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This Is Not A Rape Story

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This isn’t a rape story. But it’s something eerily similar. It’s about that sinking feeling when you realize that no one believes you.

I wasn’t the only woman in the room. But I guess you could say that I was the only woman with any power.

I was wearing army fatigues, not that it matters what I was wearing. Combat boots, camo-patterned blouse and trousers, my hair pulled back in a regulation bun at the back of my head. My promotion to MAJ had been approved three days prior, but no one had told me. So I still wore a captain’s rank in the middle of my chest.

The other women in the room were my paralegals. Smart, dedicated soldiers relegated to the gallery, because they didn’t have law degrees.

I was arguing my first rape case and the victim didn’t show. My best guess is that she didn’t show because she had sent a string of text messages to her rapist telling him that everything was okay. Agreeing to see him again. Telling him that she had a nice time. She was 15 years old.

I didn’t see the text messages until the night before the hearing. And now I stood before a panel of male officers, trying to explain to them why a girl would ever say such encouraging things to a man who had assaulted her.

Maybe it was for the best that she didn’t show. She wouldn’t have done well under cross-examination. None of us would have. Including myself.

I made the same arguments that any attorney might have made. That the victim was a 15-year-old girl who was too young and immature to legally consent to sex. I reminded them that text messages were introduced without context. Many of them without dates, phone numbers, or even names. That it was impossible to tell if the text messages had come from the victim, or if specific texts had been deleted from the string of conversation.

I told them that even if the text messages hadn’t been altered, even if she had told this man she met on the internet that she was really 16 years old, that didn’t necessarily contradict what she told the police. It didn’t mean that she didn’t tell him the truth when she climbed into his truck for the first time.

But all of that was just facts and logic and how to analyze evidence. I wasn’t going to sway any of them if I couldn’t get them to put themselves in the mind of a 15-year-old girl. Something that none of them had ever been or ever dreamed of being.

Somewhere tucked away in my subconscious were a thousand painful memories waiting to overwhelm and confuse me.

So I went off script. As if I could convey the complete, complicated psychology of gender programming in my seven-minute closing argument.

“Girls aren’t taught to be strong. They’re taught to be accommodating.”

It wasn’t planned or even expected, but my voice cracked. Because in some strange way that sentence was as much about me as it was about her. Because somewhere tucked away in my subconscious were a thousand painful memories waiting to overwhelm and confuse me. Memories of being told to wait my turn and walk away from fights and ignore the bullies.

There were also memories of the medical student that I’d met online – on whatever the hip dating site was at the time. How we’d taken a walk around the lake just down the road from his apartment, and he invited me up for sandwiches because it was lunchtime. How I didn’t really think anything of it, because it was such a beautiful summer day and no one gets raped by a medical student after an afternoon walk through the park. We ate sandwiches and drank orange juice.

I don’t remember the exact moment it hit me, but somewhere between the peanut butter and jelly and the closed bedroom door, a cold, dread set in, and I realized that I wasn’t leaving his apartment the same. He didn’t have to be violent, just more forceful than I was ― which wasn’t difficult to do since I’d been raised to be submissive for just these moments. So I would give in without forcing him to force me.

I cried both times. But when he called the next week, I answered the phone. I even told him I’d see him again ― for reasons I barely understand. And could never explain to a panel of middle-aged white men in Army fatigues. There was no string of text messages to incriminate me. Just my own tortured remembrances of a girl who was still fighting to be the sort of person who could stand up for other people, even if she never really learned to stand up for herself.

“Girls are taught to be pleasant and agreeable. And some of them become so good at it, that when someone hurts them, they don’t have the tools to stand up and say ‘No, you can’t do that to me.’ They’ve never developed that skill. Those kinds of sharp words feel foreign and awful in their mouths. So they fall back on familiar habits. They continue to be agreeable and accommodating.”

I asked the panel to go back and re-read the text messages, but to look beyond the surface of her words. I asked them to view this conversation through a more critical lens, looking for clues that something isn’t right.

“When I read through this conversation, I see a girl desperately pretending that everything is okay. I see a girl who doesn’t want to believe that she’s been raped.”

It’s an uncomfortable exercise, reading through the intimate exchanges of a 15-year-old girl who is giddy at the idea of falling in love for the first time. Absorbing all those sugary expressions that seem so natural, up until the moment that she starts feeling sick, and then the messages drop off completely.

“She told him private things. She opened her heart up to him. She wanted him to meet her family and become her boyfriend. Then something changed.”

The courtroom isn’t the only place that women are punished for being strong. But it is certainly one of the most unforgiving.

The defense attorney made his own arguments. He talked about the burden of proof and said over and over again that the government has presented no evidence. Nothing to show that this was anything other than consensual sex. Nothing.

