Veronica Roberts

The Occupy movement, which started in New York City on September 17, has since spread nationally and globally. Many are protesting what they say is a gross imbalance in society's standard of living across the globe --and here at home, a dwindling of the American Dream.

Many applaud and are in agreement with the sentiment, but critics say the movement is descending into vandalism; now, they add a serious charge of sexual violence.

Cases of sexual assault have been reported in New York and on Sunday, the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, was seen in a press conference on CNN announcing yet another sexual assault at Occupy Philly.

Nutter also expressed concern, not only for the safety of women but also the health of all protesters and the city at large. He said the "occupation" had changed since the original protesters left, and the current movement is descending into lawlessness.

In New York, reports of sexual assaults have hit the airwaves. One female protester seen on local channel 7 ABC News said they have taken steps to protect themselves by setting up "women only" tents and rotating patrol volunteers at night. New York Police Department safeguard the streets, but protesters do not allow them inside the Occupy movement camp at Zuccotti Park.

Protesters do not trust the police and city officials, and this may be the underlying reason why alleged assaults are under-reported. They fear the authorities would use this as a reason to shut the camps down and squash the protests. However, this reluctance can put women at continued risk.

An 18-year-old Cleveland victim and another 14-year-old from from Dallas who reportedly ran away from home to join the protest reported being sexually assaulted. One NY Occupier seen in the above video claimed over 10 assaults happened in Zuccotti Park, including one involving a deaf young man.

In Canada, one woman was reportedly found dead Saturday, November 5, in an Occupy Vancouver camp there. According to the Seattle Times, cause of death was undetermined but one organiser of the protest, Lauren Gill, said it may have been a drug overdose.

Supporters of the movement say the right-wing media, which has criticised the protests from day one, and city officials are on a crusade to black-list the cause, stir up negative press and send infiltrators to disrupt and act lawlessly to give legitimacy to police squashing of many camps across the country.

One protester at Zuccotti park told a local reporter that there was no more crime in the park than outside. He said there were all kinds of people present, which reflected a microcosm of our society, and that they were trying hard to keep it safe for everyone, especially women.

What do you think: has the movement lost its original meaning--is it now infiltrated by criminal types looking for a free meal, somewhere to hang out and commit crimes under the guise of activism, or is it hype by the right-wing media and movement critics to malign the cause?