Feb 272015

Senators Seek Huge Fines For Colleges Mishandling Sexual Assault

Tyler Kingkade
February 26, 2015

A bipartisan group of senators proposed Thursday to ramp up the federal government’s ability to penalize colleges that mishandle sexual assault cases, while imposing significant new transparency requirements.

Legislation reintroduced in the Senate, titled the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), would mandate surveys to obtain a more accurate picture of sexual assault on campus and institute requirements to help guide victims and the accused through potential adjudication. Schools that don’t follow federal laws relating to sexual assault could be hit with much larger fines.

“The reason why schools are failing is because they do not take this crime seriously,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), co-sponsor of the bill, during a press conference Thursday.

The senators first unveiled CASA in July 2014 and are now reintroducing it for the new session of Congress. The effort is spearheaded by Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) as the lead GOP co-sponsor. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) plans to move the bill through the Senate education committee, Heller said.

The federal government has recently been paying greater attention to college sexual assault, with a White House task force on the issue and a record number of investigations into alleged violations under the gender equity law Title IX in colleges’ response to sexual assault accusations.

CASA would increase the potential fines per violation under the Clery Act from $35,000 to $150,000. That law requires schools to disclose the number of crimes reported on campus annually and stipulates certain rights of sexual assault survivors who come forward.

Under CASA, violations of Title IX would also become punishable by a fine of up to 1 percent of an institution’s annual operating budget. Currently, the Education Department’s only option under Title IX is to cut off all federal funding, something it has never done but often threatens to do.

McCaskill, Gillibrand and Heller have again been joined by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as co-sponsors of the bill. They have picked up two new co-sponsors in freshman Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

Under the proposed legislation, colleges for the first time would have to disclose the number of assaults reported to the school’s Title IX coordinator, the number of disciplinary proceedings, how many students were found responsible for sexual assault and what sanctions were imposed — data that colleges typically keep private.

At Thursday’s press conference, Gillibrand cited a Huffington Post analysis that found less than one third of students judged responsible for sexual assault by colleges were actually expelled from their institution. “What does it say about these school priorities if some colleges have a tougher justice system for a student cheating on an exam than for somebody who has raped another student?” she said.

Peters pointed to a 2014 Senate survey finding that 40 percent of colleges had not conducted a single sexual assault investigation in five years. “How can that be? How can we have institutions that have not had one investigation on their campus?” he asked.

Capito said that current law has the “perverse effect of encouraging colleges to under-report.”

The new bill mainly tracks last year’s proposal with some modifications based on feedback from various stakeholders over the past six months, the senators said.

“At first glance, it appears that the new version of the legislation contains adjustments that respond to a number of practical concerns universities raised with respect to the original bill,” said Barry Toiv, spokesman for the Association of American Universities.

For instance, the mandatory anonymous survey about student experiences with sexual assault — results to be published online — would be conducted every two years, rather than every year.

Those surveys are key “to better inform us of problems and to make better policy choices,” Annie Clark, co-founder of the activist group End Rape On Campus, told The Huffington Post. The Clery Act data “leaves a lot of gaps,” she said, since it includes only officially reported assaults while research shows most assaults are never disclosed to authority figures.

The senators also added a provision to ensure fairness in the adjudication of sexual assault cases. Colleges would have to disclose details of any sexual assault complaint to the accused student, including a full summary of the disciplinary proceeding and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.

Joe Cohn, policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which often defends accused students, said his organization saw the bill as still largely one-sided in favor of the alleged victims. “We are gratified that this version of CASA at least mentions due process, but we note that it provides no comprehensive protections that are not already required under federal law,” Cohn said.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) plan to unveil a companion bill in the House.

As of Thursday, the legislation already had the support of several advocacy groups and sexual health nonprofits, including End Rape On Campus, Students Active for Ending Rape, Girls Inc., V-Day, Sexual Health Innovations, and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The American Federation of Teachers and the State University of New York system also gave their blessing.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/campus-sexual-assault-bill_n_6761170.html

Feb 252015

Rights of Accused College Rapists often Overlooked

February 25, 2015

Alleged rapists have rights.

American colleges make it difficult for an accused sexual assailant, innocent or guilty, to clear his or her name.

More than 50 colleges throughout the nation are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education because of the inadequate handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints. As a result, universities are cracking down on student sex offenders.

But sexual assault cases can be questionable. Stricter rules for students suspected of sexual assault could further inhibit their rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

At most schools, “Guilt or innocence hinges on a preponderance of evidence, a far lower standard than the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ test that prevails in court,” said journalist Judith Shulevitz in an article on college sexual assault.

The fact that colleges have much lower standards than the legal system obstructs an individual’s right to a fair trial.

The Affirmative Consent Standard, also known as the “Yes Means Yes” bill, passed last year in California.

Instead of determining whether a sexual assault was done without consent, the law determines whether or not consent was given.

Basically, instead of asking a victim if they said no, they will be asked if they said yes in the event of a sexual assault.

“It changes the definition of consent to one that requires an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each party to engage in specific sexual activity,” said Emily Peart, the University Police’s Safe Place coordinator, in a previous Orion article.

However, some groups are concerned that the bill does not give enough rights to the accused.

And rightfully so.

A victim-centered approach should be taken in sexual assault cases, but not at the expense of guaranteed human rights.

