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Reporting a Rape, and Wishing She Hadn't [SLNYT]
July 13, 2014 1:46 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times examines the case of a student raped by football players at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The colleges are under investigation by the Department of Education [Not Alone, previously]

College President's Response to NYT Article; article.
posted by MoonOrb (64 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I decided to approach this by reading what the college said in their defense first before I looked at the Times article. Sometimes these sorts of cases can be very difficult for an institution to handle, regardless of guilt or innocence, but the linked material from the college is weak even without knowing the details and it completely disintegrated for me once I looked at what the Times reported.

This is an infuriating situation, made more infuriating by an institution that seems more focused on managing PR than managing the environment they provide for students.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:01 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Thanks to recent news stories like this one, I have already given my middle schooler the "if you are ever assaulted, call a real cop, NOT campus security" talk. Also the "don't drink anything at a party that you didn't open or pour yourself" talk.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:02 PM on July 13 [24 favorites]


Yeah, the college's defense page is incredibly pathetic. I realize that there are privacy considerations, although frankly I would take their privacy considerations more seriously if they hadn't sent out a letter to other students that named the alleged victim. But it basically seems to say "we're nice and behave properly, and your proof of that is that we say we're nice and behave properly."

I read this earlier today, and it was a tough read. I admire Anna's courage, but I really hope she doesn't go back there. There are other ways to help survivors.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:07 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


"don't drink anything at a party that you didn't open or pour yourself" talk.

And never leave your drink unattended!
posted by futz at 2:12 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


I decided to approach this by reading what the college said in their defense first before I looked at the Times article.

It was quite a verbose rug woven for the express purpose of sweeping their incompetence and wickedness under.

Actions speak louder than any densely-worded press release...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:14 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


The school said it was legally obligated to identify Anna to students who might have been called to testify in a possible criminal proceeding.

IANAL, but this sounds incredibly shady to me. Can't you, as a plaintiff, file as "Jane Doe"?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:17 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


It's a great article and unusual in its unsparing details of how incompetent the college was (or deliberately so, perhaps, what with protecting football players in a winning season). The local police department doesn't come off well either, though that's a side note in the article.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:27 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


"don't drink anything at a party that you didn't open or pour yourself" talk.

And never leave your drink unattended!


This isn't bad advice obviously but it doesn't have much to do with this case (as there doesn't appear to have been any date rape drugs involved) and can be misleading about what is much more serious and banal of a danger; drinking way too much booze. So it's way more important to moderate your alcohol intake whether you've left your drinks unattended or not. Because people are much more likely to pass out or black out or lose time solely from too much alcohol.
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on July 13 [24 favorites]


The article said there were no date - rape drugs, just alcohol.

Alcohol is a date - rape drug.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:29 PM on July 13 [48 favorites]


This is an infuriating situation, made more infuriating by an institution that seems more focused on managing PR than managing the environment they provide for students.

Indeed: "Until last year, Hobart and William Smith’s chief fund-raiser also helped oversee the school’s handling of sexual assaults."
posted by BungaDunga at 2:31 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


I agree, of course, I just don't think that's what most people mean when they talk about date rape drugs. People think of it as something a sinister person secretly slips into your alcoholic drink, not the drink itself.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I am so inspired by Anna's bravery in working with the NYTimes on this story. Wow. And from the story it sounds like her parents are being really supportive, publicly and privately. All my best to that family.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:31 PM on July 13 [14 favorites]


Well, right - the warning was as much about knowing exactly what and how much alcohol you have had as about making sure no one puts roofies in your drink. Alcohol itself has always been the #1 date rape drug.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:32 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Also, for those whose response to this NYTimes story is to warn young women not to get drunk at parties: Actually, The Link Between Sexual Assault And Alcohol Isn’t As Clear As You Think.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:33 PM on July 13 [20 favorites]


Now they have an HR person, the head of the bookstore and a professor doing it. While perhaps marginally less biased none of those people seems well qualified or independent enough to be in charge of such a serious subject matter.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:34 PM on July 13


That's not what that article means, as I think you know, roger.
posted by Justinian at 2:35 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Also, if you have a son, I think it would be a good thing to teach them about sexual assault. There's no reason these lessons should only go to your daughters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:42 PM on July 13 [80 favorites]


Thanks to recent news stories like this one, I have already given my middle schooler the "if you are ever assaulted, call a real cop, NOT campus security" talk.

