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Victim of false rape claim reveals year of hell behind bars with sex beasts
Exclusive by Janice Burns
A STEEL worker falsely accused of a knifepoint rape feared for his life in a year of hell behind bars.
Shattered Jason Duncan, 22, spoke of his ordeal last night after a jury rejected his accuser's lies in just an hour.
During his year on remand, Jason was beaten and attacked with razor blades, boiling water and spat on after other prison inmates found out that he was charged with rape.
And last night he said the false accusation of rape - made against him and pal Chris Hoey, 20, by a woman he knew - had destroyed his life.
Chris was freed on bail after 10 days but Jason was denied bail until his trial because his accuser insisted she was in fear of him.
He was moved to Glasgow's Barlinnie jail and was only freed earlier this month when both he and Chris were acquitted at their trial.
Jason, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, who also looks after his elderly gran, said: "Being falsely accused of rape is every guy's worst nightmare.
"Then to be thrown in jail for a year with real sex beasts almost pushed me over the edge.
"I will never recover from being treated as a monster and being beaten and abused behind bars. It was the worst year of my life and I am lucky to have survived.
"I will never forgive that woman for what she has done to me. Her lies have destroyed me but she doesn't give a damn."
Upset and shaking as he recalled the nightmare ordeal that will haunt him for the rest of his life, Jason added: "Women who make up rape allegations not only ruin the lives of the guys who are wrongly accused, they are doing a huge injustice to genuine victims.
"It is difficult enough for victims to get rapists into court and get convictions without women like her making things up. It is unforgivable.
"I have great respect for women and I am very close to my mum and gran, who mean the world to me.
"They never doubted I was innocent and neither did my work, who supported me through it.
"They believed me and knew that I could never hurt a woman, but mud sticks and others who don't know me still find it hard to believe I am innocent and think there is no smoke without fire.
"I feel very strongly that genuine rape cases must be reported to the police straight away, but those who lie about it are the lowest of the low and a disgrace.
"I had known this woman for years.
"She invited us up for a drink and a bite to eat after a night out and I didn't think anything of it.
"She was fine when I left but then the next day the police turned up at my house and arrested me. I was then charged with rape and locked up.
"I spent all that time in jail because of her lies. She told police that she feared for her life if I got out because I did know her so I was refused bail."
Jason fears the woman made up the allegations to claim thousands of pounds in compensation.
He added: "The only reason I can think of is that she may have done it for the money - criminal compensation - because it can be paid out before the case even gets to court.
"Her lies have destroyed my life. She was throwing rape allegations about like sweetie wrappers and she didn't give a second thought about the consequences."
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is understood to have made a previous rape allegation against another man but the case did not go to court.
Jason said she invited him and his pal Chris, also from Airdrie, back to her flat after a night out last March.
The following day both men were arrested and charged with raping the woman, who claimed they had broken into her flat and attacked her at knifepoint.
They were banged up in Addiewell prison in West Lothian and suffered abuse and violence at the hands of fellow prisoners after they found out they were on remand for a sex crime.
When Chris was released on bail, Jason was transferred to Barlinnie for his own protection.
Both men were acquitted when a jury took just an hour to return a verdict of not guilty at the High Court in Falkirk earlier this month.
Jason said: "We told the other prisoners that we were in for theft but then they read it in the local paper that we had been accused of rape and our lives turned into hell. We were treated like monsters.
"We constantly received death threats and abuse and they would shout, 'Sex beast' at us. We had to have about 12 prison officers escorting us through the jail at visiting times to protect us because they were trying to attack us and throwing boiling water, razor blades and anything they could find at us.
"We were only allowed out of our cells for 10 minutes a day because our lives were in danger.
"Chris was released on bail after 10 days and I presumed I would get out too but they cuffed me and took me to Barlinnie, then locked me up with all the other sex beasts. I was devastated and thought I had been plunged into a never-ending nightmare.
"I was there for a year and spent every day with some of the worst sex beasts you could imagine. I will never get over it. I even tried to take my own life because it was unbearable.
"I just thank God I had the support of my family and my work or I wouldn't be here today.
