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Archives for : Violence against Women

NCW demands action against investor Mahesh Murthy regarding sexual remarks online #Vaw

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has written to the Director General of Police, Maharashtra regarding usage of objectionable, derogatory, sexual remarks and obscene signs on social media by a renowned venture investor Shri Mahesh Murthy, owner of Seedfund; based on a complaint filed by a woman in Delhi.


NCW has also, along with the letter, sent various media reports during the year wherein many other women have made similar complaints against Mahesh Murthy. NCW also highlighted that the commission also received a similar complaint from another woman early this year.


Even though Shri Murthy has allegedly already posted an apology for some of his posts, NCW, in its letter to the Maharashtra DGP, requested for the DGP’s personal involvement to investigate the matter and take strict action as per law and procedure against the accused as such acts not only amount to outraging the modesty of women but also attract action for cyber crime.


NCW has further requested the DGP to apprise the commission about the details of the case along with action taken report in the matter within 15 days from the date of issue of the said letter.

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How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her #mustread

“Me living was how I was going to beat him.” A rare court case exposes the horror of online harassment that followed when one woman broke off a relationship.

THE FIRST TIME the police arrived on her doorstep, in March of 2015, Courtney Allen was elated.She rushed to the door alongside her dogs, a pair of eager Norwegian elkhounds, to greet them. “Is this about our case?” she asked. The police looked at her in confusion. They didn’t know what case she was talking about. Courtney felt her hope give way to a familiar dread.Three days earlier, Courtney and her husband, Steven, had gone to the police headquarters in Kent, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, and reported that, for the past few months, they had been the victims of a campaign of online harassment. They had found a fake Facebook page under Steven’s name with a profile picture of Courtney, naked. Emails rained down in their inboxes; some called Courtney a cunt, whore, and bitch, and one they felt was a death threat. Her coworkers received emails with videos and screenshots of Courtney, naked and masturbating. The messages came from a wide range of addresses, and some appeared to be from Steven.

There were phone calls too. One to Steven’s grandmother warned that her house might burn down, with her in it, if she didn’t stay out of the Allens’ lives. There were so many calls to the dental office where Courtney worked that the receptionists started to keep a log: “Called and said, ‘Put that dumb cunt Courtney on the phone,’ ” one of them wrote in neat, bubbly handwriting. “I said, ‘She is not here at the moment, may I take a message?’ ” At one point Courtney created a Google Voice number to ask, “If I talk to you, will you leave me alone?” Instead, dozens of voicemails poured in: “Do you think I’m ever going away?” one said. “Now that my private investigator went and got all the tax information? There’s no job either one of you guys can have that I won’t know about and be there.”

The Kent police officer who took the Allens’ statement seemed unsure of what to make of their story. Courtney and Steven told him who they believed was behind the harassment: a man in Arizona named Todd Zonis with whom Courtney had an online relationship that she had recently broken off. She says she told the officers that she had sent Zonis the videos of herself while they were still involved and that he had sent ones of himself to her, but that she had deleted their exchange. In a report, the officer noted that, while Courtney and Steven insisted that his role was obvious, Zonis’ name barely appeared in the folder full of printouts and CDs that they had with them. The officer assigned them a case number and advised them not to have any more contact with Zonis.

Now, three days later, the two officers on Courtney’s doorstep explained why they had come: An anonymous tipster, who claimed to work with Steven, had left a report on the Crime Stoppers website. It said that Steven “had been telling everyone for months that his wife was leaving him but he had a plan to beat her into staying.” The tipster added that he had noticed “a lot of bruises.” When prompted for more information on the suspect, the informant wrote that the Allens had a “large gun collection” and two big dogs. (One detective later noted that some of the reports seemed designed to trigger “a large/violent police response.”)

December 2017. Subscribe to WIRED.


The police left after interviewing Courtney, but three days later, two detectives knocked on the Allens’ door in the early afternoon. Courtney wondered, more cautiously this time, if she would now get a response to her complaint. But no—the detectives were investigating another anonymous tip. This one was about an alleged incident at a park involving Steven and the Allens’ 4-year-old: “His son screamed and he smacked him repeatedly on the back, butt, legs, and head, but not the face,” the tipster wrote. “He then berated his wife, calling her ‘whore’ and worse … She covers for him when the abuse is to her, but abuse to the child I don’t know what will happen.”

In her report of the visit, detective Angie Galetti wrote that the Allens’ son “came downstairs and appeared to be happy and healthy.” She described how Courtney had to coax her nervous son into showing his skin to the detectives: “There was no suspicious bruising or marks of any kind,” she wrote. He “appeared appropriately attached to his mother and Detective Lorette and I had no concerns.”

But Courtney’s concerns were mounting. The day before, she had gotten an email to an account she only used for spam. “How did you even GET this email address?” Courtney wrote back. “Leave me and my family alone!” A reply came accusing Steven of also using unsavory cybertactics to find out about Courtney’s online behavior, but added: “I am MUCH better at it. For example. Your Jetta, in the driveway”—and yes, that’s where it was. The message included the car’s vehicle identification number. Courtney had started having nightmares; just going outside made her afraid. She felt violated by the images of her that were circulating who knew where, and anxious about what might come next.

And now this. It was “one of the worst moments of my life,” she said later, hoping that help was coming but instead “having to lift up my son’s shirt and show them my son’s body to make sure he had no bruises.” When the detectives asked for her phone number, she realized she didn’t remember it—she had just changed it in an attempt to evade the endless calls. She found herself sobbing in front of the detectives. The harassment was so creative, so relentless, so unpredictable. Around the same time, at least 15 of her neighbors received a “community alert” in the mail warning them that they were living near a dangerous abuser, Steven Allen. It was postmarked from Arizona.

But the most frustrating thing was how hard it all was to explain or prove. Courtney was beginning to feel trapped in a world of anonymous abuse. She didn’t know if she would be able to convince anyone that what she believed to be happening was real.

IT BEGAN, AS relationships often do these days, online. From the start it was a strange and tangled story of exposure and distrust in the internet era.In the fall of 2012, Courtney and Steven had been together for 12 years but had known each other for 20: They met in a high school biology class and reconnected later when Courtney was going through a divorce. The couple—now in their mid-thirties, with a house full of fantasy books and clay dragons that Courtney sculpted—were avid players of Grepolis, an empire- and alliance-­building browser game set in ancient Greece.One day a player in an opposing alliance asked if he could join theirs. The small council that ran the alliance agreed. This was Courtney’s first introduction to Todd Zonis and she liked him from the start: “He was crude and rude and I thought it was actually kind of funny,” she says.

Courtney’s player name was sharklady76. As she recalls it, Zonis sent her a note on the game’s messaging service to say he had once owned a shark, and from there the conversation took off. They talked about gardening and pets. She shared pictures of her elkhounds; Zonis sent ones of his tortoise. The two progressed to video-chats. Both were married, but “it just kind of grew from there,” Courtney remembers. “It was a really strong friendship and then turned into not a friendship.”

At the time, Courtney was staying home with her toddler. She and Steven had made that decision together, but still, it was rough on their marriage: Steven was working long hours as an IT instructor and felt the stress of being the sole breadwinner. He often traveled for work. Courtney was a nervous new mother, afraid to let her son stay with sitters, which only increased her sense of isolation. She was often angry at Steven, whom she began to see as controlling and neglectful.

Zonis was a freelance sound engineer with a flexible schedule. The relationship with him offered “an escape,” Courtney says: “He was charming. He told me everything that I ever wanted to hear about how wonderful I was.” She adds, “I just thought the world of him. Because it was online, it was very easy to not see the faults someone has, to not see warning signs.” Eventually Courtney was spending a lot of time online with Zonis and pulling further away from Steven. She kept telling herself that they were just good friends, even when Zonis sent her a penis-shaped sex toy. One day, nearly a year after Zonis first joined the alliance, Steven noticed Courtney’s email open while updating her laptop. He read an exchange between her and Zonis. It was explicit, and it mentioned videos. He confronted Courtney. She was furious that he had read her emails but said she would stop communicating with Zonis. Instead, she moved the relationship to her tablet, behind a password; she also labeled Zonis’ contact information with a fake name.

She wanted to be sure Steven wasn’t the mastermind of a complex scheme.

