TIME Crime

Fifty Shades of Grey Inspired Student’s Sexual Assault, Prosecutors Say

Mohammad Hossain has been charged with criminal sexual assault after an incident over the weekend where scenes from the '50 Shades of Grey' movie were recreated—Cook County Sheriff's
Cook County Sheriff's Office Mohammad Hossain has been charged with criminal sexual assault after an incident over the weekend

Chicago freshman is accused of using restraints and sexual violence without a woman's consent

A University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) college freshman has been accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old female classmate during what prosecutors said Monday was a reenactment of scenes from the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

Mohammad Hossain, 19, and the woman went to Hossain’s dorm room on Saturday evening where Hossain is accused of using restraints and sexual violence without the woman’s consent, Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Karr told the Chicago Tribune. After leaving the dorm room, the woman told someone about the incident and the police were called.

Upon initial questioning by university detectives, Hossain confessed to the assault and told them that he and the female were re-creating parts of the movie, which features scenes of bondage and sadomasochism. He also admitted to “doing something wrong,” the Tribune reports. He has been charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, a felony.

Hossain is a student leader at UIC, prompting Cook County judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. to ask how a movie could “persuade him to do something like this?” Public defender Sandra Bennewitz responded, “He would say that it was consensual.”

The movie, which has so far grossed over $130 million in the U.S, has been targeted by groups working to prevent domestic abuse, who say it promotes violence against women.

Hossain’s bail was set at $500,000.

[Chicago Tribune]

Read next: This Guy Really Doesn’t Want You To Know He Saw Fifty Shades of Grey

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TIME India

An Indian Woman Married Her Alleged Rapist in the Prison Where He Was Being Held

If not, "we would have had to put up with the embarrassment forever," said the bride's father

An Indian woman in the eastern state of Orissa married a man she accused of raping her, saying it was her “own decision to marry him.”

The woman’s father said the family had no choice but to accept the union, the BBC reported Monday, highlighting the victim-shaming that often accompanies sexual-assault cases in India. “Her whole life would have been ruined,” he said. “And we would have had to put up with the embarrassment forever.”

The wedding took place in the Jharpada jail where the accused, now released on bail, was held for a year following his arrest. The father told the BBC that the family was also considering withdrawing their complaint against the man.

“I am optimistic that we will have a smooth life,” the woman told the Times of India during the wedding ceremony late last month.

TIME Sexual Assault

Meet Brooke Axtell, the Domestic Violence Survivor Who Performed With Katy Perry at the Grammys

Before a spare performance of "By the Grace of God," Katy Perry invited activist Brooke Axtell to share her story

During Sunday’s Grammys, President Obama encouraged Americans to take personal responsibility to stop domestic violence and sexual assault as part of the White House’s ongoing ‘It’s On Us’ campaign. After his video aired, a woman named Brooke Axtell went on to share her personal story of domestic violence.

Axtell, an Austin-based writer, activist and performance artist, is the director of communications for Allies Against Slavery, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. Before a performance by Katy Perry, Axtell told her story of abuse: Her partner became increasingly violent and eventually threatened to kill her, before Axtell told her mother about the incident and sought help.

According to an interview with Slate, Axtell herself was trafficked by her nanny at a young age before entering the abusive relationship in her adult life.

“Authentic love does not devalue another human being,” she said at the Grammys. “Authentic love does not silence shame and abuse.”

TIME Sexual Assault

Obama Says Sexual Violence ‘Has to Stop’ in Grammys Video

The president made a personal statement for the White House "It's On Us" campaign to stop sexual assault on college campuses

During the Grammys on Sunday, President Obama urged Americans to do everything in their power to prevent sexual violence. “It’s not okay, and it has to stop,” the president said in the public service announcement.

The president’s video is part of the “It’s On Us” campaign started by the White House in September to combat sexual assault on college campuses. Research shows that one in five women in the U.S. experience rape or attempted rape in college, and one in 16 men also experience some type of sexual assault. Meanwhile, 80%of campus rapes went unreported to the authorities, according to the Justice Department. Previous ads, which have featured celebrities like Kerry Washington, have urged bystander intervention to prevent rape from happening in the first place.

Though the White House acknowledges it may not be able to alter the behavior of assailants (studies show that rapists are more often than not repeat offenders, assaulting an average of six victims), it can change the behavior of bystanders by teaching them what a dangerous situation looks like and encouraging them to act. President Obama’s spot encourages such personal responsibility. “It’s on us — all of us — to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people — men and women — can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them,” he said.

