Aug 292014
 

Campus Rape: The Problem with ‘Yes Means Yes’

Having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is a terrible idea

Cathy Young
August 29, 2014

The campus crusade against rape has achieved a major victory in California with the passage of a so-called “Yes means yes” law. Unanimously approved by the state Senate yesterday after a 52-16 vote in the assembly on Monday, SB967 requires colleges and universities to evaluate disciplinary charges of sexual assault under an “affirmative consent” standard as a condition of qualifying for state funds. The bill’s supporters praise it as an important step in preventing sexual violence on campus. In fact, it is very unlikely to deter predators or protect victims. Instead, its effect will be to codify vague and capricious rules governing student conduct, to shift the burden of proof to (usually male) students accused of sexual offenses, and to create a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex.

No sane person would quarrel with the principle that sex without consent is rape and should be severely punished. But while sexual consent is widely defined as the absence of a “no” (except in cases of incapacitation), anti-rape activists and many feminists have long argued that this definition needs to shift toward an active “yes.” Or, as the California bill puts it:

““Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. … Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.

The law’s defenders, such as feminist writer Amanda Hess, dismiss as hyperbole claims that it would turn people into unwitting rapists every time they have sex without obtaining an explicit “yes” (or, better yet, a notarized signature) from their partner. Hess points out that consent can include nonverbal cues such as body language. Indeed, the warning that “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding,” included in the initial draft of the bill, was dropped from later versions. Yet even after those revisions, one of the bill’s co-authors, Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the affirmative consent standard means a person “must say ‘yes.’ ”

Nonverbal cues indicating consent are almost certainly present in most consensual sexual encounters. But as a legal standard, nonverbal affirmative consent leaves campus tribunals in the position of trying to answer murky and confusing questions — for instance, whether a passionate response to a kiss was just a kiss, or an expression of “voluntary agreement” to have sexual intercourse. Faced with such ambiguities, administrators are likely to err on the side of caution and treat only explicit verbal agreement as sufficient proof of consent. In fact, many affirmative-consent-based student codes of sexual conduct today either discourage reliance on nonverbal communication as leaving too much room for mistakes (among them California’s Occidental College and North Carolina’s Duke University) or explicitly require asking for and obtaining verbal consent (the University of Houston). At Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, nonverbal communication is allowed but a verbal request for consent absolutely requires a verbal response: If you ask, “Do you want this?”, you may not infer consent from the mere fact that your partner pulls you down on the bed and moves to take off your clothes.

Meanwhile, workshops and other activities promoting the idea that one must “ask first and ask often” and that sex without verbal agreement is rape have proliferated on college campuses.

The consent evangelists often admit that discussing consent is widely seen as awkward and likely to kill the mood — though they seem to assume that the problem can be resolved if you just keep repeating that such verbal exchanges can be “hot,” “cool,” and “creative.” It’s not that talk during a sexual encounter is inherently a turn-off — far from it. But there’s a big difference between sexy banter or endearments, and mandatory checks to confirm you aren’t assaulting your partner (especially when you’re told that such checks must be conducted “in an ongoing manner”). Most people prefer spontaneous give-and-take and even some mystery, however old-fashioned that may sound; sex therapists will also tell you that good sex requires “letting go” of self-consciousness. When ThinkProgress.com columnist Tara Culp-Ressler writes approvingly that under affirmative consent “both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having,” it sounds more like a prescription for overthinking.

Of course anyone who believes that verbal communication about consent is essential to healthy sexual relationships can preach that message to others. The problem is that advocates of affirmative consent don’t rely simply on persuasion but on guilt-tripping (one
handout stresses that verbal communication is “worth the risk of embarrassment or awkwardness” since the alternative is the risk of sexual assault) and, more importantly, on the threat of sanctions.

Until now, these sanctions have been voluntarily adopted by colleges; SB-967 gives them the backing of a government mandate. In addition to creating a vaguely and subjectively defined offense of nonconsensual sex, the bill also explicitly places the burden of proof on the accused, who must demonstrate that he (or she) took “reasonable steps … to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.” When the San Gabriel Valley Tribune asked Lowenthal how an innocent person could prove consent under such a standard, her reply was, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Meanwhile, Culp-Ressler reassures her readers that passionate trysts without explicit agreement “aren’t necessarily breaches of an affirmative consent standard,” since, “if both partners were enthusiastic about the sexual encounter, there will be no reason for anyone to report a rape later.” But it’s not always that simple. One of the partners could start feeling ambivalent about an encounter after the fact and reinterpret it as coerced — especially after repeatedly hearing the message that only a clear “yes” constitutes real consent.

Faced with such ambiguities, administrators are likely to err on the side of caution and treat only explicit verbal agreement as sufficient proof of consent. In fact, many affirmative-consent-based student codes of sexual conduct today either discourage reliance on nonverbal communication as leaving too much room for mistakes (among them California’s Occidental College and North Carolina’s Duke University) or explicitly require asking for and obtaining verbal consent (the University of Houston). At Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, nonverbal communication is allowed but a verbal request for consent absolutely requires a verbal response: If you ask, “Do you want this?”, you may not infer consent from the mere fact that your partner pulls you down on the bed and moves to take off your clothes.