Steven, sensing his marriage falling apart, turned to Google. He searched “adultery” and “online affair” and found a website called Marriage Builders that bills itself as “the #1 infidelity support site on the internet.” It was founded by Willard F. Harley Jr., a psychologist who encourages his readers to work to understand and meet their spouse’s needs but also recommends a radical response when a spouse won’t end an affair: making it public to the family of the people involved. Love, he writes, should be based not on trust but on transparency. “Imagine how little crime would be committed if everyone’s activities were videotaped.”

Steven tried to follow Harley’s advice for healing a marriage. He apologized for being distant and tried to get Courtney interested in answering the site’s questionnaires. But Courtney, often busy on her tablet, was leery of the Marriage Builders philosophy.

In November of 2014, just over a year after first seeing Courtney’s emails with Zonis, Steven noticed her tablet unlocked on the counter. She was in the shower, so he looked. He saw messages from a name he didn’t recognize but a writing style that he did. He then found more messages. The relationship hadn’t ended. His mind went to the advice from Marriage Builders: “Exposure helps prevent a recurrence of the offense. Your closest friends and relatives will be keeping an eye on you—holding you accountable.”

A few days later, Steven contacted his parents and Courtney’s parents and told them about the relationship. He found Zonis’ wife and wrote and texted her. He looked up Zonis’ parents on a people-finder site. “I would ask that you encourage your son to stop this affair before it completely ruins our family,” he wrote, adding that he had heard that the Zonises had an open relationship. “If you have any questions or would like to see some of the evidence, please email me.”

Courtney was livid. She told Steven not to come home that night; when he did, she took their son to her parents’ house. She returned the next day, but they slept in separate rooms and Courtney discussed divorce.

Zonis, too, was outraged. He saw the messages that Steven sent as an attack on his family, and one that was unjustified. Zonis tells the story of the relationship differently. After he joined the alliance, he says, he noticed Courtney talking about her husband in forums in a disturbing way, saying he was controlling and would punish her. He says Courtney reached out and became friends with him and his wife, Jennifer—“The two would chat, you know, for hours,” he says—though Courtney denies this. She asked a lot of questions about their marriage, he says, looking for advice. He denies that either he or Courtney ever sent explicit videos, or that they were more than friends.

To Zonis, calling his relationship with Courtney an “affair” was a false characterization and cost him dearly; Steven’s comment about an open marriage, he says, turned his parents against him. He claimed that his parents cut off contact and wrote him out of their will, which meant he would not inherit the “ancestral home.” In total, he says he lost an inheritance worth more than $2 million. Zonis began saving for a lawyer so he could take Steven to court. “He destroyed my family,” Zonis says, “just to basically keep his own wife in line.”

After the “exposure,” the Allens received barrages of virulent emails from Zonis’ account. He later denied writing both the anonymous emails and some that came from his account, speculating that perhaps someone to whom he’d told his story had taken it upon themselves to punish the Allens, or that the Allens were harassing each other and blaming him. He didn’t much care, he says, because he considered the harassment trivial: “My rights were violated and nobody cares, and we’re still talking about what happened to poor Courtney?”

After exposing the affair, Steven continued asking for advice from other people on the Marriage Builders site. He even posted emails between Courtney and Zonis, and a copy of a letter that he wrote to Courtney: “I am so very sorry I hurt you and hurt you so deeply for years, by not considering your feelings near as much as I should have, and by demanding and disrespecting your opinion to get what I wanted. I was abusive and controlling. I was so sure I was right, and getting what I wanted would help you too, that I didn’t realize the hurt I was causing you.” He didn’t realize that Zonis had found these posts and took them as Steven admitting to being an abuser.

Steven had hoped the exposure would allow them to move on; it had the opposite effect. One of his coworkers received an email accusing Steven of assaulting Courtney. When Steven told Courtney that Zonis must have sent it, she refused to believe him. Zonis “had my ear,” she says. “I was listening to everything that he said, and I was assuming anything Steve said was a lie.”

BUT SHE ALSO felt cracks forming in her relationship with Zonis—she accused him of making the threatening call to Steven’s grandmother, which he angrily denied—and asked for space to try to get her head straight. She went back to work, seeking more independence. In an email to Zonis, the former sharklady described something she’d seen on TV: “There is a whale carcass. All the great whites gobble it up, ripping huge chunks out of it at a time. That is what I feel like … the whale.” “In my new world,” she wrote Zonis, “EVERYONE is lying to me. I don’t believe anyone anymore.”In the meantime, Steven, angry about the message to his coworker, emailed Zonis, writing that he could “look forward to continued exposures to people in your life.” Zonis, who considered this a second attack, forwarded a copy of the email to Courtney, but when she read it she sensed something was wrong. The writer referred to their child as “her” son instead of “our” son, and a boast about his ability to manipulate her did not sound like her husband. (“I know Steven looks down upon people who try to manipulate,” she says. “It just didn’t fit with his character.”)In a modern act of trust, she and Steven showed their emails to each other. She saw that the version Zonis sent to her had been edited—that Steven’s words had been changed. Courtney felt she finally knew whom to trust. “That,” she said later, “was when I turned to Steve and said, ‘I need help. I don’t know how to get myself out of this.’ ”

COURTNEY DECIDED TO ease Zonis out of her life. Her messages to him became short, bland, and infrequent, but still she received long, aggressive responses. Finally she began demanding to be left alone, then stopped responding at all. But emails and calls continued, as many as 20 in a single day; even Courtney’s mother was getting calls. Zonis said later that he was calling the Allens to get an apology, something that he could show to his parents. One email from his personal account said that the sender had just been in the Allens’ city —“VERY nice place”—and promised a visit to the area again soon. (Zonis denies writing the message.) There were also voicemails: “I will burn myself to the ground to get him. I told you, you’re going to lose him one way or the other.”Emails arrived from other accounts too: Courtneythe­whore­sblog­, Courtney­[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]­ There were dozens of others.Some messages to the Allens’ neighbors and coworkers came from what appeared to be Steven’s email. Courtney’s boss got emails from “Steven” with subject lines such as “My Slut wife Courtney” and “Courtney is not who she seems to be.” One night, as Courtney worked on a sudoku puzzle in bed, she received an email that looked as if it had come from her husband, who was next to her reading a book. The next night, Steven’s cell phone dinged on the nightstand with a new email. He picked it up and turned to Courtney. “Apparently you hate me,” he said.

In March 2015, Courtney filed for a protective order against Zonis, which would make further contact a crime. Steven filed for a similar order for himself and their son the month after the “exposure,” but Courtney had believed that doing so would be too antagonizing. Zonis and his wife responded in kind by getting orders of their own. Two days after Courtney’s order was granted, she got an email from Zonis’ personal account: “Glad that bullshit symbolic gesture is out of the way,” it said. (Zonis denies writing this too.)

No charges were filed. The Kent police, while sympathetic, “weren’t really interested in something that was a misdemeanor protective order violation,” Steven says. The Allens got the sense that because Zonis was in Arizona, and because so much of the harassment was confusing and anonymous, it was hard for the police in Kent to act. At the end of March, Courtney and Steven walked into the FBI’s office in Seattle to present their case. (The Kent police, county prosecutor, and FBI all said they were unable to comment for this story.) Three months later the Allens got a letter stating, “We have identified you as a possible victim of a crime,” and informing them that the FBI was investigating. Months passed with no word. When they heard about the FBI’s involvement, the Kent police closed their own case. The Allens, not sure what else to do, continued to bring them evidence of new and ever more inventive harassment.

IN EARLY APRIL the Allens received a package in the mail that was full of marijuana. After they reported it to the police, Detective Galetti informed the Allens that there had been more Crime Stoppers reports: allegations that they were selling drugs, that they were cutting them with butane, that their customers were high school kids.The Allens began to consider a different option. Earlier that year, after Steven started a new job at the University of Washington, he told campus authorities about the harassment. Natalie Dolci, then a victim advocate with the campus police, referred him, as she had many others, to a pro bono program called the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project at the prominent K&L Gates law firm. The project had been started a year earlier to help victims of what is variously known as sexual cyberharassment, cyberexploitation, and revenge porn. (Dolci prefers the terms “technology-enabled abuse” or “technology-enabled coercive control,” phrases broad enough to include things such as using spyware or hacking in-home cameras.) Often the cases didn’t go to court, meaning the public seldom heard their details. Most people just wanted to settle, get the harassment to stop, keep their images off the internet and their names out of public records.Steven and Courtney weren’t eager to file a lawsuit, but they hoped the firm—a large one with a cyberforensics unit experienced in unraveling complex online crimes—would be able to help them unmask the harasser and prove their story to police. “We were just trying to get law enforcement to do something,” Steven said later.

