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 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

Christian University Apologizes to Sexual Assault Victims

BOB JONES UNIVERSITY
People cross over the walkway near the fountains on the campus of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. on March 1, 2000. Patrick Collard—AP

"We failed to uphold and honor our own core values"

A prominent Christian university in South Carolina apologized to victims of sexual assault and abuse Wednesday ahead of a report released Thursday that documented the school’s failure to adequately respond to their needs.

“On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” university president Steve Pettit said in an address to students Wednesday. “We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values.”

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on American campuses

The apology came in advance of a 300-page report published Thursday, drawn from interviews with some 40 victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault at Bob Jones university over four decades. The report paints a picture of an administration that failed to offer them appropriate counsel, and in some instances even made them feel at fault for their abuse.

The report was conducted by an independent organization, GRACE, a non-profit Christian group dedicated to helping the Christian community respond to abuse. “This comprehensive report contains painful disclosures by sexual abuse victims and strong language when describing the impact of the institutional responses to abuse disclosures,” GRACE said.

The report comes after months of scrutiny of colleges and universities across the country, as they try to grapple with mounting calls to reform the institutional response to campus sexual assault.

 

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

TIME

Why Rape and Trauma Survivors Have Fragmented and Incomplete Memories

University Of Virginia Fraternity At Center Of Disputed Rolling Stone Magazine Story On Alleged Gang Rape Incident
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house is seen on the University of Virginia campus on December 6, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jay Paul—Getty Images

James Hopper, Ph.D., trains investigators, prosecutors, judges and military commanders on the neurobiology of sexual assault. David Lisak, Ph.D., is a forensic consultant, researcher, national trainer and the board president of 1in6.

In the midst of assault, the brain's fear circuitry takes over while other key parts are impaired or even effectively shut down. This is the brain reacting to a life-threatening situation just the way it is supposed to

A door opens and a police officer is suddenly staring at the wrong end of a gun. In a split second, his brain is hyper-focused on that gun. It is very likely that he will not recall any of the details that were irrelevant to his immediate survival: Did the shooter have a moustache? What color was the shooter’s hair? What was the shooter wearing?

The officer’s reaction is not a result of poor training. It’s his brain reacting to a life-threatening situation just the way it is supposed to—just the way the brain of a rape victim reacts to an assault. In the aftermath, the officer may be unable to recall many important details. He may be uncertain about many. He may be confused about many. He may recall some details inaccurately. Simultaneously, he will recall certain details – the things his brain focused on – with extraordinary accuracy. He may well never forget them. All of this, too, is the human brain working the way it was designed to work.

Last week, Rolling Stone issued a note about their story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia after reports surfaced of discrepancies in the victim’s accounting. We cannot comment on that particular and clearly complex case without knowing the facts. But in our training of police investigators, prosecutors, judges, university administrators and military commanders, we’ve found that it’s helpful to share what’s known about how traumatic experiences affect the functioning of three key brain regions.

First, let’s consider the prefrontal cortex. This part of our brain is responsible for “executive functions,” including focusing attention where we choose, rational thought processes and inhibiting impulses. You are using your prefrontal cortex right now to read this article and absorb what we’ve written, rather than getting distracted by other thoughts in your head or things going on around you. But in states of high stress, fear or terror like combat and sexual assault, the prefrontal cortex is impaired – sometimes even effectively shut down – by a surge of stress chemicals. Most of us have probably had the experience of being suddenly confronted by an emergency, one that demands some kind of clear thinking, and finding that precisely when we need our brain to work at its best, it seems to become bogged down and unresponsive. When the executive center of the our brain goes offline, we are less able to willfully control what we pay attention to, less able to make sense of what we are experiencing, and therefore less able to recall our experience in an orderly way.

Inevitably, at some point during a traumatic experience, fear kicks in. When it does, it is no longer the prefrontal cortex running the show, but the brain’s fear circuitry – especially the amygdala. Once the fear circuitry takes over, it – not the prefrontal cortex – controls where attention goes. It could be the sound of incoming mortars or the cold facial expression of a predatory rapist or the grip of his hand on one’s neck. Or, the fear circuitry can direct attention away from the horrible sensations of sexual assault by focusing attention on otherwise meaningless details. Either way, what gets attention tends to be fragmentary sensations, not the many different elements of the unfolding assault. And what gets attention is what is most likely to get encoded into memory.

The brain’s fear circuitry also alters the functioning of a third key brain area, the hippocampus. The hippocampus encodes experiences into short-term memory and can store them as long-term memories. Fear impairs the ability of the hippocampus to encode and store “contextual information,” like the layout of the room where the rape happened. Fear also impairs its ability to encode time sequencing information, like whether the perpetrator ripped off a shirt before or after saying “you want this.”