"The jury, who were mostly women, saw right through her lies. Nothing she said made any sense and it was obvious she had made it all up.
"When I was first arrested and the police told me what I was alleged to have done I was physically sick. I couldn't believe anyone could be so cruel and sadistic as to have made all that up."
Call centre worker Chris went back to work soon after the court case but is struggling to cope with the aftermath.
He said: "I have found this whole thing impossible to deal with.
"I still cannot take it in. I have never been accused of anything like this in my life.
"I have a real problem with trusting people now and it has made me scared of women. I am going for counselling.
"I hardly knew this woman who accused me of raping her but she has ruined my life.
"For an innocent man to be branded a rapist is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.
"It was a living hell and there are still some folk who think there is no smoke without fire but we did nothing wrong and our innocence was proved."
Jason and Chris are now calling for stricter rules over criminal compensation payouts to alleged rape victims - who receive up to £7000.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority confirmed yesterday no conviction is needed before alleged victims get their cash and their eligibility is assessed on degrees of probability.
A CICA spokesperson said: "If we think it is more likely than not that someone was the blameless victim of a violent crime, we may be able to offer compensation, even if no offender was brought to justice.
"Where we have any evidence of fraud or attempted fraud we report it to the police and co-operate fully. If the police themselves tell us about a fraud, we will seek repayment because a fraud against us is a fraud against the taxpayer."
Are you the victim of false sex allegations? Contact the newsdesk on 0141 309 3251
Baby found in plane’s trash bag
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The plane from Bahrain to Manila was carrying more than 200 passengers, mostly Filipinos. One of them was unmanifested—a newborn baby found inside a plastic trash disposal bag after the aircraft touched down in Manila.
The baby boy was alive and kicking.
A doctor on duty at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) said the boy weighed three kilograms and measured 48 centimeters long.
An investigation has been launched.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which operates the NAIA, said its medical team had named the infant “George Francis.”
The initials GF refer to the code name assigned to Gulf Air, Bahrain’s principal flag carrier, by the International Air Transport Association.
The baby was found on Flight GF-154, which landed at NAIA Terminal 1 at 11:18 a.m.
MIAA media affairs chief Connie Bungag said the boy was immediately given full medical attention, with medical personnel pooling their resources to buy baby clothes, medicines, bottles, and milk for him.
“Apparently, the baby was born on the plane,” she said.
George Francis was later turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which has become his custodian.
Asked by reporters if the boy was “a foreigner,” the duty doctor and pediatrician, Dr. Ma. Theresa Azores, said: “It doesn’t seem so. He looks Filipino.”
According to a report from the MIAA medical office, the aircraft cleaners found the garbage bag containing the baby at the plane’s toilet at around 11:50 a.m.
Not wanting to lose time, Gulf Air security agents Tristan Dimaano and Noel Franco loaded the bag onto a tow truck and rushed the infant to a medical clinic at Terminal 1.
The medical report described the baby as wrapped in blood-stained tissue paper napkins.
The doctors said they first cleaned up the baby’s mouth—and the boy gave a good cry. His breathing and heartbeat were also normal.
Search for mother
The baby was cleaned to prevent infection. He was shown to have healthy pinkish skin, good reflexes and normal testicles.
Doctors injected the baby with Vitamin K and an antibiotic, and applied ointment to his eyes.
The attending doctors were Azores and Dr. Ma. Caridad Ipac-Nuas, airport officials said.
Alfredo Vasquez and Danny Gemarino, MIAA action officers, led the turnover of the baby to a DSWD contingent headed by Maria Lanie Tabios.
The MIAA is tracking the passenger who could have given birth to the boy or could have carried the boy into the plane. An inspection of the plane showed that two adjacent passenger seats had blood smears.
Airport officials said that while they had the name or names of the occupants of the seats, it was also possible that the woman who gave birth might just have transferred to the seat.
Gulf Air officials were not immediately available for comment.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said she was outraged by what happened and would order officials to try to locate the infant’s mother, who could be criminally charged.
Soliman said the baby would be turned over to the mother’s relatives or put up for adoption.
