Mother Of Daughter Who Committed Suicide Sues Amazon For Facilitating The Purchase Of Cyanide From A Third-Party Seller

from the suing-the-once-removed-messenger dept

A student's suicide -- the tragic outcome of an apparent rape -- has led to a lawsuit against the school, as well as Amazon and one of its merchants.

Sujata Singh filed the lawsuit against Amazon and the University of Pennsylvania in late July, about two and a half years after her 20-year-old daughter, Arya Singh, committed suicide in her dorm room.

The lawsuit alleges that the nursing student was sexually assaulted when she was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and said the school allowed the accused assaulter to remain in the same dormitory as Singh. The alleged assaulter wasn't punished by the school, according to the suit, which was posted on the legal news website Law360.
The school comes out looking the worst. The lengthy filing details the school's dismissive attitude towards Arya Singh's problems, including allegedly failing to contact Singh's mother to inform her of her daughter's deteriorating emotional state, plummeting grades or multiple disciplinary actions brought against her. (Interestingly, one of the disciplinary actions was related to a movie studio complaint about infringing downloads. The two downloads -- spaced a week apart -- led to a $100 fine, an official letter of reprimand and six hours of community service.)

Where the lawsuit goes off the rails is its claims against Amazon, which Singh believes bears some responsibility for her daughter's death. According to the filing, Amazon facilitated the purchase of cyanide from a Thailand-based seller. Cyanide sales have long been forbidden, but for an unknown period of time, purchasers were able to locate this item via Amazon.

Arya Singh purchased the cyanide on December 12, 2012. She used it to commit suicide on February 8, 2013. On February 2, 2013, Amazon stopped allowing sales of cyanide through its website, something apparently marked by a visible change in policy.

This timeline is accompanied by other unverifiable claims.
134. Upon information and belief, Amazon and/or Thailand Defendants sold cyanide products through Amazon's website in the United States at least fifty-one (51) times prior to Arya purchasing the cyanide.

135. Upon information and belief, of the above fifty-one (51) sales, at least eleven (11) resulted in deaths to the purchasers within weeks of the sale.
One would think that 11 deaths resulting from the sale of a single product through a single American retailer would have generated a few headlines. But there's nothing out there that backs up this claim. The Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2013 report does note that it sent Letters of Advice to the two Thailand merchants regarding their sale of cyanide, but does not list any action being taken against Amazon for allowing these sales to take place. It also makes no mention of any cyanide-related deaths in this report or the one for the prior year.

It could very well be the plaintiff's lawyers have dug up something to verify these claims, but the filing itself includes nothing to back this up. Not that this unverifiable claim would derail every other accusation against Amazon, but it's not necessarily a good start.

Amazon is accused of negligence for failing to prevent the Thailand merchants from making this item available through its marketplace, as well as failing to prevent the illegal product from reaching Arya Singh. The plaintiff contends Amazon has not turned over any policies regarding the sale of banned items for the time period prior to February 2, 2013 or its alleged changes that occurred on that date. The lack of forthcoming info from Amazon certainly doesn't put it in the best light.

But as far as sales from third-party merchants go, Amazon has only limited liability. Information available at its website notes that it has "no direct involvement" with the "completion of sales" by third-party sellers. While it will step in when there's a dispute between buyer and seller, it rarely does anything more than collect its percentage of the selling price.

Singh may still be able to build a case against Amazon as there are a lot of gray areas in its policies and procedures. The company does say it polices its marketplace for illegal items, but even the tightest policing will have a few holes. Even if Amazon made certain assurances about the legitimacy of the items offered by third-party sellers, it doesn't necessarily shift the liability to Amazon. Third-party sellers are bound by agreements in which they state that what they offer doesn't violate Amazon's policies, which would obviously forbid the sale of banned substances. This shifts the legal burden for any violations back on the third-party merchant.

What none of its policies do is make Amazon responsible for Singh's death. It had no duty to warn the purchaser of the negative consequences of misusing a dangerous substance, nor is it obliged to protect the public from any inherent dangers resulting from voluntary purchases. Any such warnings would be the responsibility of the manufacturer and the direct retailer. Obviously, a Thailand-based merchant selling banned items would feel little to no obligation to warn purchasers of any legal or physical problems resulting from the acquisition and use of its offerings.

