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“Grave Indifference”


Rape culture at Swarthmore College:

Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey. Her mother is from Mexico; her dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. She graduated last spring and works in health care in Washington, D.C. If 3,000 smiling Facebook photos are a good barometer, her four years at Swarthmore seem to have passed by untroubled. But in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”

A month and a half went by before Sendrow paid a visit to Tom Elverson, a drug and alcohol counselor at the school who also served as a liaison to its fraternities. A former frat brother at Swarthmore, he was jolly and bushy-mustached, a human mascot hired a decade earlier to smooth over alumni displeasure at the elimination of the football team, which his father had coached when Elverson was a student. When Sendrow told him she had been raped, he was incredulous. He told her the student was “such a good guy,” she says, and that she must be mistaken. Sendrow left his office in tears. She was so discouraged about going back to the administration that it wasn’t until several months later that she told a dean about the incident. Shortly thereafter, both students graduated, and Sendrow says she was never told the outcome of any investigation. (Elverson, whose position was eliminated by the school last summer, emailed me that he would answer the “great questions” I raised, but never wrote back.)


“Sally,” a 2012 graduate, said she was at a party in the fall of her freshman year when a fellow student cornered her, pushed her against a wall, and began to kiss her, before being pulled off by a mutual friend. Later that night, Sally awoke to find the same student had entered her room and climbed on top of her. She managed to push him off. When she told associate dean Myrt Westphal she wanted to pursue charges through the College Judiciary Committee (CJC), she says, Westphal asked her to say “harassment” rather than “assault,” and questioned whether she really wanted to “pit her two friends against each other.” Discouraged, Sally declined to pursue judiciary action. (Westphal, who retired last spring, declined to comment.)

Similar stories are legion. Jean Strout, a 2010 graduate now studying at Harvard Law School, says that after she was pinned to the ground by a naked, drunk rugby player, she spoke to a male administrator by phone, who told her it sounded like a “misunderstanding” and that she should ask the offender for an apology.

A recent graduate who now practices law in New York City says that when she told an administrator she had been raped, the

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administrator said, “You don’t sound as if you were raped,” and, noticing the cross hanging around her neck, asked if she wanted to see a priest. She declined to pursue the case.

Another student, according to the Title IX complaint, was raped in her dorm room by a friend of a friend with alcohol on his breath. Before he left the room, he looked at her, smiled, and told her, “It’s your word against mine.” After she recounted the incident in a long email to a member of the administration, her complaint says, school officials never got in touch with her or did any investigation.

As spokeswomen for fellow victims, Hope Brinn and Mia Ferguson often underemphasized their own stories, but they too joined the complaints. Ferguson says she was raped her freshman year in a dorm room by someone she considered a friend. After keeping it bottled up for a semester, she told two resident advisers who were required to report what she told them. They proceeded to tell no one. Hope Brinn says a male student burst into her room while she was naked and refused to leave, after having harassed her via text message. According to her Title IX complaint, when she reported the incident, an administrator laughed and told her she might consider having him write “knock” on his hand as a reminder before he goes out. (Brinn has also spoken about a separate incident of sexual assault.)

As Zuylen-Wood observes, The Obama administration has announced that it will seriously investigate all of the schools who are in violation of the Civil Rights Act if they fail to properly investigate sexual assault and harassment complaints. Hopefully it will follow through.

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  • Bitter Scribe

    Just remember, men are always the victims in these situations.

    (Attention MRA types: Feel free to cut and paste the above, for this and any other similar posts. It’ll save us all a lot of trouble.)

    • Nobdy

      All I get from these stories is that if women didn’t insist on coming to college and staying in dorms without a male family member, they wouldn’t get raped. You don’t see this kind of stuff in Saudi Arabia, do you?

    • Origami Isopod

      The comments are awful, btw. But water’s wet, too.

  • Nobdy

    Universities have a powerful incentive to cover up rapes and sexual assaults and control the statistics. Any university that accepts federal money should be required to rely on outside investigators, either police or some private investigation company approved by the government, to investigate all rape claims, and any rape or assault claim brought to administrators should REQUIRE report to these independent investigators. That doesn’t mean that the victim has to press charges or pursue the investigation if she doesn’t want to; that should be her choice, but she should be at least offered an opportunity to meet with an independent investigator with no interest in suppressing her story to talk about what happened.

    To avoid capture by the universities the investigators could be paid by federal funds attached to the other funding given to universities.

    Of course an offer of counseling should also be required and, in my opinion, the option to use an outside counselor should be given, so that university counselors don’t violate their professional trust and pursue the university interests over their patients.

