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 minds of many victims, the fastest way to feel safe is by going to the dean nor 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.

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

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.
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. Steve Helber—AP

“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 and 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 seem to 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 always 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]

TIME justice

Seattle to Begin DNA Testing on Backlogged Rape Kits

Here’s What Happens When You Get a Rape Kit Exam TIME

Police will test 1,276 stored kits from the past 10 years

The Seattle Police Department announced Thursday it would begin to test 1,276 backlogged rape kits.

“We will test all sexual-assault kits moving forward and begin addressing untested kits,” Capt. Deanna Nollette, supervisor of the SPD’s Special Victims Unit, said in a statement. The cost of testing, which can cost from $500 to $1,500 per kit, has created a backlog of what experts estimate to be hundreds of thousands of rape kits at police departments across the country.

Sexual-assault victims usually undergo a forensic exam that includes taking blood, saliva and semen samples after reporting an assault. In Washington, kits are sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, which cross-references DNA samples with an FBI database of DNA profiles. Even though the Seattle Police Department has collected 1,641 rape kits over the last 10 years, only 365 have been tested by the state crime lab. Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the city’s police spokesman, said last year that it was department policy to only test rape kits when charges were filed.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance pledged $35 million to eliminating the backlog or rape kits across the country in November, saying that victims deserved to see that the invasive exams were conducted for a purpose. The announcement has spurred police departments nationwide to become more vigilant about testing evidence in sex crimes cases.

Read more: In Hot Pursuit of Cold Cases

TIME Television

1,200 Ticket Refunds Requested for Bill Cosby’s Denver Shows

Comedian Bill Cosby performs at The Temple Buell Theatre in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 17, 2015.
Comedian Bill Cosby performs at The Temple Buell Theatre in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 17, 2015. Barry Gutierrez—Reuters

Returnees amount to 40% of the tickets sold

A total of 1,200 ticket-holders requested refunds for two Bill Cosby comedy shows held in Denver, Colo., last week.

Around 3,100 tickets were originally sold to the event, meaning nearly 40% of those purchased were returned, according to the Denver Post.

Cosby, 77, was not heckled or harassed despite dozens of protesters outside his Jan. 17 gig, chanting phrases like, “rape is not a joke.”

The comedian has been embroiled in controversy since November after more than 15 women claimed he drugged and sexually abused them on various occasions spanning the last 40 years. Cosby has denied all accusations and has not been charged with a crime.

[Denver Post]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 21

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

1. China’s scramble to lock up resources in Africa has forced it to act more like a conventional superpower.

By Richard Javad Heydarian in Medium

2. Adaptive learning technology can give educators tools to keep kids who learn differently from falling through the cracks.

By Susan D’Auria and Ashley Mucha at Knewton

3. 2015 might be the year America starts to get online identity right.

By Alex Howard in Tech Republic

4. Changing a long-standing rule prohibiting sororities from hosting parties could reverse the power imbalance that underlies campus sexual assault.

By Michael Kimmel in Time

5. Ominous headlines notwithstanding, offline fraud and scams are still more costly to individuals and the government than cybercrime.

By Benjamin Dean in the Conversation

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 campus sexual assault

Columbia University Activist Emma Sulkowicz Is Going to the State of the Union

Campus sexual assault activist will leave her mattress at home

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who has been carrying her mattress around campus to raise awareness about sexual assault, will accompany Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

As a co-sponsor of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, Gillibrand says she is pushing for Obama to address campus sexual assault in his speech, especially as he unveils his plan to make two years of community college free for all Americans. “I hope the President will seize this opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug,” she told the New York Daily News.

Sulkowicz, 22, has been carrying her mattress around campus as part of her senior thesis about campus sexual assault. She says that after she was raped by a classmate in 2012, Columbia failed to punish her attacker. Although two other women also publicly accused the same man of assault, the university found him “not responsible.” Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress everywhere she goes on campus to call attention to the issue, but she won’t be brining her mattress to the State of the Union.

“The Columbia administration is harboring serial rapists on campus,” Sulkowicz wrote in an op-ed for Time.com. (The university declined to comment in response to the article.) The accused student has also spoken out. He says his encounters with Sulkowicz and the other students were entirely consensual.

TIME celebrities

Refunds Offered for Bill Cosby’s Denver Shows

Bill Cosby attends American Comedy Awards in New York
Actor Bill Cosby attends the American Comedy Awards in New York City on April 26, 2014 Eric Thayer—Reuters

The veteran entertainer has denied allegations of sexual assault and has never been charged

(DENVER) — Ticketmaster is offering refunds for two Bill Cosby shows scheduled in Denver, but organizers say the performances will go on.

KUSA-TV reported Tuesday that more than 3,000 tickets have been sold to the shows, which are set to take place in downtown Denver on Saturday amid planned protests against the iconic comedian.

Cosby is facing growing sexual assault allegations from more than 15 women, with some claims dating back decades. He has denied the allegations through his lawyer and has never been charged.

Chuck Morris, president of AEG Live, the promotion company hosting Cosby, says he understands the concerns some may have regarding Cosby’s visit. But he adds that because the comedian hasn’t been charged with a crime, he has a moral obligation to allow the shows to happen.

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