TIME Sexual Assault

Anonymous Posters Attack Lena Dunham and Columbia Student Over Assault Claims

Honoree Lena Dunham speaks onstage at Variety's Power of Women: New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 24, 2015 in New York City.
Brian Ach—Getty Images Honoree Lena Dunham speaks onstage at Variety's Power of Women: New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 24, 2015 in New York City.

The television show creator and Emma Sulkowicz have spoken about sexual assault

Large posters were hung late Tuesday night near Columbia University accusing actress Lena Dunham and Emma Sulkowicz, a student who graduated from the school this week, of lying about their experiences of sexual assault.

Sulkowicz made headlines last September when she began carrying a mattress around campus as part of her visual arts thesis. The 22-year-old student says she was raped in her own bed by a fellow classmate at the start of her sophomore year in 2012. She told TIME the mattress is a symbol of the burden that sexual assault survivors carry around every day, and a protest against the way Columbia handled her rape allegations. (Her alleged attacker is currently suing the school and Sulkowicz’s thesis advisor for making his name public.) Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia on Tuesday, carrying the mattress across the stage with the help of friends.

Images of posters targeting Sulkowicz began circulating on Twitter around 5 am Wednesday from an account set up that day called @fakerape.

The posters were plastered around the Columbia campus, in the subway at 116th street, and on traffic lights and construction walls around Broadway. The majority of posters show an image of Sulkowicz and her mattress, emblazoned with the words “Pretty Little Liar” and the hashtag #rapehoax. Her name is misspelled.

Similar posters also appeared of Lena Dunham, with the caption Big Fat Liar.” In Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl, released in September 2014, the actress described her experience of sexual assault while she was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. It led to controversy after the pseudonym and description she gave of her alleged attacker, ‘Barry’, seemed to point to a real Oberlin student called Barry, who studied there at the same time.

In a December essay for Buzzfeed, Dunham explained that she had been “inspired by all the brave women who are now coming forward with their own experiences, despite the many risks associated with speaking out.” On Twitter on Wednesday night, Dunham wished Sulkowicz ‘Happy Graduation’ and expressed her support and gratitude towards the recent graduate.

The people behind the @fakerape account have not publicly identified themselves, but told amNewYork “We want to educate people about fake rape claims & how damaging they are…From UVA to Columbia to UMiami, due process matters.” Blogger Chuck C. Johnson retweeted the photos, but denied any involvement in making the posters.

According to images posted on Twitter, passersby quickly tore down most of the posters.

TIME Sexual Assault

Columbia Student Carries Mattress at Graduation in Protest of Campus Rape Case

Emma Sulkowicz swore she would carry the mattress as part of her senior thesis until her alleged rapist was expelled. He wasn't.

Emma Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia University on Tuesday carrying a mattress she’s been taking everywhere on campus for the last year as part of her visual arts thesis. The student swore to not put down the mattress until the school expelled her alleged rapist from campus.

Sulkowicz helped bring attention to a federal complaint that students levied against the school last year for failing to properly adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault. Columbia, along with over 90 other schools, is under federal investigation for violations of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination, including sexual assault, on campuses. Schools found guilty of defying the law could lose federal funding.

In an interview with TIME last year, Sulkowicz said that she was raped during her sophomore year. She and two other woman all reported the same attacker to the university. All three cases were dismissed. “During my hearing, one panelist kept asking me how it was physically possible for anal rape to happen,” she said. “I was put in the horrible position of trying to explain how this terrible thing happened to me.”

The man who allegedly assaulted Sulkowicz, also a senior, is still on campus. He is currently suing the school and Sulkowicz’s thesis advisor for making his name public.

Following an email from the university forbidding “large objects” in the graduation procession, it looked like Columbia might block Sulkowicz for carrying the mattress, according to the Columbia Spectator. But students tweeted pictures of the young artist carrying her mattress in her cap and gown to confirm she was allowed to finish her undergraduate thesis.

TIME India

Indian Nurse Who Spent 42 Years in Coma Following Brutal Rape Has Died

The 68-year-old had been a pivotal figure for the South Asian nation's debate over euthanasia

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug, a former nurse who spent over four decades in a vegetative state after being raped at a Mumbai hospital in 1973, died Monday morning after a heart attack following a bout of pneumonia. She was 68.

“She was recovering and all her other medical parameters were fine. Today she suffered a sudden attack and could not be saved,” Dr. Ahmad Pazare, head of medicine at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial hospital (KEM), told the Indian Express.

Shanbaug began working as a junior nurse at KEM in the early 1970s, after moving to the city from the southern Indian state of Karnataka. On Nov. 27, 1973, she was brutally attacked by a hospital sweeper named Sohanlal Bhartia Valmiki, who tied her to a dog chain and sodomized her. The incident left her in a vegetative state owing to serious brain injuries. For the past 42 years, she had been confined to ward No. 4 of the same hospital.

In March 2011, Shanbaug became the face of the debate on euthanasia in India after the country’s Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the writer Pinki Virani that sought permission for a “mercy killing.” Virani’s move was opposed by the nurses and doctors at the hospital who had looked after Shanbaug since she was attacked.

Her rapist served seven years in prison after being convicted of robbery and attempted murder.