That won't help. From the article:
"Turning to the police may not offer a more equitable alternative. For example, as The Times reported in April, the Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a Florida State University student’s rape complaint against the star quarterback Jameis Winston."
The problem is, as always, that we'd rather throw a young women under a bus than hold young men to account. Maybe we should focus on holding the people who commit these acts responsible, even if it means they might not finish the season undefeated.
posted by mhoye at 3:02 PM on July 13 [11 favorites]


We can do more than one thing at a time. We should both try to reduce the number of sexual assaults and improve holding the guilty parties responsible.
posted by Justinian at 3:14 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


Against her parents’ wishes, Anna plans to return to Hobart and William Smith in the fall.

“Someone needs to help survivors there,” she said.


That young woman has enough courage and strength of character for six people.

I don't know why the school investigated this matter. They aren't trained to do so properly and have too much of a vested interest in it to be objective and so the results are a farce and a kangaroo court. It was a job for the police, though of course there is also much room for improvement in the way the police handle rape cases.

It frustrates and enrages me no end that there isn't a competent response team on every police force set up to deal with such cases. We're not talking some freak disaster scenario here - rape is so common. And I agree with the previous comment from mhoye. This problem does boil down to misogyny, to the expectation that women should just deal with the aftermath of rape and abuse on their own rather than expect the male perpetrators to suffer any consequences.
posted by orange swan at 3:15 PM on July 13 [10 favorites]


The school is required by law to investigate; the problem isn't that they investigated, it's that they did a shitty job.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:25 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


I sat through a rape trial in college, as a friend of mine decided to press charges and asked me and some other friends to be part if her support network. It's not an alternative that's so much better than the university process. It's different, but it's not less traumatic or fucked up or necessarily "better" for the victim.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Letting colleges adjudicate rape cases internally is the same as letting the Catholic Church adjudicate pedophilia cases internally.
posted by beagle at 3:35 PM on July 13 [22 favorites]


"This isn't bad advice obviously but it doesn't have much to do with this case (as there doesn't appear to have been any date rape drugs involved) and can be misleading about what is much more serious and banal of a danger; drinking way too much booze. So it's way more important to moderate your alcohol intake whether you've left your drinks unattended or not. Because people are much more likely to pass out or black out or lose time solely from too much alcohol."

Okay, so, I read some of those early comments and, like you, I felt that it should be made clear that druggings are involved in a small number of assaults and to be hyper-aware of this possibility is just like being wrongly hyper-aware of the possibility of relatively rare stranger rape while ignoring relatively common acquaintance rape. The greatest risks aren't with strangers, they're with people you know; and they're not with someone drugging you, but if you're often in social situations involving alcohol, then alcohol itself is the danger. But, even then, for most people (excluding, especially, college students who frequent heavy-drinking social environments) the biggest danger is simply someone you know not taking "no" for an answer, no drugs or alcohol involved.

But the bigger problem with all of this kind of messaging, whether it's about avoiding the possibility of stranger rape or spiked drinks or too much alcohol, or even promoting self-defense, is that they're all prime examples of how our culture takes it for granted that women are responsible for the sexual assaults committed against them, one way or another. Emphasizing the importance, the responsibility, to "be safe" is just another way of blaming women for what happens to them when they're attacked. And, believe me, this isn't just some theoretical, implicit "messaging" argument about society, this message plays out individually, explicitly, rabidly, heartbreakingly, every goddam day when women tell people they've been raped — they are inevitably grilled about their decisions and their actions and they endure disgusted and angry reactions when they reveal that they failed to follow any of the directives in the long list of Things Women Should Never Do.

Even when they're well-intended, all of these cautions reinforce the idea that it's all about what a woman does or doesn't do; they all reinforce the cultural subtext that rape is just something that is a part of nature, and that, like hurricanes and tornadoes and forest fires, the only thing anyone can do is to avoid danger and protect themselves. But of course rape isn't a natural disaster. It's an actual human being attacking another human being. Opposing rape means being concerned with stopping men from attacking women; not stopping women from being in circumstances where they're attacked by men. This is especially true when those circumstances are just normal things that people should expect to normally do. That men expect to normally do. Convincing women to circumscribe the activities of their lives in ways we don't expect of men, in the name of personal safety with regard to sexual assault, is insidious.

