TIME Crime

Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" New York Premiere
Tyler Boye—Getty Images Actress Ashley Judd attends the "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on March 16, 2015 in New York City. (Tyler Boye--Getty Images)

"It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more."

Actress Ashley Judd wrote an impassioned op-ed for Mic Thursday about the link between online harassment and physical abuse. After she endured hateful online vitriol for a seemingly harmless tweet about basketball, she saw a connection between that Twitter harassment and the cultural misogyny that she believes fueled her experiences with rape and incest early in life.

While watching a basketball game Sunday, Judd tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” She later got so much hatred and so many sexually violent threats on Twitter that she had to delete the original tweet. She wrote:

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

Soon, Judd realized that the hatred she was experiencing was related to the violence and abuse she had endured as a girl.

The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?

Judd, who in addition to her acting career has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and even has a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, describes the rape and incest she experienced in her childhood, and recounts how her therapy allowed her to finally come to terms with an attempted oral rape that she also survived. But then, thanks to a single tweet about basketball, she was barraged with violent sexual threats online.

I felt like I had the chance to finally speak, fight and grieve, and be consoled and comforted. But then, on literally the very next day, I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, “I can’t wait to c-m all over your face and in your mouth.”

The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.

The full essay is worth a read, and you can check it out here.

Read next: Colleges Need to Think Bigger To End Campus Rape

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TIME Crime

14 Los Angeles High Schoolers Suspected of Sex Crimes

Police officers walk in front of Venice High School where they are investigating allegations of sexual assault in Los Angeles
Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters Police officers walk in front of Venice High School, where they are investigating allegations of sexual assaults centered on students, in Los Angeles, March 13, 2015.

About 10 have been arrested

Los Angeles police made several arrests at an area high school Friday as part of an investigation into 14 high school boys accused of sex crimes.

The crimes–involving two underage victims—allegedly began over a year ago, police say many of the incidents occurred in the last two months, with several of the accused boys present. The police have also discovered photos of the sex acts, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Authorities were made aware of the incidents on Tuesday. The boys were not identified since they are minors between the ages of 14 and 17. The police arrested nine of the boys from Venice High School on Friday morning and a 10th turned himself in. There are still four more wanted in connection to the crimes.

The crimes are sexual assault and lewd acts with a minor, the Times reports. They involve a group of high school boys allegedly working together to pressure girls into having sex with them through a variety of threats.

The events allegedly occurred both on and off campus.

TIME Sexual Assault

This Documentary’s False Equivalence on Rape Won’t Help Indian Women

British filmmaker Udwin poses for a picture after addressing a news conference in New Delhi
Anindito Mukherjee—Reuters British filmmaker Leslee Udwin poses for a picture after addressing a news conference in New Delhi, India on March 3, 2015.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation.

The filmmaker's 'enlightened' attitude might ultimately be as harmful as the ban on her film.

The Indian government last week banned India’s Daughter, a BBC documentary about the brutal gang rape and death of a medical student in New Delhi two years ago, condemning it as an “international conspiracy to defame India.” In truth, if there is something to criticize about the documentary, it is that it trucks in politically correct pieties about rape being a global problem that soft peddle the special violence that women in India and other traditional societies confront.

The most controversial aspect of the documentary by British director Leslee Udwin involves interviews with Mukesh Singh, one of the convicted rapists (who has appealed his death sentence to India’s Supreme Court) and his defense lawyers. Without a hint of remorse, a soft-spoken Singh, calmly tells Udwin that a woman is more responsible for rape than a man. Decent girls — 20% of the population, in his estimation — dress modestly and don’t stay out until 9 p.m. like Jyoti did. Furthermore, she should not have resisted the rape because then his pals (he insists he only drove the bus while they raped her and violated her with an iron rod) would not have been so brutal.

But even worse than these statements by Singh — a poor, uneducated man who lived in a slum of rural migrants steeped in backward mores (much of which Udwin does a great job of drawing out) — were the comments of his educated, city-dwelling lawyers. One of them asserted that he would have no compunctions about dousing his sister or daughter with petrol and burning her in front of his entire family if she engaged in pre-marital activities.