Rape, without physical evidence, is a crime based largely on perspective.

In 2012, a female student at the University of Virginia was allegedly gang raped by seven Phi Kappa Psi pledges at their fraternity house after a “date night” function. Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote a story on the attack for Rolling Stone.

However, Erdely only covered the story from the victim’s perspective.

Phi Kappa Psi wrote a formal statement in response to the story contradicting a number of facts.

There was no “date night” that night, and Phi Kappa Psi had no pledges that semester.

In apology for the inaccuracies in the article article, Rolling Stone wrote:

“In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after sexual assault, we made a judgment (not to contact the alleged offenders). We should have worked harder to convince her (the victim) that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.”

The victim’s story cannot be confirmed nor denied. It may have been true. It may have been a lie. It may have been biased and blown out of proportion.

It was a complicated case, as many sexual assault cases are.

Alleged offenders deserve the same rights as alleged victims until proven otherwise.

At college hearings, prosecutors, cops, judges and juries rule these cases based on a “preponderance of evidence” and recounts of the incident.

“In over three-quarters of college rapes, the offender, the victim or both had been drinking,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

When alcohol is involved, recounts of the incident become less reliable.

Memory may be lost or altered, for both sides.

If enough alcohol is consumed, both the victim and offender may have made choices they would not normally have made.

In 2013, Emma Sulkowicz accused Paul Nungesser of sexual assault. She carried a mattress around Columbia University in protest to raise awareness.

However, all charges against Nungesser were overturned.

Nungesser and Sulkowicz had completely different recounts of the incident, but Nungesser had text messages and more to back up his claims that he was innocent.

After the hearing, Columbia faculty allowed the student body to continue to protest against Nungesser.

His reputation was soiled, and he was forced to keep a low profile for the rest of his college career.

These accusations won’t just disappear when Nungesser leaves Columbia. They will follow him for the rest of his life.

To be clear, I am not condoning rape or sexual assault. But the legal process is important to both sides.

While false accusations of rape are rare, they do happen.

In any circumstance, it is crucial that the alleged criminal be treated in an unbiased manner — innocent until proven guilty.

Miles Inserra can be reached at opioneditor@theorion.com or @m_inserra on Twitter.

Source: http://theorion.com/blog/2015/02/25/rights-of-accused-college-rapists-often-overlooked/

Feb 252015

Woman Sues College For Forcing Her To Confront Her Alleged Rapist

Ahiza Garcia
February 24, 2015

A woman is suing her college for allegedly forcing her to question and be cross-examined by her rapist, The Journal News newspaper reported on Monday.

In her suit, Sarah Tubbs, 22, accused Stony Brook University in New York of making her personally confront her alleged attacker during a disciplinary hearing despite having no prior legal training, according to the paper. Tubbs had initially reported the rape to the university in order to have disciplinary charges brought against her rapist.

Tubbs’ lawsuit was seeking to end the practice of forcing victims to “prosecute their own cases and to cross-examine and be cross-examined by their assailants” at such hearings, the paper reported.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged rape occurred on Jan. 26, 2014 after Tubbs went to the man’s dorm room and changed her mind about having sex with him. The Journal News did not identify the alleged rapist because no criminal charges had been brought against him.

The lawsuit also said that when Tubbs attempted to file a complaint with campus police she was told she didn’t have a case. An officer also told her the district attorney’s office would probably agree “because she did not scream ‘No,’ or violently fight back.”

So, instead of pursuing charges against her assailant, Tubbs sought a university disciplinary action. She told the paper she wanted “some type of justice” and wanted the man to “know he did something wrong.”

During the hearing, Tubbs said she was required to make her case against the man. She said she wasn’t allowed to bring her therapist to the hearing and was only separated from the man by a paper screen. Tubbs also said there were no police or security officers at the five-hour hearing, which took place in May.

“I would say the hardest part was hearing his voice because it’s the voice I hear in my flashbacks,” Tubbs told the newspaper. “One of my biggest concerns … was that he would get aggressive and retaliate.”

After the hearing, Tubbs’ alleged rapist was found not guilty. According to Tubbs, she was given an appeal in August but has yet to hear from the university and has been unable to make contact.

“I don’t think it’s the rape that makes the person a victim,” Tubbs said. “I think it’s the systemic failure that makes someone from a survivor to a victim. … I can honestly say I won’t stop fighting until those systems change.”

Source: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/stony-brook-university-disciplinary-hearing-suit

Feb 252015

Sexual Violence Law Specialist Threatens SUNY over Affirmative Consent

Jessica Bakeman
February 25, 2015

ALBANY—An attorney who has successfully challenged Ivy League universities’ handling of alleged sexual assaults has vowed to sue SUNY if the university system adjudicates such incidents using a recently adopted “affirmative consent” standard.

Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed SUNY to adopt the new, more comprehensive definition of sexual consent and has proposed extending the standard to private colleges. During the Legislature’s preliminary debate of the policy, conservative Republicans have raised questions about the practicality and fairness of the standard, which requires partners to affirmatively and continuously consent throughout a sexual act.

But Boston-based attorney and law professor Wendy Murphy argues that the problem with the new standard is that it doesn’t go far enough to protect women.

