TIME Sexual Assault

The Troubling Statistic in MIT’s Sex Assault Survey

MIT Campus Sexual Assault
The main entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Rick Friedman—Corbis

Many students were uncertain about what qualified as sexual violence -- even the ones who experienced assault

A new survey of student experiences with sexual assault at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is an encouraging step for schools working to put an end to the shamefully widespread problem of campus rape.

That the prestigious school released the study publicly is helpful in erasing the stigma surrounding sexual assault. And the numbers show that even an institution far better known for Fields Medals than frat parties has an incidence of campus rape comparable to other colleges. Roughly 35% of MIT’s 11,000 graduates and undergraduates took the anonymous survey. Of the undergrads, about 17% of women and 5% of men reported experiencing sexual assault while at the Massachusetts school.

But a deeper look at the numbers points to a more troubling statistic. Even though 17% of female undergraduates reported an experience that fits the survey’s definition of sexual assault (“unwanted sexual behaviors … involving use of force, physical threat, or incapacitation”), only 11% of female undergraduates checked “yes” when asked directly if they had been “raped” or “sexually assaulted.” Despite a concerted effort by the Obama Administration, state officials and campus leaders, MIT students were uncertain about what qualified as sexual violence — even when reporting that they had experienced assault.

Sadly, that’s not exactly surprising. Experts say there are numerous reasons students struggle to understand the definition of sexual assault, including denial about the experience and and the hesitation to apply the label to attackers or those who experience it. “There is still such a stigma to be a ‘rape victim’ or a ‘rapist,'” says Jane Stapleton, a University of New Hampshire researcher and expert in sexual assault prevention.

The MIT survey also indicated a tendency among undergraduates to blame victims, including themselves, for assaults that had taken place. Fifteen percent of female undergraduate respondents and 25% of male undergraduates said that a drunk person who is assaulted is “at least somewhat responsible” for what happened, while 31% of female undergraduate respondents and 35% of males said they believed that sexual assault and rape “happen because men can get carried away in sexual situations once they’ve started.”

Of students who said they had been assaulted, many blamed themselves, which may explain why so few of them decided to report the incident. Of the assault victims, 72% said they didn’t think it was “serious enough to officially report” and 44% said they “felt they were at least partly at fault or it wasn’t totally the other person’s fault.”

These attitudes are somewhat incongruous with the fact that assault victims also reported having felt a great deal of trauma because of the assault–35% reported being unable to complete assignment and 30% reported being unable to eat. Only about 5% of respondents to MIT’s survey reported the experience to someone in an official capacity.

MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart says part of the challenge in reducing assault is educating students about all the forms it takes. “We can’t prevent what is not agreed upon by everyone,” she says.

Barnhart says that MIT has had an increase in reported sexual misconduct since the survey was advertised last spring, a sign that awareness is growing.

Still, as Stapleton says, “it’s going to take time to change the culture.”

TIME Military

Marine Suspected of Transgender Murder Moved to Philippine Custody

Supporters of murdered Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude, also known as "Jennifer", hold a protest near the Hall of Justice where the preliminary hearing for the murder case is being held at the northern Philippine city of Olongapo on Oct. 10, 2014.
Supporters of murdered Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude, also known as "Jennifer", hold a protest near the Hall of Justice where the preliminary hearing for the murder case is being held at the northern Philippine city of Olongapo on Oct. 10, 2014. Noel Celis—AFP/Getty Images

Police allege that Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton killed 26-year-old Jennifer Laude on Oct. 11

A U.S. Marine suspected in the Oct. 11 murder of a Filipino transgender woman has been transferred from a U.S. warship to the custody of Philippines military, police said Wednesday.

The Philippine police said the suspect, whom they have identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, went to a local motel in Olongapo City, close to the Subic Bay port, which often hosts U.S. ships, with 26-year-old Jennifer Laude, and was seen leaving the hotel room 30 minutes later. Laude’s strangled body was found by a hotel employee, her head in the toilet bowl of one of the rooms. An autopsy report cited the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.” Two used condoms were also found in the room.