The DSWD said it would ask the police to investigate.
Delia Bauan, DSWD-NCR director, said the investigation would be part of the process for the baby’s possible adoption.
The process includes informing the public of the birth of the boy to gather more information about him.
The baby will be put to foster care “if nobody claims him,” Bauan said.
Under state care
Social welfare and airport officials gave a conflicting guess on when the boy was actually born.
While the MIAA media affairs office said the boy seemed to have been born during the flight, Bauan said the report she received from her staff was that he “was a few days old.”
Bauan said the baby had been taken to the Reception and Study Center for Children run by the department.
“The state will take care of the baby,” she said. With a report from Kristine L. Alave and Associated Press
France will penalize companies that pay women less
(Reuters) - The French government said on Sunday a planned pension reform would penalize companies which pay their female employees less than their male peers, as it steps up a campaign to defend the controversial overhaul. Labour Minister Eric Woerth, the architect of the reform which prompted a national strike earlier this week, rejected criticism that it discriminated against women by forcing them to work longer than male counterparts to gain the necessary years of social security payments.
He said the reform would compensate women who took maternity leave with two year of additional pension payments.
"The problem is not the length of payments as far as women are concerned, the problem is salaries: the wages of women are lower than those men who do the same job," Woerth told Europe 1 radio. "That is an insult to democracy and our social model."
"In the text (of this reform), we have decided to fine companies which differentiate between the salaries of men and women by up to 1 percent of their payroll," the minister said.
Woerth said unions and the opposition Socialist party were deluding voters by saying a planned increase in the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 could be avoided.
The government has said that without an increase in the retirement age, France's pension system will lose 45 billion euros ($57.1 billion) a year by 2020.
France's unions held a national strike on Tuesday and have convened a new protest for September 27 to force changes to the reform, but President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has refused to abandon the rise the pensionable age.
"The French know that we have to reform the pension system," Woerth told Europe 1. "The unions say that we should reform pensions without raising the retirement age, but in all the countries of the world they have done that."
Woerth's defense of his reform has been hobbled by an investigation into his alleged involvement in illegal political funding. On Sunday, he again denied any wrongdoing and said he had no plans to resign, as unions have demanded.
(Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by David Holmes)
Judges ordered to show more mercy on women criminals when deciding sentences
By Steve Doughty
11th September 2010
Judges have been told to treat female criminals more leniently than men when deciding sentences. New guidelines declare that women suffer disadvantages and courts should ‘bear these matters in mind’.
The rules say women criminals often have poor mental health or are poorly educated, have not committed violence and have children to look after.
‘Women’s experiences as victims, witnesses and offenders are in many respects different to those of men,’ according to the Equal Treatment Bench Book.
‘These differences highlight the importance of the need for sentencers to bear these matters in mind when sentencing.’
The controversial advice comes from the Judicial Studies Board, which is responsible for training the judiciary.
In the past, the board has caused upset by suggesting Rastafarians have religious beliefs which allow them to use cannabis.
It has also tried to ban words such as immigrant, asylum-seeker and even West Indian from the courts on the grounds they are offensive.
The latest guidelines have also caused anger, this time among campaigners for male victims of domestic violence.
The Bench Book tells judges that the problem ‘consists mainly of violence by men against women’. It adds ‘the reality is that some of the most physically violent incidents are committed by men on female partners’.
The document also suggests that aggression against men by women is rare, saying that ‘men and partners in same-sex relationships might also be victims of domestic violence’.
However, campaigners for male victims of domestic violence claimed that men are being treated as second-class citizens by the new guidelines.
They also point to analysis of official figures by the Parity campaign group which last week concluded that four out of ten victims of domestic violence were men.
Mark Brooks, of the ManKind campaign group, said: ‘For a document that claims to be about gender equality, it clearly leaves the impression that male victims are seen as being second class when, of course, all should be seen the same.
‘It is unacceptable that men, often suffering in silence at home, are being shown to be second-class victims by those running the legal system.’
He added: ‘To say grudgingly that men might also be victims is sweeping their problems under the carpet, when the Government’s own figures show hundreds of thousands of men every year are suffering.’