The first step in curing such retrograde views is exposing them, which is why, if anything, Udwin deserves a Bharat Ratnam, the country’s highest civilian honor. Instead, the Indian government has launched a jihad against the film on the absurd grounds that its trying to malign India’s image abroad and hurt tourism — as if the bigger threat to tourism is not rape itself, especially against female tourists, but talk of rape.

The ban prompted NDTV, India’s largest TV channel, to mount a protest black out of all programming for an hour on Sunday, International Women’s Day, when the film was supposed to be aired. BBC, which had originally planned to show the film on the same day, aired it four days early to beat a restraining order. YouTube and other large websites have also been forced to take down the film in India, but it remains easily available on numerous personal websites, making a mockery of the government’s promise to implement a global ban.

Udwin is pleading with the government to call off its foolish campaign. She insists that her motive was to understand the mind of a rapist to highlight a global problem – not to single out India, a country she says she loves dearly and wanted to “put on a pedestal.” Why? Because rape exists everywhere, she maintains, but India alone arose in spontaneous mass protest against Jyoti’s rape, deeply moving Udwin, herself a rape victim.

Such sentiments sound good, but the truth is that if other advanced countries haven’t experienced anti-rape mass protests, it might be because the character of their rape problem is rather different. That might also be why they don’t experience vigilante justice, like what just happened in Nagaland, a small Indian province where villagers, frustrated by the slow pace of prosecution, pulled out an alleged rapist from prison last week and lynched him.

Most Western countries, including the United States and Udwin’s own England, have made far more progress in beating back retrograde patriarchal notions that feed violence against women than India and other traditional societies. For starters, the views expressed by Singh and his lawyers are commonplace in India — but anomalous in America. Udwin would have to drill into the subterranean reaches of America before finding a man willing to spew such bile.

There could hardly be a more striking testimony to the vast chasm between India and, say, America in recognizing women’s rights than Scout Willis’s recent “free the nipple” campaign, in which Bruce Willis’s and Demi Moore’s daughter went strolling topless in Manhattan to draw attention to Instagram’s ban on nude pictures. American feminists celebrated her stunt. But not even the most liberated feminist in India would have thought her protest to be anything but insane.

Udwin’s original promos for the film had promised to highlight worldwide rape statistics to draw attention to the global scope of the problem. The final film omitted them (at least the version I saw), which is just as well because such statistics mislead more than they enlighten.

India’s official rape statistics registered 1.8 rapes per 100,000 people in 2010, compared with the United States’ 27.3 in 100,000. But everyone knows that rape is massively underreported in traditional societies, where there is a strong stigma attached to victims. Moreover, the definition of rape is much broader in America compared to India, where marital rape wasn’t even considered rape until recently. Perhaps most importantly, whatever problems the U.S. and UK have in prosecuting rape, India’s criminal justice system is virtually incapable of arresting and prosecuting rapists in a timely manner — when such arrests and prosecutions are made at all.

Ignoring the strides that some countries have made in safeguarding women and their rights may be politically correct. But such false equivalence doesn’t help Indian women. If even rich, advanced countries can’t protect their women, it seems to say, then it’s no big deal if a poor, developing one like India can’t either.

This “enlightened” attitude might ultimately do as much disservice to Indian women as the deplorable ban on Udwin’s gut-wrenching film.

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 Sex

Women With Disabilities Are Three Times More Likely to Face Abuse: Report

Violence against women with disabilities is often ignored in several countries

Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be raped, physically abused or sexually assaulted, according to Human Rights Watch.

A resource on gender-based violence designed for people with disabilities, released by HRW ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, states that women and girls with disabilities are increasingly susceptible to violence but are often ignored when it comes to prevention programs.

The organization documented several cases across Zambia, India, Uganda and Turkey, finding a host of problems related to discrimination, vulnerability, accessibility and awareness.

“Women and girls with disabilities are too often the victims of violence, yet get too little information on where to go for help,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, HRW’s disability-rights director.