Pemberton, who awaits formal charges, was held for several days on the U.S.S. Peleliu warship in Subic Bay. The Marine was in the Philippines for a long-standing joint military exercise between U.S. Marines and their Philippine counterparts, which involved 3,500 American troops and ended Oct. 10.

The homicide case has ignited tensions over a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines that allows the U.S. to keep custody of military personnel during criminal proceedings for crimes committed in-country. Vocal opponents of the agreement have called for its abrogation, saying that the deal is lopsided in favor of the U.S.

In what could be seen as a compromise by the U.S., the Marines have transferred Pemberton to an air-conditioned vehicle inside Camp Aguinaldo, military headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Quezon City. The vehicle will still be guarded by U.S. troops, but will be located inside a fenced-off portion of the camp guarded by Philippine personnel, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Marine Corps issued a statement to clarify that the “Marine will remain in the custody of the United States pursuant to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Republic of the Philippines.”

The U.S.S. Peleliu has been authorized to leave the Philippines.

TIME Crime

U.S. Marine Charged in Murder of Transgender Woman in Philippines

Philippine government now wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton

A U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the killing of a Filipino transgender woman found strangled in a local hotel room last weekend.

A senior Philippine official said Wednesday that the Philippine government wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, and warned that the case could damage the military relationship between the two allies, according to MSN news.

Under a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, the Philippines can demand custody of a service member who has been involved in a crime. The joint defense pact has stoked tension between the two countries in the past, and the question of the U.S. Marine’s custody in this case may renew those tensions.

Pemberton is currently being held on the USS Peleliu warship in Subic Bay. The marines had been in the Philippines for an annual joint military exercise. All military personnel “still actively involved with the investigation” remain on board the ship, according to a press statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.

Three other marines who are considered possible witnesses are also being held, according to previous news reports. The other four ships previously held at port in Subic Bay during the investigation have been cleared to depart, the Marine Corps announced on Wednesday.

The killing has also ignited emotions in the transgender community in the Philippines, who are calling the death of Jennifer Laude, who was found dead with her head in a toilet bowl, a hate crime. An autopsy report in the case has shown the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”

“We will not accept anything less than justice,” the victim’s sister Marilou Laude said to CNN.

[MSN]

TIME LGBT

U.S. Marine Suspected in Killing of Transgender Woman in Philippines

Friends and relatives of Filipino transgender resident Jeffrey Laude look on alongside his coffin and photograph in the northern Philippine city of Olongapo on Oct. 14, 2014.
Friends and relatives of Jeffrey Laude, a Filipino transgender woman who went by Jennifer, look at her coffin in the northern Philippine city of Olongapo on Oct. 14, 2014. Jay Directo—AFP/Getty Images

He's being held on a warship pending the investigation

A United States Marine suspected of killing a Filipina transgender woman he met in a local bar will remain in U.S. custody, officials said Tuesday.

The suspect, whom the military has not named because formal charges have not been filed, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is being held on the USS Peleliu warship while the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Philippine National Police conduct a joint investigation. Three other marines considered possible witnesses are also being held on the ship.

The strangled body of Jennifer Laude, 26, a Filipino national whose birth name is Jeffrey, was found shortly before midnight on Saturday, Oct. 11 at a hotel in Olongapo City, according to the Marine Corps Times. Her head had reportedly been pushed into the toilet and two used condoms were found in a trash can in the room. ABS CBN News, a Philippine news outlet, reported that Laude’s body was found less than an hour after she checked into the hotel with a male “foreigner” with “close-cropped” hair.

The suspect was in the Philippines for a longstanding joint military exercise between U.S. Marines and their Filipino counterparts that ended Oct. 10. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, has ordered that the five ships and the marines to remain in port in the Philippines while the investigation is ongoing, according to spokesman Chuck Little. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Tuesday said the U.S. “will continue to cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspesect of the investigation.”

The case has provoked outrage among transgender activists in the Philippines and the U.S. and renewed criticism over a 1998 pact between the two nations that requires American service members to be held in U.S. custody during criminal proceedings. In 2006, an American soldier convicted of raping a Filipino woman by a local court stoked similar anger.