I'm not saying that there's never a time and place for a discussion about personal safety. But an emphasis on personal safety — publicly and privately, in conversation, in activism, and in discussions with friends and children — reinforces a cultural idea that the victims of sexual violence are ultimately responsible for it, not their attackers, and, with individuals, plants the seeds of this idea in their head — an idea which will grow, if they're attacked, into guilt and self-loathing. If your first instinct in discussions about rape is to talk about protecting one's personal safety, then you should stop and consider why that might be, and whether that particular time and that particular context is an appropriate place for that message.

Although I addressed the beginning of this comment to Justinian with that quote and "you", the bulk of it is not addressed to any specific person, nor had I any specific person in mind, nor do any further second-person pronouns indicate anyone in particular.

posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:56 PM on July 13 [60 favorites]


While higher ed institutions are required by federal law to investigate, people who have been assaulted also have the option of reporting the assault to criminal authorities. The two aren't mutually exclusive. So although there are problematic elements of having the institutions investigate, the recent Title IX guidance from the federal government is geared toward ensuring that at least one entity is obligated to investigate.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:08 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Letting colleges adjudicate rape cases internally is the same as letting the Catholic Church adjudicate pedophilia cases internally.

They are required by law to have a process in place. And you cannot force someone to report a crime to the police. Do you have an alternate policy suggestion?
posted by rtha at 4:16 PM on July 13


You may feel that way Ivan but I don't. Perhaps I have misunderstood your point. Being self aware and educated never made me feel responsible for assaults against me. Matter of fact it probably got me out of several situations. Everyone reacts differently of course. I feel the opposite of most everything that you wrote.
posted by futz at 4:16 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The Fault in Our Schools
posted by hydropsyche at 4:21 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should just get rid of college sports. Every time I read about cases like this, it's always "athletes" that are involved, and schools are reluctant to take action against them because they bring in so much money.

College should be about study. You wanna play sports, join a bloody sports team in your own time already.
posted by monospace at 5:09 PM on July 13 [22 favorites]


Do you have an alternate policy suggestion?

I am so unironically in favour of human sacrifice these days it's not even funny anymore.
posted by elizardbits at 5:17 PM on July 13 [16 favorites]


Do you have an alternate policy suggestion?

Well, yes, read my comment again. Colleges are good at educating people (we assume). They are not good at judicial proceedings. Neither are churches. So, if someone is a victim of pedophilia in a church [I should not have limited my comment to one particular church earlier], or a victim of sexual assault at a college, the policy should be that the institution immediately turns over the investigation to the cops and the DA, regardless of whether the accused perps are football players.
posted by beagle at 5:33 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: Also, if you have a son, I think it would be a good thing to teach them about sexual assault. There's no reason these lessons should only go to your daughters.

Maybe teach them not to commit it, while you're at it.
posted by tzikeh at 5:35 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The main, possibly only argument in favor of colleges having these tribunals is "the US court system is a nightmare." That's a pretty damning assumption in and of itself. I really agree with those who say get the colleges out of this and fix the courts so they can bring survivors justice; it makes absolutely no sense for colleges to be developing ad hoc investigative tribunals when they don't have rules of evidence, laboratory resources, subpoena power, perjury rules, a legitimate appeal process, or proper protections for either the victim or the accused. There's no other category of crime where you'd conclude that an entity associated with the victim ought to supplement or supersede the actions of the courts. We don't have hotels investigating murders or 7-11 checking into robberies.
posted by gerryblog at 5:41 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


If colleges don't have these proceedings, then there's no way for a victim to have the perpetrator suspended or expelled or even just moved to a different dorm without going through a full trial that results in a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Which leads to the strange conclusion that a student could be disciplined by the college for cheating on a final (which certainly doesn't require proof to a criminal court beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard) but not for assaulting a fellow student.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:47 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


the policy should be that the institution immediately turns over the investigation to the cops and the DA, regardless of whether the accused perps are football players.

The result of this would mean that there would be no campus-based way at all to handle cases like this, since you can't force an alleged victim to go to the cops, and the university isn't the alleged victim and so what complaint would they file?
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on July 13


It seems to me that only when the Catholic church started to find it's properties under attack, lawsuits successful enough to wipe out its holdings all across america that something it started handling abuse properly.

If we started thinking (from a legal and liability stance) universities as large conspiracies to protect rapists and started having judgments of hundreds of millions of dollars against them, to the point of bankruptcy that something may happen.

