May 212015

Ray Rice Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed

Adam Wells
May 21, 2015

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had a domestic violence charge against him dismissed Thursday.

According to Aaron Katersky of ABC News, Rice’s charge was dismissed following the completion of a pretrial intervention:

Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program last May that allowed him to avoid prosecution in the aggravated assault case stemming from the incident in Atlantic City in which he punched his then-fiancee in an elevator, per Lynda Cohen of

According to Cohen’s report from May 2014, the “third-degree charge of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury would be dismissed. The arrest would remain on his record, but with no conviction.”

TMZ released the video of Rice striking his then-fiancee from February 2014. Rice was then released by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL for two games, later indefinitely. His indefinite suspension was eventually overturned by an independent arbitrator that made him eligible to play right away if a team signed him.

Rice remains a free agent and can sign with any team. The 28-year-old had 6,180 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns in six seasons with the Ravens, winning a Super Bowl in 2012.


May 212015

American Law Institute’s “Stunning Expansion of Criminalization”

The American Law Institute, once a prestigious body of scholars and thinkers who strived to craft laws that better served societal needs, has been taken over in a bloodless coup by ideologues bent on recreating the law to suit their ideology. It’s not like I didn’t tell you this was coming.

As you are aware, the American Law Institute (ALI) has undertaken a review of the sexual assault provisions of the Model Penal Code. The undersigned members of ALI are concerned about the direction the project has taken. Although the drafts have generated little attention outside of the project itself and although the project has been criticized for late distribution of drafts (see e.g., ALI Reporter, Summer 2014 at 23), we hope that you will consider our concerns both before and during the upcoming Annual Meeting session on Tuesday, May 19 at 9:00 a.m. when Discussion Draft No. 2 dated April 28, 2015 will be considered.
It goes before the annual meeting tomorrow, and it’s everything a feminist college sophomore coed could dream of. The predominant position on the ALI task force is progressive academics who want to turn the criminal law into a reflection of that which has overtaken colleges across the nation. A minority group has been left to join in a letter to ALI to protest the capture.

If there is political consensus on anything in the United States today, it is the consensus that our government has overcriminalized and overincarcerated the American public.
Hardly a controversial position, given its bi-partisan recognition that Prison Nation isn’t something to crow about. And yet:

That brings to the surface the real issue: overcriminalization and excessive punishment in the U.S. Code…. §1519 is a bad law — too broad and undifferentiated, with too high maximum penalties, which give prosecutors too much leverage and sentencers too much discretion. And I’d go further: in those ways, §1519 is unfortunately not an outlier, but an emblem of a deeper pathology in the federal criminal code. (Id. at 18-19, dissenting on other grounds).

Against this political consensus and judicial backdrop, the current ALI draft is an extreme deviation, focused on expanding criminal sanctions for sexual behavior and expanding the problems cataloged by Justice Kagan.
To appreciate what they’re getting at here, it’s that there is little dispute that overcriminalization and overincarceration is not merely a problem, but a problem demanding immediate redress. Except when it comes to sex.

Sadly, the minority letter is a bit, ahem, long-winded, providing examples rather than a clear assertion, so bear with me as I offer one of the examples provided:

To understand the draft, please consider a most common behavior in the following hypothetical: Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of “Criminal Sexual Contact” under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).

How can this be? The draft explains:

Section 213.0(5) defines “sexual contact” expansively, to include any touching of any body part of another person, whether done by the actor or by the person touched. Any kind of contact may qualify; there are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched…. (Discussion Draft No. 2, Substantive Material, at 31).

The offense arises because Person A failed to obtain the draft’s requisite prior “positive agreement” to the “sexual contact.” Section 213.0(3). The draft repeatedly “makes clear that when a complainant’s behavior has been passive—neither expressly inviting nor rebuking the defendant’s sexual advances, that behavior cannot be considered sufficient to show affirmative permission.” (Discussion Draft No. 2, Substantive Material, at 54) Person A’s guilt is absolute because, “feeling romantically and sexually attracted” and feeling “a thrill as their hands touch,” Person A has no defense against the accusation that the touch included the “purpose of sexual gratification… or sexual arousal.” Section 213.0(5).
And it goes on to discuss the weak sauce of mens rea, the absurdity of relying on prosecutorial discretion to weed out silly applications of law, etc. Ideological proponents, who are otherwise very bright people but magically go dopey when it comes to their emotional blindness, devolve to the false analogy in the hope that others will either share their ideological myopia or be stupid enough not to realize why the analogy fails.