“The defense admits that we don’t know why she filed a police report claiming she had been raped. We don’t know if she was in trouble with her parents or embarrassed at school or having regrets about losing her virginity. The government doesn’t even know why she claimed she was raped.”

I suppose it’s an advantage any time you don’t have to manufacture anger in your rebuttal. When the emotion swells and burns on its own, almost forming the words for you.

“I counted six times that the defense said we’ve presented no evidence. You’ve all seen the police report. You’re all aware of what’s in there. Of how she told the police that he took her to a field with no one around. How she couldn’t open the passenger-side door because the handle was broken. How he held her down with his body weight and removed her pants. The defense calls this ‘no evidence.’ What this tells me is that he is basing his entire view of this case on what was said in those text messages, and completely dismissing everything that the victim told the police. I suppose that’s his job. But it’s your job to be fair and impartial. Don’t let him convince you that you can side with his client without dismissing the victim. She didn’t testify today, but she still has a voice in this process.”

There was so much more to say. But nothing in their relaxed faces told me that they understood. Nothing suggested that there was even a struggle.

“The defense argues that no one knows why she stopped texting him and then went to the police. No one knows why she said that she had been raped.” At the very least I would have the last word. I could suggest the one absurd theory that no one seemed to have considered. “Maybe it’s because it’s the truth.”

They didn’t believe me. I could see it in their faces and their hands and the way they shifted in their seats. And it stung enough that I could’ve cried.

But this wasn’t the place for that. I could get away with a cracked voice. In fact, it was the perfect amount of emotional investment. A convincing display of passion that didn’t sacrifice reputation. Anything more and anything less would’ve damaged credibility, and a woman’s credibility isn’t something to be squandered. The courtroom isn’t the only place that women are punished for being strong. But it is certainly one of the most unforgiving.

Deliberations were insultingly brief. Just long enough for a friendly jab from a colleague that he loved watching me suffer like this.

I can only assume that he thinks I broke down because I hate losing. And as embarrassing as that is, maybe it’s better that he hadn’t picked up the murkier things that I was hiding. That I didn’t have to worry about whether he would believe me.

Mubashir Khatri Success life. Making people successful in a changing world. Ranks feed

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Crime

Zainab’s father expresses concerns over JIT head

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KASUR: The mourning father of slain 7-year-old rape victim, Mohammad Naeem, on Thursday appealed the enraged protesters to remain peaceful, while demanding authorities to remove head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe into the matter. 

Addressing a press conference here, he said Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has assured strict action against the culprit(s) but he expressed lack of confidence in the head of JIT.

“We do not trust him,” he said while calling upon the protesters to remain peaceful. He also deplored the killings of two protesters in police action.

On the occasion, he also urged an exemplary action against the culprit(s).

Earlier today, he had slammed the police for its negligence in tracing out the culprits. “Police could save my daughter’s life if a prompt action would have been taken,” he said while talking to media.

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after the minor girl named Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, police said the minor has been sexually assaulted before her murder. The girl was strangled to death after being raped multiple times, police said.

The incident shook the whole country and made headlines around the world. The incident was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre, relatives informed.

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Crime

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Resigns After Supreme Court Ruling Disqualifies Him

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ISLAMABAD, July 28 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who resigned after the court ruled he was unfit to hold office and ordered a criminal investigation into his family over corruption allegations.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which has a majority in parliament, is expected to name a new prime minister to hold office until elections due next year.

In a surprise move, the court also dismissed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, one of Sharif’s closest allies, who has been credited with steering the economy to its fastest pace of growth in a decade.

The disqualifications plunge Pakistan into another bout of political turmoil after a period of relative stability, which coincided with improving security in the nuclear-armed nation.

The ouster of Sharif, who served as premier on three separate occasions, also raises questions about Pakistan’s fragile democracy as no prime minister has completed a full term in power since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Sharif should be disqualified after an investigative panel alleged his family could not account for its vast wealth.

“He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister,” Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said in court.

Prior to the decision, several cabinet ministers, including Sharif’s closest allies, said the ruling party would respect the Supreme Court’s verdict.

“Go, Nawaz, Go,” shouted supporters of the PTI opposition party who had gathered outside the court and jeered politicians from Sharif’s party.

Sharif’s supporters echoed the prime minister’s previous declarations of a conspiracy.

“Those who are happy and dancing will cry tomorrow,” said Abid Sher Ali, a junior minister. “They have stabbed democracy in the back.”

Analysts have warned that another bout of political turmoil would spook foreign investors, who are already reticent to invest in Pakistan, deterred by security fears and a tough business climate.

