VOL. 130 | NO. 170 | Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Effectiveness Of ‘No More’ Campaign Debated
By Bill Dries
Surveys and focus groups that are a key part of the “No More” campaign to build awareness and change attitudes on rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are and will be a baseline to gauge how well the campaign does its job.
“There are still some misperceptions about what the cause of the issues are and still in some segments some victim blaming about – ‘Why was she in that place?’ and ‘Why was she engaging in that behavior?’ Doug McGowen, coordinator of the city of Memphis’ sexual assault task force, said on the WKNO TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “We hope to shift some of those perceptions.”
“Behind the Headlines,” hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Every six months, McGowen and his team will look at new survey and focus group results to determine how well the campaign is meeting its goal.
The campaign is a national one tailored to different cities. In Memphis, it’s an outgrowth of city government’s reaction to the 2012 disclosure that more than 12,000 rape kits of bodily evidence taken from victims since the late 1970s had never been processed. Or they were partially processed and the results were never used to prosecute the rapes.
The “No More” campaign has drawn criticism nationally because of the NFL’s sponsorship; the football league’s response to players accused of domestic violence, assault and rape remains controversial.
One of its most vocal critics locally has been Meaghan Ybos, a rape victim whose kit wasn’t tested and processed for a decade during which her attacker, Anthony Alliano, raped other women. He was apprehended in 2011 and later pleaded guilty.
“I think that Memphis should be doing three things in response to the over 12,000 untested rape kits,” Ybos said on the same program. “The first is investigate, the second is arrest and the third is prosecute rapists. And I’m not seeing that that’s being done adequately yet. That makes me wonder about ‘No More.’”
Ybos and two other women attacked by Alliano are suing the city and Shelby County over the untested rape kits in Shelby County Circuit Court; a federal court Jane Doe case proceeds over the same lack of testing.
“I’m not coming on here to criticize ‘No More,’” Ybos said. “I think it’s great that some people in the community can join one another and talk about these issues. But I am concerned that if everyone in the community thinks that the problem has been solved, then we will not actually fix the problem.”
McGowen points to training that investigators, law enforcement officers and prosecutors have undergone locally that involves “cutting-edge science” about what those working on rape cases will encounter when they talk to victims. The neurobiological science teaches that rape survivors will have responses that initially seem contradictory to investigators but will then settle into a coherent account.
“It has changed fundamentally the way that police think about interacting and prosecutors think about interacting with victims,” McGowen said.
Deborah Clubb, president of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, acknowledged the response from the criminal justice system has been a long time coming. She backs the local version of the “No More” campaign and is among the people pictured in ads for it.
“Women have been demanding this kind of attention for many years,” Clubb said. “There’s been no question that police departments need to change the way they listen to victims, the way they investigate these crimes, how much energy they would put to them.”
Ybos said the rape kits still to be tested – as well as lingering questions about who was involved in the decision not to process them until three years ago – are an ongoing “immediate crisis.”
She points to a campaign called Start By Believing, “which emphasizes the importance of the responding and investigating officers’ conduct toward victims, in questioning them and gathering information about the case.”
“In so many of these uninvestigated rape cases, we see the way that victims are interrogated and harassed and just given every reason not to want to cooperate and prosecute,” she added. “Rape kits are only part of the problem. We have structural problems with how the police investigate rapes. The testing of rape kits doesn’t really address that. If you test a rape kit for DNA, you might have a DNA profile but it’s not going to do anything unless the case is prosecuted.”
McGowen agrees the problem is deeper.
“It’s about being committed to reform in every way, shape and form around the issue of sexual assault,” he said. “It’s getting the unsubmitted kits tested. It’s about the way that we investigate and prosecute. It’s about being victim-centered in our interaction with our victims.”