Applying affirmative consent to the adjudication of alleged sexual assaults actually lowers the standard of protection victims are entitled to under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, says Murphy, who specializes in violence against women and children. Her position makes her a rarity among victim advocates, most of whom laud the “yes means yes” definition of consent.

Murphy, who is a professor at the New England School of Law, said she has “insider” contacts at SUNY who will alert her when a sexual assault allegation is adjudicated using affirmative consent, since the cases are not publicized, and then she’ll sue, using a standard lawsuit she’s already prepared.

“Any school that determined whether an incident occurred by applying the affirmative consent standard is asking for trouble, because, number one, it’s inconsistent with Title IX, and two, because it’s a worse standard. It’s an unconstitutional standard,” she said. “My feeling is that it’s a lawsuit that is going to be easy to win.”

Cuomo’s office and SUNY argued against Murphy’s claims.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which handles Title IX complaints and investigations, would not directly address her argument but provided recent White House guidance about the law’s implementation that suggests affirmative consent is, in fact, consistent.

Murphy, though, has gone after high-profile universities previously for their handling of sexual assault incidents. She filed federal complaints against Princeton University and Harvard Law School for mishandling sexual assaults, and the education department’s Office for Civil Rights ultimately found the schools in violation of Title IX, compelling them to revise their policies for handling the incidents.

When Harvard recently adopted a new policy for handling sexual assaults that did not include the affirmative consent standard, Murphy lauded the decision in a Boston Globe opinion piece, in which she explains the same argument she would use against SUNY, if she gets the chance. (A spokesman from Harvard declined to comment; a website with frequently asked questions about the university’s policy includes an explanation of why it did not adopt affirmative consent that’s consistent with Murphy’s argument.)

Title IX requires an incident be evaluated for whether it was “unwelcome” and “offensive,” Murphy explained. Unwelcomeness is subjective, so it can be determined only by the victim; offensiveness is both subjective and objective, so it can be determined by the victim as well as observers.

When college administrators evaluate an incident using affirmative consent, accused perpetrators are able to argue that they mistakenly believed they had obtained consent. Any weight given to the accused’s “mistake” deflates the victim’s right to determine that the activity was unwelcome, Murphy said.

“It’s really this basic: Affirmative consent allows schools to rule against a victim, even in a clear case of misconduct, on the grounds that the offender made a mistake about the victim’s consent,” she said.

No such defense is available for crimes perpetrated against victims because of their race, religion or other characteristics protected under other federal discrimination laws, so affirmative consent creates a “second class” for women, she argued.

“The very first time that standard gets applied, the victim is going to say, why did you apply a tougher standard of affirmative consent to my case, therefore giving value to the offender’s alleged mistake, which is almost always a lie?” Murphy said. “Why did you give any weight to his claimed mistake? That’s not allowed under civil rights law. That can’t trump by subjective decision about my own body. The argument is going to be that you don’t apply affirmative consent to issues of racist violence on campus.”

Murphy is not alone in her opposition to affirmative consent, but much of the criticism of the standard in New York and nationally comes from conservatives who argue, for one, that it threatens the due process rights of men.

Murphy said Title IX accounts for the protection of what she called “sincere offenders,” who believed sexual activity in which they engaged was consensual, because college administrators who are adjudicating an alleged sexual assault would have to find it offensive as well as unwelcome.

“So if the fact pattern is two students engaged in a sex act, and from an objective observer’s perspective, it appears to be consensual, but the subjective experience of an individual is unwelcome, the school can’t find against the perpetrator, because what is offensive is to be determined in part by the observer,” Murphy said. “That’s where the legal buffer exists to protect against this largely theoretical concern that the truly sincere offender could end up ‘with his life ruined.’”

Alternatively, she said, “if the guy says four of us were holding her down and gang raping her, and she loved it, and she says, no I didn’t, she prevails,” because the administrator would find the act offensive.

While she said she understands concerns about the due process rights of the accused, “We really don’t have a major problem with too much punishment of sincere offenders. What we actually have is the opposite. You don’t go after the rare exception to the rule. You repair the big problem.”

Murphy said she’s frustrated by the lack of student activism against affirmative consent; in fact, at many universities, students are leading the push to adopt the standard. She said students embrace it because the concept of affirmative consent has opened healthy dialogues about sex.

“I don’t disagree that speaking openly about sex is a good thing,” she said. “That is a very different issue than what legal standards schools should be applying when redressing reports of sexual violence on campus.”

Murphy blames policymakers and university administrators, too, arguing they know that affirmative consent is a lesser standard and push for it anyway, “assuming students will remain ignorant.”

“Women aren’t stupid enough to think just because the governor celebrated it under a couple of balloons and people cheering that that makes it a good thing,” Murphy said.

Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, said in a statement that his legislative proposal is consistent with the state and federal constitutions, Title IX and the Clery Act, which requires colleges to make annual reports of on-campus crimes, as well as case law regarding college discipline and due process.

“The language in this bill, which has been called a national model, was vetted with national and state experts and was adopted in 2014 by SUNY,” Lever said. “Any statement that the proposal is less than required by Title IX is simply incorrect.”

A SUNY attorney who worked on the policy also told Capital it was consistent with federal laws.

A federal education official explained in statement that Title IX does not define consent, and the department’s Office for Civil Rights does not require schools to use a uniform definition of consent.

