations have rocked the country’s political landscape, the entertainment industry, and NPR.

Many of these accusations date back decades, but they’re coming out now. Joanna Grossman, the Endowed Chair in Women and the Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says that doesn’t necessarily signal a new cultural shift.

House of Representatives

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, on Thursday walked back controversial comments about sexual assault she made a day earlier.

The issue has become a topic of national conversation since dozens of prominent women accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

Editor's note: This post contains explicit language.

A series of sexual assault scandals has prompted an intense debate in Austin’s independent film community — and beyond — for the past year, reaching a fever pitch in the past few weeks. 

dcJohn/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

At a time the president-elect dismisses inappropriate comments about sexual assault as "locker-room banter", others are trying to define and teach appropriate sexual behavior. The Texas High School Coaches Association and the Texas Education Agency are teaming up in a campaign they're calling "Starting the Conversation" to address issues surrounding consent.

Flickr/Wally Gobetz (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

This month two male students filed separate lawsuits against the University of Texas at Austin. The men claim they were unfairly treated after allegations of sexual assault were made against them. Authorities never charged either student, but university officials have moved to expel both of them. The plaintiffs say the university is using them as scapegoats to demonstrate the school is tough on sexual assault.

via Flickr/fiftypercentchanceofrain

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers will face off tonight in college football's title game. College football has become a popular pastime for students, but new research from Texas A&M University suggests there’s a downside to game day: an increase in sexual assaults on campuses nationwide.

Image via Flickr/Emil Pakarklis (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

At any given time of the year, there are anywhere between 115,000 and 135,000 active military men and women serving the armed forces from the state of Texas. These men and women are stationed across the globe.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Representatives at Austin’s Safe Place campus say they’re on track to conduct at least 600 sexual assault forensic exams this year. That's an increase from the past few years, when numbers averaged around 450 per year.

Safe Place credits its new clinic in East Austin as one reason for the increase.


Image via Flickr/tattoodjay (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

While it's no longer news that some law enforcement officers abuse the power that comes with the badge, the numbers revealed in a new Associated Press report are shocking: a thousand officers lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sexual assault, possession of child pornography and propositioning citizens. In his investigation, reporter Matt Sedensky found that the reported rate is much lower than what's actually happening.


Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The way people in Texas define sexual assault has broadened quite a lot over the last ten years. Texas law prohibits not only physical sexual assault, but also forcing someone to participate in photos or movies and unwanted sexual experiences while intoxicated and unable to consent.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, sexual assault in Texas is much more common now than it was about 10 years ago.


IAEA Imagebank/flickr

From Texas Standard:

Allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or raped multiple women have been making headlines for several months. Now, thanks to the Associated Press, his previous admission to slipping sedatives to women has come to light. The 10-year-old deposition was part of a sexual assault trial filed by a former Temple University employee against Cosby. The case was settled privately in 2006, so no final verdict was issued.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Five years ago, Moira Foley was a nurse in New Orleans. She remembers the night a teenager, a rape victim, came into her hospital. 

“We had our evidence collection kit, and this poor 16 year old who had been assaulted at Mardi Gras, and we literally had to open the kit and read the instructions," Foley remembers.

"And as I’m standing there doing it, I’m thinking, 'This is her evidence. If this goes to trial, it’s us who this is on, and we don’t know what we’re doing.'" 

That’s when she decided to get certified to perform sexual assault forensic exams, or SAFE exams. Now, she’s one of nine nurses at St. David’s who perform SAFE exams in a small room in the back of the ER.

KUT News

In 2013, the number of sexual assaults reported on or near UT Austin’s campus increased only slightly—three more cases were reported than the year before. That’s according to preliminary numbers from UT’s Annual Security Report, which was released this week. 

It's important to note that the numbers aren't likely to be an accurate representation of the number of actual assaults, since sexual assault is an historically underreported crime.

Last year's increase in sexual assault reports might not seem like a big one, but sources say next year’s report will be different.

UT couldn’t provide numbers for 2014, so far. But anecdotally, they say the university has seen an uptick in reports since January. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Three actors are standing in a room in UT’s Counseling and Mental Health center, talking about sex.

It’s part of a performance called “Get Sexy, Get Consent," a series of skits put on by the Theatre for Dialogue program that are performed in front of everyone from freshmen at orientation to new athletes.

The program seeks to educate students on sexual assault in what's called the "red zone" – the peak reporting time between the first day of school and Thanksgiving, when reports of sexual assault reach their peak on many college campuses in the United States.

It's part of a larger effort by the University of Texas to prevent sexual assault amid national concern that many cases go unreported.

Technology – and particularly smartphones – could reshape safety efforts on college campuses. At least that's the hope of some developers.

Several new apps offer quick ways for college students facing unsafe or uncomfortable situations to reach out to their peers, connect with resources on campus and in their communities, or notify law enforcement.

These apps for the most part target sexual assault and rape, amid growing national concern about the prevalence of incidents and criticism of the ways colleges and universities are handling them.

Noting that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college, the White House is releasing new guidelines to help victims of that violence and improve the way schools handle such cases. Campus sexual assaults are notoriously underreported, and schools' disciplinary processes vary widely.

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