NCSF's Incident Reporting & Response was created to provide assistance to individuals and groups within the alternative sexual expression communities. If you engage in SM, fetish, swing or polyamory practices, and are being persecuted or discriminated against because of it, please contact NCSF. If your group or business is being harassed by religious political extremists or if you need help doing outreach to your local law enforcement, please contact NCSF.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF)’s Incident Reporting & Response (IRR) Program uses three primary criteria for taking a case:
Here are a couple of examples of how we can and do help individuals who contact us for help.
NCSF was contacted in February 2009 by a mother in the South Central US. The woman’s parents became aware of her involvement in the BDSM and swing communities and initiated an action with the court to challenge the mother’s fitness as a parent and the custody of her children. An allegation of abuse/neglect was made by the parents with child protective services and an investigation was opened by the state concurrent with the family court awarding temporary custody to the grandparents. The sole basis for the custody challenge was the mother’s consensual adult BDSM and swing interests.
NCSF referred the mother to an attorney in her area who was experienced in working with child protective services (CPS) and those in the alternative communities. We educated the attorney about consensual adult swing and BDSM activities. We provided a referral to a kink-friendly family therapist certified by the court as an expert to do an independent parent/child evaluation. We spoke with the CPS investigator who was initially hostile and successfully convinced her to look at this family’s particulars instead of prejudging the mother as negligent or abusive solely because of her consensual adult interests. As expected, the therapist found that the mother was an excellent parent, that she had not exposed her children inappropriately to adult activities and the best interests of the children would be served by returning full custody back to her. The woman’s attorney advocated for her at the hearing in March 2009, a final determination of custody given by the court was in agreement with the mother, and she got custody back. The child protective services complaint was closed with no finding of abuse or neglect.
In another example, NCSF was contacted by a woman in January 2009 from the Southwest who was attempting to pursue an assault/domestic violence case against her abuser. She was having great difficulty getting her local police department and prosecutors to take her case seriously. She had been involved in consensual BDSM practices in the past with her alleged abuser and as such, the police were dismissive of her complaint. By the time she contacted NCSF, the prosecutor was stalling on moving forward with criminal charges because he didn’t think the case was winnable based on the victim’s prior conduct. The woman contacted NCSF for help, asking us to educate the investigator assigned to her case and the prosecutor’s office. NCSF initiated contact with the victim’s advocacy office assigned to the prosecutor’s office. We provided education and information to the police and prosecutor about consensual adult BDSM activities. Because of NCSF’s involvement, the prosecution moved forward and the abuser ended up accepting a guilty plea.
Unfortunately, due to limited resources the NCSF is only able to take a fraction of the cases that come to us. Many of the complaints we receive do not meet one, or several, of the above criteria. Even under the best circumstances, NCSF can only help a small percentage of those who merit it. All of our work is done by volunteers and we accept no payment for our services.
We are however happy to receive donations earmarked specifically for use in the IRR Program. Click here to donate, Make sure you note "Incident Reporting & Response" or "IRR" in the comment box if you want to restrict your donation. We do provide basic information as resources dictate and referrals to professionals as part of our Kink Aware Professionals database.
The criteria for acceptance listed were developed to meet the primary concerns of our voting constituencies, our Coalition Partners. When the NCSF agrees to take a case the impact can be realized by all of our constituents as a whole and therefore it is up to the policies set in motion by NCSF Coalition Partners to decide whether existing resources allow for a case to be handled effectively.
If you practice BDSM in fully consensual ways, you may still be criminally prosecuted for assault under many laws throughout the U.S. The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities have focused heavily for years on defining “safe, sane and consensual BDSM practices” for practitioners as well as to help the broader public better understand what it is that we do. It was, after all, only in 1994 that the DSM criteria of the American Psychiatric Association changed their categorization of sadomasochism, paving the path for us to do more effective social, legal and political change. Until 1994, BDSM was defined automatically as a mental illness. Prior to 1994, it was difficult to organize effectively to protect and advance our rights as BDSM practitioners. This categorization and long-term societal view of BDSM as a mental illness resulted in severe consequences for many practitioners over the years—loss of child custody and jobs as well as criminal prosecutions. Fortunately for all of us, NCSF was formed in 1997 to work on these issues and to protect and advance our rights.