“During an investigation, when considering whether an institution is compliant with Title IX, O.C.R. would look at the reasonableness of the school’s definition of consent and its application to a particular factual situation,” the official said.

Recent guidance from the White House instructs schools that a definition of consent must recognize that: consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity; someone who is incapacitated cannot consent; past consent does not imply future consent; silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent; consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another; consent can be withdrawn at any time; and coercion, force, or threat of either invalidates consent.

SUNY’s new definition of affirmative consent appears to be consistent with the federal guidelines.

The lengthy definition is as follows: “Affirmative consent is a clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed, and voluntary agreement between all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive. Silence or lack of resistance cannot be interpreted as consent. Seeking and having consent accepted is the responsibility of the person(s) initiating each specific sexual act regardless of whether the person initiating the act is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

“Consent to any sexual act or prior consensual sexual activity between or with any party does not constitute consent to any other sexual act,” the definition continues. “The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“Consent may be initially given but withdrawn at any time,” according to the definition. “When consent is withdrawn or cannot be given, sexual activity must stop. Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated. Incapacitation occurs when an individual lacks the ability to fully, knowingly choose to participate in sexual activity. Incapacitation includes impairment due to drugs or alcohol (whether such use is voluntary or involuntary), the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, if any of the parties are under the age of 17, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Consent cannot be given when it is the result of any coercion, intimidation, force, or threat of harm.”

Source: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8562792/sexual-violence-law-specialist-threatens-suny-over-affirmative-consen

Feb 252015

Experts: Sexual Assaults on Males an Issue

Jim Garamone
February 24, 2015

TYSONS CORNER, Va. – Experts urged Army leaders to reach out to male victims of sexual assault, saying people must not look at sexual violence as exclusively a women’s issue.

Jim Hopper, a psychologist and researcher, and Russell Strand, a retired Criminal Investigative Service special agent, spoke about an aspect of sexual violence not often discussed: sexual assaults on men. The men spoke during the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program Summit Feb. 19.

The number of males sexually assaulted in the military are sobering, they said. “(About) 10,800 men are sexually assaulted every year in the military,” Strand said. “(Roughly) 8,000 women are assaulted.”

It is a bit of apples and oranges comparison. Men make up about 85 percent of the military so this works out to about 1 percent of males are assaulted, but about 5 percent of females are.
“Number-wise, we’ve had more men assaulted in the military than women,” Strand said. “And everywhere I go to talk – the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and Coast Guard – it doesn’t sink in. It doesn’t internalize.”

It is seen as primarily a women’s issue, even by women, Strand said.
A large number of men are affected, and being men, few ever report the attacks, Strand said. Only 1,134 men reported attacks – roughly 13 percent of those attacked. With women, 39 percent reported attacks.
So, 87 percent of men attacked are not reporting it and “these are real men in real pain,” Hopper said. The pain is compounded by shame.
Being sexually assaulted brings additional levels of shame to a man because it works against the ideal of what it means to be a man, he said.

And it brings fear. “There’s fear of those memories, there’s fear of being violated, there’s fear that someone might know what happened to them,” Hopper said.

Men who have been assaulted this way believe they are not worthy of respect, Strand said.

The men who are assaulted are overwhelmingly heterosexual and so are those doing the assaulting.

“Most people who sexually assault adult men are heterosexuals,” Hopper said. “And those same heterosexual men, who are assaulting men, are often the same men assaulting women.”

Many males would not get help because they feel they would not be believed, understood or supported.

“Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to ‘a real man,'” Hopper said.
They are also truly afraid of their friends or teammates finding out what happened to them, Hopper said. They believe they will be looked at as less than a man, that they will be ostracized and shunned. Finally, many see this as the death knell to their careers.

The military services need to begin marketing on the issue specifically to men, the experts said.

A safe anonymous helpline could be the beginning for getting many of these men the help they need and deserve.

The services also need to market programs aimed at commanders, health care professionals, police investigators and prosecutors, informing them of the problem and assets available to help their service members.

Source: http://www.thebayonet.com/2015/02/24/753646/experts-sexual-assaults-on-males.html#storylink=cpy

Feb 252015

Schism Emerges in Bikram Yoga Empire Amid Rape Claims

Jack Healy
February 23, 2015

LOS ANGELES — He is the yoga guru who built an empire on sweat and swagger. He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion. During trainings for hopeful yoga teachers, he paces a stage in a black Speedo and holds forth on life, sex and the transformative power of his brand of hot yoga. “I totally cure you,” he has told interviewers. “Whatever the problem you have.”

But a day of legal reckoning is drawing closer for the guru, Bikram Choudhury. He is facing six civil lawsuits from women accusing him of rape or assault. The most recent was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian yogi, Jill Lawler, who said Mr. Choudhury raped her during a teacher-training in the spring of 2010.

This month, a Los Angeles judge cleared away several challenges to a lawsuit from a former student who said Mr. Choudhury raped her during another 2010 teacher-training.

The first complaint was filed two years ago. As more surfaced, and more women spoke publicly about accusations of assault and harassment, their accounts have created fissures in the close-knit world of yoga students and teachers who have spent thousands of dollars to study with Mr. Choudhury; opened studios bearing his name; and found strength, flexibility and health in his formula of 26 yoga postures in a sweltering room.