Unfortunately, the desire to aim at the largest target is often present in the wake of personal tragedies. But the simple fact is that if someone is seeking cyanide (or any other substance) to facilitate a suicide attempt, they'll likely find it, even if it isn't in the first place they look (a massive online retailer).

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Filed Under: arya singh, cyanide, lawsuit, secondary liability, suicide, sujata singh, third party liability
Companies: amazon, upenn


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 12:55pm

    I wonder...

    If situations like these weigh upon the minds of women that like to lie about rape just to get back at males when they are angry?

    Feminists have damaged their brand more than any other group.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:25pm

    Whats the point?

    These lawsuits will not bring her back, so how do they help solve anything other than lining someones pockets with money?

    If she was raped, she should have gone to law enforcement. Its not a schools job to punish people for rape, thats the job of the prosecuters office.

    If she could not have gotten Cyanide through Amazon, she would have just gotten something else from somewhere else to kill herself with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:25pm

    "and said the school allowed the accused assaulter to remain in the same dormitory as Singh. The alleged assaulter wasn't punished by the school, according to the suit"

    This might come off as insensitive but, was there a restraining order? why is it the schools responsibility? if there was a restraining order call the cops if not what does the school have to do with it, its not the schools job to determine guilt and punish let the courts handle it.

    "including allegedly failing to contact Singh's mother to inform her of her daughter's deteriorating emotional state"

    How old is she? i assume at least 18 since she is in college. She is an adult why should the school tell her mother presumably against the daughters wishes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:49pm

      Re:

      The filing gives a fairly detailed and dated progression of the University's handling of the sexual assault report, with enough investigation that they could conclude that the accusations were with merited.

      The investigations they did were certainly enough to warrant disciplinary action, and probably a push to the police.

      But doing all that investigation, with confirmed results, and then twiddling their thumbs and saying "let's do nothing" is definitely negligence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:34pm

    AC, of course it was the school's responsibility to take action. If the school of university is aware of a sexual assault and they are aware of who did it or who is accused of it, they have a responsibility to the safety of their students to remove the student from the campus. When they are aware of the assault and do nothing, they are liable for whatever happens.

    Amazon may also be to blame for allowing purchases of a dangerous drug to be purchased on their site in the first place. The fact that Amazon removed Cyanide from purchase from their site also may be used to hold Amazon liable as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Another Anonymous, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      "or who is accused of it, they have a responsibility to the safety of their students to remove the student from the campus."

      No, they don't, not based on an unverified accusation.

      There would be no end to the abuses of a system that automatically judges and punishes based only on an unverified accusation by one person against another.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Re:

        If you read the filing, starting around page 8, you'll see that they did take considerable steps to verify the accusation. And also promised many measures that were not delivered on.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      why, that's a serious question. is there an actual law that requires this? does the school need to act on any accusation no matter how flimsy or inconsistent? does the school need to always presume that accused it guilty until proven innocent and even then is it right for it to step in to "punish" the guilty party? do we really want schools conducting there own investigations without proper training, due process, or appeals process. Why can't the student get a restraining order and let the courts and police handle it. where does the duty end. Does a landlord renting apartments in the same building have a duty to evict the accused. Why or why not?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John David Galt (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 8:40pm

        Re: does the school need to act on any accusation

        DOE now requires all colleges receiving federal money to investigate all accusations, and to expel the accused upon a "preponderance of the evidence".

        But now that at least three universities have had to pay out large settlements to the men railroaded that way, I predict that many schools will soon stop accepting federal money because it costs them more in payouts than they receive.

        I also expect the federal government to be successfully sued directly over the lack of due process, since the government is imposing that wrongful standard on the schools.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Sep 2015 @ 5:40am

          Re: Re: does the school need to act on any accusation

          A preponderance of the evidence should be a step towards referral to the police for investigation. It shouldn't be the end of the matter but the next step in a chain of actions to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused, who ought to be considered innocent till proven guilty in a court of law.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:47pm

    In defense of the university

    In the past several years, universities have gotten rather nuts about treating allegation as equal to proof and preferring kangaroo administrative tribunals over any attempt at a fair process. If the school did nothing about this alleged assault, then I highly doubt the school was even aware of the allegation. Whether that is because the deceased never reported it, or reported it without identifying an assailant, I don't know.