Now you may argue that bankrupting universities would hurt all of the students that go to the university, that by and large the university does more good than harm, and that trying to shut down universities would do the communities and society at large more harm, than good that would come of compensating the victims of sexualy assault would do. And you would find yourself making the same arguments the Catholic church did when it tried to absolve itself from financial liability for harboring pedophiles.

Just a thought.
posted by el io at 5:59 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


If colleges don't have these proceedings, then there's no way for a victim to have the perpetrator suspended or expelled or even just moved to a different dorm without going through a full trial that results in a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

And lo, they had these proceedings, and the alleged(*) perpetrators were neither suspended, expelled, or even just moved to a different dorm.

There is also no indication that it has taken responsibility for the highly dangerous environment it has created on its campus: who was responsible for the dance hall? The frat houses? Are they not on its campus? Are they not notorious for sexual and other assaults? WHy does it enable this sort of thing?

(*) I do not choose to dignify the proceedings by presuming that the tribunal was in a position to determine guilt or innocence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:07 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Well, yes, read my comment again. Colleges are good at educating people (we assume). They are not good at judicial proceedings. Neither are churches. So, if someone is a victim of pedophilia in a church [I should not have limited my comment to one particular church earlier], or a victim of sexual assault at a college, the policy should be that the institution immediately turns over the investigation to the cops and the DA, regardless of whether the accused perps are football players.

I wonder if these two ideas might make you think differently about your position:

First, there is a difference in burdens in proof between the institutional investigations required by Title IX and criminal proceedings that a DA/police department would use in the policy change you propose. Under your proposal, the consequences of sexually assaulting someone would be felt only if someone were convicted under the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, instead of the preponderance of the evidence standard that is mandated by Title IX. I know from my own experience prosecuting sex crimes that the beyond a reasonable doubt standard is not only incredibly difficult to meet, but it changes the nature of the conversation about the incident, too. Under the requirements of Title IX, the institution's finding is based on preponderance of the evidence. There is the additional matter of criminal proceedings being measured in many months or years; Title IX requires an investigation is completed within 60 days. Even if an institution takes longer than 60 days to adjudicate a complaint, it is unlikely to take as long as it would take a case to move through the criminal system. (And, of course, the criminal system is totally available to the complainant in addition to the process mandated by Title IX).

Second, requiring the institution to investigate--rather than turn the matter over wholesale to the criminal system--means that interim measures are available, like ensuring that the complainant and the subject don't reside in the same dormitory, take classes together, or perhaps even requiring that the subject not set foot on campus except to take classes during the pendency of the investigation.

It is worthwhile to argue that higher education institutions are not doing a great job at making this system work. However, in light of the fact that the criminal process is still available to people who are assaulted, there is good reason to think that as a matter of policy, higher education institutions should still investigate alleged assaults by their students. There is tremendous room for improvement for institutions here--hence the Not Alone website, recent guidance from the Department of Education, and so forth--but changing the policy to remove this responsibility from the institutions would seem to make the problem worse, not better.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:17 PM on July 13 [5 favorites]


So the chairperson of the tribunal was also the head of the university's HR department?

Wait, what?

The HR departments job is to protect the organization they are a member of from legal liability. That's their job.

The 2 of out of 3 people that didn't see the report that showed blunt force trauma - the 3rd person was the head of HR. HR decided not to tell the other folks about the blunt force trauma.
posted by el io at 6:20 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


This isn't some drunken brawl at a frat party where a stern lecture from the Dean results in promises to behave better next time. It's one of the most violent, personal, predatory crimes there is. With a high risk of recurrence. If nothing else, I'd think colleges would be worried about the enormous civil lawsuit liability they expose themselves to by pretending to be able to investigate a rape.

It should be the victim's choice what avenue to pursue. But colleges do a lot of indoctrination to encourage students to not go to the real police. For something as serious as rape, that's not right.
posted by Nelson at 6:34 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


The result of this would mean that there would be no campus-based way at all to handle cases like this, since you can't force an alleged victim to go to the cops, and the university isn't the alleged victim and so what complaint would they file?
Colleges can't force the alleged victim to go to the cops, but they can go to the cops themselves. That's how it works at my university: everyone in any administrative capacity at all is a mandated reporter, and the cops get called immediately as soon as they find out about a sexual assault. I have extremely mixed feelings about this policy, which only came about because of specific instances of abuse on the part of university personnel, but it is possible.

