TIME Sexual Assault

Columbia Student Accused of Rape Speaks Publicly for First Time

Paul Nungesser says he has become a pariah on campus

The Columbia University senior accused of rape by fellow student Emma Sulkowicz–who turned her protest against the school’s handling of the case into performance art that has gained national attention–spoke publicly for the first time Monday.

In an interview published by the New York Times, Paul Nungesser said, “People were like, maybe this is a misunderstanding. But the matter of the fact is it’s not a misunderstanding.”

Sulkowicz, who filed a Title IX complaint against Columbia in April, has said that in August 2012, Nungesser hit her, held her down and raped her. Two other students also brought sexual assault allegations against him. None of those allegations resulted in disciplinary action by Columbia against Nungesser.

Nungesser is a foreign student from Germany who will graduate in May. He insists that the sexual encounter he had with Sulkowicz was entirely consensual. “What was alleged was the most violent rape, and that did not happen,” he said. He says he has become a pariah and accuses the university of condoning what he believes to be bullying and mob justice.

Since September, Sulcowicz has been lugging a mattress with her around campus as both an act of protest and as a performance art piece for her senior thesis. She pledged to continue to do so until her alleged rapist leaves campus. Her piece, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” garnered national attention and furthered the conversation about sexual violence on college campuses.

Read more at The New York Times

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 22

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. To meet the growing need for marketable skills in college, technology companies are launching metric-driven accelerated learning programs.

By Shawn Drost in TechCrunch

2. NASA just e-mailed a wrench to the International Space Station.

By Mike Chen in Medium

3. By analyzing Twitter content, researchers are gaining a better understanding of mental illness trends.

By Phil Sneiderman at Johns Hopkins University

4. Law schools are struggling to teach students how to deal with rape, and survivors of sexual assault could suffer.

By Jeannie Suk in the New Yorker

5. As USAID is employed around the world to address political crises, the agency’s true mission might lose focus.

By Nathaniel Myers at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Uber Driver Accused of Raping Passenger in Boston

The alleged rape comes as Uber navigates intense scrutiny at home and abroad

An Uber driver in Boston was charged with kidnapping and raping a customer of the ride-sharing service, in another potentially damaging case for the rapidly expanding company.

Alejandro Done, 46, allegedly drove a woman he picked up to a secluded area and then assaulted her in the back seat earlier this month. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Wednesday, the Boston Globe reports.

Uber says Done had passed a background check. “This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery,” Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh said in a statement to CBS Boston. “Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.”

The ride-sharing company is coming under increasing scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad over regulatory and safety concerns as it expands to more than 50 countries. Several countries have moved to outlaw Uber services, and New Delhi banned Uber earlier this month days after a female passenger accused her Uber driver of rape.

The ride-sharing service said yesterday that it was boosting safety measures and revamping its background checks abroad.

[Boston Globe]

TIME celebrities

Camille Cosby Forcefully Defends Her Husband

Apollo Theater 75th Anniversary Gala - Arrivals
Camille Cosby attends the Apollo Theater 75th Anniversary Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 8, 2009 in New York City. Bryan Bedder—Getty Images

Wife of Bill Cosby addresses sexual assault allegations against him

The wife of Bill Cosby fiercely defended her husband in a statement Monday as outrage continues to mount over accusations that he drugged and raped multiple women throughout his career.

Camille Cosby, who has largely remained silent on the allegations, released a letter that compared the accusations against the actor and comedian to Rolling Stone‘s explosive story of an alleged rape at the University of Virginia. Discrepancies that emerged after publication of that story cast doubt on the accuracy of the piece.

“The story was devastating, but ultimately appears to be proved to be untrue,” she writes in the comparison. “None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim,” she adds. “But the question should be asked — who is the victim?”

The entertainer has faced accusations of sexual assault from more than a dozen women and has largely declined to address the claims. In a recent interview with the New York Post, he praised his wife and admitted that his public relations representatives “don’t want me talking to the media.”

TIME India

New Delhi Police Plan to Use Drone Cameras to Boost Public Safety

Richard Newstead—Getty Images/Moment RF

The drones will be equipped with night-vision cameras

In the face of increased outrage and scrutiny over the safety of its women, India’s capital New Delhi plans to incorporate a new tool into its surveillance arsenal: drones.

The helicopter-like unmanned aircraft will be equipped with night-vision cameras and will be launched next month in the city’s north district, the Times of India reported.