The argument has been made—and no doubt will be repeated—that equating silence with unwillingness, as Section 213.2(2) does, “patronizes” or “infantilizes” women, treating them as if they were incapable of expressing their own desires. (Id.).

The draft defends this rule by equating it to a doctor obtaining “informed consent” before performing surgery (Id.), but it does not acknowledge any of the differences between the risks of surgery and ordinary human contact. Most importantly, the claimed analogy fails to recognize that medical informed consent is a precaution chosen by the doctor as a safeguard against possible civil damages for malpractice, not as a required behavior to avoid criminal liability.
And ultimately, the draft of the new model laws concedes that its goal is to re-engineer the sexual relations between the genders to suit their ideals.

The draft also acknowledges that it is not reflecting any existing social norm or consensus about behavior that should be deemed so extreme as to warrant criminal sanction. Instead, it clearly states that its intention is to coerce conformity to its own choice of new norms for behavior:

On the one hand, it is customary—at least for serious felonies—to reserve the social opprobrium and strong penalties of the criminal law for conduct that is universally condemned as intolerable. By this measure it would be acceptable, perhaps even obligatory, to define the sexual offenses quite narrowly, restricting them to clearly aberrational behavior and declining to attach penal sanctions to conduct that significant segments of our society regard as predictable, harmless, or even valuable in some circumstances. On the other hand, a vitally important function of the criminal law is to identify and seek to deter behaviors that pose unjustifiable risks, even when those risks are not yet universally understood…. [The law] must often be called upon to help shape those norms by communicating effectively the conditions under which commonplace or seemingly innocuous behavior can be unacceptably abusive or dangerous. (Discussion Draft No. 2, General Commentary, at 11).
What’s clear is that ALI has been captured by the prevailing academic ideology, and they mean to change the model criminal laws to ram feminist dogma down society’s throat through the use of criminal law.

If you agree with this view, chances are you’re not going to see a problem here, and will applaud the creation of crimes out of gender politics to force your politics on society. But never has it been clearer, at a time when overcriminalization and excessive punishment are at a tipping point, how cynical and disingenuous this ploy is, to use criminal law as a bludgeon to realign sexual relationships into crimes.

As for ALI, tomorrow will offer it a chance to show whether it is a captive of ideology or a reflection of the finest honest legal minds in America. Will gender politics compel the approval of this “stunning expansion of criminalization”? We’ll find out.


May 212015

The Unbearable Lightness of Mattress Feminism

Heather Wilhelm
May 21, 2015

For thousands of years, divergent religious traditions have celebrated and venerated one unifying act: meditation. Twenty years before Christ, Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, recommended various meditative spiritual exercises. Meditation fills the history and writings surrounding the Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Sufi traditions. Early Christians, contrary to any modern image to the contrary, were enthusiastic practitioners of various metaphysical arts—and many, as Tony Jones notes in his book, “The Sacred Way,” still are.

Meditation’s appeal is simple yet profound: By clearing the mind of all distractions, petty thoughts, daily worries, and focusing relentlessly on the now, we can reach higher truths, deeper insight, and even elevated forms of consciousness.

It’s hard to think clearly, however, when you’re one of of today’s third-wave feminists, particularly when you’ve been lugging a 50-pound mattress around your college campus for the past eight months as a public “performance art” project/protest accusing your former friend of rape. This, alas, is the burden of Emma Sulkowicz, the infamous Columbia University “Mattress Girl,” who graduated on Tuesday from the Ivy League school with her signature box spring in tow. Several friends joined her on stage, preening—one even offered up an awkward facsimile of a Queen Elizabeth wave—as the not-so-humble, symbolic mattress was greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Sulkowicz’s claims, to put it kindly, are dubious. After an allegedly brutal attack, she refused to press criminal charges, saying it would be “too draining”—strange, given that she had the raw and obsessive energy to cart a mattress around all day for two semesters—and sent intimate and cutesy texts to Paul Nungesser, the young man she accused, in the months following the alleged assault. Mr. Nungesser, meanwhile, has been cleared multiple times by the university, and has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for enabling a targeted harassment campaign.

Oh, well. Details, details! “Mattress Girl” has gained media accolades, applause from high-profile politicians, and even an invite to the State of the Union. MTV lauded the mattress’s graduation appearance as a “touching act of symbolism” worthy of a “slow clap.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Columbia’s commencement speaker, gave the mattress a triumphant shout-out in his address. Sulkowicz’s mattress, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte wrote, ended its run “as a piece celebrating women’s strength.”