    As regards the "misuse of a dangerous substance" issue, I'm not sure the deceased misused it. The primary use I know of for cyanide is to cause death in those exposed to it, and that is what happened here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:57pm

      Re: In defense of the university

      If the victim was silent, then that may speak to the greater problems of the community that encourage such silence.

      If rape victims are habitually disregarded or derided, that may create a chilling clime.

      Typically, schools are poorly equipped to investigate and handle issues of justice, and prefer to suppress the incident rather than see it resolved. It creates an unsafe environment that is instead just declared as safe.

      Frankly, I think it's better if institutions collapse rather than presenting themselves as something they're not.

      But then again, I'm pretty tired of ours being a top-down society of thieves, liars and murderers, especially given we're one that pretends to be otherwise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 2:24pm

        Re: Re: In defense of the university

        But then again, I'm pretty tired of ours being a top-down society of thieves, liars and murderers, especially given we're one that pretends to be otherwise

        Yea I pretty much pointed this out in the first post but got flagged.

        The only liars people hate are the liars against them, but they love the liars that are on their side.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 2:32pm

      Re: In defense of the university

      The primary use of cyanide compounds is the case-hardening of steel.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      res (profile), 12 Sep 2015 @ 9:54am

      Re: In defense of the university

      cyanide is used extensively in gold mining and refining. It is very easy to get and very inexpensive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 1:49pm

    Um... isn't Cyanide a useful hobbyist chemical?

    Yep. Used in electroplating, bronze sculpting, jewelry-making and film processing (sepia-toning).

    Are we going to stop selling every product that gets miss used as a weapon or suicide catalyst? That would get creepy very fast.

    A better tact might be to actually council people who are considering suicide and address any legitimate concerns that might be driving them to such a desperate move.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 2:23pm

      Re: Um... isn't Cyanide a useful hobbyist chemical?

      Exactly. Close down every hardware/home store that sells rat poison. Have everybody turn in all of their electrical appliances, cause someone could electrocute themselves with those cords. How about making swimming illegal, one could swim out past any reasonable limit (right after lunch) and, well just allow themselves to drown.

      Looking for signs of depression (and then doing something about it) would be a better way to go about preventing suicide. Of course having sufficient qualified counselors around might be expensive, and Universities just cannot harm their profits, don't you know.

      Suing every deep pocket in sight and making more things illegal because it is seen as 'doing something' is just not going to help.

      In terms of legislators 'doing something' about things they cannot control, I recommend that we sunset ALL laws every seven years. That way those legislators will be kept busy re-installing those laws (well, at least the ones they can get around to) instead of 'doing stuff' they shouldn't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 2:15pm

    Regulated; NOT prohibited

    ...Cyanide sales have long been forbidden, but for an unknown period of time, purchasers were able to locate this item via Amazon...

    Cyanide and it's variants are regulated hazardous materials. Many jurisdictions require licensing, registrations, and/or certifications over and above normal business licenses just to have cyanide, let alone use it. Amazon might be liable depending on how the applicable laws and regulations are worded. There's no question that possessors and transporters must be licensed/registered/certified, but many jurisdictions' laws and regulations are vague when it comes to sellers. Even purchasers might have to be licensed/registered/certified or the seller is prohibited from selling to that party.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 2:25pm

    Red Herring

    This case is about a mother hurt so badly because she wasn't available to her suicidal daughter, that she wants to sue everybody.

    I'm sorry her daughter felt she had nobody to turn to. Likely if her mommy had been available... there would be no lawsuit today.

    However, from a legal point of view...

    I know it's tough for people outside the United States to understand but we here have laws. Part of those laws is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    When we say "we don't blame the victim" this is true of those who report alleged assault as well as the person they report about.

    In this case there is no conviction. That means NOBODY is guilty of sexually assaulting her.

    That sexual assault thing is a red herring. This case is about mommy suing Amazon because butthurt.

