Specializing in the representation of crime victims, women and children.

What's New In Opinion



By Wendy Murphy    Feb. 09, 2018


At some point I will write about something other than sexual assault, but it’s only been a few months of media attention after decades of silence. Plus, there are still lots of new things to talk about.

For example, why did so many influential women squander the Golden Globe Awards by talking about the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, but never once mentioning the Equal Rights Amendment? (ERA) It would be like having a national award show in 1864 where all the important people take the stage to condemn slavery, but nobody mentions the Thirteenth Amendment.

Oprah’s rousing speech at the end included a double-barreled “Time’s Up” command, followed by the observation that a “new day” was “on the horizon.” She got so many people excited that social media started talking about Oprah running for president before the applause stopped. I wasn’t one of them, because as cynical as it sounds, I didn’t understand the whole “new day” thing. She said the “new day” would be when nobody has to say “Me Too,” but she didn’t say how or why that day would arrive anytime soon. She didn’t even mention that she was raped at age 9, or that because her attacker was a family member, her type of suffering wasn’t being addressed by all the Hollywood tree-shaking. Why didn’t she use her enormously influential moment in the global sun to say something like this:

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By Wendy Murphy    Jan. 06, 2018



Publicly we say we hate racism; privately we are not so sure.

You can be sure that at the upcoming Academy Awards, Hollywood celebrities, not exactly known for their independent thinking, will turn the red carpet into a Black Lives Matter moment replete with designer duds. Many will wear armbands to protest racism in Hollywood. The rest of us will diligently follow along on Twitter, sharing hashtags and suitably pious opprobrium.

But privately, I suspect, many of us, including many longstanding anti-racism activists, will be rolling our eyes, having had it with the reflexive and unnuanced sense of outrage that often accompanies this cause, turning a bona fide movement seeking moral accountability into a series of ad hoc and sometimes unproven accusations.

The conversation going on in private about the Black Lives Matter movement is radically different from the public one. This is not a good sign, suggesting the sort of social intimidation that is the underside of a culture of political correctness, such as we are increasingly living in.

The black people I know — of all ages — have responded by and large with a mixture of slightly horrified excitement as to who will be the next police officer or politician accused of racism.

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By Wendy Murphy    Jun. 17, 2017

A hung jury is as good as an acquittal for Bill Cosby, and it is unlikely that any jury will ever convict Bill Cosby of sexual assault under Pennsylvania law, for two basic reasons:

  1. Rape law in Pennsylvania is among the worst in the nation because it permits many types of rape to occur with impunity, and significantly favors rapists.
  2. The jury selection process allows more rapists, and fewer rape victims, to serve as jurors in rape trials.


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By Wendy Murphy    Aug. 31, 2016


Dear Gloria, Irwin, and the American Bar Association;

You have all expressed an interest in helping prevent campus sexual assault, but your actions belie your words.

To the American Bar Association (ABA): you recently adopted a policy urging all colleges and universities to segregate out only violence and abuse of women for second-class treatment in campus-based civil rights redress proceedings. You nowhere urge that schools treat any other class of student in such a discriminatory manner. Nor do you explain why you believe women as a class should be subjugated, or why violence against women deserves worse treatment compared to other civil rights abuses. Indeed, you utterly fail to acknowledge that women were granted full equality in civil rights laws nearly forty-five years ago when Title IX was enacted (Title IX covers private schools) and “sex” was added as a protected class category to Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title IV covers public schools). This shameful move by such a prestigious legal organization is both disturbing and curious. Forty-five years after being granted full equality, women have a right to expect the ABA to issue a policy statement demanding enforcement of their rights, once and for all.

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By Wendy Murphy    Jan. 05, 2016

bill Cosby ArrestAs satisfying as it was to watch Bill Cosby take a Pennsylvania perp walk last week, the bloom may soon fall off the prosecutorial rose as Cosby’s team of attorneys prepares to use the criminal case to its strategic advantage.

For example, Cosby could ask the judges handling civil lawsuits in California and Massachusetts to put the brakes on those cases until the criminal trial is over.  Generally speaking, criminal cases are prioritized over civil cases, in part because criminal defendants have speedy trial rights while civil defendants do not. In addition, a civil case could interfere with the integrity of a criminal prosecution, which is why judges usually issue a “stay” order, essentially putting the civil case on ice until the criminal matter is resolved.

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President Obama needs a refresher course on rape law, and the guts to condemn Bill Cosby

By Wendy Murphy    Jul. 22, 2015

For The Patriot Ledger
July 16, 2015

Earlier this week, President Obama spoke at the annual convention of the NAACP and declared this country’s criminal justice system “skewed against black men.”  He also said black men suffer much harsher penalties compared to white men who commit the same crimes.

Hearing the President’s remarks, I thought only about Bill Cosby, and
how he hasn’t suffered any penalties at all.

Days before Obama’s speech, it was reported that Cosby admitted under oath to obtaining sedatives for the purpose of drugging women for sex. But Obama said not a word about the criminal justice system’s inadequate response to Cosby’s actions, leaving many to wonder – Isn’t Bill Cosby a black man?

It’s hard to feel sympathy for the plight of persecuted black men with Cosby constantly in the news — facing not a single criminal charge. There’s little chance people will ever care about the very real problem of injustices perpetrated against black men so long as Bill Cosby evades justice with the President’s tacit approval.

Obama’s two daughters are the ages of several of Cosby’s victims (a couple of victims were only 15), and Obama said in a speech in 2014 that he understands the way sexual assault causes lifelong harm to victims, yet he continued to ignore the suffering of Cosby’s victims, even as he tried to address the story during a press event this week when a reporter asked him about Cosby’s admission to drugging women.

