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How Right-Wing Smears Against Occupy Exploit Victims of Rape in the Movement

Right-wingers are using sexual assault at Occupy to justify smears and attacks. Here are the facts.

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Just this week, the movement in New York adopted  a new Community Safety Agreement that includes a provision that OWS, to the best of its power will, “ remove people who have committed sexual violence or abuse and let the survivor decide the conditions for their return. We understand that they may not be able to return.”

Within Occupy, many protesters are engaged in the kinds of nuanced and proactive conversations found in women’s studies departments and feminist blogs. Still, as Melanie Gold of "Women Occupying Wall Street" told me this winter, there was a limit to their effectiveness in the encampments. “None of us are rape crisis people, we need professionals, we need the volunteer work of people who really understand this stuff and can help.” 

There's no question that the way the movement handles and deters past and future painful incidents will be a true test of its staying power for internal reasons as much as external ones. No one will join, and no one will stay if the movement is seen as fostering violent individuals. But the right-wingers who criticize the sexual assaults without understanding the movement's dynamics or addressing misogyny at large--in fact, while actively fostering misogyny--are doubly exploiting victims. 

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @fellowette and find her work at