After the announcement, a woman named Brooke Axtell told her own story of domestic violence; she sought help at a shelter after telling her mother that her partner threatened to kill her. “Authentic love does not devalue another human being,” she said to the crowd. “Authentic love does not silence shame and abuse.”

Along with the campaign, the White House has also begun to conduct investigations at colleges and universities across the country that students claim are not properly handling sexual assault cases or reporting the rapes that do occur on campuses. As of December, 92 schools were under investigation for violations of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in schools.

Read Next: Rose Byrne on Frat Culture and How Bystanders Can Stop Sexual Assault

TIME Sexual Assault

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Colleges Need to Stop Protecting Sexual Predators

Yes Means Yes Sexual Assault Rape
Getty Images

Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador.

We need to reexamine the culture on campus—especially among student athletes

Imagine a neighborhood where dozens of women were violently assaulted on a continuing basis. And that the local police chose not to bother investigating 40 percent of assault victims’ complaints. Would you continue to live in that neighborhood? Probably not. Especially if you had children.

That dangerous neighborhood actually exists in the United States. It’s called college.

This year American parents will be sending about 12 million of their 18- to 24-year-old daughters to attend colleges and universities. Instead of the ivy-covered walls, Homecoming bonfires, administrative support, and lifelong friendships we’d hoped for them, we’ll be sending many of them toward groping hands, drug-laced drinks, administrative indifference, and lifelong trauma. Witness the conviction this week of two former football players at Vanderbilt University for perpetrating and videotaping the rape of a fellow student.

Go, team.

Fortunately, California has recently enacted legislation that may reduce the number of sexual assaults and make it easier to prosecute offenders. Popularly known as a Yes-Means-Yes law, it obliges those engaging in sexual activity to first give “affirmative consent.” That means they have to specifically say “yes” before any sexual contact. This is an improvement over the previous No-Means-No protocol, because sexual aggressors could claim a woman didn’t say no to their advances, even though the woman might have been incapacitated through drink, drugs (whether self-administered or given to her without her knowledge), or fear of violent behavior from the male. Apparently, some males believe that being passed out is a woman’s coy form of consent. New York’s governor is now pushing for a similar law in that state. Comparable laws are being considered by legislatures around the country.

Such legislation is especially necessary in light of the widespread negligence of our colleges and universities when it comes to thoroughly investigating claims of sexual assault and educating students about consent. When it comes to both those necessities, college administrators today receive an F-minus. And those administrators and campus security personnel who neglected their duties to launch sincere investigations of sexual assault claims should be, at the very least, fired from their jobs and at most sued for or charged with criminal negligence.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but they’ve been entrusted with not just our children, but the future success of our society. Their negligence is the result not of ignorance but of greed: protecting their brand so they can lure more unsuspecting students, grants, and alumni donations. How is this any different than some primitive tribe sacrificing their children to the gods in hope of a better harvest? Worse, how is this any different from the behavior of sexual predators?

The danger is magnified by the widespread college policy of allowing students accused of sexual assault to simply withdraw from college before their disciplinary hearings and transfer to another school, with no specific record on their transcripts that they might be a threat. Though there are many such cases known, the most egregious involves Jesse Matthew, Jr., who has been charged with the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. He has now also been charged with the abduction and murder of a Virginia Tech student. He had been accused two times previously of sexual assault at colleges; he was able to leave one school to enroll in another. It’s a severe case of Not My Problem, which has already killed more people in this country than Ebola.

What makes this situation even worse is that these colleges aren’t just ignoring the problem, but by doing so they are encouraging the problem to grow. As institutions of learning, our colleges and universities aren’t charged with just teaching the nuances of mathematical equations and the uses of metaphor in poetry, they are supposed to be teaching social values, if not directly then by their own behavior. Any tolerance of sexual assault teaches those students that women are somehow less deserving of protection than men in society, that sexual aggression by men is perfectly okay, and that even if we huff and puff about how it isn’t okay (wink, wink), nothing much will be done about it. It’s not enough to provide panic buttons around campus or train female students how to be alert to predators, we must attack the bros-before-hos mentality as not cool or high-five worthy.

As a former college athlete, I’m especially aware of the culture of entitlement that some athletes feel as they strut around campus with the belief that they can do no wrong. This ridiculous notion certainly has contributed to the alarming statistics concerning athletes and rape. A 1995 review of reported sexual assault cases at schools with Division I sports programs found that although male student-athletes made up only 3.3% of the campus population at these schools, they accounted for 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators. Related research has also found that athletes are far less likely to be convicted of sexual assault than members of the general public. These statistics should be shocking, but sadly they probably aren’t to most people.

