May 10, 2018
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Spotify has joined the #MuteRKelly movement.

The music streaming service told Billboard on Thursday that R. Kelly's music would no longer be included on any playlists, in an effort to "reflect our values."

Kelly has been accused of sexually assaulting and abusing several women and teenage girls over the span of multiple decades, and the allegations have inspired many in the industry to launch a campaign called #MuteRKelly. The campaign is encouraging industry leaders to cut ties with the R&B singer, and it has picked up momentum on social media. Kelly has denied all allegations against him.

Spotify has removed R. Kelly's music from all curated playlists as well as algorithmic playlists, which pull music for a user based on their listening history. "His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it," Spotify told Billboard in a statement. "When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator." The new policy was reportedly designed to disassociate from artists who engage in "egregious" conduct, but will leave music on the service to avoid "censoring content."

So far, Kelly is the only artist specifically cited by the company as being affected by the policy. Read more at Billboard. Summer Meza

May 7, 2018

More than 1,400 Southern Baptist women — and counting — have signed an open letter calling for the resignation of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) President Paige Patterson because of "the dangerous and unwise counsel given by Dr. Patterson to women in abusive situations" and video of a sermon in which he "objectif[ies] a teenage girl and then suggest[s] this as behavior that is biblical."

The controversy was sparked by two recordings of Patterson's comments that first came to broad attention last week. In an audio clip from 2000, he describes advising a woman in a physically abusive relationship to remain in her dangerous situation and respond only by praying for her husband. Patterson said the woman returned with two black eyes and "said: 'I hope you're happy.' And I said, 'Yes ... I'm very happy,'" because the abusive husband chose to attend church for the first time after seeing his wife pray for him.

The second recording is a video from 2014 in which Patterson recounts seeing a "built" 16-year-old girl and endorsing teenage boys' objectification of her as "biblical."

"This pattern of discourse is unbefitting the sober, wise, and sound character required of an elder, pastor, and leader," the open letter says. "We declare that Jesus is nothing like this ... We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson's past remarks. No one should."

A number of prominent Southern Baptists have endorsed the letter's aim. Ed Stetzer, a Southern Baptist professor, author, and editor of Christianity Today, documented a longer list of Patterson's inappropriate comments and urged him to retire. The Southern Baptist Convention is the United States' largest Protestant denomination.

Patterson, meanwhile, has refused to back down, telling The Washington Post he can't "apologize for what I didn't do wrong." Bonnie Kristian

May 4, 2018
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R. Kelly's list of of accusers just got longer.

Two women came forward with allegations of the singer's abuse in a BuzzFeed News report published Friday.

Kelly, whose full name is Robert Kelly, has been accused of sexually assaulting and abusing several teenage girls and women over the span of multiple decades. Lizzette Martinez and a woman identified only as Michelle detailed their experiences to BuzzFeed News, alleging that Kelly used coercion and physical abuse to keep a hold on the young women he dated.

Martinez claims that Kelly physically abused her during a four-year relationship that began when she was 17 years old in the 1990s, when Kelly was 28. Michelle spoke of her daughter, identified as "N," who is allegedly being "brainwashed" to stay in Kelly's "cult." Michelle says that Kelly started dating "N" when she was 16, and that he won't let her contact her family anymore.

In a Friday statement to The Associated Press, Kelly denied the allegations, claiming that they were "perpetuated by the media" in an "attempt to distort my character."

The latest allegations come just days after the Time's Up movement began a campaign to "Mute R. Kelly." Advocates are pushing for industry leaders to cut ties with the R&B singer over his abuse allegations, and calling for people to boycott his music. In response to the demand for a criminal investigation, Kelly released a statement calling the campaign an "attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza

May 4, 2018

A number of women in the literary community came forward Friday to accuse Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse, The Grapevine reports.

Author Zinzi Clemmons tweeted that when she was a grad student, Díaz "corner[ed] and forcibly kiss[ed]" her, adding: "I'm far from the only one he's done this [to]." Author Monica Byrnes recalled sitting next to Díaz at a dinner when she "disagreed with him on a minor point. He shouted the word 'rape' in my face to prove his. It was completely bizarre, disproportionate, and violent." Author Carmen Maria Machado also tweeted allegations about Díaz, who she says ranted at her "for 20 minutes" during a Q&A when she raised questions about the "unhealthy, pathological relationship" the protagonist of his book, This Is How You Lose Her, has with women.

In April, Díaz wrote an essay for The New Yorker grappling with the trauma of being raped as a child and "the hurt I caused" in the intervening years. Jeva Lange

April 26, 2018
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A Pennsylvania jury on Thursday found comedian Bill Cosby guilty on three counts of indecent aggravated assault.