Although things have certainly improved for us over the years, we still have significant legal, political and societal issues facing us. The majority of us are not “out of the closet”, still fearing the very real threat of being prosecuted or losing our jobs or families. BDSM is still prosecuted criminally as assault, and the legal precedents related to consensual BDSM assault prosecutions are not in our favor. Many of the laws intended to protect victims of domestic violence and rape need to be modified in their application to consensual BDSM activities. The DSM criterion still needs further reform—it is still used against us, and we can still be defined as mentally ill for what it is that we do. And, members of our communities still routinely face ongoing issues of divorce, child custody, job discrimination and even criminal charges.
NCSF has two major national projects aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. First, NCSF has taken charge of the “Consent Counts” initiative that was launched in 2006 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable as the single most important national priority of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. Our goal: to decriminalize consensual BDSM throughout the United States by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. The Consent Counts project is a nationwide education and activism program that includes a comprehensive analysis of current laws and court decisions, the development of legal arguments for changing the laws, participating in court cases, and ultimately, through lobbying, education and grass-roots activism, changing state laws and the way the public and the courts view BDSM.
The other important advocacy project is NCSF’s work to change the DSM criterion so that consensual BDSM will be categorized, not as a mental pathology, but rather as a normal variant. In this effort, we are coordinating research and advocacy and working with recognized experts in the field.
We need your help and support to be successful. You can make a difference. Get involved. Visit www.ncsfreedom.org.
Because your sexual expression...
Raid on iconic Atlanta Eagle bar highlights A.P.D.'s disregard for civil rights, common sense
SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
In protest of the violent raid on the 22-year-old Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, GLBTATL and members of Atlanta's LGBT community (and supporters) will be gathering in front of Atlanta City Hall on Saturday, September 19, at 12:00 p.m.
GLBTATL, made up of members of Atlanta's LGBT community, and our allies are highly concerned with the Atlanta Police Department in their handling of the police action against the Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10, 2009. We believe that no person, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or other aspect, should be treated in the manners alleged in the official complaints. We are further disappointed in the sluggish response from the Atlanta City Council, and particularly with the abject silence of Mayor Shirley Franklin. We join with other local and national groups in calling for an immediate, transparent investigation into the events. Should the allegations of improper police conduct prove true, the offending parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As community leaders, we want it to be understood that our trust in the protection and dedication of Atlanta Police Department officers has been violated.
No community should live in fear of its protectors in law enforcement, whether in Fort Worth, TX (where a similar raid occurred in June at that city's "Rainbow Lounge"), Atlanta, or anywhere in America. As Atlantans, as Americans, and as humans, we demand respect, fairness, and common sense from our law enforcement and our government. We recognize that this issue represents a gross violation of the civil rights, and likely violation of United States Constitution-conferred rights, of Atlanta's citizens. Though as activists we may represent Atlanta's gay community, these events are a pandemic issue of violation of civil, and basic human rights.
LAW ENFORCEMENT METHODS QUESTIONED:
Common sense and precedent form the backbone of American treatment of law towards citizens. If the A.P.D.'s allegations of past illegal acts at Atlanta Eagle are true, we ask why such dramatic measures as occurred on September 10 were necessary. If, as in A.P.D.'s later media statement, permit violations were the reason for the raid, are there not procedures through which the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle could be made aware -- methods that would not have resulted in the violent humiliation, unwarranted personal searches, and possibly illegal background checks performed upon 62 innocent bystanders?
We are all reasonable people and we believe in fair and reasonable action by our law enforcement officials. If their undercover work and actions on September 10 came about as a result of only two questionably factual complaints, why were the owners and management of Atlanta Eagle not made aware of the complaints and offered a chance to remedy the situation? Since neither illegal drugs, nor any serious act of harm in which the business was obviously complicit, were ever found as part of the investigation process , we are hard-pressed to find any justifiable precedent for the behavior of Atlanta Police Officers as described in the official complaints.
In short: Why the raid? Don't we have more important crimes to address? Why not get Atlanta Eagle's owners involved, once the alleged illegal acts were identified?