Meanwhile, workshops and other activities promoting the idea that one must “ask first and ask often” and that sex without verbal agreement is rape have proliferated on college campuses.

The consent evangelists often admit that discussing consent is widely seen as awkward and likely to kill the mood — though they seem to assume that the problem can be resolved if you just keep repeating that such verbal exchanges can be “hot,” “cool,” and “creative.” It’s
not that talk during a sexual encounter is inherently a turn-off — far from it. But there’s a big difference between sexy banter or endearments, and mandatory checks to confirm you aren’t assaulting your partner (especially when you’re told that such checks must be conducted “in an ongoing manner”). Most people prefer spontaneous give-and-take and even some mystery, however old-fashioned that may sound; sex therapists will also tell you that good sex requires “letting go” of self-consciousness. When ThinkProgress.com columnist Tara Culp-Ressler writes approvingly that under affirmative consent “both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having,” it sounds more like a prescription for overthinking.

Of course anyone who believes that verbal communication about consent is essential to healthy sexual relationships can preach that message to others. The problem is that advocates of affirmative consent don’t rely simply on persuasion but on guilt-tripping (one handout stresses that verbal communication is “worth the risk of embarrassment or awkwardness” since the alternative is the risk of sexual assault) and, more importantly, on the threat of sanctions.

Until now, these sanctions have been voluntarily adopted by colleges; SB-967 gives them the backing of a government mandate. In addition to creating a vaguely and subjectively defined offense of nonconsensual sex, the bill also explicitly places the burden of proof on the accused, who must demonstrate that he (or she) took “reasonable steps … to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.” When the San Gabriel Valley Tribune asked Lowenthal how an innocent person could prove consent under such a standard, her reply was, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Meanwhile, Culp-Ressler reassures her readers that passionate trysts without explicit agreement “aren’t necessarily breaches of an affirmative consent standard,” since, “if both partners were enthusiastic about the sexual encounter, there will be no reason for anyone to report a rape later.” But it’s not always that simple. One of the partners could start feeling ambivalent about an encounter after the fact and reinterpret it as coerced — especially after repeatedly hearing the message that only a clear “yes” constitutes real consent. In essence, advocates of affirmative consent are admitting that they’re not sure what constitutes a violation; they are asking people to trust that the system won’t be abused. This is not how the rule of law works.

This is not a matter of criminal trials, and suspension or even expulsion from college is not the same as going to prison. Nonetheless, having the government codify a standard that may implicitly criminalize most human sexual interaction is a very bad idea.

Such rules are unlikely to protect anyone from sexual assault. The activists often cite a scenario in which a woman submits without saying no because she is paralyzed by fear. Yet the perpetrator in such a case is very likely to be a sexual predator, not a clueless guy making an innocent mistake — and there is nothing to stop him from lying and claiming that he obtained explicit consent. As for sex with an incapacitated victim, it is already not only a violation of college codes of conduct but a felony.

Many feminists say that affirmative consent is not about getting permission but about making sure sexual encounters are based on mutual desire and enthusiasm. No one could oppose such a goal. But having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is hardly the way to go about it.

Source: http://time.com/3222176/campus-rape-the-problem-with-yes-means-yes/

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Aug 292014
 

Feminists’ Failure on Rotherham
Feminists see “rape culture” in nail polish (and everywhere else) but now remain silent about real abuse.

Presumably the advent of a nail polish capable of detecting date-rape drugs in one’s cocktail would mark a high-water point in the empowerment of women against predatory men. Not so fast: The feminist backlash against the product has been vehement. According to ThinkProgress, such an innovation “actually reinforces a pervasive rape culture in our society.”

Feminists of the vocal, bathe-in-male-tears sort find proof of “rape culture” all about: in newspaper satire, in ’80s movies, in the verb “to force.” So one would think news that between 1997 and 2013 at least 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, were victims of sexual exploitation would confirm the feminist narrative and ignite their righteous fury.

Not so fast.

Released Tuesday, August 26, the “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham,” commissioned by Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council, details sexual abuse, including sex trafficking and gang rape, perpetrated over nearly two decades by older men against children in Rotherham. News outlets have released horrifying supplementary details. The U.K. Mirror, for instance, reports that “Emma,” a Rotherham-area girl, was raped once a week beginning when she was 13 years old. When she provided to police the names of 250 men she claimed had raped her, police ignored her. Hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in Rotherham and throughout England probably experienced the same.

In Rotherham there is a real-life “rape culture.” But you will not learn anything new about it from Salon, the Daily Beast, Jezebel, or Slate. It has gone unmentioned at Feministing, Bitch Media, or the Feminist Majority Foundation. There have been no outraged op-eds from Jenny Kutner, Jessica Valenti, or Samantha Leigh Allen.

These are, apparently, not the rapes they are looking for.

It is hard not to interpret the feminist blogosphere’s silence on Rotherham as an indication of the movement’s ultimate lack of seriousness. Perhaps they are not interested in confronting the ethnic and religious homogeneity of many of the perpetrators: Emma and the majority of the 1,400 victims were abused by “Asian” men — i.e., Muslim men typically from Rotherham’s Pakistani community. Local government leaders, social services, and law enforcement — for fear of being labeled racist — ignored numerous reports they received.