TIME Sexual Assault

The Hunting Ground Reignites the Debate Over Campus Rape

Filmmakers criticize campuses, fraternities and politicians for not keeping students safe

The debate over how to prevent and investigate sexual assault on campuses has been waged for over a year now with lawmakers like Senator Gillibrand calling sexual assault on campus an “epidemic,” and the White House threatening colleges and universities with sanctions for not following reporting and adjudication guidelines. More than 100 colleges are now under investigation for possibly violating federal laws that aim to keep students safe. But just as campuses have entered a new semester, and the protests seemed to be dying down, a provocative new documentary called The Hunting Ground is pouring gasoline on the debate.

The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, hit theaters in New York and Los Angeles last weekend and will go on a tour of college campuses as it is rolled out across the country. It’s already causing controversy, with advocates saying it sheds a much-needed light on the way colleges cover up rape on campus and critics accusing the filmmakers of fear mongering and advocating for a radical adjudication procedure that ignores due process for the accused. Bringing the story to campuses where students are carrying mattresses to protest what they say is administrations’ indifference to victims of assault is sure to incite a whole new round of anxiety over the issue.

The Hunting Ground filmmakers spare no one in their crusade to stop assault on college campuses. In an interview with TIME, they critiqued the fraternity system, university officials who protect athletes accused of attacking women, politicians advocating for arming women on campus and even the White House for what they believe to be an insufficient campaign to keep students safe.

Back in 2012, the issue of campus safety not yet hit the covers of magazines like TIME, and it certainly wasn’t on the radar of filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering who were then traveling across the country to screen their Emmy-award winning documentary on sexual assault in the U.S. military, Invisible War, a film that former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta credits with inspiring him to take action on the issue which resulted in changes in the way that assaults are prosecuted in the military.

But as they toured campuses, they kept hearing the same message: “This happened to me, too. What’s happening in the military is happening at my school.” And it was clear to the filmmakers that, like in the military, schools were not doing enough to help these women. Only 41% of all universities initiated an investigation into sexual assault claims in the last five years, according to a Senate survey.

“We felt we’d received this call we had to respond to,” says Ziering. What result is a searing portrayal of a university system that the filmmakers say failed to create a safe environment for students and hid cases of sexual assault brought to their attention. By presenting dozens of first-hand accounts—they interviewed more than 100 survivors—Dick and Ziering hoped to personalize the conversation around campus rape in the same way that they did the debate about assault in the military.

A Premeditated Crime

They say their mission began with disproving the perception that campus rapes are just drunken hookups that one party regrets the next morning. “In so many of these situations, there was a predator at work. These survivor was picked out, plied with alcohol and set up to be assaulted,” says Dick. “And then the school’s response was often unsupportive of the survivor. First, victim blaming, and then the investigation that followed was either inadequate or didn’t happen at all.”

To make their case, Dick and Ziering tracked down someone rarely heard from in this debate: a convicted rapist. The man, whose face is blurred out, describes the ease with which he and fellow college students would deploy alcohol as a weapon to incapacitate girls and assault them.

“We felt it was important to include the mindset of a rapist who describes the ways in which these crimes are premeditated and highly calculated by serial predators,” says Ziering. Research indicates that only a small percentage of men commit these crimes, but that assailants attack an average of six victims.

The stories Dick and Ziering heard often shared the same setting—fraternities. Of the thousands of insurance claims that are made against fraternities each year, those for sexual assault are the second most common. The issue is so dire that some schools, like Dartmouth College and University of Virginia, have gone as far as to ban alcohol (or at least kegs and hard alcohol) at frats.

The filmmakers, while acknowledging that fraternities can be a productive part of campus life, accuse national chapters and colleges of condoning a culture often taken advantage of by predators. “The problem is that when you go on campus and you start asking where are the problem houses, where the sexual assaults happen, within a half an hour, you get that answer from a student,” says Kirby. Several interviewees in the film highlight one fraternity in particular— Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which they say is known on many campuses as “Sexual Assault Expected.”