The study from Parity based its assessment on Home Office statistics and the British Crime Survey, the measure of crime most trusted by Whitehall.
The campaign group said that the average proportion of domestic violence victims who are men has been 40 per cent.
Updated guidance on how to sentence female criminals was distributed in April in a new section on ‘gender equality’.
It told judges: ‘Women remain disadvantaged in many public and private areas of their life; they are under-represented in the judiciary, Parliament and senior positions
across a range of jobs; and there is still a substantial pay gap between men and women.’
On women accused of crime, the guidance quoted Judge Baroness Hale, the only woman among the 11 at the Supreme Court, who describes herself as a ‘soft-line feminist’.
She said: ‘It is now well recognised that a misplaced conception of equality has resulted in some very unequal treatment for women and girls.’
The rules were prepared by a team headed by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox.
She wrote: ‘It is hardly revolutionary that judges should know of the matters central to the lives of those who attend courts and to aim to provide judges with that knowledge.’
U.S. Senate committee to hold hearing on rape investigations
September 07, 2010|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
Concerned that police departments nationwide fail to fully investigate rapes, a congressional committee will examine the issue next week at a hearing spurred partly by a Baltimore Sun examination of the systemic underreporting of sex crimes.
The Senate Crime and Drugs subcommittee has asked representatives of the Office of Violence Against Women to appear in Washington to discuss the problem, as well as a Pennsylvania woman jailed by police who erroneously accused her of making a false rape report.
The Sun reported in July that Baltimore for years led the nation in the percentage of rape cases in which police concluded that the victim was lying, with more than 3 in 10 cases determined to be "unfounded." Other cities have seen disturbingly high percentages of uninvestigated or dropped race cases in years past, and a women's advocate in Philadelphia pushed for the congressional hearing after the Sun's investigation reignited concerns.
The newspaper's report "made me believe that all of the issues [in other cities] were not just idiosyncratic problems, but that there is likely a chronic and systemic failure in police departments," said Carol E. Tracy, head of the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia. "I think it's important to expose it, and to encourage the federal government, which has very little jurisdiction around this, to nevertheless exercise greater accountability on the data that it does receive."
Tracy's group reviews rape reports marked as unfounded by Philadelphia police. The hearing was authorized by Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Democrat and former prosecutor who heads the Judiciary Committee.
The Sun analysis showed that four out of 10 calls to 911 over a five-year period had not generated a police report, having been dismissed by officers at the scene. Victims have reported being interrogated by detectives about their motives and truthfulness, while others said patrol officers ignored their allegations.
Since the problem surfaced, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered the police department to conduct an audit of rape cases, and a task force of police, prosecutors and victim's advocates last week launched an effort to track down about 100 victims of cases that were labeled "unfounded" since early 2009.
Police have sent officers to training, and changed policies to prohibit patrol officers from not writing reports.
"We have failed sexual assault victims in Baltimore," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told city councilmembers at a City Hall hearing last month. "And we have an enormous amount of work to do with our partners to restore the public trust and confidence."
The Senate hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, will include testimony from Susan B. Carbon, director of the national Office of Violence Against Women; Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsay and a Pennsylvania woman who was imprisoned by police who said she made a false report of rape. A serial rapist later confessed to the crime.
It was not clear whether Baltimore officials were invited to take part in the hearing; a spokesman for Specter did not return calls Tuesday night. Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, is among the legislators who sits on the crime and drugs subcommittee.
"Rape is a very serious crime and should be treated as such. Failure to properly investigate such crimes should never occur; it emboldens would-be perpetrators and discourages victims from stepping forward," Cardin said in a statement Tuesday night, adding that the hearing "is essential to bringing attention to chronic problems within our justice system."
A review of national FBI data shows significant disparities in rates of unfounded rapes. Though most cities have a percentage in the single digits, some, including New York and Cleveland, report zero -- a figure that experts say is just as troublesome as Baltimore's high rate. The FBI does little to monitor the accuracy of reporting.