    The way rape and sexual assault is treated on many campuses is absolutely disgusting and a total violation of universities’ missions.

    • Lurker

      I would like to disagree. Rape is a heinous crime. No victim has the right to be silent about it, however much it hurts to bring it into open. It is the duty of the public authorities to start immediate criminal investigation in all cases where there is the slightest reason to suspect that rape might have occurred and bring the case to prosecution, regardless of the wishes of the victim. It is more important to punish the perepetrator than protect the victim.

      In addition, making investigation automatic will protect victims. Now, the situation is: “Do you really want to destroy this young man’s life?” It should be: “Do you really wish to obstruct justice and commit a crime to protect a felon by lying?”

      • Nobdy

        You need the victim to report to even know that a crime has occurred. It’s not like there’s some little red light that goes off at police HQ every time someone is raped, and the perpetrator sure won’t report.

        Therefore from a practical perspective in order to be able to prosecute the crime you need the victim to feel comfortable reporting and that she won’t be forced into something that will hurt her further. Otherwise she just won’t report at all and nobody will be punished.

        • Lurker

          That is true, but it is also important to change the discourse. Of course, in most cases., the victim needs to make the first report (barring eyewitnesses), but after that, the victim should have no agency. This is because this remivces the idea that the victim would be in some way responsible for destroying the perpetrator’s life. In addition, the public awareness campaigns should be directed towards: “If you suspect your friend has been raped, take her to hospital for a rape kit and always call the police, no matter what she says, because she is not thinking clearly.”

          • bluefoot

            And the the rape kit will sit in storage, untested, for years. And you’ve just involved your friend in a potentially seriously harmful legal process without her/his consent. Lovely. Have you ever asked anyone who reported sexual assault how they were treated by authorites? Or by their families and communities? Perhaps we can think of ways of changing the discourse without making things even worse for victims?

            • Lurker

              Well, I come from culture where it is the wont of legislature to ease people’s moral problems by legislatimg statutory duties that are rarely enforced or rather easily circumvented. However, they make it possible for the person to overcome the moral questions rather easily. For example, while there are crimes where prosecution requires victim’s consent, rape is not one of them. Instead, a rape victim who would decline to testify or to answer police questions would face charges. (In theory. I’ve yet to hear such prosecution in practice.) This means that you are not “pressing charges” or “accusing”. You are merely cooperating with the police, under pain of prosecution. It eases the victim’s situation a lot.

              And when it comes to the question of friendship: the society’s interest in punishing rape surpasses any personal feelings. So yes, friends don’t let friends leave rape unreported.

              • Nobdy

                People wouldn’t feel safe confiding in their friends. You’re not going to put more rapists in jail, you’re just going to isolate more victims.

              • JL

                So yes, friends don’t let friends leave rape unreported.

                Wrong. Friends don’t violate their friends, especially not their friends who were already just violated. And make no mistake, you are violating someone if you force them to report when they don’t want to.

                • Origami Isopod


              • josefina

                Well, I come from culture where it is the wont of legislature to ease people’s moral problems by legislatimg statutory duties that are rarely enforced or rather easily circumvented.

                What culture is this?

          • JL

            In addition, the public awareness campaigns should be directed towards: “If you suspect your friend has been raped, take her to hospital for a rape kit and always call the police, no matter what she says, because she is not thinking clearly.”

            Speaking as a rape crisis counselor who has taken well over a hundred disclosures (both on a hotline and in my normal life), and as someone who teaches people how to respond to disclosures for a rape crisis center…

            No. Just no. No no nonononononono. This is an awful awful idea. It is disrespectful. It is retraumatizing to the victim. They’ve already had control taken away from them (possibly by someone they trusted, since most rapes are committed by acquaintances) and you’re proposing that someone they trust take control away from them, disrespect their consent, again. It could raise their risk of PTSD. It will make it less likely that they’re willing to tell anyone what happened to them in the future (how the first person responds has a significant impact on whether a victim will be willing to share what happened again). The assumptions that this carries about someone’s mental state after a rape are wrong. This flies squarely in the face of anything that I would ever do or teach anyone to do. This is about as bad a response as you can get without disbelieving or blaming them. Never ever do this.

          • JL

            Oh, and to follow up on my previous comment…you might be wondering how, then, we encourage more people to report short of ending rape culture, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

            In Boston, the public transit system’s police got a tremendous rise in reporting rates of sexual harassment and assault on subways and buses by working with local anti-rape organizations to design a campaign. The campaign featured pictures of people of different genders staring into the camera with captions like “No means no” and “Respect my space”, and messages about how sexual violence is criminal. Each poster had the number for not only the transit system police but also the local rape crisis center and the local National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs affiliate. They also provided QR codes for downloading a smartphone app that would allow people to send emergency information quickly to the transit police.