Speaking of mattresses, when I read that last line, I frantically searched for one myself, hoping I safely could throw my computer upon it in exasperation while pretending I was throwing it off the roof of, say, the Empire State Building. Sulkowicz’s mattress project was an act of symbolism, to be sure, but it certainly didn’t celebrate women’s strength. Rather, it serves as a striking illustration of the logic-free, wild-eyed, finger-pointing, all-bitterness mess that modern feminism has become.

Friends, let us consider the mattress. Let us meditate upon it, not in its earth-bound, atom-based, material form, but as a symbol or Platonic form. The mattress is squishy. It lacks any backbone or sense of agency. It is easily manipulated. It is not a critical thinker; in fact, it does not think at all. You can probably see where I’m going here, so I’ll move on.

Let us now contemplate modern feminism, a movement that drives university professors to offer agonized trigger warnings for poems like Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” which is not about rape, but about a young rapscallion who cuts off a piece of a lady’s hair. More importantly, let us look at the latest feminist shock study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which claims, among other things, that a jaw-dropping 37 percent of American women will be victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year in college.

Let’s pretend, as a thought experiment, that these shocking numbers are accurate and representative of reality. (They are almost certainly not, thanks to flaws in the study—including some seriously cloudy numbers surrounding alcohol use—but work with me here.) If these mind-boggling numbers are real, after all, American women live in a savage, dangerous wasteland rivaling some of the worst war-torn environments in history, and maybe even the one in “Game of Thrones.”

With this in mind, if you really care about women, shouldn’t your first priority be locking this army of perpetrators—male monsters, apparently still on the loose, ready to assault other women—in the clink? Shouldn’t item one on the feminist agenda involve encouraging women to officially report sex crimes, seek some real justice, and stop the alleged madness?

Alas, in the world of today’s feminism, hand wringing is 80 percent of the fun. As the “37 percent” report was released this week, it was, rather predictably, greeted by a chorus of feminist horror, self-pity, sanctimony, and utterly impractical, quasi-therapeutic advice—not to mention repeated proclamations that drinking until incapacitation is a treasured modern women’s right, up there with suffrage and dodging questions about mysteriously deleted emails and your shady family foundation during various political runs. To suggest otherwise, you see, is “victim blaming.”

Strange, isn’t it? It’s almost like feminists (a) don’t care about women; (b) don’t really expect anything of women; or (c) deep down, know that the truth about the sexual assault “epidemic” is far cloudier than they acknowledge. The result, sadly, is mattress feminism: a squishy, no-backbone ideology that eschews female agency, rejects critical thinking, and encourages women to be helpless doormats—or downright delusional—when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.


May 212015

Statement from Family of Columbia Student Accused by Mattress Girl

Ashe Schow
May 20, 2015

The family of Paul Nungesser, the student who was accused of rape by mattress-toting Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, have released a statement about their son’s graduation, calling their experience with the university “deeply humiliating.”

“Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family. We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to. For over two years, he had to fight false accusations and a public witch-hunt, even though Columbia and the NYPD exonerated him,” Karin Nungesser and Andreas Probosch wrote in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner.

Nungesser’s parents blasted Columbia for continuing to allow Sulkowicz to harass their son, as evidenced by her graduation stunt of carrying the mattress across stage and displaying drawings of their son at a public art exhibit the week before.
Nungesser is now suing Columbia for allowing — and even praising — Sulkowicz’s art project.

You can read the full statement below:

“Our son’s graduation should have been a joyous moment for our whole family. We are extremely proud of Paul for graduating, even more so because of the harassment campaign he was subjected to. For over two years, he had to fight false accusations and a public witch-hunt, even though Columbia and the NYPD exonerated him.

“At graduation, Columbia University again broke its own rules and afforded Emma Sulkowicz a special exception. It was the second devastating experience in just a few days: Last week, Columbia exhibited Emma Sulkowicz’s highly disturbing and extremely graphic drawings of our son publicly on campus.

“We have come to realize that at Columbia, not all are equal before its policy. What is the point of internal investigations if their outcome is not accepted? Instead those with better connections and more influence promoted a false narrative. While they failed at their goal of bullying our son into leaving this university, they have turned his life into a nightmare.

“Responsible for this nightmare is not just the woman, who received an academic degree for the attempt to shame Paul away from campus, but even more at fault is the University that conferred this degree. A university that bows to a public witch-hunt no longer deserves to be called a place of enlightenment, of intellectual and academic freedom. By failing to intervene in this injustice, Columbia ceases to be a place where critical thinking, courage and democratic practice are taught, learned and lived.