    It is NOT germane to Amazon being named in the lawsuit as to WHY the girl was allegedly suicidal. The whole "sexual assault" thing and suing the University is just an attempt to get more bites at the insurance-coverage umbrella-policy cash apple.

    Simplifying, these are two unrelated cases thrown into one:
    1. Nobody was found guilty of sexual assault but mommy thinks university should have moved the alleged perpetrator to a different dorm (or killed him?). Scott Greenfield writes about this horrid non-justice phenomenon at blog.simplejustice.us. Basically universities are creating extrajudicial proceedings lacking justice, fairness, protection of rights, and allow the accused to be vilified while the accuser has free reign without regard to law or evidence.

    But this did not happen here. Nobody was found guilty of sexual assault. Any discussion of sexual assault is an attack against the victim of these accusations.

    2. An adult went on Amazon.com and purchased a product. Amazon is not responsible that the adult later used that product to kill herself. The depressed teen could have bought a Ghost 400 crossbow, a sharp kitchen knife, or Tide With Bleach and Windex and made mustard gas. The only responsible person for her death is... the teen.

    If her mother would like to find someone living to point the finger at... she should look in the mirror. Obviously this poor teenager felt she was assaulted (but the law did not agree with her conclusion) and she felt she had nobody to turn to (I guess Mommy wasn't so ever reachable)... and that she couldn't live with the guilt or shame and so she spent DAYS buying a product, waiting for it to be delivered, getting it, and using it.

    There's suicide through depression. That happens instantly. There's suicide through PLANNED death. That's what this teenager did.

    Mommy should get help. She has no case against any of the parties... and this won't make her feel better for how badly she failed her daughter.

    I'm sorry an eighteen year old girl felt everything was so hopeless and she bought cyanide and killed herself.

    The only person responsible for that is the girl. Not Amazon. Not the university. Not some guy that was not found to have assaulted her.

    Sometimes justice is not fair. But it is just.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 3:04pm

      "Not fair but just"

      I think it's been pretty well established we have neither fairness nor justice in the US.

      An end result may end up consistent with law but that should never be confused with justice being done, or a fair outcome reached.

      Incidentally, suicide through depression is far, far from instant. It's considered, deliberated on, and planned over what could be a course of years. If she had no friends, or her depression was dismissed by friends as she's just moody (or the more contemporary she's emo) then yes, it's only visible from the outside when she's acting on it.

      This girl had no place to turn that she could trust, and likely nothing is going to be done about it because the responsibility is diffused, and it's enough for each person watching to just be sorry it happened.

      Female rape victims are three times more likely than the general population to suffer from depression, and four times more likely to commit suicide. Women ages 18-24 are the most likely to be targeted for rape, but students in this age range are 20% less likely to be targeted than non-students in the same age range. Curious, that.

      Still, less than 20% of rapes are reported to authorities, and our police and administrators still don't treat rape-victims well, so there's a chilling effect there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hij (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 3:58pm

    FERPA and grades

    With respect to the student's classroom activities the university is constrained in what it can tell the parent because of FERPA. Unless the student explicitly gave the school permission to discuss her class performance with her parents they cannot share that information with the parent. As for the emotional state, the medical professionals on campus should have been on top of that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 4:08pm

    Anyone else troubled by the University jumping so quickly to punish for a DMCA notice, while it appears they sort of danced around a physical crime?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 4:53pm

    A university is a community often with their own enforcement officers. There is a promise to keep eveyone safe. They can't do this if a person is found likely of causing harm to another such as rape. The nature of the crime is usually habitual, power and control not sex.

    The university did investigate and found enough evidence to turn over to police, take action until the matter was resolved but they did nothing. This isn't that much different than the church turning a blind eye to child victims. It's a form of institutionalized, systemic approval that results in more victims.

    Are there cases of making up false charges? Yes but they are rare. The overwhelming majority of charges are warrented. Rape is humiliating, degrading experience for the victims and they often blame themselves which is one reason so few are reported. From just a statistical view, rape is far more likely to be under reported than over reported due to false accusations.

    Law enforcement has a history of doing a horrible job following up on rape charges. Most counties have backlogs of rape kits that are never sent for dna anaylis, often the most factual evidence. There is an institutioalized systemic culture of silence. But at that point, the university should have been able to determine if there's enough evidence to suspend the rapist or not waiting outcome of the court.