On April 29, 2015, Steven and Courtney walked into a conference room overlooking Seattle’s port and Mount Rainier where they met David Bateman, a partner at K&L Gates and one of the founders of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, and Breanna Van Engelen, a young attorney. A mock trial program in college convinced Van Engelen that she wanted to be a litigator—to stand up in court on behalf of clients she believed had been wronged—but she was fresh out of law school and had yet to try her first case.

The lawyers were skeptical of the Allens’ story at first. It was so outlandish that Van Engelen wondered if it was made up—or if one spouse was manipulating the other. Courtney’s fear seemed genuine, but so many of the emails did appear to come from Steven, who knew his way around computers. Van Engelen wanted to be sure that Steven wasn’t the mastermind of a complex scheme in which he hid his own abuse, impersonating Zonis impersonating him. She interviewed the Allens separately and then spent a week poring through the evidence: voicemails and social media profiles and native files of emails. By digging into how they were created, she found that emails from “Steven” had been spoofed—sent through anonymizing services but then tagged as if they came from his email or were sent from an untraceable account. Had Steven been the mastermind, it would have been “like robbing a bank but wearing a mask of your own face,” she said later. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” Van Engelen came to believe the Allens were telling the truth.

BUT THAT LEFT another question. What if the case did go to trial? Even if she could convince a jury—which would mean explaining the complexities of how identity is both hidden and revealed on the internet—could she get them to care? Cyberharassment is still an unappreciated crime. Gary Ernsdorff, a prosecutor in King County, where the Allens live, said that people often don’t think it’s that big a deal—it’s just online, after all. Or they blame victims for sharing intimate images in the first place. What, Van Engelen wondered, would a jury make of the Allens’ saga? Would they think Steven had gone too far in exposing the affair? Would they blame Courtney for the videos? Though Van Engelen saw the Allens as victims, she realized a jury might not.Many people assume that cyber­harassment is easy to avoid: They believe that if victims hadn’t sent a naked photo, then that person would have nothing to worry about. But experts say this assumption is essentially a comforting fiction in a world in which we’re all potential victims. A 2016 survey found that one in every 25 Americans online—roughly 10 million people—had either had explicit images of themselves shared online against their will or had been threatened with such sharing. For women younger than 30, it was one in 10. The same survey found that, photos or no, 47 percent of Americans who used the internet had been victims of online harassment of some kind.Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, began studying cyberharassment in 2007. What she found reminded her of her past research on the shocking leakiness of information databases. Nearly all of us are giving away reams of sensitive information about ourselves without understanding how it might be used, whether by a stalker or an unscrupulous company. This includes what we share online—geotags on our photos, workout apps that generate maps to our houses, badly protected Facebook updates or lists that show family ties, or posts that reveal innocuous-­seeming facts, such as birthdays, that can be used to access other information. We also leave an enormous digital trail of personal and private information with every credit card purchase and Google search and ad click.

People are starting to understand “that the web watches them back,” says Aleecia McDonald, a privacy researcher at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. But we still don’t appreciate the extent to which it’s happening or what risks we might face in the future. McDonald suggests thinking of the internet as a backward-facing time machine that we are constantly loading with ammunition: “Everything that’s on file about you for the last 15 years and the next 40 years” may someday be used against you with technology that, at this time, we can’t understand or predict. And much of the information that we leave in our wake has no legal protection from being sold in the future: “We overcollect and we underprotect,” Citron says.

Even without access to intimate images, Van Engelen says, “if I was obsessed enough and motivated enough, I could mess up your life.” Many experts now agree that the solution to cyberharassment lies in changing the ways we respond to the release or misuse of private information: to stop trivializing it, to take it seriously as a crime, to show perpetrators that their actions have consequences.

“You can tell people, ‘Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to have go public,’ ” McDonald says. “But what kind of life is that?”

AS VAN ENGELEN prepared to take on the Allens’ case, she kept finding more social media profiles. There were accounts impersonating Courtney and Steven; one Google Plus account, which included the videos and Courtney’s contact information, birthday, and maiden name, had more than 8,000 views. There was an account for their son. A Facebook account in the name of “Jennifer Jones”—Courtney recognized one photo as Zonis’ pet tortoise—sent messages to her friends and family accusing Steven of abuse and of having sent “Jones” threatening emails and photos of his penis. (Zonis denies creating any of these accounts, saying: “I’ve never been on Facebook in my life” and “Who puts a picture of their pet on a secret account they’re trying to hide?”)The Allens contacted Facebook, Google, YouTube, and other sites to have the accounts taken down, with mixed success. One of the hardest to remove was the Facebook page in their son’s name. When Courtney filled out a form indicating that she wasn’t the one being impersonated, the site suggested she alert that person to have it removed; there seemed to be no expectation that the targeted person might be a 4-year-old. The account stayed up despite repeated requests. (It was finally disabled in late October, after WIRED’s fact-checkers asked Facebook for comment.) But at least Facebook had a complaint option; other sites offered no recourse, and the most the Allens could do was ask search engines not to include them in results. Sites that specialize in posting revenge porn sometimes charge hundreds of dollars to remove images—what Ernsdorff calls “a business model of extortion.”Van Engelen and her colleagues were subpoenaing tech companies to find out who was assigned IP addresses, but they kept having to send new subpoenas as new accounts kept popping up. According to court records, they found that many of the early emails—from addresses such as CourtneyCallMe69 and Dixienormousnu—could be traced to the Zonises’ house. In one case the same message was sent seven times by different accounts in just over a day. Some of the accounts were anonymous but traceable to the Zonises’ home IP address or a hotel where they stayed; one came from what appeared to be Steven’s email but with the tag “Douchebag” attached—it was routed from an anonymizing website based in the Czech Republic that sent email from fake accounts. Van Engelen interpreted this spree as evidence that Zonis was trying to get through spam filters, as well as proof that he used anonymizers and impersonation. Zonis counters that Steven was manufacturing evidence against him.

As time passed, the emails and social media accounts became harder to trace. Van Engelen found that many of the IP addresses, created and disguised with Tor software, bounced through layers of anonymous routing. More came from the Czech website or another anonymizer. The writing style changed too, as if, according to Van Engelen, the writer didn’t want the syntax or orthography to be analyzable: Sometimes they read as though they were written by someone with limited, fluctuating facility with English.

In the summer of 2015, the Allens found out that a new credit card had been opened in their names and that one of their existing cards had been used fraudulently. They could see that all the attempted charges were to access sites that might yield personal information:, a site that allows recovery of old W2s, a company that does background checks.

Courtney began seeing a counselor. Her fear had become “an absolute paranoia.” She had night terrors and panic attacks if she saw police in the neighborhood. Zonis had told her that he was able to fly for free because his wife worked for an airline; Courtney feared he might show up at any time. She stopped letting her son play outside. “It just changed who I was,” she says. “I wasn’t functioning.” Almost worse than the fear was the guilt about what was happening to the people in her life. “No one can say anything to me about the horrible things that I’ve done,” she says, “because I’ve already said them to myself.”

“Me living was how I was going to beat him.”

Courtney had come to see the internet as a danger to which the people around her were oblivious. “Nobody’s safe,” she says. “If you’re on the internet, you’re pretty much a target.” She was appalled at what she saw her friends post—vacation updates that revealed their locations, pictures of their young children. She asked other parents at her son’s school not to post pictures of him, and one asked her, “Aren’t you proud of your son?” When she offered to share the recommendations that the FBI had sent her about keeping information private, only one friend responded—and only to ask whether such precautions were really necessary. Courtney locked down her own social media and stopped giving out her phone number. “Privacy has become top priority to me,” she said. “Anonymity has become sacred.”