“Two years ago we would have never believed that one of the world’s most prestigious universities would not only allow such harassment but explicitly support it on its campus. This has been a deeply humiliating experience. We are very proud of our son for graduating from college, but our memory of it will always be tainted by Columbia’s wrongdoing.”


May 212015

As Another Accusation Bites the Dust, Columbia Rape Saga Takes New Turn

Cathy Young
May 20, 2015

This week’s graduation at Columbia University caps the bizarre, often sordid saga involving the two most famous members of the Class of 2015: Emma Sulkowicz, the activist who protested the school’s alleged mishandling of her alleged rape by carrying a mattress around campus, and Jean-Paul Nungesser, the German scholarship student she accuses of raping her. On Tuesday, Sulkowicz carried her mattress across the stage at Class Day, despite half-hearted attempts by Columbia officials to enforce a regulation against bringing “large objects” into the ceremonial area—and despite the fact that the “mattress performance” was for a senior visual arts thesis she had already completed. Her activism was also lauded (with no mention of her name) by two commencement speakers, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power.
This isn’t quite the end of the story: Nungesser is suing Columbia, university president Lee Bollinger, and Sulkowicz’s thesis supervisor for allowing him to be subjected to “gender-based harassment” which severely damaged his educational experience and future prospects, even though a campus panel found him not culpable on the sexual assault charge. Meanwhile, there is new information related to one of this story’s many strange twists: another sexual assault complaint brought against Nungesser late last year by a male classmate. The charge was made public in February, on the heels of my article in The Daily Beast questioning the pro-Sulkowicz narrative.

Now, I have learned that after a hearing in late April, Nungesser was found “not responsible” in this latest case—altogether, the fourth time he has been cleared of a sexual assault charge at Columbia. When Sulkowicz first went public a year ago, the fact that her alleged attacker was still on campus and had never been subjected to any formal sanctions despite being accused of sexual assault by three different women helped fuel the outrage. Yet the latest investigation strongly supports Nungesser’s claim, made in media interviews and in his lawsuit, that the multiple complaints were not independent of each other and may have been part of a vendetta stemming from the original charge by Sulkowicz.

Several days after my Daily Beast piece, which featured not only Nungesser’s account of his relationship with Sulkowicz but social media messages tending to support his version, the feminist blog Jezebel ran a purported rebuttal titled “How to Make an Accused Rapist Look Good.” Much of the story, by Jezebel editor Erin Gloria Ryan, dealt with Sulkowicz’s not entirely convincing explanation of her friendly messages to Nungesser days after what she says was a terrifyingly violent rape. But the piece also contained a new revelation meant to bolster the claim that Nungesser was a serial sexual predator: the existence of a hitherto unknown male victim, identified by the pseudonym “Adam.”

Adam, who also graduates this week, told Jezebel that “he was close friends with Paul during his freshman year in 2011″ and that “one fall night, in the midst of an emotional conversation in Paul’s dorm room…Paul pushed him onto his bed and sexually assaulted him.” He claimed that after much self-doubt and internal struggle, he finally reported this incident, first to a student society to which both he and Nungesser belonged and then in a formal complaint to the university in the fall of 2014. Adam rather melodramatically lamented that my Daily Beast piece “invalidates and completely erases [his] experience.” It should be noted that, as accuser and accused in a sexual misconduct case, both Adam and Nungesser had presumably received the usual instructions from the university to “make all reasonable efforts to maintain the confidentiality/privacy of the involved parties.”

About three weeks prior to graduation, the hearing panel made its decision. It found for Nungesser. As is now the norm in campus sexual misconduct proceedings, the charge was considered under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Thus, Adam could not meet the very complainant-friendly burden of showing that it was even slightly more likely than not that the offense was committed. Since there was no appeal, the case is over, and as far as Nungesser’s formal record at Columbia is concerned he is entirely in the clear.

Nungesser declined to be interviewed for this story, due to concerns that statements to the media might affect his lawsuit. However, through a source close to the case, I was able to review several documents related to Adam’s complaint—including, crucially, the report prepared by a two-person Title IX investigative team.

The gist of the complaint was that in November 2011, Adam, who lived in the same dorm as Nungesser and was part of the same social circle, went to Nungesser’s room to tell him he was upset about being “caught in the middle” of relationship drama between Nungesser and his then-girlfriend. (This girlfriend later became one of Nungesser’s accusers, known in several media accounts under the pseudonym “Natalie”; she claimed that Nungesser had psychologically and sexually abused her throughout their relationship. The case was eventually closed after she stopped cooperating.)