    Meanwhile a student should be able to get away, just as they should be able to if they are being stalked or in a domestic violence situation which many states allow breaking the lease for. The university didn't even provide that. Injunctions are not always automatic nor easy to get and I'm not so sure she could have gotten one. Those tend to be part of the culture that reinforces silence.

    A university campus can not be considered safe if the university is unwilling to offer basic protections or reporting of crimes like rape, assult, stalking which this university didn't do. I don't think guys can imagine what it's like to feel "hunted".

    Where this artical fails is the regulations selling cyanide. I've bought hazardous material before that required me writting a note stating the purpose and I wouldn't resell it. Other substances I've had to produce a license. Neither one of those things are difficult to produce. I don't know what the regulations are, but as long as they were followed there shouldn't be an issue. I think it's a fair guess this student was determined and had done her homework since cyanide is not an impulsive purchase and not usually the first substance a suicidal person might think of.

    The bulk of a university's population are kids barely 3 months out of high school and away from home for the first time. There is a heightened standard of care for students, including ensuring a safe campus and it sounds like this student went through an extended period of decline which many in the university were aware of the reasons why. Universities offer healthcare and counseling. There were enough people who knew about her allegations that red flags should have been raised. It would have been the humane thing to do.

    Student or not, if someone survives a trauma and goes into decline, they shouldn't be ignored or left to fend for themselves. Rape is not a "pull yourself up" type event. The university had resources that they did not use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ehud Gavron (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 5:18pm

      Anonymous Coward makes up stuff

      No. College campuses are not made up of the systems and processes to properly evaluate a legal claim, investigate it, and then lead to a conclusion.

      That is why most of them will hand these things off to a law enforcement agency to do a proper (legal) investigation and follow it up. A LACK of a charge and a LACK of a conviction is not a failure of the process.

      Here's an article with statistics about 80% of the claims being false:
      blog.simplejustice.us/2015/09/11/a-round-of-applause-for-congressman-jared-polis/

      Here's another story about made up campus rape:
      http://blog.simplejustice.us/2015/09/05/the-grand-inquisitor-and-other-campus-rape-innovations/

      The assumption that a "student is ignored" is a false one. There's nothing in any primary source indicating the student was ignored. There were no criminal convictions in this matter. Anything else is pure speculation... and a prejudging of the other victim -- the alleged sexual assaulter.

      The other assumption that someone "barely 3 months out of high school" gets to have magic-bullet rights is ludicrous. Take another look at the 14th Amendment. If you're a US Citizen you have EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW. There's no magic bullet for being "3 months out of high school." Maturity is expected and legally granted at 18 years.

      The article doesn't fail on cyanide sales. The article correctly points out that the LAWSUIT FAILS by conflating the cyanide sale with the suicidal teen with the sexual assault. The lawsuit is defective because the reason for the suicide is unproven BUT arguendo is irrelevant to the matter of the purchase of the cyanide.

      E

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 6:32pm

        Re: Anonymous Coward makes up stuff

        College law enforcement are often credentialed, accredited as official police. They can make arrests, carry guns, do investigations. They are not just security guards like those found working at a warehouse or parking garage. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campus_police

        Universities are required to step in with cases of sexual assault by a number of federal laws. That is the preferred method to handle these type of cases and it appears filling a civil case in court is discouraged.

        http://cloudfront-files-1.publicintegrity.org/documents/pdfs/Sexual%20Assault%20on%20C

        …internal campus proceedings grow from two federal laws, known as Title IX and the Clery Act, which require schools to respond to claims of sexual assault on campus and to offer key rights to victims.

        …In 1992, the act was amended to include certain basic rights that schools must provide survivors of sexual assaults on campus, particularly student-on-student assaults. Those provisions are known as the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, and stipulate these five guarantees: schools must give the alleged victim and the alleged assailant equal opportunity for witnesses in disciplinary proceedings; and equal notification of the outcome of such proceedings; they must notify alleged victims of counseling services; of their options to go to local police; and of their options for changing classes and dormitory assignments in order to avoid their alleged assailants.

        It's helpful to have facts before forming opinions.