Or perhaps the rapes of young girls overseas are of no particular interest. The victims were, after all, often in and out of government housing, truant or absent from school, and sometimes around domestic violence. Many had gone serially missing. They are not the upper-class types likely to fall victim to sexist fraternity pranks. They are not prospective Salon readers.

Or perhaps rape culture is just much more palatable a subject when it does not involve, you know, actual rape.

As the examples of “rape culture” above suggest, for far too many self-proclaimed feminists, real violence against women is rarely the most pressing concern. Much like Al Sharpton and the racial-grievance industry, activists who are perpetually worked up about “rape culture” are much less interested in the realities of women’s situation (in which, contra The Rape of Lucrece, most men are not Tarquin and, with access to mace and concealed-carry permits, most women are not Lucrece) than in perpetuating an atmosphere of mistrust and fear.

Is it possible, then, that after years of tying “rape” to Disney films and fantasy video games, these feminists are at a loss for words when confronted with the real thing? And we’re talking about not just one rape but thousands of them, committed against girls as young as eleven, over a period of many years, with the full knowledge of many social workers and other complicit authorities. When a glut of horrifying crimes against women is revealed, feminist talking heads do not have the moral seriousness required to confront it.

In the end, it’s just a whole lot easier to talk about nail polish.

Source: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/386651/feminists-failure-rotherham-ian-tuttle

Aug 292014
 

California Moves Closer to Making “Yes Means Yes” Law

Charlotte Hays

August 29, 2014

Well, goodness—I suppose prudes such as myself should secretly think California’s “yes means yes” bill, which passed unanimously in the state Senate yesterday, is a good idea.

The bill, if Governor Jerry Brown signs it (and he will), makes college sex so fraught with legal peril for guys that only the most fool hearty among them will even dare.

Except of course that that is not how life on campus is, and the upshot of the legislation will be that a lot of young men who thought they were having consensual sex will end up in being hauled before campus tribunals where they will be branded rapists.

The bill requires that in sexual encounters on campus consent must be progressive and renewed throughout the sex act. But it’s not clear what constitutes consent:

Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it’s also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep.

Lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as maybe a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person.

I absolutely and unequivocally have no problem with severe and life-changing legal penalties for a young man who engages in sex with a woman who is asleep or passed out drunk.

Still, it would be possible, as I read the law, that if a young man engaged in sex with a young woman after they had both indulged in mild drinking, he could end up with a rapist label.

In June, when the bill was first being widely talked about, David Bernstein wrote a piece in the Washington Post. The headline summed up what the bill could mean for a young man who believes he is having sex with a willing partner but fails to get ongoing consent (or the partner decides the next day she didn’t want to have sex after all): “YOU Are a Rapist; Yes YOU.”

Just to be clear–we regard every accusation of sexual assault as serious. So serious that law enforcement, not a campus disciplinary tribunal, should handle it.

Source: http://www.iwf.org/blog/2794900/California-Moves-Closer-to-Making-%22Yes-Means-Yes%22-Law-

Aug 292014
 

The Growing Sexual-Assault Investigations Industry

In response to questions from the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow, a spokesperson for Iowa senator Charles Grassley made a telling admission that has received insufficient attention. “The university,” the spokesperson noted, “will be responsible for any new requirements in the bill and be responsible to find the funds within its budget, whether that be from an endowment, trimming administration costs, tuition, or any other area.” The spokesperson did not indicate how many new faculty lines should be sacrificed or how much of a tuition increase students should bear so that colleges can construct a parallel criminal investigations system, albeit one with many fewer due process protections for accused students and a much lower threshold of guilt.

It turns out that the financial pressure is starting on colleges even before the McCaskill-Grassley bill has cleared Congress. Inside Higher Ed recently reported that “a cottage industry is growing around campus sexual assault.” Some of these developments are benign or even helpful, such as a fingernail polish designed to detect date rape drugs, a product designed by UNC students (and oddly attacked by some ideologues as contributing to “rape culture”).

Consider some others, however. The NCHERM group, for instance, now offers a veritable catalog of services. (This is the group whose president wildly charged that FIRE “is sticking up for penises everywhere” when FIRE criticized the OCR mandate that colleges brand students rapists on the basis of a preponderance of evidence.) For a $5000 flat fee (a sale price expiring on September 5th) to cover all sexual assault cases during an academic year, schools can pay NCHERM “to be sure” the college’s process “got it right.” Will the group interview witnesses or conduct discovery? No—that costs more money. Instead, “an NCHERM Group partner will review your decision by phone and/or email, and let you know how they see it.” Due process in action!

NCHERM offers four other services for colleges—though the organization doesn’t reveal the prices for any of these. (Given that a handful of phone calls costs $5000, it seems likely none of these other options are cheap.) The group offers to help schools dispose of OCR complaints by coming “in to do a thorough investigation of the allegations, and help to process the complaint through [the school’s] own internal due process or other resolution proceedings.” The data then can be turned over to OCR—which, after all, “is swimming in a sea of complaints these days.” The group sells schools hope for a price: “Perhaps they’ll be willing to clear your [school’s] off their desks if the matter has already been addressed in compliance with the law.”