According to Adam, during this conversation Nungesser asked him to sit on the bed, rubbed his shoulder and back, then “gently” pushed him down and proceeded to stroke his leg and finally massage his crotch “for approximately 2-3 minutes” while Adam froze in shock. He was finally able to muster the will to get up and leave.

Adam told investigators that he spoke to Nungesser’s girlfriend about this; however, he didn’t seem to remember when, or what her reaction was. At one point, he said that he “assumed” he had told her immediately afterward, and “it wasn’t until months later that I realized that I had not and she was unaware.” He also claimed that he avoided Nungesser after the alleged assault, and that Nungesser eventually texted him and then messaged him on Facebook; according to him, Nungesser was upset with him for telling Natalie about their sexual contact, but also suggested that they get together for coffee.

Nungesser’s story was quite different. He said that he confided in Adam about his and Natalie’s relationship troubles, that there was no sexual contact of any kind, and that later on he was dismayed to learn that Adam had recounted their conversation to Natalie.

The Facebook exchange, which Adam himself eventually found and turned over to the investigators, did not exactly help his story. Far from showing avoidance of Nungesser, it showed Adam seeking him out, complaining that “our friendship has been negatively affected” by Nungesser’s relationship problems and that “we’re less close/you’re preferring it that way.” It also showed Nungesser saying, “It was obviously pretty hard for me when I found out that you shared my entire conversation that I had with you with [Natalie], because I had assumed that it was confidential.”

The investigators’ report noted numerous contradictions in Adam’s account, as well as its drastic discrepancy with the Facebook record. Nungesser’s account, on the other hand, was not only consistent but matched by corroborative evidence. Adam’s credibility was further sunk by his rather fanciful complaints of “retaliation” by Nungesser in a class they shared. These “deliberately aggressive acts” consisted of sitting too close to Adam or to his friends, which left Adam “distraught and traumatized,” and complimenting some points Adam had made in a class discussion (which “felt like he was claiming a collective sense of power”). I am happy to report that, even on the trauma-happy modern campus, such claims of harassment are still recognized as, in the words of the report, “hyperbolic and illogical.”

In the end, the investigators concluded that Adam was “unreliable” and that his story simply did not add up, and recommended that Nungesser be found “not responsible.” But there is another fascinating wrinkle to the story.

Adam did have a corroborating witness of sorts: a woman who had held a governing position in a fraternity to which both he and Nungesser had belonged—Alpha Delta Phi, a coed Greek organization with an intellectual and literary bent. This woman confirmed that during the 2012/2013 academic year, she heard a rumor that Nungesser had “engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior” toward Adam; she said she had questioned Adam about it and written a report based on his verbal statement. The report, an undated Word document she had saved on her computer, added more inconsistencies to Adam’s account; among other things, it placed the alleged misconduct in February 2012 rather than November 2011.

The record leaves virtually no doubt that this witness is the same ADP officer—I’ll call her Leila—who played a fairly important supporting role in the case against Nungesser in the spring and fall of 2013. As I reported in The Daily Beast, after learning about the complaint brought by Sulkowicz in late April of that year, Leila sent out an email on the ADP listserv announcing that a male society member and house resident stood accused of raping a female member. In rather florid language, the email declared that the accused had “flagrantly violated his vows, disregarded his obligations as a Member, and…transgressed the rules of life,” and that if he did not resign from ADP voluntarily the executive board would seek his immediate expulsion.

The next day, after Nungesser informed Leila that the university had assured him he could stay at the house while the case was pending, she sent a sheepish follow-up email noting that “all members deserve due process, as well as an opportunity to tell their side.” Shortly after that, however, Nungesser found himself facing another accusation—this time from an ADP resident, identified as “Josie” in several media reports, who claimed he had grabbed her and tried to kiss her at a party over a year earlier. As a result, he was ordered to move out of ADP.

According to both Nungesser and a student advocate who attended the hearing on Josie’s complaint, Leila testified at that hearing and acknowledged that she encouraged Josie to come forward. The record in Adam’s case provides additional confirmation that she was actively collecting allegations against Nungesser. Interestingly, while the investigators’ report stated that Adam didn’t have an apparent motive to falsely accuse Nungesser, it took note of the fact that “at the time of the Complainant’s initial disclosure, at least several of his close friends and co-fraternity members were engaged in a process intended to evict the Respondent from the fraternity house.” For a university document, this comes startlingly close to an admission that Nungesser may have been the target of a group vendetta.