In late June 2015, K&L Gates filed the Allens’ lawsuit against Zonis, seeking damages and relief related to defamation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, electronic impersonation, and invasion of privacy. Two months later, Zonis filed his own suit in federal court in Arizona, making similar claims against Steven. The complaint included excerpts of harassing emails that Zonis alleged were sent to him by Steven: “Too bad your whore wife is still without a child … did I mention that I own [Mrs. Allen] again?” and “All I had to do was act like the benevolent husband, and let you do the work … I plan on continuing to cause you pain like you can’t even imagine.” It took more than a year of motions and replies for the cases to be combined and moved to Washington, where the first case was filed.

In August Courtney received an anonymous email that ended, “Easier if one help everyone and kill self.” She’d had suicidal thoughts before. If she did kill herself, she thought, that might finally make the harassment stop. Maybe this was how she could save her family. She went to get a gun that was kept in a safe. Her hands were shaking and she fumbled the combination to the lock. She began to think about all the things she’d miss if she pulled the trigger—teaching her son to drive, retiring with Steven, the books she would never read. At last, still unable to open the safe, she gave up. “I decided he wasn’t going to win,” she said later. “Me living was how I was going to beat him.”

The following month the Allens took a trip to Hawaii. While they were away there were calls and emails, but none of them mentioned the trip. To Courtney it seemed like a small miracle: one moment in her life that belonged only to her. “It was a breath,” she said later. She would hold onto that precious realization for a long time: “I can keep some things private.”

But it was only a breath. Emails had begun coming to Steven’s account at the University of Washington—a job he thought had gone unnoticed until he got an anonymous email referencing the school’s mascot: “Public record. all. done.” Soon dozens of accounts, from the IT department to the university president, were getting emails about the Allens, often with images of Courtney. According to court records, two preschools in the Kent area also got emails that appeared to be from Steven; they said that he planned to come in with a gun and start shooting.“It wasn’t me!” Steven cried when the police called him at work. “I’m here!”

Gradually the Allens grew somewhat inured to the videos and emails—“There’s no one that I know who hasn’t seen me in very intimate detail,” Courtney says. “He can’t hurt me that way anymore”—though she continued to worry that their son would find the videos one day.

As Halloween neared, the K&L Gates lawyers received a threat they considered credible enough to heighten security. Later that fall, two FBI agents appeared at the Allens’. The couple hoped again that their troubles were ending at last. But while the agents were aware of their case, they said they were required to tell the Allens to cease and desist because Zonis had contacted them with evidence that he said showed the Allens were committing credit fraud against him. Later, Zonis would produce documents that he said showed Steven mocking Jennifer, sending her pictures of his penis, and threatening retribution; in one post, it appears that Steven had asked his Marriage Builders friends to make the threatening call to his grandmother.

“Everything he’s done, he’s claiming I’ve been doing,” Steven said later.

“Every bit of everything that we were accused of was what he did to us,” Zonis says.

IN JANUARY OF 2017, the lawsuit’s discovery process finally ended. Van Engelen and her colleagues had been working on the case for nearly two years. By then Zonis, after cycling through several lawyers, was representing himself, with his wife assisting. Before trial, the parties were required to attempt mediation. The judge encouraged a settlement, telling the Allens that a jury looking at the mess of competing claims would see everyone involved as having unclean hands. The Allens and their lawyers sent an offer to the room next door, where the Zonises were waiting: They would dismiss their suit if Zonis dropped his counterclaim and left the Allens alone. Zonis instead asked them to pay a large sum for what he said he lost. The case proceeded to trial.On Wednesday, March 22, 2017, the Allens, their lawyers, and the Zonises gathered in a courtroom. Van Engelen watched from her seat as a colleague began questioning potential jurors: How many of you have made a friend on the internet? How many of you have ever taken a selfie? If someone takes and shares intimate pictures and they get published online, is that their fault?Many of the responses were exactly what Van Engelen had feared. She summed them up: “This is trivial. Why am I here? I don’t want to be part of someone’s Facebook dispute. This is high school.” More than one person thought that if you made explicit videos of yourself, it was your fault if they were shared. Others felt the Allens, with their table of lawyers, had an unfair advantage. Van Engelen listened with growing nervousness. That night she went home and cried in the shower. She kept thinking: “What if somebody just decided that they weren’t going to listen to any of the evidence and they’d already made up their minds?”

Before the trial, Steven created a timeline of the harassment. Bateman decided to present it to the jury during opening arguments; because it had so many details, the lawyers had to print it on a 10-foot-long poster so that the jurors would be able to see the entries. This isn’t trivial, Bateman told the jury, detailing the false police reports, the enormous number of emails, the videos. Van Engelen felt her anxiety ease. “Right away you could see the jurors’ faces change,” she says. “I think they got that this wasn’t what they thought coming in.”

Van Engelen played some of the voicemails aloud. Courtney wept. She told the story of trying to unlock the gun.

Van Engelen called Courtney as her first witness. Courtney described her relationship with Zonis and said that she thought the videos would be private. Zonis had filed a motion to have the images of Courtney withheld from court. (He said later that the images were unimportant “flash” intended to distract the jury from what he had been through.) Van Engelen feared their absence would make the jurors take the case less seriously. In her questioning she described them as clinically as possible, so that Courtney wouldn’t have to: “Do you orgasm?” she asked. “Do they show your inner and outer labia?” Courtney testified for more than a day, the whole time too ashamed to look at the jurors. Van Engelen asked her to read some of the emails and played some of the voicemails aloud; she then read from the Google Plus profile that bore Courtney’s name and image. “I am a real whore wife,” Van Engelen read, continuing, “and have suffered for years with unsatisfying sex with a husband who is hung like a cocktail frank.”

“Did you write that about yourself?” she asked. “Did your husband write this about himself?” “No,” Courtney replied. Van Engelen continued her questions. Courtney wept. She told the story of trying to unlock the gun.

Zonis gave an opening statement. His wife cross-examined Courtney and later testified as her husband questioned her. Together the couple set out their version of the story: that they were Courtney’s friends who had tried to rescue her from an abusive husband. They said that Todd wasn’t romantically interested in Courtney and that Steven had been the one harassing them. The Zonises introduced emails and posts that they said were written by the Allens. But they were paper printouts with no metadata or digital trail to prove authenticity. When the lawyers requested a forensically sound copy of Zonis’ data, Zonis replied that his computer had malfunctioned—he blamed spyware that he claimed Steven had installed via an image file—and he had sold it; that he had copies of the files on CDs but Jennifer had thrown them out by mistake.

On the stand, Steven denied writing most of the emails or posts Zonis claimed were from him. The Allens had kept digital copies of emails that appeared to come from Steven, and the K&L Gates team showed the jury how those had been spoofed. They also showed that the email formatting on some posts didn’t match that of the Allens’ computer and that the time zone was not Pacific but Mountain, where Zonis lived. It appeared, the lawyers suggested, that Zonis had created the posts himself.

Zonis later countered that the discrepancies were proof that Steven had used spyware to steal the emails. The Zonises hired an expert witness to testify over Skype. He said that it was theoretically possible that the forensic trails leading back to Zonis could have been faked—though he conceded that he had never seen it done and had not reviewed the evidence.

The lawyers called Andreas Kaltsounis, a cyberforensics expert who used to work with the FBI and the Department of Defense. He explained to the jury how Tor networks and IP addresses function. He then presented a map showing that many of the seemingly separate accounts from which the Allens had received anonymous harassment were actually linked by overlapping IP addresses. One of the linked accounts was the Facebook page for “Jennifer Jones,” the account that used a picture of a tortoise. It could have been, as Zonis argued, an account that Steven, or some unknown person, created. But the lawyers were prepared. One day, months before the trial, as Van Engelen searched painstakingly through IP addresses associated with logins on the Jones account, she made a discovery: Among the many addresses, there had been one apparent slipup, a login not through Tor but from the Zonises’ home IP address. When she found it Van Engelen ran into Bateman’s office, yelling: “We’ve got him!” It would have been unheard of for someone to fake a login using Zonis’ IP address, Kaltsounis told the jury, because of a safeguard called the three-way handshake that requires hosts to establish a connection with the IP address belonging to the account before any information can be sent.