Each drone will fly at a height of about 200 m and will cover a hexagonal area of 3 or 4 km.

The announcement comes about a week after a New Delhi woman accused an Uber driver of rape, an incident that has reignited the conversation around public security in a city known for being unsafe for women.

TIME brazil

Brazilian Politician Tells Congresswoman She’s ‘Not Worthy’ of Sexual Assault

Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro seen in 2011 Rogério Tomaz Jr./CDHM—Flickr Creative Commons

He said it on the floor of the legislature

A Brazilian Congressman apparently told a female colleague who had allegedly called him a rapist that he wouldn’t sexually assault her but because she’s “not worthy” of it.

Representative Jair Bolsonaro reportedly made the comments on the floor of the national legislature Tuesday after lawmaker Maria do Rosário gave a speech condemning the human rights abuses of the U.S.-backed military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, a regime Bolsonaro defends, according to a translation from the Huffington Post. “Stay here, Maria do Rosário. A few days ago you called me a rapist, in the Green Room,” he said. “And I said I wouldn’t rape you because you’re not worthy of it.” The Green Room is a private room in the capitol building.

“I was attacked as a woman, as a Congress member, as a mother,” do Rosário told the Brazilian news agency O Globo. “When I go home, I have to explain this to my daughter… I’m going to press criminal charges against him.”

[Huffington Post]

TIME Crime

Friends Challenge Account of UVA Gang Rape

UVa Fraternity
Protesters gather in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia on Nov. 22 Ryan M. Kelly—AP

Rolling Stone story under growing scrutiny

Friends of the University of Virginia student whose account of a brutal campus gang rape drew national attention before coming under increasing scrutiny challenged key aspects of her story in new interviews.

The Washington Post, citing interviews with friends who were depicted in the widely-read Rolling Stone story as being primarily concerned with how the incident would reflect on their social status if the accuser known as “Jackie” reported it, reports that Jackie’s friends dispute several aspects of the Rolling Stone account.

“It didn’t happen that way at all,” one said. “I mean, obviously, we were very concerned for her. We tried to be as supportive as we could be.”

The Rolling Stone article roiled the UVA community when it was published last month, but discrepancies in Jackie’s account led the magazine to issue an apology last week and to say it no longer trusts her as a source.

Read more at the Washington Post


‘Trauma Ruptures You in Two’

Rhiannon Cosslett is a writer, columnist and the co-editor of feminist blog The Vagenda.

Four years ago, a man tried to sexually assault and strangle me to death. Your brain does strange things when it thinks you’re about to die

Your brain does strange things when it thinks you’re about to die. It is difficult to articulate just how strange. We forget, most of the time, that we are animals. We are civilized, rational beings, secure in our autonomous personhood, safe in the unassailable certainty of self – “I begin and end here, at the tips of my fingers, at the surface of my skin.” But when another person tries to disrupt that personhood, tries to take from you that autonomy that you have been taught to hold sacred, the primitive takes over and you become unrecognizable. Your sense of self is upturned.

The only way that I can describe it is to say that trauma ruptures you in two. It happened to me when, four years ago, a man tried to sexually assault and strangle me to death as I walked home from a party. Suddenly, there was this new, unrecognizable me, existing in parallel to my normal, rational self. In contrast, she was completely irrational and unpredictable. She was a wounded animal in the corner, flinching at every perceived threat.

As if living your life in a fragile state of fear and hyper-awareness weren’t enough, additional problems come when outside observers try to impose their rational view of the world on trauma victims. Friends and family, police officers, prosecutors, college counselors and, perhaps most relevantly here, journalists, will view your trauma within their own, undisrupted, rational frameworks. They might question why you are recounting the incident with such a lack of emotion, or why you are laughing. They might say that your testimony is inconsistent, as Rolling Stone did when its editors backtracked on their report of the alleged gang rape of student Jackie at the hands of a group of University of Virginia fraternity brothers. There were, they said, “discrepancies” in her account. An original version of their note, which has since been revised, said their “trust in her was misplaced.”

As people clamored to accuse Jackie of lying about her assault, to make her a poster child for false rape accusations, all I could think was, “Discrepancies? That sounds about right.” As Lena Dunham, whose own rape testimony has been subject to the doubting scrutinity of reporters, said, “survivors are so often re-victimized by a system that demands they prove their purity and innocence. They are asked to provide an unassailable narrative when the event itself is hazy, fragmented, and unspeakable.” If anything, I would have been more surprised had a woman who has been held down in a dark room and raped by man after man for hours been able, after all that horror and trauma, to produce a lucid, cohesive, play-by-play account of events.