Nungesser’s lawsuit, which briefly mentions Adam as “a fourth accuser,” alleges that he is a “close friend” of Sulkowicz’s, that she instigated his complaint after Nungesser began to tell his side of the story to the media, and even that she mentioned this new accusation to reporters before Nungesser was officially notified of it. At present, these are unproven charges. Nonetheless, the circumstances under which Adam told his story to the media certainly support the claim of an agenda to discredit Nungesser after he made some headway in the court of public opinion.
After my Daily Beast article, a number of people said that while they found some of the evidence in Nungesser’s favor persuasive, they found it hard to believe that three women would collude for no apparent reason to accuse an innocent man of rape. Feminist pundit Amanda Marcotte, in her commentary on Nungesser’s lawsuit, sneered that my article painted him as “a hapless victim of a coven-like conspiracy of wicked women who make false accusations” for no apparent reason except “misogynist stereotypes about the inherent wickedness of women.”

But the collusion scenario in this case requires no irrational and groundless malevolence. If Nungesser is innocent, it is entirely plausible that Sulkowicz and Natalie, who met at a party and discussed their history with him shortly before they filed charges, may have genuinely goaded each other into the conviction that he abused them (or, as Sulkowicz put it to Jezebel, “Together, we [came] to a better understanding of our shared trauma”). It is also entirely plausible that Josie and Adam either reinterpreted their past encounters with him, or even fabricated stories in the sincere belief that they were helping eject a rapist from the house and supporting his victims. The problem is not female “wickedness”; it is a campus culture that fetishizes trauma and turns “survivorship” into a cult.

In time, Nungesser’s lawsuit—assuming that he is in it for the long haul—will probably reveal more about the facts of this convoluted story. In the meantime, the new charge, originally hauled out as a counterattack to Nungesser’s defense, seems instead to bolster his case.


May 202015

Senate Sets Affirmative-Consent Standard for Campus Sex Assaults

Keith Phaneuf
May 19, 2015

The Senate voted overwhelmingly late Tuesday to establish an affirmative-consent threshold in cases of sexual assault on all college and university campuses in Connecticut.

The measure, which passed 34-1 and now heads to the House of Representatives, does not create new criminal laws or sanctions.

Rather, an institution’s disciplinary board must identify that an unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity was provided in order to find that the actions were consensual.

The bill also requires colleges and universities to advise all students and employees about the affirmative consent standard. The University of Connecticut, the University of New Haven and Yale University already have established such a standard.

“This is about changing the conversation,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, one of the bill’s chief proponents. “Instead of asking the victim, ‘Why did you get drunk? Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you fight back? Why did you wear a short skirt?’ Instead the onus is on the assailant.”

Chances are most people watching the Super Bowl – and the ad about domestic violence that ran during the game – know someone who experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. But they might not be aware of it. “Despite the vast numbers impacted by these crimes, people are not talking about them,” said Virginia Witt, director of the campaign behind the ad. So what will change that?

UConn pays $1.3M to settle lawsuit over sexual assault allegations
UConn Student Carolyn Luby with her attorney Gloria Allred outside a federal courthouse in Hartford last November.
The University of Connecticut has agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in total to five current and former students to settle a lawsuit over the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

Flexer said victims of sexual assault often may not resist out of fear or shock. “It also can be a challenge to make a complaint with the police, because they become public,” she added.

The bill, which would take effect on July 1, also stipulates that:

It is the responsibility of each person to ensure that he or she has obtained affirmative consent before engaging in sexual activity.
The existence of a prior dating relationship or sexual activity does not constitute affirmative consent.
The affirmative consent requirement is not waived because the victim was intoxicated, unconscious, asleep or unable to communicate because of a mental or physical condition.
If the measure is enacted, Connecticut would become the second state, after California, to establish such a standard at all higher education institutions.

Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the bill is “an example of government overreaching.”

Markley said it is inconsistent to apply one standard to two college students, “but not to other people of the same age engaging in the same activities who don’t happen to be in college.”

But Flexer said colleges and universities are “a unique community” with higher-than-average rates of sexual violence. “It is a privilege to be there, and students are held to a higher code of conduct.”


May 202015

“Mattress Girl” Hit with Poster Campaign Calling her “Pretty Little Liar”

Greg Piper

May 20, 2015

The mattresser has become the mattressee, or something.

After Columbia University’s “Mattress Girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, continued her rape accusation campaign against exonerated student Paul Nungesser at the school’s graduation ceremonies Tuesday, posters calling Sulkowicz a liar popped up overnight in the school’s vicinity, according to Deputy News Editor Teo Armus of the Columbia Spectator.