By the end of arguments, the Allens’ legal team had introduced 1,083 exhibits into evidence. The chart Van Engelen made just to organize the emails was 87 pages long. It was a level of scrutiny that few cyberharassment cases ever receive—and an illustration of what victims face when dealing with such a complicated case, especially if they don’t have access to pro bono help. K&L lawyers and paralegals had spent thousands of hours digging through the evidence. The value of Van Engelen’s time alone was in the ballpark of $400,000.

Zonis never took the stand. He blamed the lawyers for purposefully taking up too much time questioning Courtney and Jennifer, and introducing endless emails that he said had nothing to do with him. Van Engelen was disgusted: “He got his one big chance to tell his side of the story, and he didn’t take it,” she says. “This is somebody who’s very strong behind a keyboard. And when the opportunity arises to actually prove himself and be vindicated, he just folds like a flower.”

On Thursday, March 30, Van Engelen stood up to deliver her closing argument. It was the first time she’d ever done so in a real court.

She began by playing one of the voicemails that Zonis had admitted to leaving—“How does it feel to know that I’m never, ever, ever going to stop?” Then she turned to the jury: “Someone needs to tell him to stop.” She described Courtney’s lowest moment: going for the gun. She reminded them of a message promising isolation, shame, and ridicule, and the email from Zonis’ personal account after Courtney got a protective order: “Glad that bullshit symbolic gesture is out of the way.”

It was impossible to trace all of the harassment directly to Zonis with cyberforensics, Van Engelen told the jury, so she encouraged them to also consider repetition of details (like the sex toy he had sent) that were in both the anonymous messages and voicemails from Zonis. She talked about the problems with the evidence that Zonis had introduced.

“Do not,” Van Engelen concluded, “let this be another bullshit symbolic gesture. Tell him to stop, hold him liable.”

In his own closing statement, Zonis reiterated that “the stuff doesn’t trace back to me,” talked about the difficulty of being cut off from his parents, and cast himself as a scapegoat: “And what if I’m not the devil? Then what do you do? Oh, my God, we were wrong. We can’t have that, can we?” He told the jury that not testifying wasn’t his choice; the judge said this wasn’t true.

The K&L lawyers had not asked for a specific amount of compensation. The Allens told their lawyers that their goal wasn’t money but simply an end to the harassment.

The next afternoon the jury came back with a decision.

The 12 jurors had been given forms to explain which of the Allens’ and Zonis’ claims they deemed true and which they rejected. For the first claim, “Did Todd Zonis electronically impersonate the Allens?” the presiding juror circled yes. The jury also chose yes for “Was the electronic impersonation a proximate cause of the injury or damage to the Allens?” The form offered a blank space to write in the total amount of damages warranted. The jury’s answer: $2 million.

And so it went. The jury found each of the Allens’ other claims against Zonis—intentional invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation—justified, and to each they affixed a boggling sum. The jury did agree with Zonis on one count: The Allens had “intruded upon the seclusion” of the Zonises, but they found that no harm had resulted. When the amounts awarded to the Allens were totaled, they added up to $8.9 million. It was a record for a cyberharassment case that didn’t involve a celebrity. The jury “didn’t believe it was trivial anymore,” Van Engelen said with satisfaction.

AFTER THE TRIAL was over, the Allens and some of the jurors had the chance to meet outside the courtroom. One of the jurors came up to Courtney, gave her a hug, and said, “You’ve been through so much.” Neither the Allens nor their lawyers expect to actually see the award money, but that moment in the hallway felt just as valuable.“The fact that other people can see it, and they see the crazy in it, helps me feel that I’m not insane,” Courtney said later. The Allens’ deepest hope, though, remained simple: that the harassment would stop.For more than a month after the trial, it seemed they would get their wish. Then one afternoon Courtney logged on to her computer and found a new email. It read, “pun ish men t w ill soo n b han ded out to the wic ked. you rti me is sho rt. mis sin g fam ily we wil lno t. pri ce for act ion to be pai d y et it is.” More emails followed. Courtney felt a mixture of dread and exhaustion. It wasn’t over. “I’d love nothing more than for us to be left alone,” she says. “Do I expect that to happen? No. I expect this to be in our lives, in some capacity, forever.”

At the time this story went to press, law enforcement had not yet indicated whether criminal charges would be filed. Gary Ernsdorff, of the King County prosecutor’s office, allowed that he kept an eye on the case. Cyberharassment, especially with private images, “is dropping a bomb in somebody’s life,” he said.

After the trial Zonis filed a notice of appeal. He felt the trial was unfair and that the proceedings hadn’t paid enough attention to what he believed the Allens had done to him. His losses, he said, were real and numerous (to the list he added what he considered stress-­induced health problems), while the Allens’ were petty, just “flash” from a “hot-­button issue.” He still denied that his relationship with Courtney was an affair or that he had access to the videos of her or sent the anonymous emails. He also said, in a phone interview, “Anything that I said or did was reactionary” and “If they wanted me to plead guilty to harassment, no problem. What am I harassing them about?”

Soon after the trial, a blog appeared in Zonis’ name. In it he questioned the way the trial was run, disputed its findings, excoriated the people involved, and posted much of the same evidence against Steven that the lawyers discredited at trial. “My name is Todd Zonis and I lost my family, my home, my future, and probably my life, and while my life may not teach you anything, hopefully my death will,” the blog began. The evidence he posted included the images of Courtney and a note: “Please feel free to download any and all of the materials that I have posted here, and use or distribute them as you see fit.”

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Women vs sexism, one verse at a time – Slam poets with feminist punch #SundayReading

Meet the slam poets who pack quite a feminist punch with their raw and honest words on gender bias and disparity

When 19-year-old Aranya Johar wrote and performed her poem, ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender’ on Women’s Day, she wasn’t expecting it to go viral. Written in half an hour before her board exams, it started on a personal note: Johar recalling the misogyny of a boy telling her that men didn’t want to hear about “vaginas bleeding”. Yet, its focus on everyday sexual objectification, violence against women and male privilege struck a chord with many across the world.

Since then, the original video of the performance has been viewed over 4.8 million times on YouTube and Facebook. Johar is part of a new generation of female poets who are using spoken word poetry to start conversations about gender disparity and sexism. They are helped by social media platforms like Instagram, You-Tube and Facebook, which amplify their voices and reach, as well as local groups such as UnErase Poetry, Kommune India, Airplane Poetry Movement and Delhi Poetry Slam. “We are forcing people to include us in a conversation that’s been avoided for far too long,” says Johar, who’s been performing in Mumbai since she was 11.

Even before online fame, spoken word poetry has been seeing a gradual but steady rise in female voices over the last four years. “It is mostly because this setting — the performer fearlessly on stage, and an active audience listening — has just one rule: no judgement,” says Mumbai-based Nandini Varma, founder of Airplane Poetry Movement.

The trend in spoken word poetry is also a reflection of the cultural moment we live in, where conversations around everyday sexism are finally a part of the mainstream. Freddie Storm, creative director at Delhi Poetry Slam, says she’s noticed many women poets writing about patriarchal constructs of society, and ways to overcome it. “It inspires other women who have had similar experiences in life to come out and speak openly in a non-judgmental and safe environment,” she feels.

This also encourages poets who are starting out, says 21-year-old Diksha Bijlani from Delhi, who won India’s first collegiate competition, National Youth Poetry Slam, in 2016. “I started with much lighter poems but having a safe space to be heard helped me overcome the apprehension of not being supported, and call out personal problems like my family policing what I wore,” she says.

Delhi Poetry Slam sees participation from homemakers who use the stage to talk about their isolation, and college students who perform poems on feminism because they are taking classes on gender studies. “Recently, a girl spoke about being raped as a child by her uncle and after her performance, many women in the audience recounted similar experiences. It was horrific but real,” says Storm. She adds that spoken word poetry is increasingly being used for other kinds of activism, including addressing religious and class bias and caste issues.

These raw and honest poems talk about everything from menstruation stigmas and being reminded that you’re of “marriageable age” to suffering from depression and the concept of consent. “The best part of the poetry scene in India is that women don’t feel the need to create their own exclusive space,” says actor and anchor Priya Malik, a familiar face on Mumbai’s poetry circuit. “We’re a bunch of artists who support and encourage one another regardless of gender.” Performed in September, Malik’s viral free verse poem Right to Pleasure — on consent, choice and pleasure is addressed to both men and women. “Being a woman is like being at war your entire life, regardless of where you’re born or which social strata you belong to,” Malik says. “Right to Pleasure sprang from that war zone.”