Baltimore's numbers stand out. The percentage of cases investigated by detectives each year that are deemed unfounded is five times the national average. Only Louisville and Pittsburgh have reported similar numbers in the recent past, and the number of unfounded rape cases in those cities dropped after police implemented new classification procedures.
Meanwhile, rapes have declined 8 percent nationally since 1995, but have tumbled 80 percent in Baltimore.
Baltimore is also one of only two cities in the country, out of more than 270 with a population of 100,000 or more, that records significantly more homicides than rapes. The other is New Orleans, where police have also faced questions. More than half the rape reports there have been classified as noncriminal "complaints," the Times-Picayune reported last year.
The rates of rapes per 100,000 people in Philadelphia and St. Louis -- two cities that were found in recent years to be manipulating rape data and have made reforms -- are more than double that of Baltimore.
In Philadelphia, the Inquirer newspaper showed that thousands of cases had been dumped by the sex crimes unit. Police in 1999 reopened 2,500 cases going back five years, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania; of those, police auditors determined 2,300 were incorrectly handled.
Tracy's Women's Law Project was permitted to review all rape complaints that the department determines are "unfounded," a police term meaning the claim was baseless.
She said she has been collecting information as journalists and advocates in other cities contact her with similar problems.
"Given the apparent prevalence of the mishandling of rape complaints, we are concerned that the FBI is not exercising its auditing responsibilities as it collects and analyzes data," Tracy wrote to Specter in late July.
Women senators have helped shape better laws
Published: Friday, September 10, 2010, 4:28 AM Updated: Friday, September 10, 2010
GRAND RAPIDS -- U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Thursday women may only represent 17 percent of the Senate, but the contingent is powerful and the different perspective has led to better laws.
"Decisions are better when everybody's involved and at the table," said Stabenow, D-Lansing, who kicked-off the Grand Valley State University Women's Center's "Women in Politics" series at the Cook DeVos Center for Health Sciences.
Stabenow, who in 2000 became the first woman from the state to be elected to the U.S. Senate, told about 40 people how women pushed for mandating maternity benefits during congressional health care debate.
She said Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl argued against it and tried to have it removed.
Stabenow recounted how Kyl said "I don't need maternity care" to which Stabenow replied, "I think your mom probably did."
Stabenow said the benefits seemed like a "no-brainer." She said there were three women on that finance committee tackling issues of fairness and access to health care and she said their presence was essential.
"I like to think women in the Senate bring a very practical approach," she said. "We tend to be the ones who work across the aisle."
Stabenow spoke about the first bill President Obama signed into law-- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law was named for an Alabama woman who after a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory learned she had been paid less than men.
Congress approved legislation that expands workers' rights to sue in such cases, after the Supreme Court ruled against Ledbetter.
"We fixed it so women would have the ability to fight for equal pay," Stabenow said. "We'd like to think the days of worrying about that is over, but I hear from women every day."
Stabenow pointed out that there are four women heading Senate committees, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chairwoman of the small business committee. She said she thinks the only thing of significance that will get accomplished before the election is the Small Business Jobs Act.
She started her presentation with a brief history lesson about this year being the 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing the women the right to vote. She spoke of women instrumental in women's rights such as Anna Howard Shaw and Sojourner Truth and the female senators who paved the way for her.
"Its important to start by celebrating those whose shoulders we stand on," she said. "When women vote, get involved and are around the table, it makes a difference."
Stabenow didn't plug her party but urged those present to vote this November and not take it for granted.
When asked about pundits predictions of major Republicans gains, she said, "I think its way too early for anybody to think they've got a crystal ball. It's going to be very close."
She also stuck to the party message of not returning to failed policies that put the nation in an economic hole.
Women at forefront of prostate-cancer fight
Published: Friday | September 10, 2010
One might have thought that prostate cancer was solely a male concern but, if yesterday's turnout for Cancer Awareness Day at the Jamaica Cancer Society is anything to go by, women are demonstrating that they are just as keen to understand the disease.
Of the hundreds of people who turned out for the event in recognition of Prostate Cancer Month, almost half were women giving support to their partners.
Alvaree Kerr, who was busy participating in different group sessions, said she had to haul her husband out of the house.