Another NCHERM service suggests allowing the group itself to conduct the school’s inquiry—that is, if the school would “just feel better using external, fully objective, highly-skilled investigators.” The group says it can send as many as 20 investigators to the school, all in pursuit of “the unvarnished truth.”

It’s worth pointing out that Sokolow has recently come under attack from anti-due process activists, in part because he suggested that colleges are responding to pressure from OCR by finding innocent students guilty, usually in cases involving alcohol. The organization, therefore, might be seen as what passes for moderate among the “cottage industry” of sexual assault investigating companies.

A final point. NCHERM’s sales pitch includes the following passage: “Simply, we have more collective expertise and experience investigating campus sexual misconduct and civil rights complaints than anyone else.” This statement—made by an organization that’s 13 years old—appears to take a very broad view of what constitutes “investigating campus sexual misconduct”: would the $5000 phone consult count as an “investigation”? But if true, it’s a sad statement. How could a private, for-profit company, not accountable to the public, have more “experience” investigating a serious crime than the nation’s police forces?

Source: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/2014/08/the-growing-sexual-assault-investigations-industry/#more-11999

Aug 292014
 

California College Men Need to Understand the New “Affirmative Consent” Law — And to Use it When They are Victims of Sexual Assault

COTWA
August 29, 2014

The “affirmative consent” bill

The California legislature has passed SB-967 Student safety: sexual assault, the infamous “affirmative consent” bill. Now California has a criminal statute that regulates sexual assault in society at large and it will soon have one that regulates sexual assault on college campuses. When Gov. Brown signs it, it will be the first statute ever enacted to define “consent” for college students. “The bill defines consent to sex as the presence of a ‘yes’ rather than the absence of a ‘no,’ a cultural shift that victim’s groups have long advocated.” See here. The law will codify the use of the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard (50.01% likelihood) in campus sexual assault cases and mandate “affirmative consent” at every step of a sexual encounter.

There are a host of problems with the new law. The co-author of the bill in the Assembly, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, was asked how an innocent person is supposed to prove consent: “Your guess is as good as mine,” she said. Will it be implemented along the lines of Antioch College’s infamously absurd sexual assault policy, so nutty that it was mocked in a Saturday Night Live skit? For those who don’t remember Antioch’s policy: “The persons(s) who initiate[d] the sexual activity [was] responsible for asking for consent.” And: “Each new level of sexual activity requires consent.” The Antioch policy was rightly skewered for the part about “each new level of sexual activity requir[ing] consent.” Is it a stretch to think that young men who got consent for intercourse at the outset will be expelled for not asking whether it’s okay to continue if it has gone on for “too long”?

California college men take heed: it is the responsibility of both parties to insure consent

But the other part of the Antioch policy quoted above — it was the responsibility of the “initiator” to insure consent — was also very problematic. Determining who is the “initiator” is often no easy task in the horny, murky world of college sex, but in a culture where males are assumed to be the initiators of sexual activity and females are assumed to be reticent about engaging in sex, it is not difficult to imagine which party usually will be singled out as the “initiator.” Putting the onus on the “initiator” alone to insure that consent exists for the entire endeavor was code for “policing male behavior.”

When the new California bill was first introduced last February, it contained a similar, onerous requirement:

An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by a complainant. . . . . It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the consent of the other person to engage in the sexual activity.
But when the bill got to the state Assembly, it was changed, and the bill that just passed and that is heading to the governor for signature makes clear that the responsibility for insuring the other party consents is on both participants:

An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. . . . . It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity.
The language in the California bill is critically important because sex policing on campus is premised on the antiquated belief that sex is something men do and that women have done to them. Duke University Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek recently was asked what would happen if two students got drunk to the point of incapacity, and then had sex. “Assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex,” said Wasiolek. This sort of attitude can be deadly, especially in a culture where college administrators think it is perfectly fair to ask whether young men should be expelled on the basis of nothing more than an accusation.

On the basis of the revised language in the California bill, if a couple is in the throes of passion, and if the male fails to inquire if it’s okay to proceed, he is no more responsible for sexual assault than the female if she fails to inquire. Any application of the new law that puts the onus solely on the male to insure that ongoing consent is present would be grounds for legal challenge — and for the male to legitimately claim he, too, was the victim of a rape.

Even more important, if a male student, drunk or not, is not the one who escalates the activity to the next level without bothering to make sure if this is okay, he’s the victim and she’s a rapist. California men need to know that the burden is on the woman to insure he consents in that scenario, and we need to break down the cultural taboos for men to report their victimization.

A few months ago, Wall Street Journal writer James Taranto wrote about sex partners who engage in mutually reckless drunken sex where both parties are intoxicated and mutually decide, in their drunken states, to have sex. Both of them engage in precisely the same conduct; the only difference is that one has a penis and one has a vagina. Mr. Taranto said it is unjust to hold only the man responsible when two drunks mutually decide to have sex. The male is every bit as much a “victim” as the female, and the female is every bit as much a “rapist” as the male. In Mr. Taranto’s scenario, the parties’ genders, not their conduct, is the only thing that differentiates them.