            This sent the message that the transit police were taking such incidents seriously and taking a non-victim-blaming mentality, made it easy to report if people wanted to, and presented different options. No pressure at all on victims to report, just different options presented in a supportive-to-victims way.

            In the 18 months after they started the campaign, they saw a 32% increase in reporting of sexual assault in the transit system.

            • Aimai

              Fascinating, JL, thanks for posting this. As someone whose teenage daughters take the MBTA every day to school (and someone who did the same 30 years ago) I’m proud of my city and thankful for the sensible intervention.

            • As usual, JL, your comments are invaluable. Thanks.

      • Origami Isopod

        No victim has the right to be silent about it, however much it hurts to bring it into open.

        I fully support any victim deciding not to report because they’ve decided the legal system will victimize them a second time. As various of my friends have decided. Including the victim of military sexual assault.

        You want higher reporting rates? Fight rape culture. What you’re doing here is shitting on rape victims.

        • Aimai

          Not really surprising. Lurker is one of the weirdest commenters here of all time–a strange mixture of pseudo-liberal and authoritarian misgoynist.

  • JustRuss

    Why is this on the schools, who, as Nobdy says, have every incentive not to investigate, and little investigative authority or expertise? If these are real crimes–and I think we all agree that they are–it should be real police investigating them.

    One big problem is that as non-profits, universities don’t pay taxes while putting a huge drain on public resources, especially law enforcement. My university actually tried to pay the city for extra law enforcement but got shot down due to legal issues.

    • L2P

      Aaaaand here things get complicated.

      One reason the schools are tasked with this under Title IX is because local police are, often, even MORE tolerant of rape. As bad as Notre Dame is, do you think the South Bend PD is going to crack down on a “he said, she said” case against a rich white guy or star athlete? Unlikely.

      Another reason is that, theoretically, schools can punish rapists and help victims without publicity. An effective administrative punishment process could allow justice without making the victim relive everything forever.

      And of course the Federal Government doesn’t have a lot of power over local police, but does over colleges. You take the wins you can get.

      • Timb

        We’ll-stated and very sad

      • Denverite

        ND actually presents an interesting case. The school has a formal “no premarital relations” policy, and it usually punishes violations with a yearlong suspension, or at least it used to (according to one of my former co-clerks). If “he” prevailed in a “he said, she said” scenario, “he” still would be in violation of school rules.

        • Drew

          If by “he” prevailing you mean proved the sex was consensual, that means the woman would be in violation as well. I think the victim also getting suspended is worse.

      • DrDick

        All too true. My university and the local district attorney both got investigated over a couple of issues. The university proactively implemented new policies and procedures and quickly entered into an agreement with the feds on dealing with this (aided by the fact that we had a change in administration and the new president took this more seriously). The district attorney has filed suit against the DOJ, saying they do not have authority over him.

    • Good question, why are crimes committed on university campi not treated like crimes committed elsewhere? One suspects because it would cause a lot of unwanted headache for such things as underage drinking and marijuana use. But, rape is a serious and violent felony and not in the same category as a 20 year old drinking a bottle of Wisconsin Club and smoking a joint. One of the unexplained things about the first story is why she waited a month and a half to report the rape to anybody. Ideally, these things should be reported the next day to the police. Taking appropriate action becomes harder the longer the delay. But, yes violent crimes should be turned over to law enforcement to investigate and pursue.

      • Nobdy

        You can’t blame a rape victim for taking awhile to report given how society heaps shame and blame on them, and how often they are disbelieved when they DO report. She didn’t exactly run out the statute of limitations. It might make it harder to prove from a practical perspective, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth investigating.

        • I didn’t blame her. I said the story did not explain the delay.

          • Anonymous

            Perhaps the reporter assumed that anybody who was not a POS would already know.

      • JL

        42% of people who are sexually assaulted never tell anyone at all about it, let alone law enforcement, so a month and a half isn’t exactly strange. Or unusual. Most of the people that I talk to when I’m in rape crisis counselor mode don’t want to report.

        Ideally, these things should be reported the next day to the police.

        Ideally, we should have a society where people who are assaulted feel safe and supported in doing so.

