Protecting America's Children from Cyber-Violence
Ending "sextortion," a growing form of cyber-violence aimed mainly at girls and women, is the goal of a hard-hitting new report issued in July by the Legal Momentum, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. The report, A Call to Action: Ending "Sextortion" in the Digital Age, highlights how self-made hackers are increasingly able to infiltrate other people's computers to steal sexual imagery and provides an unprecedented framework for addressing this growing problem.
Sextortion is extortion that seeks sexual favors or images rather than money. Whether it’s a judge demanding sex in exchange for favorable custody decisions, a landlord threatening to evict a tenant unless she has sex with him, or a supervisor conditioning job security on sex, this crime does serious harm to victims—both when they comply and when they don’t.
Today, anyone with a computer keyboard can hack into personal computers, obtain private sexual images, and use them to extort victims. The report draws attention to real instances where hackers secretly filmed women and children and threatened to release nude images unless their victims supplied more images or videos of themselves. In fact, Legal Momentum recently assisted a New York City woman whose landlord stole personal images from her home computer. The report also exposes the law’s inadequacy—current United States law does not expressly prohibit this serious sex offense!
In conjunction with the report's release, Legal Momentum conducted a public awareness campaign on social media using the hashtags #ThisIsSextortion, #SextortionIsSexAbuse and #StopSextortion. Legal Momentum's student summer interns played a prominent role in creating strategies for engaging young people with the sextortion awareness message.
Earlier this summer, the FBI warned that sextortion is fast becoming one of the most serious threats to children and teens across the United States. Legal Momentum’s report raises awareness and proposes solutions, mobilizing the public, law enforcement, and elected officials to combat sextortion. Legal Momentum calls on state and federal legislators to take immediate action to educate the public and improve the law, and supports the Interstate Sextortion Prevention Act, legislation introduced on July 13 by Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Representative Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) that makes online sexual extortion a federal crime. An official launch event will take place at Roosevelt House in New York City on September 21, 2016. To learn more, read the executive summary, or download the full report and a tip sheet for staying safe at www.legalmomentum.org/sextortion.
Silicon Valley Panel on Ending Sexual Exploitation of Girls
On July 21, Legal Momentum held an event in Palo Alto, California—in the heart of Silicon Valley—to raise awareness of online sex trafficking of children today and address ways to end this growing problem. According to the National Trafficking Resource Center, more cases of trafficking have been reported in California than in any other U.S. state. The event was hosted by Simpson, Thacher, and Bartlett and featured a panel discussion by experts on abolition. The attendees included a diverse group of executives, government officials, activists, law partners, and others. Carol Robles-Román, President and CEO of Legal Momentum, gave the keynote. She pointed out that “Human trafficking is the fastest-growing crime globally. Young girls, especially girls of color and those who have been victims of sexual abuse, are disproportionately at risk of being trafficked. Many people have no idea that human trafficking is so pervasive in the United States. Legal Momentum is working with collaborators and partners throughout the country on how best to serve the legal needs of exploited girls. Online adult advertising sites promote and facilitate the sale of women and children. So far, they have avoided legal liability, relying on antiquated law. Reform is needed to ensure facilitators of human trafficking are held accountable for the human rights abuses that occur on their platforms. Legal Momentum is building coalitions with organizations and law enforcement agencies across the country to combat trafficking through targeted education, advocacy, and legal and legislative reform."
The panel served as a catalyst for action. Panelist Cindy Chavez, Member, Board of Supervisors, Santa Clara County, said, “Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children is a significant problem. We need to design and build systems that are informed and responsive to exploitation. We need to tackle the issue of online advertising of children, considering that 75 percent of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online. We need to build a movement with local, state, national, private and public sector partners.”
Panelist Michael Maine, Chair of Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), emphasized the importance of awareness and education, especially educating yourself and your organization’s leadership; developing policies to protect your company and community from human trafficking, and engaging employees through online education or awareness events. (Several useful educational resources are available on the Best Alliance website.)