That didn’t stop the usual suspects from having a conniption over Mr. Taranto’s article. Tara Culp-Ressler wrote: “. . . conservative commentator James Taranto argued that a ‘balanced’ approach to the college sexual assault crisis involves placing equal blame on rapists and their victims, if both of them were drinking alcohol.” Even though that’s not what James Taranto argued. David Futrelle attacked the premise of Tatanto’s scenario: “Huh,” clucked Futrelle. “I’m pretty sure we determine the victim of a rape not on demographics but based on WHICH PERSON RAPED THE OTHER PERSON.”

In contrast, Brett Sokolow of NCHERM thinks that in too many cases, colleges do determine the victim of a rape on the basis of demographics and not on which person raped the other. Mr. Sokolow, who has done more to advance the rights of rape survivors on campus than anyone we are aware of, cautioned colleges that when a man and a woman engage in mutually tipsy sex, the school shouldn’t single out the guy for discipline, but they do. Shortly after that, Mr. Sokolow elaborated in an open-letter that raised very serious concerns about the hostility on American college campuses to the rights of men accused of sexual violence. Sokolow said that in the drunken “hook up” culture, the evidence is often too murky to warrant charging and punishing the male accused of sexual misconduct, but that’s exactly what too many schools are doing. He said that “in a lot of these cases, the campus is holding the male accountable in spite of the evidence – or the lack thereof – because they think they are supposed to, and that doing so is what OCR wants.” And in “case-after-case . . . sincere victims believe something has happened to them that evidence shows absolutely did not . . ..” And: “We see complainants who genuinely believe they have been assaulted, despite overwhelming proof that it did not happen.”

College men need to know that they are being unfairly singled out for sexual assault chages (don’t rely on me — that’s what Brett Sokolow said), and California college men need to know they will soon have a law that says women have to get their consent, too. And they need to use that law when they have been victimized.

Source: http://www.cotwa.info/2014/08/california-college-men-need-to.html

Aug 292014
 

Outrage as Ex-George Washington University President Says Women Should Drink Less to Prevent Sexual Assault

Ashley Collman

August 28, 2014

The former president of The George Washington University is under fire after making controversial statements on the nature of sexual assault.

Dr Stephen Joel Trachtenberg made the comments in a Tuesday taping of the Diane Rehm Show, during a panel about Greek Life at U.S. Colleges.

When the conversation turns to the reports of sexual misconduct by fraternities, Trachtenberg blames binge-drinking.

‘Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women,’ Trachtenberg said.

Victim blaming? Dr Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of The George Washington University, spoke on the Diane Rehm show on Tuesday, saying sexual assault could be prevented if women drank less

Former GWU President makes controversial remarks about sexual…

‘They need to be in the position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave.

‘And so part of the problem is that you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard,’ Trachtenberg said

Following the show, George Washington University students flooded Twitter expressing their outrage at Trachtenberg for seemingly blaming the victims of sexual assault.

‘[I don't know] what’s more concerning, the devolution of rape to “misbehaving,” or the idea that women are setting themselves up,’ GW student Katie Bishop tweeted.

Even one of the university’s professors called out Trachtenberg for his offensive comments.

Following the show, a flood of GWU students and teachers took to Twitter to express their frustrations with Trachtenberg’s comments

‘They need to be in the position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,’ Trachtenberg said. Above, another tweet from a GWU student

Trachtenberg later qualified his statements, saying they were taken ‘out of context’ and that he doesn’t believe responsibility shifts from the predator to the victim when the victim drinks too much. Above another tweet from a GWU student

‘Hey, Trachtenberg: sober women are raped, too. The ones responsible are RAPISTS,’ wrote Professor Katherine Howell, of the writing department.

Trachtenberg, currently serving as the university’s professor of public service, later qualified some of his statements to the school newspaper, the GW Hatchet.

He said his statements were taken ‘out of context’.

‘I don’t believe that because a woman drinks, that shifts responsibility from a predator to her. What I’m saying is you want to have somebody you care about like your daughter, granddaughter, or girlfriend to understand her limits because she will be less likely [able] to fight off somebody who is attacking her,’ he said Wednesday.

Sexual assault has become a serious issue on university campuses nation-wide, with estimates that one in five women will be the victim or attempted or completed sex-assault while in college.

The federal government has launched an effort to compile better statistics on the issue and the Education Department is also investigating how 55 schools handled sexual assault complaints.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2736747/Outrage-ex-George-Washington-University-president-says-women-drink-prevent-sexual-assault.html

Aug 282014
 

University Students and Administrators Concerned a Satire Article Will Cause Rapes

Katherine Timpf

August 27, 2014

Critics are saying that a satire piece written by a second-year university student is so bad that it will actually make college campuses more dangerous.

The article, headlined “So you want to date a teaching assistant?” appeared in an all-satire issue of the Gazette, the official student newspaper of Western University in Ontario, Canada.

“This article makes rape culture and sexual violence worse, not better, on campuses,” Society of Graduate Students president Kevin Godbout told the Star, a local newspaper.

Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, expressed similar sentiments.