Our understanding of the altered functioning of the brain in traumatic situations is founded on decades of research, and as that research continues, it is giving us a more nuanced view of the human brain “on trauma.” Recent studies suggest that the hippocampus goes into a super-encoding state briefly after the fear kicks in. Victims may remember in exquisite detail what was happening just before and after they realized they were being attacked, including context and the sequence of events. However, they are likely to have very fragmented and incomplete memories for much of what happens after that.

These advances in our understanding of the impact of trauma on the brain have enormous implications for the criminal justice system. It is not reasonable to expect a trauma survivor – whether a rape victim, a police officer or a soldier – to recall traumatic events the way they would recall their wedding day. They will remember some aspects of the experience in exquisitely painful detail. Indeed, they may spend decades trying to forget them. They will remember other aspects not at all, or only in jumbled and confused fragments. Such is the nature of terrifying experiences, and it is a nature that we cannot ignore.

James Hopper, Ph.D., is an independent consultant and Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He trains investigators, prosecutors, judges and military commanders on the neurobiology of sexual assault. David Lisak, Ph.D., is a forensic consultant, researcher, national trainer and the board president of 1in6, a non-profit that provides information and services to men who were sexually abused as children.

Read next: It’s Women Who Suffer When We Don’t Ask Questions

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 celebrities

5 Accusers Speak Out Against Bill Cosby

In a joint interview that aired Monday evening

Five of the dozen or so women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault appeared during a joint interview that aired Monday evening to condemn the famed actor and comedian in primetime.

“It’s unbelievable to be in the presence of these great women. It’s a sisterhood,” Barbara Bowman, whose Washington Post op-ed last month helped reignite discussion about the allegations, said on CNN. “The glue that bonds us might be morbid and sad and awful, but … I feel very protective of these people.”

From their accounts of how Cosby allegedly raped them to the details of their traumatic experiences trying to recover, the women shared remarkably similar stories. They all said the actor had drugged and raped them; four of the five said they told someone in the immediate aftermath of the alleged crime, but were discouraged from going further. All five women said they have never sought financial compensation from Cosby and agreed they never would accept it.

“I want him to suffer like we’ve all suffered,” said P.J. Masten, who said she was assaulted by Cosby in 1979. Masten said she knows other women who have not yet come forward.

TIME Sexual Assault

A Newsroom Writer Says Aaron Sorkin Yelled at Her Over Rape Plot

Aaron Sorkin The Newsroom
Writer Aaron Sorkin attends the premiere of "The Newsroom" at DGA Theater in Los Angeles on Nov. 4, 2014. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Staff writer Alena Smith says she was kicked out of the writers room after objecting to the storyline

As if The Newsroom wasn’t already patronizing enough, the show spent its penultimate episode mansplaining how the media should handle accusations of sexual assault. One of The Newsroom characters is lionized for siding with what he calls a “sketchy” alleged rapist over a rape victim.

Critics say that head writer Aaron Sorkin went too far, and, as it turns out, at least one of Sorkin’s writers agrees. Alena Smith took to Twitter on Sunday night to say that Sorkin kicked her out of the writers’ room when she objected to the rape subplot:

For those who didn’t watch the episode, here’s a summary of the objectionable storyline:

A college student named Mary tells ACN producer Don that she was raped, reported the rape to both the college’s administration and the police and that nothing will be done about it due to lack of evidence. She creates a website where women can anonymously report rapes on campus in order to shame their assailants and warn other women about these men. (Though the show does not address this statistic, at least one study has found that 90% of men who rape will rape again and that perpetrators will assault six people on average.)

The line that launched a thousand think pieces this morning came when Don is asked which person he believes: the victim or the alleged perpetrator? Don concedes that Mary seems credible and would have no reason to lie and that her alleged assailant seems “sketchy” and does have motivation to lie. But he concludes, “I’m obligated to believe the sketchy guy.”

MORE: Listen Here, Internet Girl: The Newsroom Rapesplains It All

It’s an absurd statement. As TIME’s Jim Poniewozik writes, “Don’s not saying that he can’t know whom to believe yet. He’s not saying that he doesn’t have hard proof…He’s saying that, lacking proof, he has to affirmatively believe the story of one of his subjects–a less credible one–over the other. Forget journalists–many men’s rights movement advocates don’t even go that far.”

Don encourages Mary not to participate in an ACN segment in which she would be required to debate with her rapist—not because that would be traumatic and horrifying but because Don thinks it’s inevitable that Mary’s site will be used to make false rape accusations and ruin innocent men’s lives.