For what it's worth, where I live, worship of the football team is pretty much the only thing that unites town and gown, and I don't have a ton of confidence in the ability or willingness of the local cops to investigate serious allegations against football players.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:39 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


If colleges don't have these proceedings, then there's no way for a victim to have the perpetrator suspended or expelled or even just moved to a different dorm without going through a full trial that results in a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

You can have a perfectly straightforward policy that (a) any student indicted by a grand jury for any violent felony against another will be suspended until such time as a verdict is reached or the case is dismissed; (b) convicted students will be expelled, exonerated students will be welcomed back.
posted by tyllwin at 6:45 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


You can have a perfectly straightforward policy that (a) any student indicted by a grand jury for any violent felony against another will be suspended until such time as a verdict is reached or the case is dismissed; (b) convicted students will be expelled, exonerated students will be welcomed back.

This still puts a student who has reported being assaulted in the position of (a) not having access to interim measures until the police and district attorney get around to completing an investigation and convening a grand injury/issuing an information, whenever that might be; and (b) subscribing to the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof standard, which is damn near impossible to meet in sexual assault cases, and hardest of all to do in those that do not meet the "stranger rape" archetype that so many jurors see as the only legitimate type of rape.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:52 PM on July 13 [4 favorites]


College should be about study. You wanna play sports, join a bloody sports team in your own time already.

At schools where they don't make money off sports, this is more or less how it works, people aren't put in fake classes to help them pass, they need to take a full courseload.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:17 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


MoonOrb, it's not an either-or situation. Employers whose employees are sexually assaulted at work, for instance, are not obliged to refrain from taking any action while the complaint is sub judice; they can separate the employees, or even suspend or fire the alleged perpetrator. In fact, they probably have a duty to conduct some sort of investigation and take appropriate (non-punitive) action.

In this case the school could have encouraged the complainant to report the alleged incident to police, and also made its own investigation. They don't even need to frame it as rape: they're perfectly within their rights (and again, arguably, their duty) to take measures to protect the complainant and other students, and the reported behavior of the alleged perpetrator was certainly unsafe and conducive to assault, whether it or not it actually met that standard.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:30 PM on July 13


Joe--we agree, that's exactly what I was arguing. It's not an either/or situation. What I'm saying is that there are advantages to this arrangement, where federal law requires the higher ed institutions to investigate, because the obligations of Title IX mean the institution must use the preponderance of evidence standard, investigate complaints within 60 days, and take interim measures. The criminal process affords none of these things. So, to the extent people are proposing that the criminal system should be the only system, I think they're missing some important reasons why it's good to have both options.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:37 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


the preponderance of evidence standard, investigate complaints within 60 days, and take interim measures. The criminal process affords none of these things

Well, the preponderance of the evidence in a non-judicial college proceeding.

I agree that statistically, false accusations of rape are rare, and that they should not be anyone's first order of business. I'm just somewhat uncomfortable with these disjointed jurisdictions wherein an accused rapist could be (a) found not guilty in a criminal court (b) found "guilty" in a collegiate hearing and expelled (c) win a civil case against (or force a settlement from) the college for libeling him in the expulsion process while (d) facing a civil suit from the victim for the assault. I think that's a messy outcome where many never quite believe either party. I wish there was a way to unify it into one fair trial.
posted by tyllwin at 7:59 PM on July 13


Alcohol itself has always been the #1 date rape drug.

QFT. It's a shame that it reads as sensationalistic to say so, only because it's so entrenched and "too much" is a matter of degree that varies with everyone. If you're (not literally you, the theoretical you) the kind of guy who goes to a bar and "nurses" a drink all night in order to take advantage of those who have one too many, you should get punched in the skull 50,000 times. More likely than not it's just a story you tell because you think it makes you sound cool and savvy, but it just makes you sound like a rapey shit.

I've been in situations before where a woman at a party wanted to "drink me under the table" or whatnot, and perhaps they did want me to "take advantage of them" though I never did, I always knew it was wrong, found intoxication off-putting, and they were clearly "someone else" at the point of excessive intoxication and I wouldn't feel like they would necessarily like me the next day if things went down that way. I didn't think "date rape!" or anything like that, it just seemed like common decency. I was not warned much at all about any of this stuff as a dude, but my first girlfriend got pregnant with her previous boyfriend's baby and my mom constantly harped on me about safe sex, which was enough to scare me from that sort of beyond "casualness."