Spoken word poetry can often make feminism more accessible with its immediacy helping the poet establish an emotional connection with the audience. “Women poets are adapting poetry to seek a voice that talks about issues pertinent to women,” Malik says. “I believe that words can shift dynamics and ultimately lead to societal change.”

Ironically, the reactions to Johar’s ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender’ only validated the point that it was making. “I got a lot of death threats and rape threats after the poem went viral. Even recently, there were memes that slut-shamed me,” Johar says. “Yet, I feel like this doesn’t matter because so many women shared it and talked about how they were assaulted and wrote to me with their stories,” adds Johar, all set to take on more taboos.

Dear men, ask us about our choices Ask us for our consent Ask us about our clitoris and our collarbones And before you even try to touch us Ask us how we touch ourselves

—Priya Malik


Not just me, my mother, sisters, friends, all quicken their pace post 8.30 in the evening. My mom telling me to wear skirts out less often. Nirbhaya and more, left forgotten. We don’t want to be another of India’s daughters, do we? So I wear my jeans long and wear my tops high. Don’t show my cleavage or a hint of my thighs. Don’t want to be mistaken for wanting it. Cause if I wear less, I’m more than just flaunting it, I’m risking it. Risking not my virginity, but my life.


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Gender discrimination thriving in Uttarakhand #Vaw

The hill state of Uttarakhand is largely the result of a struggle lead by women who fought for a separate state that was carved out of Uttar Pradesh on 9 November, 2000, just about 17 years ago and when we had just ‘celebrated’ the State Foundation Day, it would be pertinent to look at the prevailing status of women in the state.

It will be pertinent to look at the status of women in Uttarakhand as they have always been at the forefront of any struggle to secure people’s rights; be it fighting the colonial regime over their forest rights that ultimately culminated into the formation of van panchayats, the famous Chipko Movement, or anti-alcohol or anti-mining movements that continued till date.

Although considered as the backbone of the state’s economy, they are under heavy work pressure, especially in the hills, where besides taking care of almost all household chores, they fetch biomass, fuelwood and water and except ploughing, carry out almost all other farming activities, but don’t have the status of farmers and have little say in marketing the farm produce.

And, men plough the fields as the earth is considered a female and ploughing means making it fertile, so it is a taboo for women, since it the ‘sacred duty’ of men to make a woman fertile!

Hence, it is pertinent to look at the prevailing status of women, without whose struggle and sacrifice, the very existence of Uttarakhand wasn’t possible.

As per the figures of 2011 census, there were 963 women per 1,000 men in Uttarakhand, making it better that the all-India figure as gender ratio in the country was a low 939. But, when we look at the child gender ratio (below five), it was a shocking 908. Clearly, gender discrimination prevails in the length and breadth of this hill state and despite of the PNDT Act that had made the revelation of the foetus’s sex in an ultrasound test of a pregnant woman, this is observed more in breach than in strict observance and many unscrupulous doctors must be happy to reveal it for a few thousand rupees!

Even if we look at the overall gender ratio, it was highest in a hill district: Almora, where it was 1142, followed by Rudraprayag, where it was 1120, then 1103 in Pauri Garhwal. Except in Uttarkashi, where it was 959, it was well above 1,000 in all hill districts. In plain districts, the picture was reverse. In the capital, Dehradun, it was just 902 and in Haridwar, it was much worse, at 879. Even in two plain districts of Kumaon Division-in Nainital and Udham Singh Nagar, it was 933 and 919 respectively.


Why is it so? Is it because hill people love girl child and sustain them? After all, all laborious tasks are performed by women in the hills, so they must be valuing their daughters!

Or, is it because a very high degree of male out-migration both within and outside the state? To Dehradun, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar and plain areas of Nainital within Uttarakhand and to cities like Delhi and Lucknow where most hill men rush to eke out a living, often doing menial jobs and daily-wage labours?


Instances like a recent incident in Panuanaula area in Almora district where a man was arrested for marrying off his minor daughter and widely prevailing incidents of female infanticides in Garhwal hill districts are enough to tell the tale!

How the hill men take care of their women is clear when we look at its Fertility Rate which was Fertility Rate of 3.6 in 2006, when the national figure was 2.7; meaning an average hill woman bears a child in her foetus 3.6 times in her life, facing avoidable risks every time she becomes a mother. Little wonder, Uttarakhand is cursed with a higher Maternal Mortality Ratio at 440 in 2006, which is significantly higher than the National average of 254.

This is the high time when we make women the torch-bearers of change again as we have just entered into the 18th year of its existence as a separate hill state of the country, as without women who  have always fought to secure their rights over the natural resources like water, land and forest because their survival and livelihoods depend on the proper management and sustainable harvesting of these resources and the very establishment of this separate hill state, are still treated as a second class citizens, deserve a state of their dreams that’s still a far-cry.


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India – By Age 22, 50% Of Women Stay Home Or Are Married

Vipul Vivek, SONY DSC

Students walk in a street in Sanjeeva Reddy Nagar, Hyderabad’s IT skills training hub. Not only were fewer women training themselves for the labour market, far more women were married by age 22 in 2016 than men, according to a longitudinal study.


While three out of four men headed to work, about one in two women stayed at home by age 22 in undivided Andhra Pradesh, according to the preliminary findings (herehere and here) of an ongoing global longitudinal study of childhood poverty.


Not only were fewer women training themselves for the labour market, far more women were married by age 22 in 2016 than men, according to research by Young Lives India–the India chapter of Young Lives, a study of childhood poverty funded by the University of Oxford, UK–in undivided Andhra Pradesh since 2002.


These data lend weight to other studies that show Indian women are at a significant and possibly widening disadvantage. Gap between men and women has widened on political empowerment, healthy life expectancy and basic literacy, resulting in India slipping 21 places to 108 in 2017 from 87 in 2016 on the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum, FactChecker reported on November 3, 2017.


If the number of women who quit jobs in India between 2004-05 and 2011-12 were a city, it would, at 19.6 million, be the third-most populated in the world, after Shanghai and Beijing, IndiaSpend reported on August 5, 2017.


While only 73 or 16% of 459 women aged 22 were enrolled in education and training in the Young Lives sample, 115 or 26% of 435 men were enrolled. While only 11% men were married at 22, 56% of women were married by that age in 2016.


By community, dalits (70%) had the highest share of 22-year-olds employed in 2016. By wealth, at 81%, the poorest third households had the highest share employed at 22 in 2016.


Source: Young Lives India


India’s female labour force participation rate, at 24%, was below the world average of 39% in 2016, according to World Bank data. India was ranked 172 among 185 nations for which data were available.


Indian women are increasingly dropping out of the workforce for various reasons including unsafe workplaces and stigma attached to working women, according to the ongoing IndiaSpend series on why fewer women are working (see hereherehereherehere and here).


By 2025, India will need 2.5-3 million more skilled workers, according to this June 2017 report from the McKinsey Global Institute.


Among 24% youth aged 22 who signed up for skills training along with their formal education in 2016, two-thirds were undergoing training without certification. Only 10% men and 7% women were pursuing training with certification.


Youth who pursued training with certification was the highest among other castes (11%), top wealth households (12%) and urban locations (9%).


Among the 209 or 11% ‘persistently poor households’–stuck among the poorest third from 2002 to 2016–in the sample of those aged 15 in 2016, scheduled tribes had the largest share at 43.5%. Of 1,882 households, 203 or 97% persistently poor households were in rural areas.


Dashboard 1-49

Source: Young Lives India
Note: Persistently poor households are those that remained the poorest third from 2002 to 2016


Malnutrition is down to 28% among those aged 15 in 2016 from 36% in 2009. Among scheduled castes, 37.5% youth aged 15 were stunted in 2016 as against 17% among other castes.


Source: Young Lives India
Note: Stunting is defined as percentage of children shorter than the median child for an age group and gender


(Vivek is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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Shimla ex-SP held for ‘cover up’ in custodial death of rape suspect #Vaw

DW Negi, who is considered to be close to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, was part of the special investigation team constituted to solve the Kotkhai schoolgirl’s rape and murder case.

