Colleges Challenge a Common Protection in Sexual Assault Lawsuits: Anonymity

The former college student said she had been raped three times as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, twice by students and once by an acquaintance who was on campus regularly.

She withdrew from the university and filed suit, saying that campus officials did not do enough to investigate the claims and protect her from being attacked again and again. As a precaution, she identified herself in public court papers only as S.B.

Her school fired back three times with a demand for the court: Reveal her full name or toss out the case.

For years, students have filed sexual assault complaints under pseudonyms, which allow them to seek justice without shame or fear of being targeted. Universities have generally accepted the practice.

But in two recent lawsuits — S.B.’s case against Florida A&M University and a suit by nine women against Dartmouth College — the schools have demanded that students publicly reveal their identities, going against longstanding legal practice intended to protect plaintiffs in sensitive disputes.

Experts on sexual assault cases say that these demands amount to a newly aggressive stance by universities that face potentially damaging lawsuits, and that they run counter to the spirit of federal civil rights policies. The identities of the women in both cases are known to the university lawyers, but not to the public.

“What you’re seeing in this particular case is real hardball,” said Andrew Miltenberg, a lawyer who typically represents men accused of sexual assault. “And it’s still not the way most lawyers or schools handle it. They’re a little bit more gracious about protecting someone who was their student.”

On Wednesday, S.B.’s lawyer sent a letter to more than 40 state legislators objecting to the university’s tactics and asking them to investigate the matter.

‘Game of Thrones’ was an imperfect show that was perfect for its era

In the beginning, it could have been mistaken for a conventional fairy tale about a virtuous man battling the corruption in his kingdom — until Ned Stark (Sean Bean) lost his head.

.. Characters shifted from victims to protagonists to antiheroes in a way that gave some viewers whiplash, a dynamic that came to a head when Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her dragon burned a city in the show’s penultimate episode. “Game of Thrones” was a show about trauma and the consequences of treating women as sexual objects — yet the series had a bad tendency to ogle bits and pieces of minor female characters rather than treat them as people.

..Whether you think “Game of Thrones” was a success or a failure largely depends on what you thought the show was trying to do.

.. “Game of Thrones” debuted in 2011, at an inflection point for American television and American politics. Later-stage Golden Age antihero dramas such as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad were heading toward their conclusions and the idea of Republican “war on women” was taking hold on the left. During the series’ run, Hillary Clinton suffered a shocking loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election; white nationalism surged back into public life; the #MeToo movement exposed the prevalence and impact of sexual violence; climate change took on a new and apocalyptic urgency; and a spike in television production splintered the water-cooler conversation possibly beyond repair.

As a result, “Game of Thrones” took on a prismatic quality. Turn it one way and the series was an argument that trauma gave its female characters moral authority; shift it just slightly, and the show suggested that they couldn’t transcend the damage that had been inflicted on them

..  The White Walkers, the show’s uber-supernatural villains, stood in for the perils of climate change — until they were vanquished with a single blow. The slaves Daenerys liberated in the early seasons of the show were props in a white-savior narrative until they were invoked as proof that she would never break bad. The show’s cultural footprint suggested that rolling out a television show week by week was still the best way to create community around art. Or its viewership numbers, modest by historical standards, could be evidence for an argument that our culture has fragmented beyond repair.

.. And our struggles to figure out whether men such as Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) deserve forgiveness for their past bad acts are a lower-stakes version of the questions raised by the early stages of our national reckoning with sexual assault.

.. Another version of “Game of Thrones” might have offered more decisive arguments about the subjects it raised, or avoided ogling and other artistic pitfalls. That show might have become a cult favorite, but without its intellectual ambiguities and spots of bad taste, it never would have become a phenomenon. “Game of Thrones” caught viewers by surprise when it eliminated its supernatural Big Bad so early in its final season and left the characters to work out their messy, entirely human differences. When the credits roll on Sunday, “Game of Thrones” will leave viewers with the same challenge: tackling some of the hardest problems before us without a unifying magical distraction.

Does Joe Biden Have a #MeToo Problem?

Last week, former Vice-President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential race. He has an early lead in polls, but several women have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate behavior, and he is facing renewed scrutiny for how, as a senator, he handled Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in 1991. Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the first Presidential campaign of the #MeToo era.

When College Rapists Graduate

If they’re not held accountable at school, what’s to stop them from becoming the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story once they enter the work force?

Among other changes, her proposed rule would require schools to dismiss all incidents that do not meet an extremely narrow definition of sexual harassment: “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access” to education. As Dana Bolger, a co-founder of Know Your IX, a national youth-led campaign against sexual violence, has pointed out, some courts have ruled that a rape does not meet this standard.

The rule would essentially eliminate schools’ responsibility to respond to incidents off campus, which make up 95 percent of sexual assaults of female students, according to the Department of Justice. Moreover, schools would not be legally responsible for addressing any sexual harassment that is not reported to a school official designated to deal with that issue.

The overall effect of the proposed rule — which supporters say would restore due-process rights to those accused of sexual assault and harassment — would be to make reporting, already an uphill battle for raped and harassed students, feel even more futile.

..“It is completely illogical that at a time when the public is finally coming to terms with the reality of how prevalent sexual violence is thanks to initiatives like Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, the DeVos administration is simultaneously attempting to weaken Title IX protections for survivors.”

It’s safe to assume that most perpetrators of sexual violence who have come to public notice through #MeToo didn’t suddenly become abusers after landing jobs in newsrooms and board rooms and on movie sets. Their idea that one can abuse with impunity is learned, and in many cases it is learned where most things are learned — at school.

Violent sexual behavior that goes unchecked during college does not reach a natural end at graduation. In fact, many perpetrators of sexual violence are serial offenders: Of men who acknowledge using sexually violent or coercive behaviors, around one in five report committing repeat assaultsAnother study found that men reporting a history of sexually aggressive behavior commit, on average, more than six sexual assaults.

Examples of school perpetrators who skirted accountability and then offended after graduation are already emerging. Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape as a student at Florida State University and is now a professional football player, reached a settlement with an Uber driver who said he sexually assaulted her in her car in 2016.

But the path from perpetrator of school sexual violence to workplace abuser need not be inevitable. Interventions including cognitive behavioral therapy have proved to be highly effective in preventing perpetrators from reoffending. Far from being unfair, responding seriously to perpetrators of school sexual violence is tough kindness. As the world grows increasingly intolerant of violent sexual behavior, early intervention and clear messages about appropriate behavior can prevent perpetrators from reoffending and facing more long-term career, legal and personal consequences.

While I obtained a restraining order against the man who assaulted me in college, he graduated and got a coveted job, where he’ll only have more and more power as time goes on. While I hope he’ll never become the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story, I am not optimistic. The proposed rules make it even more likely that men like him will leave their college campuses and enter the work force believing they can abuse women and be assured “Nothing wrong occurred.”

 

Comments

As a Harvard alumna and a survivor of sexual assault, I applaud Leaders’ activism to hold our institution accountable. Not just the undergraduate colleague but particularly Harvard Business School, where men demean, degrade, harass and assault women on a scale I’ve never witnessed prior to enrolling in classes there. These are the men going on to run America and the world’s economies… woe to the women who will suffer their crimes.