“The U.S. Navy says they are going to cooperate with national law, but they haven’t turned him over to the Philippine authorities,” says Geena Rocero, a Philippines native who founded the trans advocacy organization Gender Proud. “He is still inside the ship.”

TIME Books

Harvest Boon: 7 Great Fall Books

A month of reaping great reads

  • Fragrant: The Secret Life Of Scent

    by Mandy Aftel

    A perfumer by profession, Aftel offers a combination history-slash-recipe book-slash-meditation in Fragrant. Instructions for homemade “Coca-Cola” and flower-infused chocolate, among other aromatic concoctions, are woven through scent-based sections: Cinnamon, Mint, Frankincense, Ambergris and Jasmine.

  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

    by Neil Patrick Harris

    Life is anything but linear in Harris’ whimsical take on the celebrity memoir. Written in the second person, the book uses a hopscotching format that invites the reader to jump around the text (“To kill someone, turn to page 165″). “You” are Harris, careering through a highlight reel of your past, from childhood to Doogie Howser to the arrival of your own kids via surrogate, with contributions from celebrity pals.

  • Lila: A Novel

    by Marilynne Robinson

    Robinson completes a trilogy of Midwestern novels that began with Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and which she followed with Home in 2008. Where Gilead told the story of John Ames, an Iowa preacher–and Home concurrently recounted that of his best friend–Lila brings us the tale of Ames’ much younger wife, who struggles from a hardscrabble youth to a quiet Christian life and eventual hard-won contentment with Ames.

  • The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, And Buy

    by Joel Beckerman with Tyler Gray

    Beckerman, a composer who specializes in “sonic branding” (he created AT&T’s four-note tune), combines experience and science to explain how we process sound. Using familiar examples from the sizzle of a Chili’s fajita to Apple’s soothing boot-up tone, The Sonic Boom will alter how you hear the world.

     

  • De Niro: A Life

    by Shawn Levy

    Levy, the biographer of his share of Hollywood heavyweights (Rat Pack Confidential; Paul Newman: A Life), takes on the iconic but deeply private actor in nearly 600 pages. Levy paints a detailed portrait of De Niro’s career and life, from his early days working with Martin Scorsese to the serious family matter, a son’s bipolar disorder, that drew him to his role in Silver Linings Playbook.

  • Breaking In: The Rise Of Sonia Sotomayor And The Politics Of Justice

    by Joan Biskupic

    A veteran Supreme Court reporter charts Sotomayor’s evolution from a poor Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx to the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s sense of ethnic identity, Biskupic argues, may be as important a legacy as the Justice’s legal contributions.

  • Glass Jaw: A Manifesto For Defending Fragile Reputations In An Age Of Instant Scandal

    by Eric Dezenhall

    In this primer on modern scandal, Dezenhall, a crisis PR manager, explores reputational disaster in the social-media age. The author uses his expertise to examine high-profile fiascoes (Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, the Susan G. Komen Foundation–Planned Parenthood fight) and how they might have been avoided. There is, he posits, such a thing as bad publicity.

TIME White House

Kerry Washington and Jon Hamm Star in Sexual Assault Prevention PSA

The "It's On Us" spot was produced by the White House and will air during college football games this weekend.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will announce a new public awareness and education campaign Friday designed to change the culture on college campuses and prevent sexual assault before it happens.

The campaign is the next phase in the White House’s multi-pronged effort to reduce the rate of sexual assault on campuses and to support survivors. The campaign, called “It’s On Us,” will be aimed at changing the culture by inspiring every person on a college campus to take action, big or small, to prevent sexual assault.

The campaign’s first public service announcement, which features President Obama and Vice President Biden and celebrities like Kerry Washington, Jon Hamm, and Connie Britton, will air on Saturday on the big screens in several college football stadiums during games. Though senior White House officials declined to give further details of the PSA during a call with reporters, the White House said the campaign would be particularly focused on getting young men involved. That theme began with a PSA the White House launched in April called “1 is 2 Many,” featuring male celebrities like Steve Carell and Daniel Craig.