A class at the San Diego branch of Bikram’s Yoga College of India in 2010. Bikram yoga studios operate worldwide, from Buenos Aires to Shanghai. Credit Rebecca Greenfield/Polaris
Many have stayed loyal to a man they call Boss and revere as an eccentric guru. Others are walking away.

“A lot of people have blinders on,” said Sarah Baughn, 29, a onetime Bikram yoga devotee and international yoga competitor whose lawsuit against Mr. Choudhury in 2013 was like an earthquake among followers of his style of yoga. “This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”

Mr. Choudhury, who remains the face of his yoga empire, his grinning photo placed prominently on the home page of Bikram’s Yoga College of India, denies any wrongdoing and faces no criminal charges.

A statement issued by lawyers for Mr. Choudhury and his yoga college, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said that “Mr. Choudhury did not sexually assault any of the plaintiffs” and that the women were “unjustly” exploiting the legal system for financial gain.

“Their claims are false and dishonor Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world,” the statement said. “After a thorough investigation, the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file any sexual assault charges against Mr. Choudhury or the college for lack of evidence.”

An August trial date has been set in Ms. Baughn’s case. In her complaint, she said Mr. Choudhury pursued her starting with a teacher-training she attended in 2005, when she was 20. She said he had whispered sexual advances during classes, and had assaulted and groped her in a hotel room and at his home.

In the other case involving a 2010 teacher-training, Mr. Choudhury’s lawyers argued that the woman had waited too long to file the lawsuit, beyond the statute of limitations. But the judge denied parts of the lawyers’ argument, saying the woman, known in court papers as Jane Doe No. 2, had endured so much damage to her life and psyche that most of the suit could move ahead.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“The cases are moving very quickly,” said Mary Shea Hagebols, a lawyer for the six women suing Mr. Choudhury. “Any stays have been lifted, and we’re moving full steam ahead.”

Even as the lawsuits against Mr. Choudhury multiplied over the past two years, new Bikram-branded studios continued to open, joining a list of hundreds of independently operated studios in places like Buenos Aires and Shanghai. Mr. Choudhury is listed as the director of his Los Angeles headquarters, and he personally oversees the grueling, weekslong teacher-trainings that cost $12,500 per pupil.


Tiffany Friedman, owner of Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, changed the name of her studio, scrapping the word Bikram. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times
“There have been thousands of Bikram yoga teachers, studio owners and practitioners who have conveyed messages of support and encouragement,” the statement from his lawyers said.

But several owners have decided to jettison the name Bikram from their yoga, saying they now felt uncomfortable with the association. On the Southern California coast, Tiffany Friedman renamed her Bikram studio Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach and began offering her own mixture of yoga styles.

Ms. Friedman had been doing Bikram-style yoga for years, and she said that after buying a studio in 2008, she decided to attend a teacher-training in San Diego. She hoped to learn more about yoga philosophy, anatomy and the underpinnings of a physical practice she had come to love. She found none of that, she said.

“I was pretty much appalled,” she said. “It was very cultish.”

The daylong trainings, she said, consisted of marathon yoga practice in a roasting room, rote memorization of a yoga script to which teachers had to adhere, what she described as rambling lectures led by Mr. Choudhury and mandatory viewings of Bollywood movies until 3 a.m. She said other teacher trainees frequently massaged Mr. Choudhury as he sat in an oversize chair on stage before rows of pupils.

“I saw how people really wanted his favor and wanted him to shine a light on them and wanted to believe he was a guru and had all these powers,” Ms. Friedman said. “It was heartbreaking.”

Ms. Friedman said she had clashed with Mr. Choudhury when she had begun offering an abbreviated version of his 90-minute class, and decided to part ways with the Bikram brand after reading details from the lawsuits.

“I stopped sending people to training,” she said. “I changed the name.”

But other studio owners have drawn borders between the man and his yoga, saying his methods work. And they have continued to use his name in their business.

“I was pretty much appalled. It was very cultish,” said Ms. Friedman of a teacher-training with Mr. Bikram that she attended in San Diego after buying a studio in 2008. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times
In moment-by-moment detail, the civil suits against Mr. Choudhury accused him of harassing, targeting and assaulting young women who had once revered him.

The most recent complaint, filed by Ms. Lawler, described how she felt that “Bikram Yoga was her calling, and that her purpose was to share it with as many people as possible.” At 18, she signed up for a spring 2010 teacher-training in Las Vegas.

Lawyers for Mr. Choudhury said they had not yet been formally served with the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Mr. Choudhury praised Ms. Lawler’s recitation of the teaching script that accompanied the yoga postures. She massaged him for hours during Bollywood viewings, the complaint said, and at one point, he began groping her.

Ms. Lawler was afraid to speak up, the court papers said, and having spent $10,000 from her college fund on the training, she felt she had to complete the course. Mr. Choudhury pulled her aside one night, apologized for touching her and promised to “make her a champion,” the complaint said.

Weeks later, Mr. Choudhury told Ms. Lawler to accompany him to his hotel room, where he sexually assaulted her, the complaint said.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Lawler stayed part of the Bikram world for years after that; the complaint accused Mr. Choudhury of sexually assaulting her on multiple subsequent occasions, most recently in February 2013.

In July 2014, she taught her last Bikram yoga class, the lawsuit said, and took a job as a waitress.