Panelist Debra Pembrooke, Chair of the Coalition to End Human Trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, who is a survivor and survivor advocate, urged the audience, “Think of the child or children you love and cherish. My request is that you bring to same urgency to this work as you would if you knew that those children were being trafficked.”
Panelist Rosa Revuelta, Advocacy Manager, YWCA of Silicon Valley, echoed the call to action. “We cannot do this work alone, it will take the community coming together to eradicate trafficking. Each person should take time to educate themselves on the issue, attend a training, volunteer at an organization, or read up on the issue and then share your knowledge with others. We need to come together, understand the needs of survivors, and find ways of financially supporting current efforts. Together we can make a difference.”
Photo: Michael B. Maine, Rosa Revuelta, Carol Robles-Román, Debra Pembrooke, Loria Yeadon. The bracelets are made by participants in Rising International's "Safe and Sound" program that teaches young people how to stay safe from human trafficking. (Not pictured: Cindy Chavez)
White House Summit on "The United State of Women"
On June 14, the White House hosted a summit meeting of women’s rights advocates from around the country to discuss the “United State of Women.” 5,000 leaders and change-makers in the fight for women’s equality—including Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, and Staff Attorney Jennifer Becker—celebrated the change that has been achieved and were inspired to keep working for the change that is still needed. The Summit was widely covered in the news media and on social media.
Jennifer also helped convene a second event, “Reimagining, Reinvigorating, and Moving Forward to End Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking,” held on June 15 in conjunction with the Summit. The event fostered in-depth discussions among leaders in the fight to end sexual and domestic violence, who shared successes and were inspired to keep working for the change that is still needed. It was hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women and Office for Victims of Crime and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Family Violence Prevention Services Program.
Board Chair Elaine Wood Meets Justice Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor kicked off the Heritage Day celebration in Orient Village, N.Y., on July 3 with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, an annual tradition that dates back 200 years. Before beginning the reading, the Justice reminded those gathered for the event that the founding fathers merely began our nation’s “journey to a more perfect union” with the words of the Declaration of Independence, and that it is up to all American citizens today to “continue working at making this a more perfect union.”
Legal Momentum Board Chair Elaine Wood was on hand for the event. (The blue “patriotic face paint” is actually sunscreen protection.)
Speaking on Ending Campus Sexual Assault at NOW Conference
Legal Momentum celebrated with the National Organization for Women at its 50th Anniversary Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June. It was special to mark NOW’s half-century story of fighting for women’s rights and its landmark achievements. (Legal Momentum was founded in 1970 as the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, and changed its name in 2004.) Carol Robles-Román presented Ending the Culture of Complacency: Campus Sexual Assault and shared Legal Momentum's resources for survivors. She also met with NOW President Terry O'Neill and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who helped lead the House sit-in protesting inaction against gun violence. Legal Momentum board member and former NOW president Kim Gandy led the Friday afternoon plenary session, and Legal Momentum Honorary Board Chair and NOW and Legal Momentum co-founder Muriel Fox received the Woman of Vision Award on Saturday. You can find links to our work on campus sexual assault on the Legal Momentum website.
Photos: (Top) Rep. Lee at the House sit-in, (Bottom) Carol Robles-Román, NOW President Terry O’Neill, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
500 Legal Momentum Supporters Gather for Aiming High Awards
On Tuesday, June 7, more than 500 Legal Momentum supporters gathered for the 16th Annual Aiming High Awards Luncheon to honor five outstanding individuals who have blazed a trail for women business leaders. We’re proud and thankful to have so many supporters.
