Rape Alleged at #OccupyCleveland Despite Detailed 'Rape Culture' Policies

Several Cleveland news outlets have reported an alleged rape at the encampment of #OccupyCleveland. A 19-year-old woman who attends a school for children with special needs (autism, ADD, hyperactivity), has reported to police that the group’s organizers assigned her to a tent with someone named “Leland,” a stranger, who raped her on Sunday night. The young woman, who lives in a group home, reported the attack to one of her teachers at school on Monday. The teacher contacted police.

One guy, “familiar with but not in the protest,” told WKYC-TV:

“Yeah, I don’t believe any of these guys would do anything like that there. So, I think somebody probably brought her here. Sent her here to spend the night and hang out with her for one day just to say she was raped.”

Yeah, probably someone from Fox News. They do that all the time. They round people up from group homes to sleep in dirty tents with strangers so they can go through the indignity of rape kits and exams at the hospital just so they can frame #OccupationCleveland for the crime.  That guy is really, really sick.


The odd thing is, #OccupyCleveland planned for this. I don’t mean that they planned a young woman would be forcibly raped in her tent. I mean that the people occupying Public Square in Cleveland anticipated that something like this might happen and made detailed plans for how the “community” should respond.

For example, their forums have a “Safer Spaces Policy Input Proposal” that explains the group’s rules for respecting physical and emotional boundaries:

2. Respect others’ physical, mental and emotional boundaries.

• Always ask for explicit verbal consent before engaging or touching someone. Never assume consent, especially if drug/alcohol use is involved. Highly intoxicated people are always considered non-consenting.

• Don’t assume the race, sexuality, gender, history with violence etc. of others. Instead, ask if someone is open to engaging in dialogue about identity. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to answer a question.

*Special note on gender assumptions*

This occupy cleveland is a place where everyone should feel empowered to choose their own gender. If at all possible, find out what pronouns people prefer or use neutral pronouns such as ‘they’ or ‘z’. It is also important to separate terms for peoples’ genitals from their gender. We’re born with our genitals but we get to choose our genders. Genitals can be referred to on an “internal/external” continuum as opposed to a “male/female” one.

Um….not even going to start with that last point. Anyway, there’s the more detailed “Sexual Offense Prevention and Response” policy. It includes a hyper-detailed explanation of facilitators. response teams, resource banks, survivors’ rights…someone spent a LOT of time on this plan. If you’ve ever wondered, “What would happen to me if I were ever violated while living in a Collective of Socialists?” here’s your answer:

– When/if the survivor wishes to confront/address the perpetrator, the response team will assist in this process, acting as support for the survivor. If the survivor wishes for the perpetrator to be confronted/addressed but does not wish to be involved in this process, the response team will confront/address the perpetrator with the survivor’s consent.

– The survivor has a right to place certain demands on the perpetrator. If the perpetrator is not willing to meet these demands, the survivor may decide to take further measures, such as asking the perpetrator to remove his/her/hirself from certain spaces/events/communities. The response team will assist in making sure the decisions of the survivor are respected by the perpetrator and by the community.

– The survivor may decide to report her/his/hir experience to the police or other representatives of the legal system. In this event, the response team will the support the survivor in this decision and will work with the survivor in dealing with the police.

– The survivor will decide whether/how widely to spread the information of the assault. Survivor anonymity will be maintained and respected based on the wishes of the survivor.

– The responder and advocates begin with the needs of the survivor as the number one priority and then radiates out to the needs of the immediate community, then the needs of the larger community, and so on.

-The response team will be available to work with the perpetrator if the perpetrator wishes to accept accountability for his/her/hir actions and actively engage in this process.

I think they left off the section where the group votes to occupy the prison and demand the rapist be released because he was unjustly convicted by the military-industrial complex and Wall Street. Or something.

There have also been a couple of tortured posts to the forums about “Rape Culture.” One bizarre piece is called Radical Organizing: Rape Culture as Colonization and Community Accountability. It begins, “Throughout my involvement with anarchist and anti-rape culture organizing…”  Really, I had no idea there was such a thing. But now we all know that this is another aspect of the “occupation.” It espouses the following view:

“Sexual violence and rape culture are indispensable to the strength and function of US colonialist and
capitalist power in that they work to ensure all structural systems of oppression. Rape culture means that US society is a culture in which sexual violence is encouraged, condoned and perpetuated as a tool of gender oppression. Hetero-normativity means US society forces compliance within binary concepts of gender (either male or female) and seeks to normalize patriarchal gender oppression.”

Can I just say…these people have issues, if you know what I mean.

One of the group’s organizers, a law student, posted a request for Progressive lawyers at the outset of the occupation:

“But, MOST IMPORTANTLY, it’s important to have an attorney there because if people are doing video surveillance (on the occupation’s side) the attorney can claim it as “work product” and thus can’t be subpoenaed by the other side. Therefore, if WE have footage of our protesters doing something less than legal, we won’t have to turn the “evidence” over to the prosecutor.”

I hope and pray that these protesters will do everything in their power to get to the bottom of this story. If indeed a sexual assault was committed in their camp, they need to assist the police in finding that person and prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law. Hiding evidence must not be an option. Justice for the young woman involved and the safety of the citizens of Cleveland must be the top priority.


Cross-posted at What to Read Today