Former Shimla superintendent of police DW Negi.
Former Shimla superintendent of police DW Negi.(HT File Photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested DW Negi, former superintendent of police Shimla, for an alleged “cover-up” in the custodial death of a suspect in the Kotkhai schoolgirl’s rape and murder case. He was picked up by the CBI team Thursday afternoon.

The former SP was produced in a local court and sent to police remand till November 20.

Negi, who is considered to be close to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, was part of the special investigation team (SIT) constituted to solve the case.

The former police chief was removed from his post and transferred to the state anti-corruption and vigilance bureau, after Suraj, a Nepalese national and a suspect in the Kotkhai rape and murder case, was found dead in custody. The death had sparked violent protests across the district, with a mob even torching the Kotkhai police station.

After the CBI took over the probe on July 22, its officials began looking for clues to solve the mystery behind the death of the Nepalese labourer, who, according to the police, had died following a scuffle with another co-accused, Rajender Singh aka Raju, a pick-up van driver.

The CBI officials scanned call details of more than 100 cellphones and confiscated phones of more than 50 people, including that of Negi.

The officials detected some frequently used numbers after Suraj’s death on July 19. Sentry Dinesh Kumar’s confessions proved vital in the arrest of inspector general of police Zahur Zaidi, who headed the SIT probing the rape and murder case.

Dinesh had reportedly recorded a telephonic conversation he had with the police officer before and after Suraj’s death.

On Wednesday, the CBI had filed an application seeking the court’s approval to conduct a voice sample test of eight officers, including of Zaidi, who were arrested for the death.

Others arrested include DSP Manoj Joshi, SI Rajinder Singh, ASI Deep Chand Sharma, and head constables Surat Singh, Mohan Lal, Rafiq Ali and Ranjit Singh on August 29. Their custody was extended for a day.

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Haryana man kills wife for denying sex #WTFnews

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What a lesser-known Shakespeare play can tell us about Harvey Weinstein #Vaw

Measure for Measure at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2015.
 Marc Brenner

“It was another time.” “People didn’t care about harassing women until now.” “He’s an old dinosaur learning new tricks.” As more and more publicly influential men continue to fall from grace as a result of sexual harassment accusations, one of the most common excuses for their actions is that it was different back then.

Defenders of Harvey Weinstein, of Roman Polanski, or of Roy Moore often use temporal moral relativism as an excuse. Sure, they admit, nowadays, women are so sensitive about these things. But they treat consciousness of sexual harassment as a uniquely post-feminist phenomenon: the result of politically correct brainwashing.

But all too often, many critics of feminism can be as ahistoric as the “left” they despise, imagining a past blissfully bereft of any potential for sexual misconduct, in which no woman would ever think to “speak up” because nothing was worth speaking up against. But that era did not exist.

I was reminded of this last week at the Public Theater, at Elevator Repair Service’s production of Measure for Measure, one of Shakespeare’s most perplexing — and powerful — plays.

To understand how long #MeToo has been going on, just read Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure was written around 1604. It still may be one of the most relevant plays ever written about sexual harassment and abuse against women, and the stakes for women who speak up about it. It takes place in (an almost totally fictionalized version of) 16th-century Vienna, a city, according to Shakespeare, full of sexual licentiousness.

In Shakespeare’s Vienna, laws against premarital sex were technically on the books, but nobody enforced them. That is, until the duke decides that somebody should crack down. Not wanting to take the heat of being that somebody, he puts his morally upright deputy, Angelo, in charge and announces he’s leaving town (though he actually disguises himself as a friar and watches the goings-on from within the city walls).

Angelo immediately arrests Claudio, a young but dimwitted man who has gotten his fiancée pregnant, making it impossible for him to deny his crime. Angelo sentences Claudio to death in order to make an example of him. Enter Isabella, Claudio’s sister, who is about to enter a nunnery. She pleads with Angelo for Claudio’s life. Deeply attracted to her, Angelo counters with a proposition: If she sacrifices her virginity to him, he’ll spare her brother’s life.

Isabella is outraged. She threatens to tell somebody, to reveal Angelo’s corruption. But Angelo counters with a gut punch of a line: “Who will believe thee, Isabel?”

The line is all the more striking because of its simplicity. Angelo has spent the past five minutes obliquely hinting at his desires, seducing her into thinking she has a real chance to save her brother, to imply what he wants her to do without having to face up to the fact that Angelo is basically threatening to kill her brother if she doesn’t sleep with him.

But this, this, he can be crystal clear on.

He reminds her that because of his status, his word means more than hers. It’s a “he said/she said” with an obvious winner: “My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life.”

Angelo knows the sheer act of coming forward will impugn Isabella’s virtue. Even if she doesn’t sleep with him, she’ll have lost her reputation.

Righteousness can go too far — for both Angelo and Isabella

Isabella’s righteous anger — often swallowed by necessity, to be sure, but nonetheless ever-present — drives the rest of the plot. While much of Measure for Measure is complicated, convoluted, and often psychologically difficult to parse, it also reads in part as a meditation on the power, and limits, of women’s justified moral anger.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Isabella’s next big scene, in which she tells her imprisoned brother to prepare for death, informing him she could save him but won’t. It’s a seemingly cruel gesture; one wonders why Isabella feels the need to tell him about Angelo’s offer, since she’s already decided to refuse him.

As with so much of Shakespeare, her motivations are left open to interpretation. Does she feel the need to be totally honest? Does she want his forgiveness?

I choose to believe, instead, that Isabella is angry. “More than our brother,” she says to herself earlier, after hearing Angelo’s offer, “is our chastity.” The our is key here. Isabella is speaking for herself, but also implicitly for all women who are expected to bear the burden of men’s sexual misconduct.

Angelo’s sin is far worse, of course, but now we see Claudio’s in a new light: He can’t keep it in his pants, so Angelo doesn’t want to keep it in his pants, so Isabella must suffer. Is she making Claudio suffer too, getting some unconscious revenge on him that she cannot get on Angelo? Or is she testing Claudio’s reaction? Her fury when Claudio asks her to sleep with Angelo to save his life suggests she might have been. “O faithless coward!” she tells Claudio. “O dishonest wretch! Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?”

Isabella is sick and tired of men avoiding responsibility for their actions, and in this scene she lets herself go, telling her brother it’s better someone so shameful will die quickly. “I’ll pray a thousand prayers for thy death,” she cries, “No word to save thee.”

This scene — the exact midpoint of the play — is powerful because we are simultaneously proud of and repulsed by Isabella here. On the one hand, she has every right to be furious. Men’s very existence, it seems, is predicated on a system in which women are used and abused. On the other hand, Isabella’s anger punishes Claudio, who might be a bit weak, a bit of a coward, but who hardly deserves to have his sister celebrating the prospect of his death.

Watching the scene in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein accusations, I found myself instinctively rejoicing in Isabella’s choice. But I also found myself sympathizing with stupid, cowardly Claudio, who really hasn’t done anything wrong except impregnate the woman he intended to marry.

It’s easy, especially in the post-#MeToo world, to sympathize with Isabella’s plight — plenty of women I know, myself included, respond to each new public accusation of sexual misconduct with joking-but-not-really-joking misandry, or comments about “banning all men.” But what Shakespeare does so well is present us with an Isabella who’s totally right (a lot of the men in Vienna are terrible!) and who also, through her rage, is perpetuating the same uncompromising black-and-white worldview that got Claudio arrested in the first place.

Measure for Measure shows us how we lie to ourselves about our actions

The story might have ended there — a woman refusing to let any man renege on his responsibilities. But there’s a deus ex machina.

The disguised duke, who has overheard all of this, comes up with a plan with Isabella. Angelo has a jilted fiancée, Mariana, who still loves him. Isabella should agree (says the Duke, who machinates the rest of the plot) to sleep with Angelo under cover of darkness. Mariana will take Isabella’s place, claiming her rightful status as Angelo’s wife. Angelo will release Claudio. Everybody wins.