A major contributing factor to athletes becoming sexual predators is our culture’s need to elevate them to heroic status. Yes, they deserve praise for their accomplishments, but throwing a football or dunking a basketball shouldn’t make anyone a hero. Being a hero comes from commitment to community, sacrificing selfish gain for the betterment of others, fighting for a just cause. Athletes can become heroes for doing these things, but not just for putting points on a scoreboard. We can honor their accomplishments without making them privileged.

Schools can and should play a part in changing male behavior, but this process must start in other areas such as the home and in the media, because these are where our children learn about gender identities. Where do guys get the idea that it’s okay to pursue sex even when the woman isn’t interested? They get the idea from testosterone thrumming through their brains, but they get the entitlement from subtle social cues. Having a biological impulse is not a license. Every time we tolerate the unironic use of the word “bitch,” we’re encouraging this view of women as inferior. Every time we tolerate phrases like “don’t be such a girl” as a putdown, we’re promoting the woman as prey. Every time we see a movie or TV show in which a woman tells the man she hates him and then he forces a kiss on her, which she at first resists then melts into, we’re advocating sexual assault as being “romantic.”

Legislating romance is a tricky business. And California’s bill is not without some word-definition problems. But it’s a giant leap for humankind in doing what our colleges have failed in doing, protecting students. Some opponents complain that stopping to say “Yes, I want to have sex with you” will somehow kill the mood. Do they really think that two college students who are about to have sex will be deterred by having to articulate their desire? Will they suddenly stop undressing and say, “You know, now that I’ve said it aloud, I’m no longer in the mood”? But even if that did happen, so what? If giving verbal consent is the dealbreaker here, then maybe there shouldn’t be a “deal” in the first place.

With roughly 57% of college students being female, it’s time that other states enacted legislation similar to California’s, not just to protect women, but also to promote the ideals of equality that these schools teach in the classrooms but don’t enforce on the campuses.

A few years ago, I saw a 60 Minutes interview with singer Mary J. Blige in which she described her own sexual molestation at age five as well as the brutal violence men in her neighborhood committed against women. “Men just seemed like they didn’t have any mercy,” she said. Of course, she didn’t mean all men; she was commenting on a child’s view of the world through observing ceaseless assaults. That phrase has resonated with me. I don’t want one more child to see the world that way. Legislation won’t solve the problem, but it’s step. A step toward mercy.

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 Sexual Assault

The Vanderbilt Rape Case Will Change the Way Victims Feel About the Courts

The decision sends the message that the criminal justice system does work for rape cases

On Wednesday, two former Vanderbilt University football stars were convicted by a Nashville jury of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg could serve decades behind bars for gang raping a fellow student in a dorm room in 2013. (Their argument that they were drunk and thus not in their right minds at the time of the attack was quickly dismissed by the court as a poor excuse for their violence.) The decision offers hope to victims of campus rape who, up until now, have shied away from reporting assaults to the police.

A recent study from the Justice Department found that 80% of campus rapes went unreported to the authorities (compared to a still-disheartening 67% in the general population). Victims of campus sexual assault have many reasons to choose a campus judiciary process over reporting the assault to the police. These victims are often in the position of living on the same campus as their assailant and thus forced to encounter them in the school cafeteria, in classrooms or in the library—places no student can avoid. Depending on the school’s policies, filing criminal charges against an assailant may not necessarily get him removed from campus, whereas a quicker, quieter campus judgment can. In the minds of many victims, the fastest way to feel safe is by going to the dean not the police.

Victims’ advocates have said that some students believe faculty members will be more sympathetic to assault claims than the police. “If you’re a person of color or you’re queer, the process of going to the police also can be one that is not necessarily competent or great to deal with,” Caitlin Lowell of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence at Columbia University told TIME last year.

Perhaps the most compelling reason students are deterred from reporting a rape to the police is that they think they will spend years going through the criminal judicial process reliving the agony of their attack only to be denied justice. A tiny fraction of accused rapists will ever serve a day in prison, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

But the criminal justice system can provide guarantees that campuses cannot. If the news cycle from the past year has taught us anything, it’s that universities—from Columbia University to Florida State University—are not equipped to adjudicate these cases. Students complain that evidence is not systematically collected, hearings are often held without attorneys present and administration officials and those designated to preside over these cases have posed inappropriate questions. In theory, our courts are the best way to ensure that rapists are removed from our streets, and the Vanderbilt case—along with the recent arrest of a Stanford University swimmer who allegedly raped an unconscious woman on campus grounds— suggests that in practice that may finally be the case. (The Stanford student was barred from campus after his arrest, highlighting the importance of police involvement.)