“The London Abused Women’s Centre has worked with Western University for many, many years in promoting safe space for students, faculty and staff and this just flies in the face of everything that we have done and the community has done and the students have done,” she told CBC News.

The Society of Graduate Students, as well as a 2,500-person union of teaching assistants, plans to host an assembly that will include a rape-culture panel in attempt to protect students from the potential dangerous impacts of the article, according to the Star.

A school administrator also penned a letter to the newspaper condemning the piece.

Despite the backlash, newspaper staff have declared they will not remove the piece.

The editor-in-chief said that although “you could argue” that the article was in “poor taste” or happened to be “poor writing,” the reaction to something written by a student who is still trying to learn journalism was overly harsh.

“The role of the student press is different from the role and standards of the mainstream press,” he said.

“It’s something we’ll learn from and it’s something we’ll [use to] fine-tune our writing and our editorial process,” he added.

Source: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/386450/university-students-and-administrators-concerned-satire-article-will-cause-rapes

Aug 282014
 

Campus Sex Assaults Draw State Scrutiny

August 28, 2014
Few issues affecting higher education have captured as much national attention this year as sexual assaults on college campuses.

When Congress reconvenes after its August recess, a bipartisan group of lawmakers will continue their push to pass legislation aimed at curbing campus sexual assaults. The Obama administration has taken on the issue, making public recommendations for how colleges should respond to the problem and more aggressively pursuing institutions that mishandle sexual assault cases.

But as Washington’s focus on campus sexual assaults continues, the issue is also increasingly commanding the attention of policy makers at the state level. Echoing concerns made by their federal counterparts, lawmakers and other officials in a handful of states are pursuing new ways to crack down on campus sexual assaults.

Connecticut, for instance, passed sweeping legislation this year focused on campus sexual assaults. That law requires public and private colleges in the state to create sexual assault response teams on their campuses, provide more robust prevention programs, and develop a partnership with local sexual assault crisis centers through which students can receive free counseling services.

In addition, all Connecticut institutions must now also provide a report to the state legislature each year that tallies the incidents of sexual violence on their campus as well as the number and outcome of disciplinary hearings.

The legislation was drafted after seven women last year filed a Title IX complaint against the University of Connecticut, alleging that the university did not properly respond to reports of sexual violence and harassment.

Accountability Proposals

While the Connecticut law was prompted by a specific complaint, the flurry of activity in some other statehouses is being fueled in large part by a desire to hold colleges and universities more accountable for how they handle cases of sexual violence on campus. And unlike the Connecticut law — which won the support of several institutions and passed the legislature unanimously — other states’ efforts have been or will likely be more controversial.

Two sets of legislative proposals are floating around in New Jersey. One proposal, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat, would give the state’s attorney general the authority to fine colleges up to $50,000 if the college doesn’t appropriately respond to an allegation of sexual assault.

Gusciora, who as a municipal prosecutor has pursued sexual assault cases, said the goal of his bill is to “reinforce the message that universities and colleges need to take these allegations more seriously.”

“I often see attempts by colleges to handle these matters in house and not adequately refer them to local authorities, who are in a position to investigate,” he said, adding that “the colleges are reluctant to bring them to the forefront because of reputational concerns.”

The bill has already cleared a committee but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full General Assembly.

At the same time, New Jersey State Senator Peter Barnes is separately pushing a package of three bills relating to campus sexual assault.

The legislation would require colleges and universities in the state to post on their websites each month the number of sexual assaults reported on campus and to provide victims of sexual assault with a confidential adviser. In addition, one of the bills would mandate that colleges pass along reports of campus sexual assault to law enforcement.

“If a student in New Jersey reports to a person of authority that he or she has been sexually assaulted, in other words, a crime has occurred, then that university must immediately report to the local police department,” Barnes said. “Naturally, you can never force the student to cooperate with the investigation if the student doesn’t want to provide information. But the colleges should not have the discretion to hide it.”

Some victims’ advocates have rejected such a mandatory reporting approach, arguing that it takes away a victim’s power to decide how to proceed with a case.

Barnes said the impetus for his bills came from his own research as well as media reports about campus sexual assault, notably The New York Times feature last month about a botched handling of a rape case at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He said that colleges need to do a better job dealing with sexual assaults and move away from the idea that a “knee-jerk reaction is to protect the reputation of the college.”

Barnes said he expected the bill to go before a committee in October. He also said hasn’t sought feedback from colleges and universities in the state, but predicted that that it would be “an epic battle.”

“They’re not going to want to crack down,” he said, adding that “I’m sure they’re not going to be pleased with the bill. Any time a bill adds a burden or obstacle to any group or interest group there’s always a problem, but I welcome the dialogue.”

John Wilson, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey, said that his group had not yet taken a position on any of the proposals but would be looking at them more closely as they become part of the active legislative agenda this fall.

“I would reject the idea that colleges are failing on this front,” he said. “Every institution takes this as a very serious matter.”

“One area of disagreement is when you have to involve outside authorities,” Wilson added. “Colleges would be concerned about the wishes of the victim. To make it automatic that you have to report it to the prosecutor could leave the victim in the situation of not having choice.”