“If the students know, the administration must have known for a long, long time,” adds Kirby. “Why aren’t they warning students? Or parents?” In the film, one school does send a letter to incoming freshmen warning them about a frat that has been sanctioned for assaults committed by its members. After backlash from the fraternity brothers’ parents, the school stops sending out warnings.

TIME reached out to Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national chapter for a response to these claims. They wrote: “We believe anyone who commits sexual assault or other illegal acts should be held accountable and face punishment that is appropriate for those actions…Moreover, sexual assault is an issue related to all college students not specifically to fraternity men.” Brandon Weghorst, Director of Communications, also pointed out that SAE offers education and training on how to stop sexual assault.

MORE The Problem With Frats Isn’t Just Rape. It’s Power

The Athlete Bubble

The filmmakers also highlight similar issues with college athletics. The documentary follows the campus adjudication process for a handful of women, including Erica Kinsman, a former Florida State University student who claims that Jameis Winston, the likely no. 1 pick in the next NFL draft, raped her. Winston was never charged by the police and was cleared of violating the school’s code of conduct in December. Kinsman claims that FSU protected Winston while she had to endure the death threats from FSU football fans throughout the state. She has since sued the school and switched colleges.

A similar claim is made in the film by a campus investigator at Notre Dame, who says that administrators told him he could not reach out to athletes or coaches to locate a football player accused of sexually assaulting another student. The film notes that presidents and provosts at FSU, Notre Dame, and several other schools in the documentary declined to be interviewed for the film.

MORE Some Rules About Consent Are Unfair to Male Students

Botched Investigations

The filmmakers assert that some university administrators have been reluctant to bring the assault numbers to light because doing so could damage the reputation of the school. It’s an accusation echoed by some lawmakers: “The current lax oversight has the perverse effect of incentivizing colleges to encourage non-reporting, under-reporting and non-compliance with the already weak standards under current federal law,” Senator Gillibrand wrote in TIME.

Many schools fire back that giving the benefit of the doubt to the victim would undermine due process and lead to wrongful expulsions in cases where there’s little evidence. And while going to the police is an option, starting a criminal investigation, advocates argue, can be a lengthy process that can leave the victim to face-to-face with their accused attacker in dorms or classrooms for years, so schools need to get involved.

MORE Why Victims of Rape in College Don’t Report to the Police

The Safety Debate in DC

Recently, some conservatives have suggested that ending the ban on weapons on campus and allowing women to have guns on campus would make them safer. “The obvious solution to make an unsafe environment safer is to give students a fighting chance to fend off attackers. That means allowing them to be armed,” writes commentator S.E. Cupp for CNN.com.

But some victim advocates say that adding guns to the mix could be disastrous. “That suggestion shows a blatant ignorance of the issue,”says Ziering. “More often than not, victims are incapacitated in a way where a gun would make absolutely no difference. If anything, the guns would help the assailants and not the people being assaulted.”

But the Hunting Ground filmmakers say liberals aren’t sufficiently addressing the issue either. Last fall, the White House launched an “It’s On Us” campaign that encourages bystander intervention—students stepping into bad situations to help potential victims. It’s a clever idea: Research shows that a campaign against sexual assault isn’t going to stop rapists, but it can affect how bystanders address such situations. Nonetheless, Clark says the White House should be concentrating its efforts on earlier education.

“If you have to have a bystander intervene in a situation at a college party, we’ve already messed up,” she says. “We have to have this conversation much earlier, in elementary school or secondary school so that it never escalates to this point.”

Ziering adds that by concentrating on students’ responsibility, the campaign doesn’t deploy the proper pressure on administrators. “It’s not just on us. It’s on the administration,” she says.

After her experience, Ziering says if she could ask one thing of the White House, it would be to mandate independent investigators on campus and create a watchdog group that makes sure those investigators maintain their independence.

“We saw this with the military as well: we can’t have foxes guarding the henhouse,” she says. “Any time there is a conflict of interest in our criminal justice system, even on campuses, we won’t get the best outcome.”

Read next: The Debate: How Should College Campuses Handle Sexual Assault

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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

TIME columnist 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.

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