Ms. Baughn, who once loved teaching yoga and earned accolades for her strength and flexibility on the yoga mat, has also left the yoga world. She no longer teaches or practices, and she said she could never go back.

“I went through total hell,” she said, adding: “What happened to me was awful. I’ll probably always have bad dreams.”

Correction: February 25, 2015
Because of an editing error, an article on Tuesday about civil lawsuits that accused the yoga guru Bikram Choudhury of rape and assault referred incorrectly to the actions of Tiffany Friedman, owner of Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, during a Bikram training session. Ms. Friedman said other teacher trainees massaged Mr. Choudhury; she did not do so.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/24/us/cracks-show-in-bikram-yoga-empire-amid-claims-of-rape-and-assault.html?_r=0

Feb 242015


Contact: Gina Lauterio
Email: info@saveservices.org

Campus Sexual Assault: Lawmakers Must Act to End to Second-Class Justice

WASHINGTON / February 24, 2015 – SAVE, a national sexual assault organization, is calling on federal and state lawmakers to take prompt action to assure felony-level sex crimes that occur on campus are referred to local police, not to campus committees that lack the expertise to handle such complicated cases.

Surveys of the voting public show strong support for such measures:

• A YouGov poll found that women place far greater trust in law enforcement officials, not campus administrators to investigate rape allegations: https://today.yougov.com/news/2014/02/03/poll-results-sexual-assault/
• A recent survey of 1,062 registered voters in Virginia found nine out of 10 believe colleges and universities should report campus sexual assaul ts to police and not handle them internally: http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/general-assembly/article_697adeca-39a8-580e-8fca-dfcc4fd05a4e.html

SAVE has compiled statements by dozens of elected officials, victim advocacy organizations, civil rights groups, media outlets, faculty members, administrators, and others decrying the “second-class justice” being rendered by campus disciplinary panels: http://www.saveservices.org/sexual-assault/cjc/

“Why do groups claiming to be ‘victim-rights’ advocates seek to uphold the current system?” asks SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Do these groups really believe expulsion is adequate punishment for a person who commits forceable rape?”

SAVE has drafted a bill that would require campus sexual assault cases be handled by local law enforcement authorities, not untrained campus disciplinary panels: http://www.saveservices.org/sexual-assault/sos/

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working to promote effective solutions to campus sexual assault: http://www.saveservices.org/

Feb 222015

February 23, 2015


Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray:

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), a national organization working to end sexual assault on campus, requests that the following questions be asked of the witnesses during the February 24, 2015 hearing of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

These questions highlight a troubling pattern by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of regulatory over-reach, apparent disdain for the Administrative Procedures Act, flouting of Congressional authority, and open disregard of Supreme Court decisions.


In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that actual knowledge and deliberate indifference are the standards for liability under Title IX for peer-to-peer sexual harassment.

The United States argued in an amicus brief that suits seeking injunctive relief should be held to a lower standard; the Court did not endorse that argument. Yet OCR continues to maintain that suits for injunctive relief are held to a lower standard.  (See April 2014 Q and A footnote 9 http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-title-ix.pdf).

Under what legal authority is the Office for Civil Rights overriding a Supreme Court decision in order to dictate the standard that courts must use to resolve private disputes?  


The Code of Federal Regulations governing Title IX grievance processes requires adjudications to be “equitable” (34 CFR 106.8(b)).  When OCR announced a settlement with the University of Montana in 2012, OCR ignored a federal judge’s opinion characterizing the school’s grievance processes during the relevant time period as fundamentally unfair to accused students (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-henrick/a-tale-of-two-montanas_b_4003420.html).  OCR in fact has never issued any guidance to make sure proceedings are fair for those facing sexual harassment allegations.

How can the Office for Civil Rights fulfill its Congressional mandate when it apparently believes that equitable procedures only need to be provided to one party in the dispute?    


OCR’s 2014 sexual harassment and assault guidance “Questions and Answers about Title IX and Sexual Violence” substantially altered harassment liability from its previous 1997 harassment guidance, as well as general principles of harassment liability developed by the courts.

The OCR guidance generally imposes liability on institutions even if they discipline the accused harasser, if they do not also “prevent its recurrence” and “remedy its effects,” and OCR says that even punishing the harasser “likely will not be sufficient” to comply with Title IX. (See “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” (April 29, 2014), pg. 25 — http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-title-ix.pdf ).

This was major change accomplished without any notice and comment, as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.

What are your views about the appropriate role of Congress in enforcing the Administrative Procedures Act?


The report, Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities correctly notes (http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/Regulations_Task_Force_Report_2015_FINAL.pdf):

“According to the basic tenets of administrative law, Congress passes laws, and it is up to the agencies to implement them. However, in recent years, the Department has increasingly used the regulatory process not in response to any specific legislative change enacted by Congress, but rather as a means to achieve its own policy objectives.”

In the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) April 2014 guidance, “Questions and Answers on Title IX, and Sexual Violence” (http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-title-ix.pdf, page 31), the Department declared for the first time that evidence of a complainant’s sexual history should never be admitted in a campus sexual assault adjudication. There is nothing in Title IX, its legislative history, or the legislative history of any subsequent amendment that purports to give OCR the power to set procedural and evidentiary rules for how allegations of sexual harassment must be resolved.