I don’t know whether Jackie was raped. Only she and the alleged men in the room that night know this. But I do know that discrepancies are a natural consequence of extreme trauma. Few people seem to realize that a muddled, incoherent account of a traumatic incident is almost humdrum in its predictability.

From a neurological perspective, a traumatic incident triggers a fight-or-flight response. The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, social behavior and personality expression, is temporarily impaired. The non-conscious parts of your brain take over and stress hormones are released. As a result, traumatic memories become stuck, and the rational parts of your brain are unable to access them.

Trauma can severely affect the hippocampus, which converts short-term memories to long-term memories. Memories of the incident become disordered, fragmented, and incoherent. The two sides of the brain stop working together. Trying to produce a coherent narrative from the event, as a police interviewer or a reporter will attempt to do, is an obvious challenge. The victim will struggle to give a linear account and inconsistencies will be pounced upon.

I became aware of the fallibility of memory after I entered therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Part of the treatment revolved around reliving, in detail, the night I was attacked. This helps your brain store your chaotic, confused memories properly. Think of it as a filing cabinet, except all the papers are in a muddle on the floor. Your task is to file them. It was emotional, and often tedious work. As the months went on, the Word document that I kept on my computer became longer and longer as events and actions were suddenly recalled and filled in. In comparison to my initial police statement, it was rich with detail. It took nearly a year to get there.

Law enforcement officials will naturally expect a timeline peppered with facts, but for many victims of rape and assault, establishing that timeline is not just a struggle but a near-impossibility. Police and prosecutors need to be more aware of this. They are, essentially, dealing with someone whose brain has been damaged.

We inhabit a culture in which female victims are so often blamed for their own assaults. Yet so many of these victim-blaming statements can be attributed to the affects of trauma. Aside from patchy and disjointed memories, there are other classic behaviors that are relevant here. Observers may ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?” when to freeze and enter a dissociative state is a common response during a traumatic incident. A lack of emotion or numbness when describing events can be explained by the symptom of flat affect. A failure to cooperate with interviewers can be attributed to hyper-vigilance – a need to control the circumstances surrounding the assault after what has amounted to a complete lack of control. A reluctance to go to the police at the time could be explained by the classic evasiveness displayed by a PTSD sufferer. The victim may want to avoid reliving the incident for fear of flashbacks, which inevitably trigger a primitive, panicked response exactly like that which took place at the time. This evasiveness can be conscious or subconscious. I am usually not a forgetful person, but in the months after my attack I would repeatedly forget appointments with my Victim Support officer.

Then, on top of all this, you have the guilt and the shame. The belief that it was your fault. The fear that you will not be believed. A fear that Jackie may have hinted at when she said she tried to withdraw her testimony from Rolling Stone. A fear that was then confirmed. People do not believe her, yet according to a report by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, only 2% to 8% of rape accusations are false.

I have no doubt that our tendency as a society to victim-blame women has its roots in misogyny. But I also think it shows a fatal misunderstanding of the effects of trauma on the brain. Retraining those working in the field is expensive and laborious but of urgent necessity. Your brain does strange things when it thinks you’re about to die. We owe it to victims to try to understand this, to help them piece their ruptured selves back together.

Rhiannon Cosslett is a writer, columnist and the co-editor of feminist blog The Vagenda.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

Hyderabad Becomes the Second Indian City To Ban Uber

Hyderabad Getty Images

Local transport boss says Uber’s services in the city are illegal

The southern Indian city of Hyderabad banned Uber on Wednesday, two days after the municipal government of New Delhi executed a similar ban.

Hyderabad’s joint transport commissioner T. Raghunath said that Uber’s services in the city, much like in Delhi, were illegal, the Times of India reports.

“Uber has not obtained permission from the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) to operate or facilitate taxi or cab services in the city,” he said.

New Delhi, meanwhile, has cracked down on all web-based taxi services for flouting transport regulations, and local authorities are urging the rest of the country to follow suit.

The Delhi ban followed, but was not related to, an accusation of rape made by a passenger against one of the ride-sharing company’s drivers. The Indian capital’s police have now reportedly summoned Uber’s Asia-Pacific head, Eric Alexander, for questioning about those allegations.

Uber’s legal woes across the globe continue to expand as well, with Spain and Thailand ordering the company to cease its operations this week.