THIS FAR, AND NO FURTHER:
To concerned citizens, such as GLBTATL, it seems that this police raid was not meant to investigate or deter crime. Rather, it sent a message that the LGBT community, comprising as much as one-eighth of Atlanta's residents*, is second-class and not deserving of the same basic human respect as others. With only a paltry apology issued via the A.P.D. media office, this message of disrespect, a message that can easily turn into hate, has begun to echo throughout the gay community, and Atlanta as a whole.
We must be clear: This far, and no further. The alleged police behavior on September 10 cannot be tolerated again, without truly justifiable cause. Atlanta stands together, to say that we will not be silent until our grave concerns, echoed over the past week by numerous local and national organization and media outlets, are addressed thoroughly. We look forward to a future day when we can rebuild our bridge of trust between Atlanta's LGBT community and Atlanta law enforcement.
STANDING IN PROTEST ON SATURDAY:
On Saturday, September 19, 2009, at 12:00 p.m., concerned Atlantans and others will assemble at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave., Atlanta, Georgia. A small number of speakers will provide statements of either prepared or personal nature, and may be available for media interviews. Based on Internet discussion, we also expect many attendees to be standing in protest during the event.
Media are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 888-452-8285. Calls will be routed directly to the event organizers. Separate interview opportunities may be available, and event organizers are happy to direct media to the appropriate persons.
In 2008, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) again took the lead in defending the rights of individuals and groups in the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities. NCSF's coalition of over 40 educational and social groups is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF's Incident Response team is directed by Director Leigha Fleming. In total, over 500 individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses contacted NCSF for help in 2008. Each incident sometimes required only one or two phone calls, but some evolved into much larger projects.NCSF received 489 distinct inquiries/requests for assistance. 317 required more than one contact/response to resolve, often requiring multiple contacts.
It is difficult to categorize many incident requests as clearly falling into one camp or another. Many overlap in categories. For example, many of our custody/divorce related issues involve at least 2 of our core constituent groups (i.e. SM/leather/fetish and poly for example). In trying to do a statistical breakdown of the requests, we placed it in the category it most clearly matched.
2008 saw an increased number of requests around criminal and domestic violence or SM/abuse related issues. NCSF worked with more than 27 attorneys representing defendants in criminal cases. In addition, we worked with more than 11 district attorneys and prosecutors related to SM issues. The vast majority of these criminal cases revolved around domestic abuse or consensual sex/play issues. There is a clear need for education within our own communities about the role and limits of consent and for education to police authorities about the differences between SM and abuse. Employment related discrimination is increasing as well. The implementation of KAP under NCSF’s administration resulted in fewer requests for referrals because we were able to refer the request to our site. As we improve the KAP administration, and resource, the number of requests for referrals that need to be handled by a person will drop since we’ll be able to refer people to the KAP database. The new administration tools for KAP in our website overhaul will also make the use of this tool much more efficient for both user and professional.
We continue to receive a number of requests for assistance from groups, businesses, and other support organizations who want information about how to operate legally, do law enforcement outreach, file for non-profit status, deal with the media or the press, do hotel/event outreach, or do research around zoning or other legal issues.We also continue to receive requests for assistance involving parents who were engaged in child custody and divorce cases. Parents continue to experience difficulties gaining child custody due to their interest in SM, swing or poly activities. NCSF worked with a number of attorneys representing parents accused of being unfit because of their alternative lifestyle interests. In many cases, because of information we were able to provide, the courts decided that alternative sexual expression alone was not cause to impugn a parent's ability to be a good parent. 2009 incident response statistics are currently being compiled.
As of the end of May 2009, more than 114 distinct requests for assistance have been processed.NCSF is here to help you -- the SM, swing and polyamory communities. If you have a problem with discrimination, persecution, or harassment because of your sexual expression, please call NCSF for assistance. You can submit a request for assistance online or find a Kink Aware Professional (KAP) on our website as well at www.ncsfreedom.org. Emergency contact information is available by calling our office at 410-539-4824, 24 hours per day.Please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!
Guidelines for how to discuss the subject of sex with the news media.