And it's always enjoyed a separate status outside of "drugs" in most contexts..."drugs and alcohol..." It just so happens that it's a sedative hyponotic, fancy that, in the same category as valium and rohypnol (roofies), and is one of the few recreational drugs that can lead to sudden death during withdrawal (granted, with a massively long addiction buildup required for most, and one that is largely concealable from society until it's pretty entrenched).
posted by aydeejones at 8:09 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Except the rape took place partially at a bar. There is NO reason that shouldn't have been investigated like any other crime. It sounds like the college officers did actually do a good investigation but the tribunal totally dropped the ball. I wonder if pursuing a criminal case is still an option?
posted by fshgrl at 8:11 PM on July 13


College should be about study. You wanna play sports, join a bloody sports team in your own time already.

At schools where they don't make money off sports, this is more or less how it works, people aren't put in fake classes to help them pass, they need to take a full courseload.


Hobart and William Smith is a Division III institution*, which means it doesn't even give athletic scholarships and doesn't make money off sports. Athletics are a small facet of the problem that big institutions just don't like it when one of their members perpetrates a crime on another of their members. See also "The Greek system."

* -- Except lacrosse. The accused in this case were not lacrosse players.
posted by Etrigan at 8:19 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


MoonOrb: Sorry for misunderstanding you. I accept that the federal legislation doesn't prevent complainants from proceeding on both fronts, but that is the impression given by the article:
students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent ... College administrators have their own incentive to deal with such cases on campus, since a public prosecution could frighten parents, prospective students and donors.
From a practical perspective, the college's private investigation might stymie any criminal prosecution: you have problems with witness-tampering, the chain of evidence, and the tribunal's own records: I suppose you could make a fifth-amendment argument to prevent use of the defendant's own compelled testimony, but the complainant and other witnesses will likely be confronted by statements that might not have been elicited in court and that may or may not have been recorded correctly. The defense would rightly seek to bring those in evidence to argue for reasonable doubt, but the doubt might never have existed without the first set of proceedings.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:37 PM on July 13


In my experience it doesn't matter much whether the school makes money off athletics or not, the star athletes of the prestige sport (usually, but not always, football) are treated like tin gods. And the coaching staff for the prestige sport will be the highest paid members of the faculty as well as being able to get away with just about anything.

I get that people like to watch and play sports. That's fine. Yay them, and I don't want to make them stop enjoying their hobby.

But it seems that we've got a deep problem with the enjoyment of sports giving athletes an out for bad behavior in general, and sexual assault and rape especially.

So here's my question: is there a way to actually fix this problem [1] that will work? Or would we be better off advocating to end college sports for a while just to let people's passion for them die down so that maybe the tin god syndrome can be averted when/if we permit college sports again?

As someone who finds both sports in general and frats in general to be obnoxious and distasteful, I want to be mindful of my own prejudices and thus my kneejerk reaction, which is a call to simply abolish both forever, is one I'm trying to avoid.

But there's self evidently a problem here, and absent a serious, workable, solution for that problem, getting rid of college sports (and frats while we're at it) seems like the only alternative.

Everything tried so far seems laughably ineffective and more like a whitewash job than a serious attempt to stop the problem. So what's the solution?

[1] Which seems related to the very similar problem of bad behavior, sexual assault, and rape, in fraternities.
posted by sotonohito at 4:26 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


I wonder what would happen if you tied a sport coaches salary directly to the behaviour of his athelete off-court? I mean, aren't they already paid for how they perform in the arena? What if you said x amount of sexual assault complaints results in X amount of decrease in a coach's salary?

Even if you tied it to a bonus situation, I'd bet you would see a sharp decrease in complaints.

But it'll never happen, because I'm talking about fucking with the salary of the (arguably) most powerful member of most colleges staff. Oh, the irony!
posted by valkane at 4:57 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


The case in this article was ridiculously egregious, where evidence of a crime looks to have been obvious enough (including people standing around taking photos of one of the attacks) that the college should have notified the police itself partway through the investigation rather than engage in what feels like a cover up.

