Bi-Weekly Sexual Freedom Newsletter

Wednesday August 22nd, 2018


The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is the only national human rights organization working full time to protect the fundamental human right to sexual freedom. Our work includes fighting sexual violence, eliminating discrimination based on gender or sexual identity or family form, and protecting the right to engage in consensual sexual activity and expression. We do this through advocacy, education, and coalition building.  

Every other Wednesday, our bi-weekly newsletter aggregates seven articles central to Woodhull’s mission and work. This week, the newsletter covers the following topics:

  • A report on the abuse of 1,000 children at the hands of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania;
  • The necessity to discuss power structures when discussing sexual harassment and abuse;
  • The national increase in sex worker rights activism;
  • The heartbreaking choices migrants have when their spouse is deported;
  • ICE’s indefinite incarceration of a trans woman, Alejandra, sparking outrage and fear for her safety;
  • The fight to end nonconsensual surgeries for intersex people in California;
  • ​A review of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s) by Sophie Lucido Johnson, a book that debunks the many myths about polyamory.

(Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says (The New York Times)

The Roman Catholic Church has been grappling with widely-publicized sexual abuse scandals since 2002, when allegations emerged out of Boston, sparking widespread shock, anger, and, perhaps above all, pain. While the Catholic Church may have attempted redress in the form of billion-dollar settlements and prevention programs, these efforts did not end the pattern of abuse described in 2002. Reporters Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman discuss the latest scandal, an extensive report on the abuse of 1,000 children at the hands of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. Goodstein and Otterman write, “Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on [August 14]. The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.” Read more.


(Tim Foley/The Chronicle Review)

The Unsexy Truth About the Avital Ronell Scandal (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Feminists are some of the #MeToo movement’s most ardent supporters. The movement is, after all, one with a decidedly feminist goal: for survivors of sexual violence to share their pain and trauma and, by way of their #MeToo moment, to hopefully find an amount of justice, healing, and solidarity. Yet no one is immune from perpetrating sexual violence; feminists can do harm, feminists can be abusers themselves. While this is important to acknowledge, Corey Robin expands the conversation on recent coverage of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Nimrod Reitman against his former professor, Avital Ronell, and New York University, to include a crucial point of consideration: the necessity to discuss power structures when discussing sexual harassment and abuse. Robin writes, “None of the accounts I have read thus far—not pieces in The New York Times or The Chronicle, Ronell’s response to Reitman’s charges, or the multiple commentaries on the story—gets at what I think is the substance of the issue. [...] What’s clear from the complaint is just how much energy and attention—both related and unrelated to academic matters—Ronell demanded of Reitman, her student. At all hours of the night, across three continents, on email, phone, Skype, in person, on campus, on other campuses [...] It’s almost as if Reitman could have no life apart from her.” Read more.


(Angelica Alzona/GMG)

The Rise of the Sex Worker Rights Lobby (Splinter)

Sex worker rights have long been under attack in the United States, most recently with the FOSTA package-bill (the legislation Woodhull is challenging in it's lawsuit against the United States.). But in response to these threats to sex workers’ human rights, a lobby of sex workers and advocates has coalesced, creating what author Emma Whitford calls a “national increase in sex worker activism.” In an article detailing the growth of the sex worker rights movement, and its impacts on the political sphere, Whitford writes, “A political candidate with a legitimate shot at elected office openly supporting the rights of sex workers is a relatively new thing in America. But times are changing, and sex workers are flexing their political muscles with ever-increasing strength across the country. They’re getting involved in local electoral politics more deeply than ever, by volunteering for political campaigns, researching viable challengers to punitive district attorneys, and even running for office themselves.” Read more.


(Mother Jones illustration; aldomurillo/Getty)

When Your Spouse Is Deported, There Are Only Heartbreaking Choices (Mother Jones)

In a profile of Jasmine and Claudio Mendoza, Eric Fernandez illustrates the devastation and havoc wreaked by United States immigration policies. Jasmine and Claudio’s story of family separation is not anomalous; Fernandez notes that, according to the American Immigration Council, “roughly 250,000 children who are U.S. citizens experience the deportation of at least one parent annually.” Fernandez writes, “Five years ago, Jasmine and her husband Claudio were living in Norwalk, Connecticut, where they initially met and married. Claudio did masonry work during the week and odd jobs over the weekend. They were renting to own a house from Claudio’s boss, and they had plans to launch their own masonry business. In February 2013, police in New York City stopped Claudio for driving without a seat belt. Officers discovered an outstanding warrant and deportation order from 1998 and Claudio was taken to Rikers Island. He was subsequently transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and deported. He had been living in the United States for 16 years.” Read more.


(Amnesty International)

ICE Won’t Let This Trans Woman Out of Jail (them.)

On July 31, the ACLU celebrated upon the release of 14 trans women who had been held in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, all of whom were seeking asylum from transphobic violence in their native countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Yet Alejandra, a trans woman from El Salvador remains in the Cibola Correctional Center. Mary Emily O’Hara shares Alejandra’s story and speaks with some of the advocates who are fighting for her release. O’Hara writes, “In El Salvador, Alejandra worked with a transgender women’s advocacy group called Comcavis Trans for over ten years. She was out in the community, and became a target of violence. It was after being assaulted by a soldier, she told her attorneys, that Alejandra began to fear for her life, and decided she had to leave home to survive. After arriving at the U.S. border to seek asylum in November 2017, she and her niece were arrested and taken into ICE custody — and now she’s housed at the only functional unit for transgender people that ICE operates among its over 200 contracted detention facilities across the country.” Read more.


(Kat Jercich/Rewire.News)

Intersex People Want to End Nonconsensual Surgeries. A California Resolution Is Their ‘Warning Shot.’  (Rewire.News)

Bodily autonomy and consent are fundamental human rights, yet violation of such rights holds great historical precedent for a vast amount of communities. Amy Littlefield turns her attention to California, where intersex people and their allies are fighting nonconsensual, medically unnecessary surgeries that have “deprived them of sexual pleasure, sterilized them, traumatized them, or altered their bodies to reinforce a gender assignment that is not theirs.” Littlefield writes, “Growing up, Pidgeon Pagonis had a recurring nightmare of being rushed down a corridor in a hospital bed, lights blaring overhead. Pagonis, who is intersex and whose pronoun is ‘they,’ would look down to see bloody gauze between their legs. It wasn’t until later, when Pagonis read their medical records and pieced together the details of the surgeries they had undergone as a child, that they realized the nightmare was actually a memory.” Read more.


(Emily Rich)

Many Ways to Love: Sophie Lucido Johnson Debunks Myths About Polyamory (Bitch Media)

Evette Dionne begins with data from a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy: one in five people have engaged in a polyamorous (or other type of consensual nonmonogamous) relationship. While polyamory is highly prevalent, it remains highly stigmatized and misunderstood. Dionne interviews Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s), on her experiences with polyamory and on the necessity to debunk the myths of nonmonogamy. Dionne writes, “It’s time to imagine new ways of being in romantic relationships. In her newly released book, Johnson explains why she became polyamorous and how we can create a broader understanding of nonmonogamy through a combination of candid writing and vivid illustrations.  Johnson recently spoke with Bitch about what friendship taught her about polyamory, the importance of chosen families, and the one myth about nonmonogamy she hopes her book debunks.” Read more.

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