        I could not find much on the legality of buying cyanide online. It appears it's available through a variety of industrial chemical websites, often jewelry for plating at the suppliers discretion, who might request additional documentation supporting what it'll be used for. It doesn't appear commonly used for suicide, since it's not always effective and can be painful. Her daughter was determined to use it properly. IMO wrong doing will be hard to prove.

        I still say the burden was on the university to grant the victim more protections than it did, including not to see the accussed daily. In another article, emails from the university seemed to make jokes about her accusations. That's not good.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Sep 2015 @ 5:47am

        Re: Anonymous Coward makes up stuff

        Scott Greenfield is a defence lawyer.

        He's not a fan of "college liberals" and slags them off at every opportunity. He's also keen on bashing victimhood culture where exaggerated claims are made about alleged abuses. I've never seen him claim that most rape accusations are false, he just hates it when due process is not enforced. Fair enough.

        RE: Jared Polis, he seems to think the market will sort it out. That's not the market's job.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Beta (profile), 11 Sep 2015 @ 10:33pm

      Re:

      "The overwhelming majority of charges are warrented [sic]. "

      Citation needed. And some definitions; by "charges", do you mean "accusations", and by "warranted", do you mean "true"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Sep 2015 @ 1:24am

        "Unfounded" rape accusations (FBI's terminology)

        It looks like 8% of rape cases are "unfounded" accusations according to the DoJ in 1997. I'm too tired at the moment to look up more recent stats, but I don't suspect that they'd have cause to change much unless something really dramatic happened since then, such as an internet revelation of a massive police cover-up or something. Feel free to look for more recent numbers, or numbers based on a better statistic than investigated police reports.

        The US is one of the more sexually hung-up societies in the industrialized world:

        ~ We don't talk to our teenagers about sex (except to use protection / just say no) Regarding those unfamiliar, raging libidos, teens are expected to figure them out on their own.

        ~ Few people are educated at all about consent or boundaries. Those that hear about it at all will typically do in a college-level health class. That is to say the topic of consent is conspicuously absent in high-school.

        ~ The US's puritan-descendant culture still takes its courtship cues from the pursuit / evasion model of the age of courtly romance. I (for example) was taught in a California public high-school by teachers that a woman saying no or otherwise expressed disinterest in a man was supposed to be pursued and persuaded with bribes and deeds to change her mind. Yes. I was (along with all the boys in my school) instructed by the public education system to stalk and harass women.

        ~ And then, US singles protocol (as per culture and media) is to add booze into the mix (no small thanks from the alcoholic beverage industry). Yes, it helps people get over their inhibitions (and lower their standards). It also muddies their judgement while making decisions about whether to have sex with strangers.

        Given those factors, first-encounter sex and early-relationship sex often take place with consent dubiously established. At the point that one of the partners feels she feels she cannot safely back out and yet also doesn't want to continue, it rapidly becomes rape.

        This is why it's generally a good idea to check in with your partner often, e.g. Are you okay with this? or You know we can stop if you want. Right? and back off if you get anything less than an enthusiastic affirmative.

        Oh and it's generally a bad idea to mix sex and booze (or any other recreational drug) until you and your partner know each other really well and can manage recovery from a bad trip.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John David Galt (profile), 12 Sep 2015 @ 4:17pm

          Re: "Unfounded" rape accusations (FBI's terminology)

          It looks like 8% of rape cases are "unfounded" accusations according to the DoJ in 1997. I'm too tired at the moment to look up more recent stats, but I don't suspect that they'd have cause to change much unless something really dramatic happened since then, such as an internet revelation of a massive police cover-up or something. Feel free to look for more recent numbers, or numbers based on a better statistic than investigated police reports.


          I can believe that only 8% of cases investigated by police are unfounded, only because 2/3 of the time the police know better than to bother.

          FBI rape number: 0.5% of women. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-5

          Rape and Assault Among College Age Females 1995-2013, By Lynn Langton, Ph.D. and Sofi Sinozich, Intern. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, December 11, 2014, Report: NCJ 248471, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf%3E

          The US's puritan-descendant culture still takes its courtship cues from the pursuit / evasion model of the age of courtly romance. I (for example) was taught in a California public high-school by teachers that a woman saying no or otherwise expressed disinterest in a man was supposed to be pursued and persuaded with bribes and deeds to change her mind. Yes. I was (along with all the boys in my school) instructed by the public education system to stalk and harass women.