TIME Military

Army Launches Review Into Whether ROTC Cadets Were Forced to Wear Heels

For a sexual assault awareness event

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that ROTC cadets on college campuses were told to wear high heels to an event marking Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

The review by the U.S Army Cadet Command comes after an anonymous poster on Reddit claimed that ROTC cadets at Arizona State University would have faced disciplinary action if they didn’t attend an event on Monday called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” during which students donned red high heels to “stomp out” sexual assault on campuses. The post quickly garnered attention online and pointed critics of the alleged policy to other ROTC campus units that held similar events.

In a statement shared with TIME, the U.S. Army Cadet Command said they did not direct the ROTC units on exactly how the cadets should participate in the sexual assault awareness events.

“After receiving some comments about uniforms, we are currently gathering facts in order to review how local ROTC units implemented their participation in these events designed to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault,” the statement said.

A video posted by ASU’s student nhttps://vimeo.com/125515628ewspaper shows the event at the Phoenix university. Maj. Michelle Bravo, a military science professor at Arizona State, says in the video that the cadets “planned and decided” to host the walk, where they mostly wore khakis and polo shirts with their heels.

The Temple University ROTC hosted a similar event earlier this month, and cadets there wore their uniforms with heels as they walked.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command also noted units could have participated in other events including “JROTC/ROTC 5K Run/Walk,” which doesn’t explicitly mention wearing high heels.

TIME Education

Watch Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity’s Video on Ending Sexual Assault

Fraternity member describes what constitutes consent

The fraternity Pi Kappa Phi released a video Thursday pledging support to the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign to stop sexual assault.

In the video, different men relay definitions of what does, and does not, constitute consent. Some examples of consent they give are setting boundaries, open communication and “asking and hearing a yes.” Consent is not given, they say, if the partner is passed out, drunk, coerced or silent.

Pi Kappa Phi has been in national headlines recently when its North Carolina State University chapter was suspended for a book filled with racist and sexist comments written by the fraternity brothers.

“It’s On Us” was launched by the White House in September 2014. The first video for the campaign contained celebrity appearances by Jon Hamm and Kerry Washington; President Obama then made his own clip that was broadcast during the Grammy Awards in February.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

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

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

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 indonesia

Canadian Teacher in Indonesia Found Guilty in Contentious Child-Rape Trial

Indonesia Child Abuse Charges
Dita Alangkara—AP Canadian school administrator Neil Bantleman sits inside a holding cell prior to the start of his trial in Jakarta on March 12, 2015

Critics say the trial was a sham aimed at closing the school

A Canadian teacher at a prestigious international school in Indonesia was found guilty of sexual assault on Thursday, following a four-month trial that ignited both accusations of judicial malfeasance and anti-Western sentiments in the Southeast Asian nation.

Canadian school administrator Neil Bantleman from Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), formerly called Jakarta International School, faces 10 years behind bars for repeatedly raping three kindergarten-aged male students.

In the absence of physical evidence, the prosecutors largely built their case around testimony provided by the victims. However, the defendant’s legal team argue that young children were effectively forced to identify Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong as the culprits.

Prior to the pair’s arrests last summer, five of the school’s janitors were also found guilty of molesting one of the three pupils at JIS and were handed prison sentences ranging from seven to eight years in length. The group had initially admitted the charges, but later recanted and accused officials of beating them into a confession in detention. A sixth janitor tied to the incident died in custody after an apparent suicide.

Following the decision to arrest Bantleman and Tjiong, the U.S. embassy in Indonesia warned that allegations of the torture and shoddy legal work could further undermine the country’s standing. The JIS cases comes amid an international outcry over the pending execution of a group of drug traffickers, including the so-called Bali Nine duo, despite sustained pleas for clemency.

“The international community here, foreign investors, and foreign governments are all following this case and the case involving the JIS teachers very closely,” said U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake in a statement published by the Wall Street Journal. “The outcome of these cases and what it reveals about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on Indonesia’s reputation abroad.”

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said accusations that the janitors were tortured while in custody should have been considered at greater length by the judiciary before allowing the case against Bantleman and Tjiong to commence. In addition, the defense cited significant inconsistencies with the victims’ testimony.

“It should be enough for the judges to be dismissive of the prosecution,” Harsono tells TIME. “It is another black mark for the South Jakarta court’s reputation.” In a widely criticized verdict in February, a judge at the South Jakarta court ruled that the Corruption Eradication Commission had no legal basis to name the President’s nominee for police chief as a graft suspect.

Critics of the JIS trial have also contended that the case is nothing more than a thinly disguised ploy to shut down the school’s historic campus that resides on some of the sprawling Indonesian capital’s most valuable real estate.

“The judges must consider a $125 million lawsuit filed by the mother of one of the boys as motive for dragging the teachers into this criminal case,” the defendants’ legal team said in a statement, according to the Jakarta Post.

Officials from the country’s Indonesian Children’s Protection Commission had already accused the school’s administrators of fostering an environment that led to the rapes.

During a press conference last year, the head of the commission accused JIS of impropriety by tolerating kissing in public and employing gay teachers. Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, the commission’s chairman, later added that “homosexuality in such environment could trigger sexual violence against children.”

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

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

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

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.

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