The honorees, Lynn Charytan, EVP and General Counsel of Comcast Cable and SVP and Senior Deputy General Counsel of Comcast Corp.; Barbara J. Desoer, CEO, Citibank; Natasha Lamb, Partner, Arjuna Capital; Tracey T. Travis, EVP and CFO, the Estee Lauder Companies; and our first-ever “Man of Distinction,” J. Michael Cook, retired Chairman and CEO, Deloitte; spoke movingly about their trailblazing paths. Lynn Charytan remembered what it was like to often be “the only woman at the table,” or the only one on the team; Barbara Desoer pointed out that “there are social and economic implications to closing the gender gap”; Tracey Travis emphasized that companies that embrace diversity outperform those that don’t; and Natasha Lamb shared how her long-fought efforts for equal pay are finally gaining momentum. As Mike Cook summed up, “A truly inclusive organization is one where there are no barriers to anyone’s advancement.”
Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, stated, “We are a lean, mean gender justice machine. When the law is bad, we change it. When there is no law, we help write one and work to pass it… And when the law is broken or ignored, we sue. And we WIN!”
Photos: (Top) The honorees, (Bottom) Legal Momentum interns Chaniece Williams and Lauren Bunce
Legal Momentum Leads on Gender Justice
International Summit to End Sexual Violence
On July 10–11, Legal Momentum joined in the Summit at Fordham University in the Bronx. Take Back the Night Foundation and supporting organizations hosted the event to address sexual violence in communities, on college and university campuses, and in K-12 schools. Penny Venetis, EVP and Legal Director, spoke on the timely topic of sextortion and cyber-sexual violence against women.
Campus Safety: Challenging the New Reality
Legal Momentum board member Dede Bartlett was the convener of a panel discussion on sexual assault at colleges and universities that was hosted by Grace Farms Foundation and New Canaan Domestic Violence Partnership on June 28, 2016 at Grace Farms in Connecticut.
Still Fighting at the Forefront of Women’s Rights at Home and Abroad
On June 3, Legal Momentum was invited to join a panel of civil society organizational leaders to discuss their work in advancing social justice around the United States and the globe at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy’s Center for Women in Government and Society. The panelists shared their vision of women’s equality, examined successful lessons learned from decades of activism, and analyzed the strategies they use to remove barriers and alleviate discrimination against women in all its forms. They also provide participants with actionable strategies to “build the collective power of women.”
Gender Justice Warriors: Creating Power and Change for Women and Girls
On May 11, Carol Robles-Román gave her “Gender Justice Warriors” presentation for the City University of New York’s Women’s City Network, a group of more than 300 women working mostly in the nonprofit/public sector. Carol described her path to becoming a strong advocate for women’s rights, highlighted Legal Momentum’s work, and outlined 10 “Personal Power Principles” that help women become effective leaders.
Legal Momentum Gender Justice Fellow Authors Article on ACA and Childbirth
Legal Momentum’s Gender Justice Fellow, Caitlin McCartney, published an article entitled, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Choice in Childbirth: How the ACA’s Nondiscrimination Provisions May Change the Legal Landscape of Childbirth” in the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 24:3 (2016). The article discusses the possible use of administrative remedies to address the harms of gender discrimination in medical care, specifically childbirth. The complete article is available on the journal’s website.
Legal Momentum's Judicial Education Teaches Nationwide
Women in Law: Policy Perspectives and Personal Progression
Legal Momentum Staff Attorney Jennifer Becker planned and moderated a full-day continuing legal education event on June 23 at the New York County Lawyers’ Association. NJEP Director Lynn Schafran and former Legal Momentum Senior Staff Attorney Julie Goldscheid, now a professor and associate dean at CUNY law school, spoke on a panel about the new Department of Justice guidance Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Legal Momentum was closely involved in the many years of litigation and advocacy by women’s rights organizations that led to this guidance.
International Association of Women Judges
In May, Legal Momentum Senior Vice President and NJEP Director Lynn Hecht Schafran attended the International Association of Women Judges Biennial Conference in Washington, D.C.