What should Congress do to rein in the Office for Civil Rights so it operates within the bounds of Congressional intent?


The Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities report recommends, “The Department should not make significant changes in policy without following the APA’s notice and comment procedures” (page 36).

The Report singles out the Office of Civil Rights’ 2011 “Dear Colleague” regarding how universities are to comply with Title IX as it pertains to defining, reporting, and handling sexual harassment and assault cases. The “Dear Colleague” letter was issued without notice and comment, yet imposed what the Recalibrating Regulation report termed “complex mandates” (p. 12). These mandates required further clarification in a follow-up 53-page document, also issued without notice and comment.

Do you believe that Congress should take a more active oversight role of the Office for Civil Rights, such as use of the Congressional Review Act which allows the Congress to veto agency regulations?


The Office for Civil Rights has maintained that its Dear Colleague letters and similar sub-regulatory guidances do not fall under the Administrative Procedures Act, a position that many view as disingenuous.

Should Congressional appropriators employ the power of the purse to encourage the Office for Civil Rights to operate within Congressional intent, obey the Administrative Procedures Act, and respect Supreme Court decisions?


We will be happy to meet with you to discuss our concerns. Thank you.

Everett Bartlett

Everett Bartlett, PhD, President

Feb 222015

The New Panic: Campus Sex Assaults

Harvey Silverglate
February 20, 2015

THE CAMPUS sexual assault panic — one of many runaway social epidemics in our nation’s history that have ruined innocent lives and corrupted justice — has now reached its peak. A return to sanity is called for before more wreckage occurs.

My own first memory of a similar panic is the hunt for Communists in America in the period following World War II. There was the infamous “Red Channels,” an anti-communist pamphlet financed primarily by Alfred Kohlberg, a textile magnate with business interests in China and an ally of Chiang Kai-shek. The publication served as a blacklist for the entertainment industry, ending the careers of anyone reportedly linked to organizations remotely identifiable as “progressive.” There was also the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the never-to-be-forgotten Senator Joseph McCarthy. Together, these men helped create a national climate of suspicion that ferreted out very few actual security threats, but ended up punishing many innocents. Remnants of the hunt persisted, but the “scare” essentially died with the senator himself in 1957.

A more bizarre panic emerged decades later in an unlikely place — child daycare centers. In the early 1980s, reports of sexual abuse by child care workers were picked up by national news outlets and struck fear into parents around the country. Allegations of sexual molestation, including rape, allegedly committed on young children by teachers and school employees, flooded police stations. These accusations often crossed over from the improbable to the utterly fantastic (sometimes with a Satanic bent). But a panoply of unscientific physical and psychological tests, bolstered by highly suggestive child interview methods, proved sufficient to land a still-uncounted number of innocent men and women in prison.

District attorneys and jurors alike bowed to extreme public pressure and railroaded defendants (who were presumed guilty upon being accused) without mercy — indeed they still resist righting their wrongs. The panic raged into the 1990s until scientists like Maggie Bruck, and journalists such as Debbie Nathan and Pulitzer Prize winner Dorothy Rabinowitz, raised sufficient concerns to force judges to re-examine and vacate convictions, a process that continues to this day. (Disclosure: I was on the defense team that freed Bernard Baran, and I continue to work on exonerating Gerald Amirault, both of Massachusetts.)

The latest national hysteria over campus sexual assault combines aspects of its predecessors: the salacious outrage that characterized the daycare sex panic and the dubious federal stamp of approval that made McCarthyism’s excesses so dangerous. Spectacular — but widely disputed — statistics are touted: 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college, 1 in 3 male students is a potential rapist. The rhetoric popularized by mattress protests and awareness documentaries is a simple one: “Believe the accuser!”

A crucial factor of campus sexual assault is overlooked: the widespread belief that some women are “sluts.”

The idea that college campuses are among the most dangerous places for young American women has become so pervasive that when Rolling Stone published one woman’s outlandish account of a brutal gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity house (a story later proven to be inaccurate on the basis of investigative reporting by The Washington Post), readers swallowed the tale unquestioningly. Finally, the campus disciplinary boards — woefully lacking in even basic standards of due process — are vowing to adjudicate these ostensibly violent felonies and reflexively punishing virtually all who are accused.

Protestors marched near the University of Virginia in November after a now-debunked story was published about a rape at a UVA fraternity.

Protestors marched near the University of Virginia in November after a now-debunked story was published about a rape at a UVA fraternity.

Acquaintance or “date rape” is a serious and historically under-enforced offense in the criminal justice system. Sexual violence against women — against anyone — cannot be tolerated. But it’s also true that college campuses are hotbeds of alcohol abuse and sexual activity among young adults often inexperienced with both. Alcohol-fueled and often ambiguous sexual encounters may result in emotional injury. But if the problem is young people’s inability to recognize and respect boundaries, the solution is not to punish a wide range of campus behaviors that would be legally acceptable in the “real world.”

What’s more, the definition of “sexual assault” has become so broad as to encompass nearly all romantic contact. A sexual advance is considered “unwelcome” on subjective, rather than objective, grounds. In other words, if a complainant feels she was violated, then she was. This rationale is the basis for “affirmative consent” (colloquially known as “yes means yes”) laws, which several states have imposed upon their campuses. Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com and a supporter of California’s “yes means yes” law, admits the law overreaches and that under affirmative consent, “too much counts as sexual assault.” Even so, Klein believes that the innocent men (and occasionally women) who will be thrown out of school are necessary sacrifices to the greater cause of combatting sexual assault on campus. Rhetoric and ideology have overtaken rationality and fairness.