          That's not stalking and harassing, it's how the normal "making out" process is supposed to work. No one is going to stop and ask verbal permission between steps because it would spoil the atmosphere and your partner would walk out.

          Oh, and adult women who drink or get high at parties do it to lower their own inhibitions. Part of being an adult is to own the responsibility if you do something stupid while drunk or high. You're not entitled to a pass just because you're female.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Sep 2015 @ 1:41am

            Normal in the 1950s maybe. Certainly not safe or healthy.

            John David Galt: I can believe that only 8% of cases investigated by police are unfounded, only because 2/3 of the time the police know better than to bother.

            Citation definately needed on that one. Do you have any stats on police officers refusing to follow up on reported incidents of rape or sexual assault because the officer knew better than to bother?

            Speaking of which, thank you for the links you provided of more recent data! My browser couldnt process the additional tag on the .pdf file. A tagless link is here.

            Uriel-238 The US's puritan-descendant culture still takes its courtship cues from the pursuit / evasion model of the age of courtly romance... I was instructed by the public education system to stalk and harass women.

            John David Galt: That's not stalking and harassing, it's how the normal "making out" process is supposed to work...

            I'm going to assume that you were responding to a different part of my rant than the one you quoted, given I was talking about the courting process and you were referring to making out. If I'm wrong, and you're genuinely suggesting that while making out with someone it is acceptable for one partner to insist the other do something they don't want to do (let alone that it's acceptable for such behavior to be endorsed by public schools) then you, John are demonstrating the exact misogynist / traditionalist societal attitude epidemic to the US that needs desperately to be changed.

            Instead, I'll assume this wasn't at all what you meant.

            Let's put this plainly:

            No means no during any part of the courting-flirting-sexual process. If it's clearly qualified (e.g. "Not today," "Not yet," "Not out in public," etc.) it may just mean stop for now. Otherwise you would be safe to presume it's absolute (i.e. "Not ever.") This is not a cue to send her flowers, or to follow her home or to convince her that you're worthy. This is a cue to leave her alone. Forever.

            Unless you're in Anchorage or the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield you probably live in a society large enough and diverse enough to provide a plethora of potential partners. (Friends of family, friends of friends, work, church, school -- These are the most common places that people find long-term partners. Note that singles bars aren't on this list. Activity groups and community centers substitute when you don't go to church) You can rule out each potential at the first indication of resistance or disinterest or I don't think this is going to work out. You'll save a lot of time, respect more people who want to be left alone and still never run out of lonely singles.

            Besides, if someone ever says "no" but means "yes" and you walk away, don't worry. She'll follow you.

            John David Galt: No one is going to stop and ask verbal permission between steps because it would spoil the atmosphere and your partner would walk out.

            This is where it seems you were responding to something other than what you quoted.

            I, for one, will ask permission or check in with my make-out partner. Checking in demonstrates to her that I'm concerned for her well being. It shows that I want her to be as into it as I am. And these can be super hot.

            The BDSM community takes it a step further, prenegotiating scenes, discussing what's expected, wanted, liked, tolerated or not and establishing different terms for stopping to fix problems and stopping because things have gone very wrong.

            But I call bullshit on checking in spoiling the atmosphere. Condoms spoiled the atmosphere even more, untill generations adapted to using them under the threat of AIDS. I would hope that we wouldn't need a similar threat to get people to navigate consent, just because it might spoil the mood.

            John David Galt: Part of being an adult is to own the responsibility if you do something stupid while drunk or high.

            I think it depends on what the something stupid is in this case. Personally, I think that going out and getting soused at a bar is stupid and dangerous, and plenty of people lose their lives to the consequences, usually by drunk driving.

            ~ If you drink and then consent to a sexual encounter while inhebriated and then wake up horrified by the identity or nature of your bedfellow, that's probably on you.

