Author Archives: Roger Canaff

About Roger Canaff

Roger Canaff is a widely known child protection and anti-violence against women advocate, legal expert, author and public speaker. Mr. Canaff, a practicing attorney, has devoted his legal career to the eradication of violence against women and children, first as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia then as a Special Victims ADA in the Bronx, New York, and then as an Assistant Attorney General with the state of New York in their Sex Offender Management Unit. In June, 2009, he joined the U.S. Department of the Army as a Highly Qualified Expert training and advising Judge Advocate General (JAG) military prosecutors on sexual assault and other special victims cases. With over 10 years experience, he has prosecuted cases involving sexual and physical abuse against children and adolescents, and also sexual assault against adults, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Mr. Canaff served in the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, a unit of the National District Attorneys Association in Alexandria, Virginia for two years between assignments as an ADA. He continues to provide training and speak publicly to other attorneys, medical experts, law enforcement officers, victim advocates and the public on all issues related to the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and sexual assault. Currently he serves on the Board of Directors as president of End Violence Against Women, International (EVAW), an organization that provides training, technical assistance, research and advocacy. He has also been featured in two multi-media resource tools, one a training video sponsored by the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) on presenting medical evidence in sexual assault trials, and the other an interactive DVD-ROM produced under the U.S. Department of Justice, President’s DNA Initiative, on developing testifying skills as a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner.

For Rebirth in April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Many thanks to the Huffington Post Impact section for including me in an important series of testimonials and blog posts on sexual violence as we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

One of the best ways you can discover how to make a difference (this month and beyond) is to visit www.startbybelieving.org. There are far more survivors of sexual violence than you’re aware of- the same is true for all of us. You are potential responder, as we all are. Please- respond gently.

Bigotry Is Bad. And Bad for Business

Anti-black bigotry in the American South, persisting with political cover well into the latter half of the 20th century, was an utter disaster for an economy already struggling to overcome unindustrialized, agrarian roots.

Anti-gay bigotry, led in part (again) by misplaced religiosity, will now further damage the same region, and perhaps with it parts of the Southwest as well.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’d tentatively add that it also bends toward intellectual growth and common sense. Environments where bigotry thrives will inherit the wind. And little else.

James Taranto and the Wall Street Journal: The Issue is the Platform, Not Censorship

Phrenology, the attempt to explain brain function and activity through analyzing the size and shape of a subject’s skull, was seriously discussed within neuroscience circles as late as the mid-19th century. Its adherents can be forgiven for their ignorance based on what was observable and evident at the time. But it’s now known definitively as baseless, and thus would not be discussed seriously in a news article by a reputable media source in some attempt at giving equal time to an opposing view point.

But might an opinion piece- on why phrenology should be not only seriously considered but in fact applied in order to meet societal challenges- still merit consideration by, say, the nation’s financial newspaper of record? Of course not; it’s a theory that is not only thoroughly discredited but dangerously misleading and potentially harmful if adhered to. Similarly, we no longer give serious voice to the opinions of those who would persecute azimuthal map-makers, who view their race as genetically superior to others, or- and strictly relevant to the matter at hand- who argue that communistic, central planning is a terrific tool for economic growth.

And yet the Wall Street Journal has given a tremendous voice to a collection of ideas just as thoroughly discredited and potentially harmful with the publication of James Taranto’s remarkably ignorant opinion piece on non-stranger sexual assault. The backlash against Taranto has been harsh, but it is richly deserved. In short, there is no excuse, after years of replicated, respected research on the topic, not to mention the observations of hundreds of thousands of victims (and many offenders), to give a voice Taranto’s opinions under the banner of that publication. This is not about “feminist” or “liberal” censorship; it’s not about censorship at all. Taranto is more than entitled to his opinion and he may offer it to the marketplace of ideas like anyone else. The issue is the responsibility of the WSJ editorial staff to make better decisions on what merits publication within its pages.

A belief that alcohol creates the urge to commit rape, that offenders and victims are “colliders” in alcohol-fueled sexual situations and thus generally of equal blame, and the claim that false accusations are anything more than rare and usually easily detected events, are all ideas that have been thoroughly discredited.

Dr. David Lisak is often rightfully credited with the ground-breaking research that first shed light on the motivations and methodology of the relatively small group of sexually deviant offenders (mostly male) who commit most of the non-stranger sexual violence we endure (his work was replicated with startlingly similar results in 2009). But decades before Lisak, other pioneers (Mary Koss and Joan Zorza come to mind) were making keen observations about the true nature of predatory behavior and the reality of the experience of sexual violence. Their work has proved out convincingly and continues to do so. The further we lessen the stigma against victimization, the more we hear from courageous women and men willing to give accounts that confirm, overwhelmingly, the observations of these experts.

In my experience, the only remaining groups that cling to the ideas Taranto was able to espouse to millions are some (not all) so-called “men’s rights advocates,” interested criminal defense firms, and men who have been charged with rape. True, there is still ignorance about the topic in not only the general population, but within the law enforcement and prosecution communities as evidenced by the dubious quotes Taranto printed by members of both. But that’s not a reason to proliferate ignorance further.

Taranto may or may not choose to educate himself on the dynamics of alcohol-facilitated, non-stranger sexual assault as it actually and typically plays out: In a premeditated, methodical fashion by pattern offenders who identify, manipulate, attack and then discredit their victims, aided before and after by a larger society still ignorant of predatory behavior and punishing of female sexuality. Either way, I would never seek to prevent him from continuing to hold and espouse his views. My issue is with the major media outlet that chose to showcase them as serious editorial discourse. It’s anything but.