Campus Climate Surveys

Legislative efforts have already been fraught in Maryland, where a bill requiring institutions to conduct anonymous campus surveys about sexual assault was shot down at least in part by objections from universities.

The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Jon Cardin, a Democrat, said the goal of the surveys was to push campuses not only to focus more on sexual assault prevention but also on providing prospective students and families with the ability to make “legitimate, accurate comparisons” between institutions about the prevalence of sexual violence on their campuses. He said he modeled his bill on surveys done at the University of New Hampshire.

Cardin said he was disappointed in how colleges and universities lobbied against his bill, which died in committee.

“They did not really want to listen,” he said. “Instead of trying to work on it and try to come up with something that was a modest start, they said, ‘We’re going to kill it,’ ” he said.

“I can’t imagine that they would have been able to react in the same way if the White House had come out at that point, and said it was a best practice,” Cardin said.

An Obama administration sexual assault prevention task force in April released its first set of recommendations, which included campus climate surveys. Vice President Joe Biden said at the time that all colleges should conduct climate surveys “if they are really serious about protecting students.”

Cardin, who lost a bid for the Democratic nominee for attorney general earlier this year and won’t be returning to the state legislature, said he hopes another lawmaker will pick up the issue in Maryland.

The bill in Congress by Senators Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand and others would mandate campus climate surveys at colleges and require institutions to post the anonymous results online.

As lawmakers return from the August recess next week, it’s unclear how far legislation will go in a gridlocked Congress that has a short amount of time to take care of other pressing business, like funding the government, before members become fully consumed by the midterm elections in November.

State legislatures, of course, are more nimble operations. Although only a handful of states are considering these types of proposals, they stand a far greater chance of moving forward.

‘Yes Means Yes’ Bill Moves Ahead

California appears poised to become the next state to adopt new legislation, as lawmakers there advance a controversial bill changing the definition of consent for colleges investigating alleged sexual assaults.

The bill, by Senator Kevin De León, a Democrat, would require that college students obtain “affirmative consent” before engaging in sexual activity. The legislation spells out that silence, lack of resistance, or an existing relationship does not qualify as consent.

After clearing the Senate earlier this year on a 27-9 vote, the Assembly voted 52-16 on Monday to approve the bill. It now heads back to the Senate for final votes on amendments.

Executive Actions

Besides state legislative activity on sexual assaults, at least one executive is also tackling the issue.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe this week formed a task force on campus sexual assault that will produce “best practices” for how campuses should respond to and seek to prevent sexual violence.

The task force will be chaired by Attorney General Mark Herring and will consist of state officials, higher education leaders, law enforcement, health officials and community advocates.

Herring will also work with colleges and universities to conduct “a top-to-bottom review” of sexual misconduct policies on campuses.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, addressing campus sexual assaults has emerged as a prominent issue in a close race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Warren Tolman, a former state lawmaker, has put out a policy paper on campus sexual assault that he has been touting on the campaign trail. The plan calls for the attorney general’s office to create a new position, the Liaison on Campus Assault, who would be tasked with making sure that Massachusetts colleges are following federal crime reporting rules and properly handling sexual violence cases.

In an interview, Tolman emphasized his plan to convene an annual summit of college leaders to discuss best practices.

“If it’s about beating them up, if it’s about forcing them to do things, adding layers of bureaucracy, that won’t work,” he said. “This is about trying to push them and prod them and basically have a discussion about what’s working.”

Tolman and his opponent, Maura Healey, a civil rights attorney and former assistant attorney general, sparred in a debate this week over how best to address campus sexual assaults.

Healey criticized Tolman’s focus on a gathering of college officials, saying it would not be the best approach to dealing with the problem.

“You solve campus sexual assault by giving schools the resources they need: rape crisis counseling centers, forensic investigators, relationships with police and district attorneys that are working so that people can come forward,” she said.

Source: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/28/federal-scrutiny-campus-sexual-assaults-spills-states

Aug 282014
 

It Was a Wild and Crazy Summer of Criminalizing Campus Sex

Robby Soave

August 27, 2014

Students returning to class this fall, consider yourselves warned: This was the summer that federal regulators, state lawmakers, and college administrators got together for a threesome—incidentally criminalizing campus sex in the process.

The debate over campus sexual assault—how much it happens, and how to handle it when it does—has been heating up for a while now thanks to increasing federal intervention, but the latest round of action kicked off at the end of spring, when the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (OCR) identified 55 colleges under investigation for failing to report and handle rape allegations. The message to colleges from the federal government was do something, or else.

Colleges are definitely responding to the pressure. Consider Occidental College, which pursued a rape case against a male student for having drunken sex with a female student. Investigators determined that the encounter was consensual, but administrators pursued sanctions anyway, insisting that the female student’s consent was invalidated because she had been drinking. The argument makes no sense—if all drunken sex constitutes rape, then both the accused and the accuser are equally guilty. Nevertheless, the male student was expelled.

Hashing out which person is the initiator of sex and which person is the consenter can be tricky from a legal standpoint. College hookups happen under the influence of substances that impair judgments, and what takes place between the sheets is inherently shrouded from public scrutiny.