MORE:My Rapist Is Still on Campus': Sex Assault in the Ivy League

The evidence in the Vanderbilt case was hard to dismiss. Though the victim (whose anonymity is being preserved by TIME and other news outlets) said she did not remember what happened the night of her attack after she lost consciousness, other players testified that they saw Vanbenburg slap her buttocks and say he could not have sex because he was high on cocaine. They also said that Batey raped the woman and then urinated on her. (Two other players who have pled not guilty will be tried later.)

University surveillance videos of players carrying an unconscious woman through a dormitory and graphic images of the assault taken from players’ phones proved that the victim was unconscious and confirmed which players participated in the gang rape. There was no DNA evidence, but one player testified that Vandenburg—who can be heard laughing and encouraging the assault in a video shown in court—passed out condoms to the other players.

Most victims are not able to bring so much evidence to the court. And many victims would understandably worry that they wouldn’t be able to finish their degree while enduring this arduous process. (The victim in this case impressively did and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at another university.)

Assault survivors should take comfort in this small victory. “I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame,” the victim said in a statement that was read by Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman in a press conference.

Bringing rapists to justice is just one piece of fighting the campus rape epidemic. In the Vanderbilt case, police said that five other athletes saw the victim in distress and did nothing to intervene or report her attackers. Even if our criminal justice system were perfect, it could not stop rape from happening. That’s why the White House is currently promoting a bystander intervention educational campaign on campuses. Ultimately it’s up to students to watch out for one another.

Read Next: Rose Byrne on Frat Culture and How Bystanders Can Stop Sexual Assault

TIME universities

Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol on Campus For All

Dartmouth Advanced Placement
Jim Cole—AP Students walk across the Dartmouth College campus green in Hanover, N.H., on March 12, 2012. The school is banning hard alcohol on campus.

Fraternities need to reform or disband, says Dartmouth president

Dartmouth College plans to ban all hard alcohol on campus following a series of high-profile reports of sexual assaults at universities around the U.S.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said on Thursday that all students, regardless of age, would be banned from consuming and possessing hard alcohol on campus, while warning the college’s fraternities that they would need to reform or disband.

(MORE: Dartmouth’s President on Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention)

Several schools have taken similar steps to reform their alcohol policies since a Rolling Stone articlewas published about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. While that story has since been discredited, Brown University announced this month that it would ban alcohol at its fraternities, Swarthmore College has banned hard alcohol from events on campus, and U-Va. has banned mixed drinks and punches at its fraternity parties.

(MORE: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses)

TIME Sexual Assault

UVA Sorority Members Outraged After Being Asked To Avoid Frat Parties

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations.
Steve Helber—AP The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article alleged a gang rape at the house.

“I don’t understand where or when I signed up for an organization that encouraged women to hide from men”

Members of sororities at the University of Virginia are outraged after their national chapters ordered them to avoid fraternity parties over the weekend.

An online petition to remove the mandate had over 2,000 signatures by Thursday morning. It says,

Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at UVa, this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects. It is degrading to Greek women, as it appears that the [National Panhellenic Conference] views us as defenseless and UVa’s new fraternal policies as invalid. Allowing the NPC to prevent us from celebrating (what used to be) a tight-knit community, sends the message that we are weak.

According to the Washington Post, the Student Council voted on an emergency bill Tuesday night urging sorority national chapter leaders to come to campus.

“I don’t understand where or when I signed up for an organization that encouraged women to hide from men,” Erin Dyer, a third-year UVA student told the Washington Post.

This new controversy comes as UVA tries to examine and reform its Greek culture in the wake of a Rolling Stone article about a rape on campus.

TIME Parenting

Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Our Daughters About Campus Rape

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

We tell our girls that they can do anything boys can. But what if that's not exactly true?

I have two teenage daughters, which means I live in a household of head-snapping contradictions. Everything you’ve heard about adolescent girls is true, and not true. They are in equal parts infuriating and beguiling, full of arrogance and certainty one minute, crumpled by insecurity the next. And just when you think you’ve accidentally raised judgmental mean girls, they do something so kind, so empathetic (like help you change their demented grandfather’s sheets without a word of complaint), that the memory of it sustains you through a whole month of snark.