The plan goes off without a hitch. But Angelo, ashamed by the hypocrisy of his actions but unwilling to risk a potential witness speaking out against him — orders Claudio killed anyway. (The duke conspires to save him without Angelo or Isabella’s knowledge.) Shakespeare gives him a powerful, revealing soliloquy in which he tries to dissociate himself from what he has done: “This deed unshapes me quite, makes me unpregnant / And dull to all proceedings. A deflower’d maid! / And by an eminent body that enforced / The law against it!”

The irony is overwhelming. That eminent body is, of course, his own. And even as he is unpregnant — distracted — the woman he believes he raped could yet bear his child. But we feel for him too: In Angelo’s desire to hide from himself (let alone the world) the reality of what he has done, the play never suggests that Angelo is a total hypocrite — he seems to really believe in the principles of sexual morality he tries to enforce. He’s just weak, too weak to realize that he is not the exception to the rules he makes for others. He is, in other words, totally human.

The play’s tensions come to a head in its final scene before the court. Isabella (not realizing her brother is alive) confronts Angelo before everyone: “Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak / That Angelo’s forsworn; is it not strange? That Angelo’s a murderer; is ‘t not strange? / That Angelo is an adulterous thief / An hypocrite, a virgin-violator / Is it not strange and strange?” Strange, of course, it isn’t — indeed, what we and Shakespeare alike know is that his behavior is all too normal. But it takes Isabella’s courage to bring it all to light. At first, nobody believes her. But then Mariana comes forward to corroborate her story — and tell her own.

There’s a great little moment when she does so. Mariana, masked at first, is asked whether she is a “maid” (virgin), a wife, or a widow. She denies all of these. An onlooker is confused. “Why, you are nothing then: neither maid, widow, nor wife?” Outside the boundaries of these prescribed social roles, Mariana is “nothing” — with no legal or moral status. And Angelo tries to discredit her too, by impugning her reputation: He left her, he says, because he believed she was promiscuous. When that fails, Angelo tries another tactic familiar to women everywhere: He suggests that Isabella and Mariana have been put up to their accusations for political reasons.

And indeed, it’s only once the duke reveals himself and his plan that anyone actually believes both women.

The play’s ending is complicated and bittersweet. Isabella, whose anger has driven so much of the plot, is forced to show mercy to Angelo, reversing her earlier willingness to let Claudio die for his sins. It’s hard to watch — we want Angelo punished and killed. But it also makes sense as a kind of redemption arc for Isabella, who has gone from someone who rejoices in her brother’s impending death to someone more tolerant of human frailty.

Meanwhile, the duke — who has cruelly let Isabella think her brother is dead in order to test the moral purity of her reaction, just as she has done to Claudio earlier — announces to Isabella he would like to make her his wife. Isabella never answers, and different productions interpret her silence differently. But in a play that is all about women’s voices — quieted, disbelieved, and disregarded — her silence speaks volumes.

It’s not a particularly satisfying ending. Isabella doesn’t get revenge. She’s probably going to have to marry a man who let her think her brother was dead in order to test her. Angelo’s only “punishment” is to marry Mariana. The duke returns to power, seemingly insensible to the lives he has almost ruined by his irresponsibility (remember: none of this would have happened had the duke been willing to enforce his crackdown himself). But it’s an ending in which all characters, heroes and villains alike, are humanized and forced to confront the aftermath of their actions, and live on together in the imperfect world they have collectively made.

Measure for Measure is a “problem play” for today

What makes Measure for Measure both timeless and timely is that it engages meaningfully with Isabella’s anger, even as it recognizes its limits. Isabella should be angry (at one point, she threatens to tear out Angelo’s eyes), but at the same time, her anger blinds her to the point of welcoming her brother’s death. As unsatisfying as it is to see Isabella forgive Angelo — albeit for the sake of another woman — it’s also, perhaps, the right thing to do. Isabella is human and a little flawed, and Angelo is human and deeply flawed. Measure for Measurechallenges us to recognize both their flaws and their humanity.

The play invites us to recognize that the world around us is full of Angelos who lie to themselves, and Claudios who are cowards, and Marianas who enable the abusive behavior of the men they love, and Isabellas who are blinded by their righteous rage and let it hurt those they love. It rightly condemns Angelo’s behavior, alongside the hypocritical society that lets him get away with it, even as it contends with the fact that, ultimately, Isabella’s harassment is part of a much wider issue: human beings constantly falling short of the standards they set for themselves, and those in power being able to fall short with impunity. The true sexual immorality of Vienna turns out to be rooted not in sensuality, but in hypocrisy.

This play serves as an important reminder that, despite some people’s idealized narrative of the “pre-women’s lib” past, people were still grappling with the injustice of sexual misconduct. Shakespeare knew that sexual harassment is made possible by sexual hypocrisy: that harassed women are rarely believed, that women are only allowed to be wives, widows, or virgins, and this is what makes it so easy to make them victims.

Hell, even Angelo — despite his misdeeds — knows this. He just lies to himself to justify his actions.

So when “dinosaurs” and their defenders act like the abuse of sexual power is a thoroughly modern invention, that feminists “invented” sexual harassment, I would like to invite them all to take a seat — and watch a few hours of Shakespeare.

Sure, we may today have different terminologies to describe what Angelo does to Isabella: We have, as Shakespeare did not, the language of rape culture, of patriarchy, of sexual harassment, of consent.

But, to paraphrase another Shakespeare play, that’s just the human condition by any other name.

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Man Throws Acid on Wife, Both Constables in UP Police #WTFnews

A police constable allegedly threw acid on his wife, who is also a constable in the UP Police. According to the wife, Sumesh, her husband Harshvardhan had filed for a divorce previously and on Wednesday, asked her to meet him in the evening to have a conversation. On their way to a place in Raisati, Harshvardhan stopped the bike and seeing no traffic on road he threw acid on her, reports Times of India.

Harshvardhan, however, alleges that Sumesh threw the acid on herself. Both constables are deputed in Sambhal District.

Harshvardhan and Sumesh had married in 2014. Going by Sumesh’s statement, TOI reports that tensions between the couple escalated when she gave birth to their twin daughters.

A UP-based police constable allegedly threw acid on his wife, who is also a constable.
A UP-based police constable allegedly threw acid on his wife, who is also a constable.
(Photo courtesy: ANI)


Everything was fine until the birth of my twin daughters. However, I was shocked to see the change in behaviour of my husband and in-laws but I tried my best to make things better. Now, I live with my two daughters in a different house after my husband sought divorce.
Sumesh said in her statement, as reported by TOI


A case has been registered against the police constable in question, and investigations are underway. 
A case has been registered against the police constable in question, and investigations are underway. 
(Photo courtesy: ANI)


A case has been registered against Harshvardhan and investigations are currently underway, reports ANI. The SHO has said that constable Harshvardhan has been booked under Sections 498, 326A and 377 on the basis of complaint filed by his constable wife.


As the matter is related to family court, we can’t arrest the accused until a case is lodged under Section 307. Meanwhile, department enquiry has been set up against both husband and wife.
SHO of UP Police, as reported by TOI

Sumesh is currently out of danger, doctors have confirmed.

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Delhi – Journalist molested at Metro station , accused arrested #Vaw

25-year-old journalist molested at Metro station in Delhi, accused arrested

Representative Image

New Delhi: A 25-year-old journalist, and another woman, were molested by a man at a Metro station in New Delhi on Monday evening, following which the accused was arrested on Thursday, police said.

The incident occurred at ITO Metro Station premises in central Delhi on Monday when the accused, identified as Akhilesh Kumar, in an inebriated state, allegedly molested the two women and passed lewd comments, police said.

“By the time the victims informed the police, Akhilesh Kumar had fled. During investigation, five teams of police interrogated over 5,000 persons on Tuesday and Wednesday and finally traced Kumar,” news agency IANS quoted Deputy Commissioner of Police Pankaj Singh.

However, according to reports, the journalist had to go through further trauma following the incident after the CISF personnel present at the Metro station made her to wait for more than an hour at the Control Room before filing the complaint.

In fact, when Times Now reached the ITO Metro to report on the case, the CISF personnel at the station heckled and manhandled the crew.

Meanwhile, the police said yesterday that Akhilesh Kumar was arrested from his residence based on a tip-off following a raid conducted by police teams in a slum area near ITO, where he lives. Kumar is said to be working as a help in a tea stall in the area.

(With IANS inputs)

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