Campus Sexual Assault
In June, Lynn participated in the American Law Institute’s Project on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on Campus: Procedural Frameworks and Analysis Members Consultative Group Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse
On June 10, Lynn presented on Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: The Unique Needs of Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse Victims at the 2016 annual conference of the National Crime Victims Law Institute in Portland, Oregon. Her presentation was based on NJEP’s web course Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: Adjudicating This Hidden Dimension of Domestic Violence Cases. Participants included many Special Victim Counsels from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The web course is available free of charge at www.njep-ipsacourse.org.
At the National Conference of Juvenile and Family Court Judges' 2016 Annual Conference in Monterey, California on July 17, Lynn presented Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse: From Teen Dating Violence to Trafficking to judges from family, juvenile, and civil courts, and other professionals interested in improving juvenile and family justice. This webinar is available free of charge on Legal Momentum’s website.
Legal Momentum Advocates to Keep Guns away from Domestic Abusers
The intersection of gun violence and domestic violence is often tragic. In fact, the presence of a gun in a home affected by intimate partner violence raises the risk that a woman will be killed fivefold. On June 2, Legal Momentum’s staff and supporters joined in the Wear Orange Day campaign sponsored by nonpartisan group Every Town for Gun Safety to raise awareness and call for strong legislative action on this critical issue. The campaign originated two years ago in honor of a Chicago teen killed by gun violence in 2013, and has been growing significantly each year.
Legal Momentum has also been vocal in praising the June 27 Supreme Court decision in Voisine v. United States that upheld the law that prevents domestic abusers from possessing guns. The Court’s decision showed an understanding of the ways in which domestic violence is actually perpetrated. Legal Momentum will continue to advocate for closing loopholes in the law that allow perpetrators of intimate partner violence to obtain firearms.
Former Board Member Jennifer Choe Groves Confirmed as Federal Judge
Former Legal Momentum Board Member Jennifer Choe Groves was confirmed by the Senate on June 6 as a Federal Judge on the U.S. Court of International Trade, a lifetime appointment. She is the first Asian Pacific American judge to serve on the court. Consequently, Jennifer resigned from the board of Legal Momentum. “It has truly been a pleasure working with the Legal Momentum Board over the years,” Jennifer said. Prior to her confirmation, she was the chief executive officer of Titanium Law Group PLLC and Choe Groves Consulting LLC, where she provided consulting and legal services in the areas of international trade and intellectual property. She has also been a partner in law firms and served in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s president, Jin Y. Hwang, said “We applaud President Obama for appointing her and the Senate for confirming her.”
Book Helps Domestic Violence Survivors Gain Independence
Dr. Ludy Green, a renowned expert on violence against women and founder of Second Chance Employment Services, is the author of a book that aims to help attain lifelong freedom from domestic violence and human trafficking through financial and emotional independence. The book, Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom, is available on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. Along with Legal Momentum, Dr. Green was a driving force behind passage in March 2013 of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Legal Momentum in the News
- 8/25/16 NC Advertiser Talk about sexual assault with college-bound teens
- Summer 2016 Barnard Magazine: Feminist Trailblazer
- 7/22/16 Law.com: 'You Don't Get Any Breaks': Tales of Pregnant Litigators
- 7/21/16 TriplePundit.com: The Bill of Rights: Speech and Guns in the Private Workplace
- 6/20/16 Forbes: Only 27% of New Corporate Board Directors Last Year Were Women
- 6/8/16 NC Advertiser: DAR community service award to Dede Bartlett
- 6/7/16 Vice: How campus rape victims get hurt by the laws that are supposed to protect them
- 6/7/16 The Takeaway: Outcry over sentence in Stanford rape case
- 5/23/16 The Citizen (Tanzania): Samoura: The first African woman at the head of FIFA
- 5/4/16 Salt Lake Tribune: Former U. student files federal complaint
Save the Dates
12th Annual Women of Achievement Awards Dinner
Thursday March 1, 2017—InterContinental San Francisco
17th Annual Aiming High Awards Luncheon
Thursday, June 15, 2017—Cipriani 42nd Street, New York City