College bureaucrats have taken to adjudicating felonies with a vengeance, largely out of fear of losing federal government funds. In April 2011, the Office of Civil Rights of the federal Department of Education sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to every college and university in the country that accepted federal funds — that is, nearly every school in the nation — advising that unpunished sexual assault would be viewed as a form of unlawful sexual harassment. The ultimate penalty for schools is the withdrawal of federal funding. A more recent update of that letter from the Obama administration advised colleges to reduce the evidentiary standard needed to convict an accused student of sexual assault.

In a race to capitulate, Harvard University one-upped other supine campus administrators last summer by instituting a sexual assault procedure so problematic from the viewpoint of procedural fairness that 28 members of Harvard Law School faculty published an open letter decrying the administration’s “jettisoning [of] balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.” The law school then took the remarkable step of actually exempting itself from Harvard’s university-wide sexual assault procedures earlier this year, although the battle for — and against — fairness still rages on.

That battle has been lost at the university level at Harvard, and virtually everywhere in academia. Indeed, earlier this month Columbia University’s administration announced that Columbia students (excepting, interestingly, those women at Columbia’s sister school, Barnard) will be required to participate in a new “sexual respect education program” in order to graduate. The “training” will feature a menu of programmatic options, including an hour-long workshop on “healthy relationships” and various artistic projects. Thus, the sex panic in academia now brings us more training programs, supplementing the indoctrination sessions that have for some time now been features of first year orientation programs at most colleges.

The situation on college campuses has become so dire that civil libertarians are calling for sexual assault investigations to be left to police and prosecutors. Despite the fact that conviction in a criminal court carries severe sentences and other harsh ramifications, frustrated and fearful students, parents, and lawyers seem prepared to risk criminal convictions in their search for investigatory and prosecutorial fairness.

If the past is prologue, it is almost certain that the current campus sexual assault madness will burn itself out, leaving in its wake the wreckage of many young lives. My concern is how long it will be before sanity and decency return.

Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer in Boston, is the co-author of “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.” He is the co-founder, and current chairman, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Paralegals Samantha Miller and Timothy Moore assisted the author.

Source: http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/frank-daniels/2015/02/22/campus-sex-assaults-handled-police/23781673/

Feb 222015

Campus Sex Assaults Should be Handled by Police

Frank Daniels III
February 21, 2015

Should we entrust our college leaders with the task of addressing the scourge of sexual assaults on their campuses or by their students?

After years of what seems like concerted effort to downplay the problem, the high-profile conviction of two former Vanderbilt University football players on aggravated rape charges in January and the Feb. 12 indictment of two former University of Tennessee football players on aggravated rape charges stemming from a Nov. 16, 2014, incident have turned a spotlight on how poorly college campuses are dealing with sexual assaults on their students.

The failure to deal with the problem comes despite an array of programs and campus offices tasked to help prevent sexual assault and assist victims when it occurs.

As Tennessean investigative reporter Anita Wadhwani has illustrated in several stories (on how UT deals with sexual assault and on how Vanderbilt’s internal investigation was handled), our universities are not equipped to investigate this kind of crime.

As Wadhwani detailed, of the 19 sexual assault investigations UT reported to federal agencies between 2011 and 2013 only two led to disciplinary action. And Vanderbilt is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for its handling of sexual violence allegations.

UT’s handling of sexual assault report devastates woman
Sexual violence victim advocates say victims should have the choice to report assaults to their campus agencies or to local law enforcement.

“It should be the victim’s choice,” Sharon Travis, community engagement and prevention specialist with The Sexual Assault Center, told The Tennessean.

“My hope is that the universities will kind of take this (case) as an opportunity to step back and look at this from the survivor’s standpoint, and whatever they do, make sure they are serving her needs first.”

We can empathize with that sentiment, but we must question whether it effectively shields perpetrators and makes the community less safe for others.

Sexual assault allegations tarnish TN universities
Given our colleges’ dedicated lack of transparency, how can any parent feel confident that administrators will look at assaults from the “survivor’s” perspective, and can they be assured administrators will be accountable?

They can’t be. That is why in Rhode Island and Virginia bills have been introduced in the legislatures to require all sexual assaults be reported to local law enforcement agencies, and in New York the governor wants to require colleges to inform victims of their right to report the assault to police.

The Tennessee General Assembly should introduce a bill requiring all assaults on campus, or reported to campus officials, be reported to local law enforcement. In addition, law enforcement should be required to release assault statistics for all college campuses.

Some advocates will decry that such a requirement will deter victims from reporting their crimes, yet in the current system only one in every four assaults on students are reported, with little disciplinary action taken on behalf of victims.

As the Vanderbilt rape victim said in a written statement: “I am hopeful that the publicity this case has received will lead to a discussion of how we can end sexual violence on college campuses. Finally, I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame.”

The secrecy that shrouds sexual assault on college campuses is central to the perpetuation of the problem; that must end before any of the awareness and prevention programs will work.

Source: http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/frank-daniels/2015/02/22/campus-sex-assaults-handled-police/23781673/