Banning Uber Won’t Make Delhi Women Any Safer, And It Could Make Things Worse

Decreasing access to alternative transportation is a short-term solution to the idea of masculinity that contributes to India's epidemic of sexual assault

Uber is not having a good month. As if various already swirling controversies weren’t enough, last Sunday an Uber driver in Delhi was arrested two days after allegedly picking up a 26-year-old woman who booked a ride, taking her to a secluded area, and raping her. Delhi authorities have since banned Uber for not conducting adequate background checks on their drivers and not adhering to licensing rules. They have also banned all other app-based cab service providers in Delhi.

This is commendably a swift and decisive action, especially in a city and country under high pressure and bright spotlights when it comes to such attacks on women. But banning Uber and other app-based cab services hardly means the problem is solved. In reality, it’s a quick fix—one that could even make matters worse by limiting the options available to women who already feel under siege.

According to a recent Safe Cities Delhi Programme report based on research conducted by the International Center for Research on Women, 92% of Delhi’s women have experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces in their lifetime. This is the problem. Of course, Uber needs to improve its own operations in countless ways, starting with improved screening and background checks, and should be held accountable for the actions of its drivers. But Uber did not cause this problem. Uber is just one of the many places and spaces in which violence against women presents itself. The problem is men who sexually harass and assault women. The problem is current concepts of masculinity that lead to the impunity and tolerance underlying the epidemic of sexual harassment and rape of women in public spaces. And for this problem to be adequately addressed, the government needs to create and implement a comprehensive set of measures that has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault of women.

The quick decision to ban Uber is important in that it sends a message to all companies operating in this space that they need to follow regulations with seriousness. However, it is already unsafe for women to get around in Delhi. The metro has separate compartments for women—but what do they do when they step off the train? That’s partly why Uber and other private cab companies are in demand in the first place. Decreasing access to multiple modes of alternative transportation for women is a short-term and limited solution. Rather than further limiting the options available to women, how about increasing women’s safety not only by enforcing regulations and providing safer modes of operation, but by also increasing the number of men who hold themselves and others accountable for their behavior and actions?

That’s where we could shine a light back on Uber. Last month, when a journalist accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny,” a senior executive reportedly suggested launching a personal smear campaign against her; he also reportedly said at a party that taxi drivers are far more likely to assaulted women than Uber drivers. Those are not comments made by someone who is holding himself or his company, or his company culture, accountable. The rape in Delhi provides an opportunity for Uber, and other business owners, to step up and talk about how they will use their positions to stand for safety and equality. This is a chance for all companies to be part of the solution in making violence against women unacceptable.

We need to address sexual harassment, rape, and all forms of violence against women by demanding accountability from our institutions, our communities, and our peers. Arresting one man, banning one company in one city, and calling the problem solved is simply not enough. The government needs to provide, increase, and ensure safety measures for all transportation companies. Beyond that, the government needs to provide, increase, and ensure ways for women to move around safely in the first place.

Now let’s look at culture change and mindset. In its newest baseline measures of sexual harassment, Breakthrough, a human rights organization, reports that up to 98% of women and girls say they don’t feel completely safe in public areas[link to this report?]. This means only 2% of women feel safe at all. We need 100% of women to feel 100% safe. This will take more than banning a company or deleting an app. This will take more than the death sentence meted out to the men who raped and killed Jyothi in the now infamous Delhi gang rape two years ago. The best deterrent to sexual harassment and rape is culture change: bold, steady, and persistent challenges to the norms and biases that enable and excuse violence against women.

There is some movement in the right direction. Some 40,000 rickshaw drivers have received training on women’s safety and display stickers on their rickshaw saying, “This responsible rickshaw respects and protects women.” That’s not just a practical response; that’s a public statement for women’s rights.

And recent protests in New Delhi in support of the rape survivor show that people are taking and demanding concrete action and accountability. Indeed—especially since the Delhi gang rape—more and more men and boys have been standing with women to call for change.

We need even more. We need to dismantle the biases that blame or hold women responsible for the dangers they encounter. We need to make violence and discrimination against women socially and culturally unacceptable, in India and beyond—not just in the spectacular cases with seemingly easy solutions, but in our everyday lives, streets, and interactions. When women are truly safe, we will all get where we need to go.

Mallika Dutt is president and CEO of Breakthrough, a global human rights organization based in India and the U.S. that works to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable.

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