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March 28th, 2013
10:57 AM ET

Two College students' Anti-rape video "A Needed Response" goes viral

Samantha Stendal and Aaron Blanton are two film students from the University of Oregon, who made an anti-rape viral video called "A Needed Response.” They sit down with Soledad Obrien on Starting Point to talk about the quick and surprising reaction the video has received so far.

Stendal claims she came up with the idea for the video while she was "studying for finals, and reading up on the Steubenville Rape Case." The video is only 26 seconds long, and shows what a man should do if he finds a girl passed out drunk.

She pursued making this video after witnessing the entire "victim blaming that was going on online, and the general rape culture, and seeing all the negative responses that this female was getting in this case." She claims she "really wanted to have something that was out there that was positive toward a victim of rape."

Their anti-rape video quickly reached 1.5 million views. Blanton was very surprised that the video resonated with their intended audience, "so the fact that we did so quickly is pretty extraordinary." The Steubenville rape case played out on social media, and outraged many, therefore it is fitting for a viral video to serve as a launching point to They believe that the instant awareness of the video shows that this sort of discourse needs to happen.

Filed under: Rape • Steubenville • Viral video
February 6th, 2013
12:11 PM ET

Mike Tyson's appearance on 'Law & Order' sparks controversy – Marcie Kaveney on launching a petition against the show

The newest episode of NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has recently been surrounded in controversy due to a special guest star. In the episode that airs tonight, retired boxer Mike Tyson, who served three years in prison for raping a woman in 1992, plays a convict who molested as a child.

His casting has prompted an online petition asking NBC to replace Tyson or pull the episode. The petition was started by Marcie Kaveney, a rape crisis counselor and is also a rape survivor. This morning Kaveney joins “Starting Point” to explain.

When Kaveney learned that Tyson was cast for the role, she says, “Nobody was touching on what it might mean to the survivors to see a convicted rapist on a show...about victims and survivors of rape.”

“Ultimately rape is rape and it’s no less heinous because it happens 20 years ago than it is today,” she says. "The show bases itself around victims stories and survivors stories and that is the problem right there – is that you have survivors having to turn on that show and see Mike Tyson on a that they consider to be theirs that tells their stories that they identify with.”

Kaveney says, “ all comes down to survivors and that you have thousands and millions survivors watching your show and that you have a responsibility to them.” She adds, “The fact that he’s on the show at all is a problem. The fact that he’s playing a victim is an even bigger problem because at what point do you say ‘Ok, are we going to let all the rapists and the murderers out of jail because they had a terrible childhood?’ You have to take responsibility for you actions.”

Filed under: Crime • Rape
January 3rd, 2013
10:31 AM ET

Blogger on her findings regarding the Steubenville rape case she brought to light using social media

Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio are under arrest for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. The case has received national attention after evidence of the alleged attack first surfaced on social media. Alexandra Goddard blogs at and has been posting on this developing story. This morning she joins “Starting Point” to discuss her findings including a 12-minute video posted on YouTube showing several teens making jokes about the alleged rape.

Goddard says after becoming aware of the story she felt compelled to research it further because she “felt like because it was involving football players and there’s a culture [in Steubenville] that football is very important that there was probably a little more to the story than local media was reporting.” Goddard says she proceeded to sift through various twitter accounts where she found disturbing messages that laid out a timeline regarding the events that reportedly transpired on August 22, 2012. In particular Goddard says she came across the cache of a YouTube video that many people claimed did not exist. She adds the release of the 12-minute video which has garnered a response from both Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine proves that the video existed all along. She goes on to say that “some of the commentary that was going on by the person in it tells the horrific things that happened that night.”

On the topic of verification and authenticity of the tweets and videos posted on social media Goddard says the “person has identified themselves in the video. They’ve also identified others in the room who were allegedly involved and through the twitter accounts most of these kids were using their full names.”

Recently a defamation suit against Goddard by a football player and his parents regarding the case was dismissed. Goddard says however her investigation in Steubenville has “been for the most part very positive.” She adds that she has not been the recipient of any hate mail but admits there are some who are very “upset” by her pursuance of the case. Goddard says there are others however who have thanked her for bringing the case to light “because their local media just wasn’t providing enough coverage and they were coming to my blog for information.”

Filed under: Crime • Lawsuit • Rape • School • Social media
August 23rd, 2012
10:14 AM ET

Battling a rapist for parental rights: Shauna Prewitt on her personal story of rape, birth and custody fight

We've been hearing a lot about Rep. Todd Akin's controversial rape comments, but one side we haven't heard much from is the victims.

According to the American College of Obsetrics and Gynecology, 5% of women become pregnant due to rape. One of those women, Shauna Prewitt, has come forward, writing a powerful letter that has gone viral. In the letter, now posted in the section, she says "Rep. Todd Akin's recent comments that 'legitimate rape' rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape."

Prewitt, who is now an attorney, was 21 when she was raped and became pregnant. Her daughter is now 7 years old. She shares her story with Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point," and explains that not only did she decide to keep her daughter, but had to face a custody battle with her attacker.

"He filed for sole custody of her," Prewitt says. "I am very lucky that his parental rights were terminated so he is no longer or was never a part of our lives. But I fight today in my advocacy work for the past two years focused on helping other women who haven't been so lucky or aren't so lucky."

She adds, "words have power....the way in which we speak about women who become pregnant through rape...I think has made us suspicious of anyone like me or the 30% of other women who each year choose to keep and raise the children that they conceived through rape. We are suspicious of them because they behave in a way that our dialog suggests they shouldn't. I think we're hesitant to pass the laws because frankly we don't think that women like me exist."

See more from Prewitt's interview with Soledad in the clip above. Read Prewitt's letter "Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over."

We want to know what you think: Should states allow men who father through rape to have same custody and visitation rights to their children as other fathers? And does your opinion change if it's in a case of statutory rape?

Filed under: Parental rights • Rape