            ~ If you go to a party drink too much and find a place to pass out, and someone takes advantage of you, there's actual malice there. It happens often enough that women are taught to not take drinks handed to them by non-staff for fear of getting mickey'd and many drug parties have become private and vetted so as to assure those who are dropping out can trip unmolested. Still, calling it stupid to expect a venue to be safe enough to drink is akin to saying a woman wearing revealing clothing out at night is asking for it.

            I don't deny our sizeable demographic of those who drink and engage in singles sex, I just think it's an unhealthy practice that features far more hazards than poor judgement of bedfellows and vulnerability to predators. Booze makes people careless and sloppy, both with their own emotions and those of others, and that accurately describes someone I don't want to have sex with.

            Obviously many other people do.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 6:46pm

            Re: Re: "Unfounded" rape accusations (FBI's terminology)

            It's still rape even if a women gets drunk or high or wears a short skirt if they can't give consent. That's the standard used for developmentally disabled, elderly, children ...

            Estimates are that 1 in 5 female students will be sexually assulted, raped, harrassed before graduation. Only about ten % are reported. This is a big problem and there's a discrepency between what females percieve as sexual aggression and what males percieve it to be. This is a worthy topic to bring into discussions.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John David Galt (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 7:48pm

              Re: Re: Re: "Unfounded" rape accusations (FBI's terminology)

              I've already linked the true numbers. "1 in 5" is a lie. The feminist definitions of sexual assault and rape are lies too. This has been discussed to death already.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Sep 2015 @ 5:51am

            Re: Re: "Unfounded" rape accusations (FBI's terminology)

            You're not entitled to make a pass at at a woman just because she's female. Drop the unwarranted sense of entitlement. Move away from the unwarranted sense of entitlement. And flippin' well ASK FIRST!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2015 @ 6:16pm

    She wants money so she goes after a big name company. If she truly cared about her daughter's death she would try and get the college to change their policies.

    She just looks like another sleazy person using a family members death for personal profit in the hopes that sympathy will garnish what logic will not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Incensed, 13 Sep 2015 @ 7:46am

    I hope she sues the crap out of Amazon

    Just because a corporation doesn't forbid certain activities in its policies, that does not relieve it from liability under the law. This girl was legally a minor under 21 years of age as well. Amazon does not have sovereignty to make its own law of the land.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 4:18am

    This is the sort of story where I realize that I have a fundamental difference of opinion from the Techdirt crew.

    For me, Amazon as the retail source for the poison should have liability here. They put their name into the transaction, they collected the money for the transaction. Most importantly, without them and their reach, the transaction would likely not have occurred. To me, the search for some (any) liability for Amazon stops there. They are part of the transaction and somewhat key to it occurring at all.

    Amazon cannot claim to be "just a shopping mall" then they have also acted as the bank, the cash register, and intermediary introducing buyer to seller. They are integral to the process, like it or not.

    I think it's the WEB 3.0 thing, coming up with business models that shuck responsibility to others while making a profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:04pm

      Liability for selling a dangerous thing.

      Yeah, I don't think the things Amazon could do are going to be particularly useful.

      ~ Resellers can refuse to sell things like kitchen knives and hammers.

      ~ Resellers can require a customer to sign a waiver (tick a checkbox) asserting that the hammer / kitchen knife (/ teddy bear) is a dangerous object. That the customer declares he or she will not use the item to hurt himself / herself or others or to use the item to willfully make dangerous things (or to allow the item to be transferred to a third party who might). And that if the hammer or kitchen knife is ever used to directly or indirectly cause harm then the customer assumes full responsibility.

      ~ Resellers can extend the background-check thing from just firearms to tools, devices and products of all kinds, so that you don't get to buy a hammer or a kitchen knife if the state has decided that you might be the kind of person who would use your item to hurt yourself or others or to leave such items so that dangerous people can obtain them.

      I think they'd opt for the tick-box or merely include it in the website TOS. This is up there with Item is for display only and not intended to serve advertised function. Use of the item invalidates any warranty or vender liability.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 6:56pm

    I've found contraband on Amazon and Ebay before. It's usually minor IMO, but I count on some supplier slipping through. It takes about 2 weeks before the product is pulled and it's usually sold for a different purpose / industry. I hate to see that end since most of the time it's stuff that is restricted due to geography and patents in the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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