One day they go into their bedrooms all gangly and tweeny and come out looking like women. This is to be expected, yet we are not prepared for the way the world looks at them in the wake of that transformation. After one daughter’s middle-school graduation, she strode down the street in her new heels and with her new curves, plowing ahead of us without looking back. It was all I could do not to follow her waving my arms yelling, “I know she doesn’t look it, but she’s only 14!”

Now she’s 17 and applying to college. I have to let her disappear around that corner on her own. This is never easy for parents, but perhaps it’s even less so these days. She’s busy imagining who she’ll be when she’s living among her peers, on a campus somewhere that is not here. Meanwhile, I’m unable to stop reading the headlines about sexual assault and bungled rape investigations at some of the best universities in the country.

In late January, I couldn’t escape the accusations that a group of football players had raped an unconscious neuroscience major at Vanderbilt University. At a trial for two of them, the lawyer for one of the accused said his client’s judgment was distorted by a campus culture in which drunken sex was prevalent.

Just the fact that this case wasn’t swept under the rug is encouraging. New federal mandates that aim to reform the way universities handle sexual-assault cases represent huge progress. And sure, the stats on how pervasive the problem is are still being debated, but the awful stories keep coming. So while I might have worried more about pregnancy, now the specter of assault looms larger. How do I talk to my college-bound daughter about that?

The irony is that while we’ve always warned our little girls about strangers, the numbers say that if our college-age daughters are assaulted, it will likely be by someone they know. And like a lot of mothers, I’ve spent years telling my girls that they can do anything a boy can, that they can rely on their smarts above all and that they should never be ashamed of their bodies. But that’s not exactly true. No, girls can’t get drunk like guys can at a party, not without compromising their safety. And yes, girls are more vulnerable, physically and in other ways. Accusations of promiscuity can still damage a woman to an extent that many men can hardly fathom. Just ask that Vanderbilt student, now a Ph.D. candidate. Her alleged assailants took humiliating photos of her during the attack.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality. I realize that I need to have some version of the talk that so many African-American parents have with their sons about being careful of what they wear and how they behave so as not to put themselves in danger. To our girls we say, be brave, take risks. But internally we want them to do whatever it takes to stay safe. We say, be proud of your beauty. Yet we fear that showing it off will make them a target.

It’s a thicket of contradictions and hypocrisy–as my daughters are quick to inform me when I dare suggest maybe they put on a jacket over that strappy top. But I can’t help offering some advice as I watch one prepare to walk out the door:

Nourish your female friendships. You want women in your life who will have your back at parties and will speak up when you’re about to do something you shouldn’t. And you’ll have their back too. Being a part of this kind of posse is a lifelong gift.

When it comes to guys, look for kindness over cool. And trust your gut. If it feels wrong, leave. Say no. Say no. Say no.

I would defend your right to wear what you want and have just-for-fun sex if you want. But as your mother, I wish you so much more. I hope you take any chance you can to know someone truly and intimately. It is the best perk of being human.

If the inequities get you down, know that you are part of a revolutionary generation that is insisting on change. Just look at the women in a new documentary debuting at Sundance called The Hunting Ground. It’s the story of student assault survivors who cleverly used Title IX (the legislation forbidding gender discrimination) to force the Department of Education to investigate sexual-assault accusations at schools across the country. They transformed their vulnerability into something powerful.

And if you need me, I’m still here.

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

Former Stanford Swimmer to Be Charged with Rape

Two students saw the alleged assault of an unconscious woman and intervened

A former Stanford University student will be charged with rape after he allegedly assaulted an unconscious woman on campus grounds, Santa Clara County, Cali. prosecutors announced Tuesday.

According to the district attorney’s office, two students on bicycles stopped to intervene in the early hours of Jan. 18 after noticing 19-year-old freshman Brock Allen Turner on top of a woman, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “She was lying on the ground unconscious, not moving,” Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci said, noting that the victim was not a student.

The two students called police and restrained Turner as he tried to get away. The woman is “recovering” after she was taken to the hospital, Kianerci said.

Turner, once a member of Stanford’s swim team who participated in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, withdrew from the university on Tuesday and is not allowed on campus, according to school officials. “Matters like this the university takes seriously,” university spokesperson Lisa Lapin told the Chronicle.

He faces five felony charges and is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 2. If convicted, Turner faces up to 10 years in prison.

[SFGate]

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