Obama replied that if a woman is drugged without her knowledge, and then a man has sex with her “without her consent,” it is rape.  The President needs a refresher course in rape law.  Drugging a person without their knowledge makes the sex act rape.  It is not necessary to also prove non-consent.

And why didn’t the President say anything supportive about the victims?

It wouldn’t have been politically controversial because nobody with a conscience has supported Cosby for a long time. All the President had to say was, “Bill Cosby does not deserve this nation’s respect, and if our criminal justice system is inadequate to redress his actions on behalf of the victims, then we need to fix the system.”  Obama could also have said, “the problem of racism in our prison population is made worse by the favorable treatment of wealthy black men, and if we are ever going to treat all black men fairly, we cannot show favoritism toward wealthy men of any color.”

The President should have said say those things, but he didn’t, because women don’t matter very much in this country compared to wealthy men like Bill Cosby. This is the harsh truth about violence against women generally.  Under the law, the word of one victim is sufficient to prove rape, but when the offender is a rich guy, even dozens of victims and a confession don’t cut it, not because the evidence isn’t strong enough but because too many prosecutors care less about women, and more about funding their re-election campaigns.

Cosby is accused of dozens of sex crimes, from the 1960s through the mid-2000s, in at least ten different states, but not a single law enforcement official has called for Cosby to be prosecuted.  Some news stories blame the statute of limitations, but in most states the clock stops running when an offender leaves the jurisdiction, and there’s no doubt Cosby “left” many of the states where incidents took place.

This “stopping of the clock” exception is why so many priests faced child sexual abuse charges even decades after the abuse ended.

At least 17 victims reported incidents in California, where Cosby has a home, so it’s too late to file most of those charges, although one of the 17 was in 2008 and is clearly within the window of opportunity. Why isn’t the District Attorney in Los Angeles jumping at the chance to file SOME charge, so that SOME justice can be done for all the California victims?

Other incidents allegedly occurred in Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Colorado.  In most of those states, criminal charges are still possible because Cosby hasn’t spent enough time there for the clock to run out.  The District Attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania admitted as much about a 2004 incident, but he said in 2005 that the evidence was “insufficient” to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.  Someone should ask him if he still has such an absurd view of the evidence, and if he does, he should be run out of office.

Even if criminal charges are never filed, President Obama should declare his support for Cosby’s victims and explain why violence against women, like racist violence, is a civil rights issue.  And he should state in no uncertain terms that all sex offenders should be held accountable, including wealthy black men.

A Critique of the Columbia Journalism Review’s Analysis of Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus” Story

By Wendy Murphy    Apr. 08, 2015


Maybe even more disturbing is that not a single established women’s rights organization has spoken out or even asked obvious questions about why neither Rolling Stone nor the CJR has established to any degree of certainty that “Jackie” even exists, and if so, whether she in fact reported a gang rape to police or UVA officials – EVER.

Consider the following:

The CJR criticized Rolling Stone for failing to determine where certain information came from and whether any of it was true.  These are fair criticisms because they point out the importance of journalists printing only reliable information. But the CJR did many of the same things it criticized Rolling Stone for doing wrong. For example, the CJR complained that Rolling Stone had inadequate proof that there ever was a “gang rape,” but the CJR itself failed to obtain adequate proof of a far more basic fact – that “Jackie” even reported a gang rape – ever – to anyone.

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By Wendy Murphy    Mar. 31, 2015

Judge says SaVE can NOT be used to weaken Title IX, or have “any effect” on Title IX’s enforcement on campus.

Dear colleagues;

In an important court ruling last week, a federal judge in D.C. ruled that the Campus SaVE Act can have “no effect” on Title IX.

This was a critically important victory and an important first step on the way to ensuring that no sexual assault victim on any campus is subjected to second-class justice when she seeks redress in the aftermath of sex-based violence (sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.)

SaVE was filed with Congress in 2011 with the enthusiastic support of many advocacy groups around the nation because they were told SaVE would “codify” the Department of Education’s April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter.  (DCL)  The DCL was excellent and made clear that schools must address violence against women using the SAME standards as those that apply to the redress of violence on the basis of race, national origin, etc.  Violence against women in education had finally achieved its rightful seat at the civll rights table of justice.

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As Schilling, others have noted, sexual threats are not free speech

By Wendy Murphy    Mar. 10, 2015


Originally posted in the Boston Globe on 3/9/15

Curt Schilling responded to trolls who posted vicious comments online about his daughter.

Curt Schilling responded to trolls who posted vicious comments online about his daughter.

CURT SCHILLING’S vigilante-style response to sexually violent cyber threats against his college-bound daughter Gabby was an appropriate response to a problem too often met with shrugs of “it’s only words.”

Vigilantism is never a good idea, but Schilling’s angry reaction is the kind of “canary in a coal mine” evidence that policy makers should worry about, because it indicates that something is gravely wrong with our cultural and legal response to violence against women. Indeed, as Schilling and others have noted, there are rarely consequences for verbal harassment and threatened violence against women.

Public officials often say they want to take action against such threats but that their hands are tied by the First Amendment, which protects even the most hateful speech in order to preserve core principles of a free democracy. But the line on free speech ends where other rights begin, including the right to be free from sexual harassment and the right to walk around in society without fear of being sexually violated with a baseball bat. Where the line is drawn can be affected by context, and the line can shift along with ideas and emerging technologies that affect the impact of words on society.

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An Open Letter To Harvard Law Professor Nancy Gertner

By Wendy Murphy    Feb. 02, 2015


Dear Nancy,

I’ve read your recent articles about campus sexual assault. I appreciate and respect your position as an advocate for accused sex offenders, but please stop using your gender and your status as a feminist to persuade others that you are also an advocate for women’s safety and equality.

Indeed, contrary to your claim that you have worked to improve the law for rape victims, you have, in my opinion, fought to make things worse.

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