Armus has been on a tweet-storm since Sulkowicz and her friends lugged the mattress to the podium for their diplomas, and he’s got pictures now of the posters (most of which didn’t stay up for long before getting torn down).

The allusion is to the popular ABC Family teen drama Pretty Little Liars.


May 202015

Male Sexual Assault Victims at Particularly High PTSD Risk

Pauline Anderson
May 19, 2015

TORONTO ― Male asylum seekers who have been sexually assaulted, typically as an act of war or oppression, face unique medical challenges. They have problems sleeping, are easily fatigued, and have difficulty settling into a new life in the United States.

Now it appears they are at particularly high risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with an almost twofold increased risk in comparison with male asylum seekers who have not been sexually assaulted.

Medical professionals play a key role in the application for asylum for these and other refugees, according to Kristina Jones, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, in New York City.

She and her colleague Brian MacMillan discussed the study and related issues here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2015 Annual Meeting.

Rape: Men Not Legally Protected

The Bellevue/NYU program for torture survivors assists individuals and families escaping political, ethnic, or religious persecution and torture. Launched in 1996, the program provides comprehensive medical, mental health, and social services to asylum seekers and refugees. The program’s database now includes 3321 patients.

Today, there are 754 active patients, with the largest group coming from Africa. A recent trend is an increase in gays and lesbians, especially from parts of Africa and Russia, who are seeking asylum as authorities there crack down on homosexuality.

To be granted asylum in the United States, a person’s claim of being under threat has to be “consistent and credible,” said Dr Jones. She added that the person also has to be a member of a “special group,” such that the person has been subject to torture or persecution because of political views, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Dr Jones and her colleagues evaluate trauma among asylum seekers and determine whether they meet the definition of torture, which includes cruel or degrading punishment and suffering designed to intimidate, coerce, or punish.

“The difference between torture and regular violence is often that the perpetrators of torture are state-sanctioned actors or police or nongovernment forces,” so victims have no recourse.

Many of the asylum seekers she treats are from pockets of Africa where there have been ongoing conflicts or political or religious oppression. In many of these areas, laws do not protect men from rape, or they imply that only women can be victims of rape.

Twice the Risk

“Rape in some countries means insertion of a penis into a vagina,” whereas “these men have been raped with sticks, objects, electric prods, or their genitals have been attacked with pepper spray,” said Dr Jones.

One man she described is a successful gay financier from Uganda, where the death penalty has been declared for homosexuality. He arrived in her clinic still bleeding from the rectum as a result of the sexual violence he suffered.

Of the 2019 male asylum seekers or refugees in the Bellevue database, 204, or about 10%, have reported sexual assault.

Researchers compared the average scores on the Harvard Trauma questionnaire, which assesses posttraumatic stress symptoms, in those clients with men who were not sexually assaulted. They found that 59% of 99 African males who were sexually assaulted had PTSD. The PTSD rate among the 417 African males not sexually assaulted was 33%.

“Men who were sexually assaulted are 1.92 times more likely to meet criteria for PTSD than those who were not,” MacMillan reported.

The total PTSD score on the questionnaire for those reporting sexual assault was 40.79, compared with 36.08 for those not sexually assaulted (P = .003).

“We definitely proved our original hypothesis, which was that sexual assault does dramatically increase the occurrence of PTSD,” said MacMillan. “However, given the nature of the data set and the problem itself, there’s good reason for us to start investigating this issue from a couple of different angles.”

One of those angles would be to determine the role of religious factors as the source of oppression with respect to clinical results, he said.

Physicians for Human Rights

Whether it is religious oppression or some other form of oppression that drives these men to seek asylum, the process they face in the United States is time-consuming. “It may take 1 to 2 years to see a judge,” said Dr Jones.

“At that point, the mental health professional becomes critical for the patient to gain asylum. If you go before an asylum judge without any medical reports, the chance of winning asylum is about 30%; if you go with a psychiatric or psychological affidavit from a provider, the chances of winning your asylum case are almost 70%.”

She noted that asylum seekers do not have to have PTSD; they only need to show that their symptoms are related to torture.

She urged her audience to consider joining Physicians for Human Rights and completing one psychiatric affidavit per year, which does not take up much time. “If you know about PTSD, you already have the skills to help an asylum seeker.”

During a question period, another session speaker, Prof Malcolm Hopwood, professor of psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australia, wondered whether the researchers had controlled for the overall level of exposure to physical violence.