The campaign will draw from a popular trend in sexual assault prevention: bystander intervention, a public awareness and training philosophy that encourages members of the community to intervene when they see sexual violence about to happen. Many colleges have adopted such training programs on campus, and a recent CDC report found that bystander intervention has great potential to drive change.

“The campaign reflects a belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play,” the White House said.

In addition to the PSA, with the help of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, private companies, collegiate sports organizations like the NCAA, and the student body leadership from 200 colleges and universities, many different platforms will carry the logo and the “It’s On Us” message. To get the word out further, Electronic Arts, a leading video gaming company, will carry the “It’s On Us” message to its players, Viacom will promote the “It’s On Us” message through its online properties, including MTV, VH1, and BET, and popular media personalities will create “It’s On US” content and promote it on their platforms.

The White House efforts will also include recommendations for three new best practices for colleges and universities to improve their sexual assault response, such as model policy information to include in their sexual misconduct policies. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women will also award over $6 million to 18 colleges with grants to develop sexual assault response and prevention programs.

TIME Drugs

Cities Ask the Federal Government to Fight Painkiller Deaths

Vermont Battles With Deadly Heroin Epidemic
Drugs are prepared to shoot intravenously by a user addicted to heroin on February 6, 2014 in St. Johnsbury Vermont. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

"People should stand up and listen"

On the heels of a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on Tuesday, a coalition of big city health officials traveled to Capitol Hill to ask for federal action to help cities reduce overdose deaths caused by prescription painkillers and heroin.

Drug overdoses, particularly those resulting from painkillers and heroin, are now the leading cause of injury or death in the United States, according to the CDC, a problem brought to light with the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year. Painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are the biggest driver of the problem, causing 17,000 deaths in 2011, nearly quadruple the number in 1999, and more than three times as many as cocaine or heroin.

The CDC report was not all bad news, though: The rate of increase in painkiller deaths slowed considerably, down from 18% each year from 1999 to 2006 to 3% each year from 2006 to 2011. That decrease was largely thanks to a decrease in overdose deaths caused by methadone, a drug that can be used as a pain reliever or for treating heroin addiction, after the FDA warned doctors about the drug in 2006 and manufacturers limited distribution of large doses to addiction treatment facilities and hospitals, according to the Associated Press.

Nevertheless, painkiller deaths are still on the rise. And in their Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday, city health commissioners from Boston, Chicago, and New York, representing a group called the Big Cities Health Coalition, laid out ways the federal government can help cities battle the epidemic.

In a follow up conversation with TIME, the experts offered three promising ways the federal government and drug companies can help cities:

1. The Federal government can spread access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdose. The Justice Department and the White House Drug Control office have advocated more widespread use of Naloxone by first responders. To help expand access to Naloxone for family members and first responders, the FDA could work with the drug companies that manufacture Naloxone to make it available over the counter, the city health commissioners told TIME. Congress could also pass legislation proposed by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the experts said, that would protect non-medical personnel who administer Naloxone to an overdose patient from civil liability.

2. The Feds can also expand access to Buprenorphine, a drug that can be used to treat opiate addiction. Federal law requires doctors to be trained and licensed to prescribe Buprenorphine and limits them to a cap of 30 patients in their first year of practice, with the option to apply to expand to 100 patients thereafter. The law resulted from fears that medicine-assisted treatments just replaced one addiction with another. But the city health experts told TIME that Congress should lift this cap, pointing out that there is currently no limit on the number of prescription painkillers that can be prescribed.

3. Finally, said Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner at Chicago’s Department of Public Health, drug companies could do more to educate doctors and the public about the risks of addiction to pain medication. Chicago has has sued five drug companies, alleging they deceptively marketed opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain even though they knew the drugs were ineffective for certain conditions and carried a high risk of addiction.

“We don’t come forward a lot,” said Barbara Ferrer, Boston’s Public Health Commissioner. “When big cities say there is need for [a] federal policy agenda, people should stand up and listen.”

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