"I am here with my husband because he is over 50 and I am aware that at his age, he is at risk to get prostate cancer," Kerr said. "I asked him to come and he hesitated, so I had to force him to come."
As the number of prostate-cancer cases continue to increase in Jamaica, Dr William Aiken, urologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, painted a worrying picture of the illness.
Aiken said prostate cancer was the most common cause of cancer deaths in men in the island.
Though unable to give statistics to show the increase, Aiken noted that in Kingston and St Andrew, 69 in every 100,000 men developed prostate cancer each year.
Male interest lacking
Carol Blair, administrative director at the society, charged that far too few men were showing interest in doing their checks for the cancer.
She said 464 men were screened last year at the Cancer Society, compared to 13,000 women who took Pap smears and 7,000 women who did mammograms.
Blair noted that, to date, only 263 men have shown up for testing at the society this year, which showed that there was a further decrease in the number of men getting tested.
"Today is part of our effort to increase the awareness to encourage men to take responsibility," she said.
"We have to do something to get the men to understand that there is nothing to be fearful of, it is something that they must do because black men are at high risk."
Blair asked that men 40 and over take responsibility for their health by getting tested for prostate cancer.
Dr Aldyth Buckland, president of the Association of General Practitioners of Jamaica, encouraged the men to take control of their health and reduce their cancer risk.
She urged them to eat a healthy diet and stay away from unhealthy practices such as smoking.
'Third wave' of feminism urged by prominent Canadian women
Ottawa -- From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Sep. 09, 2010 8:44PM EDT
Equality gap dominates Governor-General's conference; following suffragettes and push to enshrine women's rights in law, new focus must be 'changing attitudes'
Influential Canadian women say the promise of equality that was dangled before them during the 1960s and '70s has never been fully met and a "third wave" of feminism is needed to revive the drive.
Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, who is soon to depart the office she has held for the last five years, called about 200 of the women she met on her travels through Canada to a conference at Rideau Hall this week to talk about women's security. The event is something her aides say she has been planning since the very first tour she took as Vice-Regent.
The women (and a handful of men) representing a broad cross-section of Canada - business and political leaders, aboriginal leaders, activists and scholars - touched on the matter of security, both physical and economic. But at a time when Canadian women with a postsecondary education still earn on average just 63 per cent of the salary of similarly educated men, it was the equality gap between men and women that dominated the discourse.
The second wave of feminism, which began nearly 50 years ago and which followed the first wave of the suffragettes, "was about enshrining in law [women's] rights," Maureen McTeer, a long-time advocate for women's advancement, told The Globe and Mail during a break between speakers. The third wave, she said, has to be about "changing attitudes."
"There's been a lot of pushback against women's equality and against what it stands for," Ms. McTeer said. "There's a need now to move beyond accepting that law is enough."
The feminists of 40 and 50 years ago directed their energies to changing property legislation, to creating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to crafting human-rights legislation, Ms. McTeer said. And then "we all went home," she said. "We figured we had the law, everything would work."
But the wage gap between men and women has narrowed only slightly since 1960. Women still hold just 22 per cent of the seats in the federal Parliament. They account for just 13 per cent of the seats on the boards of Fortune 500 companies. And the voices demanding change have largely fallen silent.
Progression "assumes that the younger generation would want equality. Certainly by their actions they don't seem to want equality. They somehow think that the superficial is sufficient," Ms. McTeer said.
One of the challenges is that a lot of people think women have achieved full equality in Canada, said Clare Beckton, the former deputy head of Status of Women Canada.
Women worked hard to get their rights written down on paper. "But," Ms. Beckton said, "I think the realization came later that just having the rights is not enough. You have to operationalize them."
Jean Augustine, the first black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada and now the Fairness Commissioner for Ontario, told the crowd "it is important that all of us see ourselves as part of the way forward. It is important that we pass that torch to younger women."
The number of women in politics has increased since the 1960s, but the slow climb has come almost to a standstill, Ms. Augustine said. "Why do we see that slippage on the road to gender equality?" she asked.