Dr Jones reported that her clinic had studied head injuries and found that about a third of the patients met criteria for mild traumatic brain injury. “We wondered if that was a substitute marker for severity of torture.”

However, as far as she knows, there is no torture severity index.

“It’s an important question, because every one of the patients in our sample meets criteria for torture, so by definition, they’re horribly traumatized to begin with,” and then they also have experienced sexual assault. “We probably should factor out other types of torture and see if the numbers are similar,” she said.

In response to another query about use of benzodiazepines in patients with PTSD, Dr Jones said that although these drugs are not approved for PTSD, she uses them to treat sleep problems.

“We treat the symptoms, not the diagnosis,” and also recommend psychotherapy.

She stressed that sleep is a huge issue for many torture survivors. “From my experience, if you give these men a benzodiazepine and they just get enough sleep, they feel so much better and then start asking for more treatment and medicine. So for me, it’s an invitation and an entrée, and it’s critical that I be able to use benzodiazepines. They’re a very helpful tool.”

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2015 Annual Meeting. Presented May 18, 2015.


May 202015


Contact: Gina Lauterio

High-Profile Lawsuits Reveal Problem of False Allegations of Sexual Assault, SAVE Says

WASHINGTON / May 20, 2015 – Recent lawsuits arising from alleged incidents of campus sexual assault are renewing long-standing concerns about the problem of false accusations. In recent weeks, three high-profile lawsuits have been filed involving students or administrators at major universities.

In late April, student Paul Nungesser charged in a lawsuit that Columbia University collaborated in a campaign of harassment against him when accuser Emma Sulkowicz launched her nationally publicized “mattress” campaign, even though the Columbia U. disciplinary committee found no wrong-doing and local police declined to pursue the case.

On May 8, former Florida State University student Jameis Winston filed a lawsuit against accuser Erica Kinsman, saying her allegations of sexual assault were “false, defamatory … and have maliciously and impermissibly interfered with Mr. Winston’s business and personal relationships.” Winston had been cleared of the assault charges in three separate investigations.

The following week, University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo filed an $8 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone for portraying her as indifferent to a student’s claims of sexual victimization. The lawsuit described the avant-garde magazine as a “malicious publisher who was more concerned about selling magazines to boost the economic bottom line for its faltering magazine, than they were about discovering the truth or actual facts.”

A recent Inside Higher Ed article notes that accused men are now relying on the federal Title IX law to buttress the claim that the campus arbitration process was biased against them because of their sex:

“False accusations can leave life-long effects on the wrongfully accused, and harm the credibility of future rape victims as well,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryl Hutter. “Lawmakers need to find solutions to this epidemic of wrongful allegations which is creating a new class of victims.”

One major study found 41% of campus sexual assault claims were determined to be untrue:

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working to promote effective solutions to the problem of campus sexual assault:

May 182015

Samantha Power Gives Shout-Out to ‘Mattress Girl’ at Barnard Commencement

Dave Huber

May 18, 2015

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power gave the commencement address yesterday at Barnard College, a women-only institution, emphasizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in her speech.

She also gave kudos to Emma Sulkowicz and her “Carry That Weight” project — y’know, how she lugs a mattress around wherever she goes in order to protest her alleged sexual assault.

The Columbia Spectator reports:

Power said that the struggles of transgender people need to be included in discussions of equality, especially at women’s colleges.

“Women know what it feels like to have to fight to be part of institutions whose doors should never have been closed to them,” Power said. “We must all work towards the goal of ensuring equal rights for all people: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”

Power’s statements on gender equality come during the final stages of discussions about Barnard’s transgender admissions policy, which will be voted on this June by Barnard’s board of trustees.

“You often hear people say that past generations struggled so that you would not have to, but I say past generations struggled so you would be free to fight on behalf of someone else,” Power said.

Before Power’s speech, outgoing Student Government Association President Julia Qian mentioned in her address the need for Barnard to admit transgender students.

Power also discussed issues of sexual violence on college campuses, referencing Emma Sulkowicz’s “Carry That Weight” mattress project.

“We have too often seen colleges and universities falling short of adequately investigating and disciplining perpetrators and of protecting victims,” Power said. “And yet, even as we are aware of the seriousness of this problem, it takes a woman picking up a mattress and carrying it around her campus to make people really see it.”

Several students marked their graduation caps with strips of red tape as a show of solidarity and protest against the University’s handling of sexual assault cases on campus.

It seems Ms. Power hasn’t done much homework on Ms. Sulkowicz.

Then again, as we well know, only The Narrative really matters.