On Tuesday, November 9, 2010 several GJC staff members attended The Rally to Take Rape Seriously hosted by NOW-NYC in conjunction with other anti-violence advocacy groups working to protect women and girls. Tony Simmons, a NYC juvenile justice counselor, pleaded guilty to raping one teenage girl and sexually assaulting two others while they were in his custody. The Manhattan Supreme Court Justice in the case has proposed a sentence of probation, meaning a self-admitted rapist, who violated underage girls whom he was employed to keep safe, will not be serving any jail time.
This unfortunate incident is one more clear illustration of the vast amount of work necessary on many different fronts before women and girls can readily access safety and justice. The Global Justice Center occupies a distinct position in the movement to end violence against women by employing international humanitarian and human rights law for the purpose of protecting victims of violence and discrimination. While GJC projects focus on the legal rights of women abroad, in countries like Iraq, Burma, and Sierra Leone, we are reminded that women still lack access to rights here in the United States as well.
The rally highlighted this serious deficiency in the US justice system as women speakers pointed out the implications of Tony Simmons’ unjust proposed sentence: that girls with a criminal record are less deserving of justice than others; that the calculated taking of advantage of such girls should be rewarded with extremely lenient sentences; and that these victims are being failed twofold—first by Tony Simmons, and second by the system which has been created to protect them.
Re-victimization of the most vulnerable groups of girls and women comes in many forms. The DRC has been named one of the worst places on earth to be a woman due to high numbers of rape and torture the female population endures. (Note that there are also high numbers of men being raped in the Congo.) US restrictions on foreign aid that prohibit providing or even discussing abortions, an essential medical service, are a policy that further punishes victims of rape and impregnation in conflict zones, forcing women and girls to carry unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies to term.
Rally participants are doing crucial work to draw attention to institutionalized, entrenched discrimination which acts as “salt in the wounds” of people who have already suffered unimaginably. The global anti-violence and women’s equality movements rely on activism in every form, combating these issues from numerous angles and different perspectives. The rally serves as a reminder that these injustices are not unique to war-torn countries and are a testament to the importance of human rights organizations in creating awareness and advocating for change.
To sign the petition urging Justice Cassandra Mullins to give Tony Simmons a just sentence this upcoming Monday, November 15, follow this link:
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