Her question was directed at a room of the already converted. But participants like Belinda Stronach, the Canadian businesswoman and former politician, say meetings like the one organized this week by Ms. Jean can be a catalyst for change.
"Conferences like this are important because they do bring the issue to the forefront," said Ms. Stronach, one of the speakers at the event. "If we don't talk about it, we can never solve it."
Woman held after 2 shot dead at Pa. cookie plant
By PATRICK WALTERS, Associated Press Writer Patrick Walters, Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA - Minutes after a woman was suspended from her job at a Kraft Foods Inc. plant and was escorted out, she returned with a handgun and opened fire, killing two people and critically injuring a third before being taken into custody, police said.
The shootings occurred shortly after 8:30 p.m. Thursday inside a northeast Philadelphia plant where workers for the nation's largest food manufacturer make cookies and crackers.
About 10 minutes after the woman was escorted out, she returned in a car and drove through a security barrier before re-entering the building on foot, Lt. Frank Vanore said.
As she walked inside, she fired a shot at an employee who had followed her in and had yelled, "Hide, she's got a gun!" Vanore said. That shot missed.
The woman then shot the three victims, said police, who didn't immediately release the victims' identities or say whether they had been targeted. Officers responded and isolated the shooter in a room, and she fired a shot at them but missed, Vanore said.
Officers freed seven people who were "in a bad position" near the woman and were hiding, said Vanore, who wouldn't refer to them as hostages. The woman was apprehended about an hour after the shootings started, he said.
Investigators, who didn't say why the woman had been suspended, were working to piece together more about what led to the sequence of events. They did not identify her.
Television footage showed workers leaving the plant, which used to be known as the Nabisco factory and is about six stories tall. Police surrounded the plant minutes after the shootings, and roads in the area were detoured as officers swarmed nearby.
Dough mixer Andy Ryan, who has worked at the plant for nearly 30 years, said he was on the third floor when the sound of the shots echoed through the building.
"I heard the gunfire, and I ran," he told The Associated Press, his apron still on. "As I was running down the steps they were yelling, 'Oh, my God, there's three people shot!'"
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that about 100 people were inside the plant but had been cleared out.
Kraft said in a statement that in addition to the three employees who were shot, a contract worker suffered a less serious injury, but it did not elaborate.
"This is a sad day for the Kraft Foods family," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. The loss of a loved one is a great sorrow."
Kraft said the plant would be closed until further notice and the company would provide employees with counseling.
The Northfield, Ill.-based company's products include Oreo cookies, Philadelphia cream cheese and Oscar Mayer bacon.
Mass shootings are rarely carried out by women, said Dr. Park Dietz, president of Threat Assessment Group Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based violence prevention firm. But Dietz said that doesn't mean people should discount the violence potential of women.
"It was always a matter of time until we saw more incidents involving women," Dietz said in a phone interview with the AP early Friday.
Nevertheless, of the 10 to 20 multiple-victim workplace shootings in the U.S. each year, very few involve female shooters, Dietz said. They remain "a rarity," he added.
Some notable exceptions include a 1985 rampage at a mall in Springfield, Pa., that left three people dead and seven wounded. Sylvia Seegrist was found guilty of murder but mentally ill in that case and was given three life sentences. She said in 1991 she hoped she wouldn't have to spend the rest of her life in prison and "maybe 15 or 20 years would be fair."
Earlier this year, Amy Bishop, a former instructor and researcher at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, was charged with murder in a February campus shooting spree that left three biology professors dead and three other employees injured. She claimed the shootings "didn't happen."
Thursday's shootings came weeks after a driver who had been accused of stealing from a Manchester, Conn., beer distributorship shot and killed eight people and then himself.
The driver, Omar Thornton, had calmly agreed to quit on Aug. 3 after being confronted with surveillance video showing him stealing beer. But shortly afterward, he started shooting.
Thornton, who was black, told police dispatchers he had seethed with a sense of racial injustice in his job at Hartford Distributors.
But Hartford Distributors president Ross Hollander said there was no record to support claims of "racial insensitivity" made through the company's anti-harassment policy, the union grievance process or state and federal agencies. Relatives of the victims also rejected the claims.