Cosby had been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting plaintiff Andrea Constand in 2004. The verdict resulted from a retrial, after Cosby's original trial ended in a mistrial last June. Cosby, 80, faces up to 30 years in prison — 10 years per count — and a fine of up to $25,000 for each of the charges, though CNN reports that he could instead see a probationary sentence.

Five additional women besides Constand testified against Cosby during the trial, and dozens more have publicly claimed sexual misconduct by the comedian. Cosby has denied all allegations against him, and CNN reports that he will likely seek to appeal the verdict. Cosby shouted at a prosecutor after the verdict was announced, The Associated Press reports, lashing out during a discussion about whether he should be granted bail. When the district attorney pointed out that Cosby may be a flight risk because he owns his own plane, Cosby yelled, "He doesn't have a plane, you a--hole!"

Cosby's sentencing date has not been set. He will reportedly be out on bail until he is sentenced, but will be required to wear a GPS tracker to ensure that he remains in the state. Summer Meza

April 24, 2018
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Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a leading candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), tells The Wall Street Journal that she was sexually abused by a track coach during her senior year in high school, and that the experience helped shape her life choices. McSally, 52, said that she had taken up running to "escape from the grief of losing my dad" in middle school, and at St. Mary Academy-Bay View, an all-girl Catholic high school in Rhode Island, she placed her trust in a male coach who pressured her into having sex with him.

"It took a while for me to come to a place where I understood what the hell I had been through," McSally told the Journal. "I now understand — like many girls and boys who are abused by people in authority over them — there's a lot of fear and manipulation and shame." The sexual relationship wasn't physically coerced, she added, but "it certainly was an emotional manipulation." McSally said she ramped up her running to shut down her menstrual cycle, because "I was freaking out that he would get me pregnant."

McSally said she chose to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado in part "to get away from him," and she pushed herself in other ways because of the ordeal. She told her family 10 years after the experience, and Rich Robinson, who volunteered at an Arizona Air Force base chapel when McSally was stationed there, told the Journal that she had told him about the alleged abuse by her coach, "and others," in 1994. (McSally also told the Journal she had "similar, awful experiences in the military on the spectrum of abuse of power and sexual assault.") The Journal identified the coach in question, who denied ever having sex with McSally. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

April 2, 2018
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About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men who work for a large federal agency say they have been sexually harassed on the job. And if they wish to formally accuse their harasser and pursue some sort of consequences, they must make their claim quickly and then settle in for a long, difficult adjudication process that will likely stretch on for several years.

In one case highlighted by The Washington Post, a Justice Department attorney named Christy McCormick spent seven years securing a recommendation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for her harassment complaint against two male supervisors. The EEOC found in her favor, but nine years after the harassment happened, she has yet to receive back pay or damages. "I almost gave up numerous times," she said of the process. "They push you so hard to give up."

After experiencing harassment, federal workers must file a claim within 45 days (private sector employees often have up to 300 days). Then they must go through an EEOC probe, which takes 1,300 days (just over three and a half years) on average, a delay that also has serious negative consequences for the falsely accused. When the EEOC does reach a conclusion, it "can only recommend that a harasser be disciplined or fired," the Post reports. "It cannot order action, and agencies are not required to report whether they took any."

Read the full Washington Post report here. Bonnie Kristian

April 2, 2018
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Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) says she will not step down over her handling of her former chief of staff's confirmed harassment and alleged abuse of another staff member.

The chief of staff, Tony Baker, is accused of physically abusing Anna Kain, an Esty aide he once dated. Baker left a voicemail message for Kain telling her, "You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you." She has also alleged in a sworn affidavit he punched her, verbally abused her, and otherwise sexually harassed her. She obtained a restraining order against him and filed a police report alleging felony threats.

Esty was informed of the situation within a week but did not dismiss Baker for three months. When he left, he received $5,000 in severance pay and a positive recommendation from Esty that helped him land a position with Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control advocacy group.

Esty is now under considerable pressure to resign including from within her own party. "The congresswoman failed her staff on every level when she decided to protect an alleged abuser instead of them," said State Sen. Mae Flexer, a leading Democrat in the Connecticut Senate, in a statement Saturday. "It's completely unacceptable. Her failure to do the right thing here hurt us all, especially as more and more women are courageously coming forward. It's time for Rep. Esty to step aside."

Update, 6:12 p.m. ET: On Monday evening, Esty announced on her Facebook page that she will not seek re-election. "It is one of the greatest honors of my life that the people of Connecticut's Fifth District elected me to represent them in Congress," she said. "However, I have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek re-election." Bonnie Kristian

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