But from friends who have served on the kind of internal adjudicative board described, the majority of cases that come before them are much less clear cut and not usefully handled by simply notifying the police as a couple people suggested above. And at the same time, it's blindingly clear that many, if not most or even all, schools have failed in their Title IX responsibilities and despite the increased attention and lawsuits are continuing to fail. The colleges need to reverse what can become a normalization of sexual assault (as Ivan F discussed above) but even if they were taking that seriously, which most aren't, they still exist within the broader society and it's normalization of assault as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:38 AM on July 14


My reaction when reading this headline was a combination of "again?" and "finally someone is talking about this." I have a friend who was there in the early 2000s who was sexually assaulted. I honestly cannot remember whether it was this or something else that caused the school to put her in alcohol counseling and if she even report it to the school. If she didn't, I can see why. If she did, nothing came of it. She switched schools the next year and was better for it.

I wonder if before every hearing about sexual assault and before every trial, the percentage of reported rapes vs. false accusations vs. real rapes were stated and explained, if it would make any difference.

I don't know if HBWS is worse than other schools in this regard or if it's just the fact that I know someone who was sexually assaulted there, but I do have to admit a bit of schadenfreude for the administrators who were finally made to face some kind of consequence for their inaction.
posted by Hactar at 9:10 AM on July 14


I wonder what would happen if you tied a sport coaches salary directly to the behaviour of his athelete off-court?

The result of this would just be even stronger pressure on the victim not to report the crime, because now it's not just "ruining" some rapey athlete's life, it's destroying the coach's livelihood.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


I mean I totally get where you're coming from, but it would almost certainly not result in coaches telling their student athletes not to drug and rape anyone, or rape anyone who is drunk. It would just be one more weapon used against the victims.
posted by elizardbits at 9:17 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


I don't know if HBWS is worse than other schools in this regard or if it's just the fact that I know someone who was sexually assaulted there,

Lower tier schools like HBWS are vulnerable to a certain kind of bad press in a way Harvard never will be, because they are tuition dependent and are always worried about even small dips in applications and enrollment. So a cover up (and having the advancement person helping to keep the assault cases under control) makes sense, unfortunately.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:21 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


For a real life actual example of what would happen if a beloved coach was found to be complicit in sexual abuses on campus you need look no further than Joe Paterno, and that was for something which many people consider worse than drunken date rape between two young adults above the age of consent. Students actually rioted in support of a man who knew that his colleague was raping children as young as 10 years old. Because of the intense cultlike atmosphere of college football and college athletics in general.
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 AM on July 14 [11 favorites]


Students actually rioted in support of a man who knew that his colleague was raping children as young as 10 years old. Because of the intense cultlike atmosphere of college football and college athletics in general.

Yeah, I know. And you're right. It's just so fucking bleak.

The local NPR affiliate picked up this story this morning (Geneva is only about 45 miniutes from where I live) and the slant (to my ears) was the school was misrepresented by the NYT.

Bleak.
posted by valkane at 10:18 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


and the slant (to my ears) was the school was misrepresented by the NYT.

Sadly, it looks as if a lot of local news outlets are summarizing the HWS press release that came out in response to the Times story.

Meanwhile, the National Review Online stays classy, painting Hobart as the latest victim of aggressive liberal reporting.
posted by aught at 7:34 AM on July 15


And here is a good unpacking of the letter in the NYT by the chairwoman from Hobart and William Smith Colleges board of trustees.

I'm trying to imagine what response the chairwoman would have as a mother (which I only mention because she repeatedly mentions her female credentials, as a mother, alumni, etc., if Anna was her own child and that was the letter she read from the chair of the institution where it happened. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I sense the letter, and the spirit behind it needed to be different. However, I want to think more about exactly how.
posted by anitanita at 4:59 PM on July 20


Senators Offer Bill to Curb Campus Sexual Assault
A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to curb the startling number of sexual assaults on college campuses. The measure would require schools to make public the result of anonymous surveys concerning assault on campuses, and impose significant financial burdens on universities that fail to comply with some of the law’s requirements.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:27 PM on July 30


The big deal with the proposed legislation is that it comes with financial penalties that are more discrete than the vague (and as far as I know never implemented) threat to withhold any federal funds that an institution receives.

I haven't seen a draft of any proposed legislation but my first thought is that actual legislation is, from the institution's perspective, desirable: you better know what your obligations are under Title IX. Right now it's a little of a guessing game when every institution holds its breath to see how the OCR interprets Title IX. So I can see this being somewhat of a win/win proposition. There will of course be uncertainty and the devil is always in the details, and many institutions will be terrified at the thought of more tangible financial penalties, but there is just still so much work to be done toward making campuses safe and fair spaces for women.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:13 PM on July 30


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