But that didn’t stop the California legislature this summer from trying anyway. Responding to the federal government’s call to do something, or else, state lawmakers approved SB 967, a bill that would force state universities to establish a stricter definition of consensual sex: one that requires the initiator to acquire “unambiguous, informed, freely-given, and voluntary” permission.

That part may not sound so bad—sex, after all, should be absolutely consensual—but forcing college administrators to play the role of judge, jury, and career executioner for the accused students in these cases carries a whole host of problems.

The big one is that many colleges don’t extend due process rights to students involved in the process. The accused are frequently denied legal counsel, the right to call their own witnesses or cross-examine the evidence against them, and they are convicted on the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which only requires administrators to be 50.00001 percent sure of themselves. This is the standard the federal government insists upon and California’s bill requires. Students found guilty under that standard are often suspended for years or expelled outright, meaning that whatever money they spent on tuition is wasted. And since other colleges are loathe to admit anyone with a campus sexual assault violation on his record, conviction in a campus court can end a person’s college career forever.

Determining whether a student is guilty—and whether he deserves to have his future ruined by a conviction—is a heavy responsibility, and one college bureaucracies are in no way, shape, or form qualified to take on. But they largely have no choice: OCR has repeatedly made clear that it considers campus sexual assault to be an epidemic requiring a firmer hand from the universities. Universities that do not implement DOJ “suggestions” could face a loss of funds or federal lawsuits.

Continuing to police rape without respect for due process is also generating lawsuits, however. In a recent case, University of Cincinnati student Ethan Peloe was convicted of rape by the campus judiciary, even though the police who had investigated his case believed him to be innocent and opted not to charge him with any crime. Now Peloe is suing the university for gender discrimination. The judiciary proceedings, as outlined in his lawsuit, read like a trial from a dystopian novel:

Adjudicators repeatedly refused to let Peloe present evidence that he believed would exonerate him—including “results of a rape kit examination, security camera footage, and witnesses’ accounts”—and lied to him about whether they had consulted investigators. In fact, as the lawsuit claims, campus police officers avoided the trial out of fear that the university would retaliate against them for helping Peloe.

Caroline Kitchens, a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute who frequently writes about the travesty of campus sexual assault trials, told Reason that colleges, at the federal government’s insistence, are codifying “a sexual double standard whereby all men are presumed rapists.”

“In an effort to address sexual assault, college campuses are on the verge of entering into an Orwellian nightmare in which all sexual encounters are policed and students accused of misconduct are guilty until proven innocent,” she said.

Yet the federal government continues to nod colleges in that direction. A pair of billsintroduced in the U.S. Senate just before August spell out all the services to which victims are entitled, but say nothing about due process for the accused. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) bill, for instance, would only require colleges to assign “advocates” to the accusers—the accused would have no guarantee of representation.

These developments have largely been applauded by feminist writers at places like Jezebel and Slate. But not all self-described feminists are on board.

“I’m a liberal, I’m a Democrat,” Sherry Warner-Seefeld, an advocate for due process in higher education, told Reason. “I’m a feminist from way back, and I fought for gender equity. That did include women’s equity at the time, but I still have the same feelings about gender equity today, and in this fight, I’m concerned about male equity.”

Warner-Seefeld is president of Families Advocating for Campus Equality, a new organization that wants to provide support to accused students while advocating a reassertion of basic due process rights in campus sexual assault proceedings. She started the organization with two other women. “We are literally three moms,” she said.

They are also mothers to boys falsely accused of rape, and they have seen firsthand what comes of making rape an academic matter: Male students face kangaroo courts and outcomes preordained by federal mandates. It’s not right, said Warner-Seefeld.

“We are trying very, very hard to stay that middle ground and say campus equality and due process belongs to both genders,” she said.

Whether FACE and other civil libertarian groups can turn the tide remains to be seen. But for now, the summer when the government criminalized campus sex is likely to give way to an autumn when everyone will sue everyone else over what happens behind the closed doors of college dorm rooms.

Source: http://reason.com/archives/2014/08/27/it-was-a-wild-and-crazy-summer-of-crimin

Aug 272014
 
pic_giant_082614_SM_Teletubbues

Frat Accused of Sexual Harassment Over Dancing Teletubby

Is dancing like a Teletubby in the vicinity of sorority co-eds a Title IX violation?

By Katherine Timpf
AUGUST 26, 2014

A fraternity was accused of a Title IX violation on the grounds that dancing in a Teletubby costume is sexual harassment.

Delta Tau Delta at the University of Missouri had to meet with the school’s “Title IX Coordinator” because a member dressed up like a Teletubby, a children’s television character, and danced in the street during sorority recruitment.

A video of the incident shows a red Teletubby running around waving his arms and fist-pumping:

It is not clear how anyone could look at these dance moves and see them as even remotely sexual. Perhaps for this reason, the coordinator decided to dismiss the case. It’s unclear who filed the complaint under Title IX, a 1972 federal sex-discrimination statute.

The university’s handling of sexual assaults hit headlines recently when ESPN revealed that it had likely violated Title IX in its handling of rape allegations against former running back Derrick Washington in 2008.

Source: nationalreview.com