Pakistan’s benchmark stock index, which was one of the world’s best performing in 2016, has recorded major outflows during the two-month investigation into Sharif. The currency, which is part of a managed float, has largely been stable.

POOL NEW / REUTERS

Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif denies any wrongdoing in the corruption probe into his family wealth.

“DEMOCRACY A TARGET”

Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.

“This is not accountability, it is revenge,” tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict. “In an effort dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target.”

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999, but he returned from exile to win a resounding victory in general elections in 2013.

Opposition politicians rejoiced, vowing to bring an end to Sharif’s dynasty.

“Today the people of Pakistan got real justice, a new chapter has begun,” Jehangir Khan Tareen, a member of the opposition PTI, said outside the court.

Sharif’s ouster will be seen as a major victory for PTI leader Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician who led street protests to demand an investigation into Sharif.

Khan pounced on the leaking of the “Panama Papers”, which revealed Sharif’s family had bought posh London apartments through offshore companies.

The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a 2-3 verdict – but it ordered a probe by an investigative panel that included members of the military intelligence agencies.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) this month returned its findings in a 254-report that said Sharif’s family assets do not match their earnings. The panel also accused his children, including daughter Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of the London flats.

Analysts expect Sharif to push for one of his allies to form a government until elections are held next year, when his brother Shahbaz, who is the chief minister in Punjab province, may take over the party leadership.

But the Supreme Court ruling has not only imperiled the political career of Maryan, but endangers the entire dynasty.

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Crime

Smart lock maker Otto suspends operations

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Otto showed the world its digital lock in August. Four months later, the company has suspended operations. Hardware is hard. It’s a cliche for a reason.

The company made the decision just ahead of the holidays, a fact that founder and CEO Sam Jadallah recently made public with a lengthy Medium post now pinned to the top of the startup’s site. The extended survey of the Bay Area company’s short life is punctuated with the pithy title, “So Close,” a nod to the spitting distance the startup came to actually bringing a product to market.

In a conversation over the weekend, Jadallah told TechCrunch that the company’s lock made it as far as the manufacturing process, and is currently sitting in a warehouse, unable to be sold by a hardware startup that is effectively no longer operating. How does a company get so close to the finish line without being able to take that final step?

The executive lays much of that out in his own explainer — a post he considers a sort of cautionary tale for the volatility of the Valley. The long and short of it is that the company was about to be acquired by someone with a lot more resources and experience in bringing a product to market, only to have the rug apparently pulled out at the last minute.

“You’re not in charge of your own destiny, and the margin for error is a lot smaller,” Jadallah told TechCrunch. “Building a really exciting hardware product needs a ton of resources, and is probably best inside of a bigger company. Frankly, that’s part of the reason I was excited about the acquisition. I knew it would take us out of the cyclical venture capital market and put us inside a company that knew how to make and ship products.”

The executive wouldn’t name the interested party during the call, but Otto was almost certainly made hopeful by the recent acquisition of August Home by Assa Abloy, the world’s largest lock manufacturer. The big players have no doubt that there’s plenty of room to grow in the space, and the connected home category shows no apparent signs of slowing. NPD reported a 43 percent growth in smart home sales in 2017. Security is a big piece of that puzzle, but there’s still plenty to unlock on that front.

Otto thought it had found the key, though the company’s product garnered a fair amount of pushback at launch. Sure,it followed in Nest’s footsteps and brought some former Apple employees on board for the creation of what is, by all accounts one nice looking door lock. But even in the age of the $1,000 iPhone, a $699 smart lock is a tough pill to swallow. If the smart lock is still searching for its mainstream moment, was a flagship-phone-priced device really going to be the product to put it over the edge?

Jadallah certainly believed so, as apparently, did the unnamed company that came within days of acquiring Otto. And while the  buyers apparently never gave a reason for their decision to pull out, the executive says that the product’s price was never a concern.

“They knew about the price before the first meeting, and they are very smart people,” he says. “This isn’t the story of an ambitious product that didn’t have a market. I was convinced that we had priced it the right way for the product, and we knew that the technology that we had innovated was something that we could use in different ways at other price point.”

In fact, he adds in a followup email, the acquiring company was apparently convinced that it could sell the product for even more in certain markets. Of course, that’s all a bit of a moot point now. While what remains of the company is attempting to figure out what to do with all of those smart locks currently populating a warehouse somewhere, there’s currently no one around to actually sell them.

The seemingly imminent acquisition meant the company had no plan B.  “The life of the startup is a binary thing,” Jadallah says. “To go from what could be an incredible high to crushing low in a matter of hours is what we do.”

Earlier this month, the company’s Facebook page was still promoting the product with winking reference to the new Star Wars film in a video that asked users to “Unlock the dark side.” Two weeks later, another startup has, for most intents and purposes, gone dark.

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