The question of false accusations is particularly prescient given the current debate over a Rolling Stone story on sexual assault on the University of Virginia campus and a subsequent apology from the magazine for “discrepancies” in the story. Only about 6% of rape allegations are fabricated, according to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). False reports only hurt real rape victims because journalists and law enforcement begin to doubt their stories.“Overwhelmingly, victims are telling the truth,” Scott Berkowitz, the president of RAINN, recently told TIME. “But by all means, journalists should ask all the questions they need to ask in order to get the facts.”

But instead of finding the facts, Don skirts the story altogether. It’s easy to see why Smith objected to the scene.

Update:

On Monday afternoon, The Newsroom’s Aaron Sorkin responded to the objections raised by Smith with a long statement:

Let me take a moment to say that I understand that the story in last night’s episode (305—”Oh Shenandoah”) about Don trying to persuade a Princeton student named Mary (Sarah Sutherland) not to engage in a “Crossfire”-style segment on his show has catalyzed some passionate debate this morning. I’m happy to hear it.

It catalyzed some passionate debate in our writers room too. Arguments in the writers room at The Newsroom are not only common, they’re encouraged. The staff’s ability to argue with each other and with me about issues ranging from journalistic freedom vs. national security to whether or not Kat Dennings should come back and save the company is one of their greatest assets and something I look for during the hiring process. Ultimately I have to go into a room by myself and write the show but before I do I spend many days listening to, participating in and stoking these arguments. As with any show, I have to create a safe environment where people can disagree and no one fears having their voice drowned out or, worse, mocked.

Alena Smith, a staff writer who joined the show for the third season, had strong objections to the Princeton story and made those objections known to me and to the room. I heard Alena’s objections and there was some healthy back and forth. After a while I needed to move on (there’s a clock ticking) but Alena wasn’t ready to do that yet. I gave her more time but then I really needed to move on. Alena still wouldn’t let me do that so I excused her from the room.

The next day I wrote a new draft of the Princeton scenes—the draft you saw performed last night. Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support. So I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality. It was a room in which people felt safe enough to discuss private and intimate details of their lives in the hope of bringing dimension to stories that were being pitched. That’s what happens in writers rooms and while ours was the first one Alena ever worked in, the importance of privacy was made clear to everyone on our first day of work and was reinforced constantly. I’m saddened that she’s broken that trust.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 8

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

1. A new crowdfunded software tool for reporting sexual assault can reduce stigma and protect survivors.

By Shafaq Hasan in Nonprofit Quarterly

2. Millions of discarded laptop batteries could light homes in the developing world.

By David Talbot in the MIT Technology Review

3. A long overdue transparency plan for clinical trials will finally open results to the medical community and the public.

By Julia Belluz in Vox

4. Without role models or a road map through the upper ranks, women are leaving the tech industry at the mid-career point in droves.

By Sue Gardner in the Los Angeles Times

5. A new plan to drop strips of prairie into cropland helps preserve soil and battle climate change.

By Dylan Roth in Iowa State Daily

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

#IStandWithJackie Emerges to Defend UVA Student Who Says She Was Raped

The editor of Rolling Stone said that it was difficult to square facts with Jackie's account

Twitter users showed their support for a University of Virginia student known as Jackie whose detailed account of being raped was published in Rolling Stone last month, hours after the magazine said it had reason to doubt her story.

Using the hashtag #IStandWithJackie, Twitter users said questioning Jackie’s claim of rape might discourage others from coming forward.

MORE: No police investigation yet in UVA rape case

In a note to readers Friday, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana said it was difficult to square certain facts with the account provided by Jackie. He later clarified that he did not blame Jackie, but instead wishes the magazine had done a better job trying corroborate her story.

Read next: Questioning an Accuser’s Story: A Rape Victim Group Weighs In

TIME Crime

Fraternity Rebuts Claims from Rolling Stone Rape Story

"We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members"

A University of Virginia fraternity issued a broad denial Friday of a Rolling Stone story that depicted a gang rape occurring at its house, just as the magazine itself cast doubt on the story’s credibility.

Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity where a woman called “Jackie” said she was raped, pointed to what it called a number of factual errors with the story. It said it didn’t host a party the night of the alleged rape and that none of its members at the time were employed at the campus pool, where Jackie said her fraternity date that night worked.

MORE: The sexual assault crisis on American campuses

“We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members,” the fraternity said in a statement. “Anyone who commits any form of sexual assault, where or whenever, should be identified and brought to justice.”

Rolling Stone said Friday in a note to readers that “discrepancies in Jackie’s account” cast a doubt on the story. The gruesome nature of the article and UVA’s alleged mishandling of the case had prompted national headlines and debate about campus sexual assault.

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