This document offers some simple suggestions on approaches to discussing sex, particularly as it relates to common situations that the executive directors of activist organizations may encounter. It was prepared with input from executive directors about issues affecting them and those knowledgeable about how to deal with GLBT issues surrounding sex effectively.
First, in any situation, it is important to gauge the "intent" of the individual making the comment or asking the question. Is this an ultra-conservative publication, reporter, or politician, or is it someone who is sympathetic to the issues?
Be proactive about introducing the subject first or bringing up "onerous" topics once the subject has been introduced into conversation and it seems likely that the other party is moving to "attack". This takes away the "shock value" the other party has in introducing the topic in an inflammatory manner first. Simply stated, "The best defense is a good offense."
Using direct, confrontational responses to insensitive and inappropriate comments or attacks related to sex and/or sexuality. This is usually best done in an "off the record" conversation with media (when possible, of course), or by taking the conversation "off-line for a minute" with politicians and others. Making the other party feel "small" or embarrassing them for trivializing or minimizing issues of civil rights by sensationalizing sex. This technique is particularly effective in public speaking or live media situations involving inappropriate comments, jokes or attacks.
Disputing the incorrect and faulty research used by the radical right to perpetuate myths. Be very comfortable talking about issues of sex and sexuality and maintain a sense of confidence and sense of humor, which is often helpful in a public discourse on sex.
The pluralist argument: Americans take a pluralistic stance in religious and political choices. We say we believe that each religion has a right to its way of practicing its faith and that each political party has a right to its specific platform and legislative goals. You may think one religion or party is better than another is, but you would never try to have your choice taught in the public schools and imposed by law on everyone. Such a pluralistic approach is considered a fundamental part of our constitutional rights in this country. But in sexuality we don't openly voice our support of sexual standards other than abstinence even when we believe in them. And we are much less tolerant of differences in sexual practices and in ideas about sex.
Discuss "the freedom to love" and "loving relationships", which in normal, healthy relationships includes sex. If this involves a form of alternative sexual expression or non-traditional sex (e.g. anything other than the missionary position), talk about the issue in terms of the right to love the way you want, which includes sex in healthy adult relationships, providing it is consensual and not harmful. Use terms to discuss non-traditional sex such as "recognized as a normal and healthy form of sexual expression."
"He made a pass at me in the bar." Respond with, "What if Matthew Shepherd did make a pass? He didn't deserve what happened. What if every woman in America who had ever been hit on in a bar used this excuse? (Or, in a more confrontational situation that allows an "off the record" conversation "What if Matthew Shepherd did stick his tongue in his ear and put his hand on his crotch, it still doesn't justify his being tortured and killed.")
Once again, refer to this as a false stereotype perpetuated by the radical right with no scientific basis. It is also appropriate to expand this discussion into how even hand holding in public by GLBT partners is often portrayed by the radical right as "overt sexual", even when the activity is a normal and publicly accepted sign of affection in a loving relationship.
Stress that these issues are more about identity than about sex. Also, a transgendered person may be gay, but is at least equally likely not to be gay. Many people are curious about how transgendered people have sex and ask this insensitive question. A good response is, "Just like any one else, but this isn't about sex. It's about the serious discrimination and persecution that persists exactly because of the sensationalistic focus on sex such as questions like this one."
When circumstances arise related to crude jokes or attacks in public related to sex, such as talk shows or public forums, use responses intended to embarrass the other party and change the subject. Use responses like, "I'd like to ask you how you think your inappropriate question/comment made those gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks sitting here with us tonight feel? I'm here to have a dialogue about serious civil rights issues affecting GLBT people, not provide a vehicle for crude entertainment or inappropriate discussions."
It may be useful to begin by saying that these are issues on which many people hold strong and sensitive emotional opinions. But then stress that if we can't discuss sex issues in rational, objective, scientific terms, we leave people in the dark and create health risks and emotional problems and make discrimination and bigotry more likely.
Kink Aware Professionals is a service offered by NCSF dedicated to providing the community with referrals to psychotherapeutic, medical, legal and other professionals who are knowledgeable about and sensitive to diverse expressions of sexuality.
NCSF Board Member