        • bluefoot

          That is a *really* sobering statistic. Of my circle of close friends, about 50% of the women have been sexually assaulted, not including “everyday” physical harassment that women learn to shrug off in order to live their lives (getting groped on public transit, etc.). So does that mean up to an additional 20% of my close friends may have been assaulted but they haven’t said so?

          • Origami Isopod

            Percentages vary, but yeah.

            Also, some of your male friends/acquaintances are almost certainly victims of sexual violence.

            • bluefoot

              I know of one for sure, but I assumed that a guy would be more likely to tell another guy about sexual assault, rather than a woman friend.

              • DrDick

                Most guys I know would be less likely to tell anyone.

              • Aimai

                I think bluefoot meant “more likely to tell a same sex friend than an opposite sex friend” not “more likely to tell at all.” But I agree with Dr. Dick that men are generally speaking not likely to tell anyone about a sexual assault that has happened to them.

          • JL

            It is at least possible that due to some dynamic in your social circle the people there are more likely to disclose than on average. But it is certainly possible that a large number of your friends haven’t told anyone.

            According to the CDC, 18.3% of women and 1.4% of men have been victims of attempted or completed rape, and 44.6% of women and 22.2% of men have experienced some form of sexual violence. The rape stats for men are an undercount because they only include being penetrated and not being made to penetrate (which would add another 4.8% of men). So it’s something that affects a lot of people. If you have (as I do) a large number of bi women in your social circle, bi women are raped and sexually assaulted at MUCH higher rates than straight women or lesbians and this might drive up your social circle’s numbers.

        • Origami Isopod

          A month and a half is short.

          Aside from victims being rightfully fearful of the legal system further traumatizing them, quite a few deny to themselves that they’ve been raped at all. Sometimes it’s because victims are also affected by rape culture and don’t realize that, hey, it’s not okay that their partner did such-and-such without consent. Sometimes it’s denial, because they don’t want to believe it happened to them. Sometimes they’re afraid of retribution from the perp as well.

      • libarbarian

        The whole first story is very weird.

        Rape requires the use of force, the threat of force, or the incapacity of the woman to consent. There was no hint of the use or threat of force and “I was tired and wanted to go to sleep” is not incapacity.

        • T. Paine

          What. The. Fuck? So it’s not rape because he didn’t pull a knife? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. She explicitly didn’t give consent. She never consented. That’s rape.

        • Origami Isopod

          The fuck is this shit.

          She didn’t consent. End of story.

          • libarbarian

            She explicitly said she “let him” have sex with her.
            Absent a mitigating factor, such as a reasonable fear of harm if she had not, that implies consent.

            Letting someone fuck you even though you are not in the mood is not the same as being raped and saying it is insults rape victims

            • Origami Isopod

              Because rapists never wait until their victims are at a disadvantage. Such as their being too exhausted to resist.

              Also, fuck you. Interesting how you’re replying to me, btw, but not to the four dudes who are also telling you it’s rape.

        • DrDick

          No. Rape only requires a lack of consent. If she says “no” and you do it anyway, that is use of force or threat of force.

        • dave

          I am going to be charitable and assume you have just brain farted and forgot that lack of consent can be shown simply from the fact that person said “no”. You only need to show force, threat of force, or lack of capacity in cases where there was not a verbal or non-verbal “no”.

        • Manny Kant

          If it happened as described, it’s certainly rape, but on the other hand it’s also a situation where there’s just absolutely no chance whatever that the guy is ever going to actually be convicted of rape, so I’m not sure what the point of reporting it would be.

    • Nobdy

      Some universities have their own police departments. http://www.hupd.harvard.edu/

      For those that don’t I agree that police should handle it, but sometimes victims want to report to someone other than the police and think university administrators are a logical semi in loco parentis choice. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between a full on police investigation and nothing when she is raped, especially since it sometimes takes awhile for her to realize that what happened was rape. She might start off blaming herself or just not knowing exactly what went on because she was drugged or society tries to convince her there were “blurred lines.” (WHAT A GREAT SONG!)

      • DrDick

        On most state schools, the campus police are state police.

    • steve

      Are there times where the evidence is not sufficient to convict a rapist but the school can take action against the perpetrator because it does not need to adhere to a much higher legal standard?

      For example, I can imagine a defense attorney pouncing all over a statement like, “I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.” to argue that this implied consent and it was just bad sex as opposed to rape. On the other hand Swarthmore could expell the assailant based on his behavior whether or not a jury convicts.

      • elm

        Yes. Michigan expelled their starting kicker right before the bowl game last year even though prosecutors had decided not to prosecute him for the rape in question.

        • shah8

          Michigan’s handling of that case was more atrocious than the statement implies.

          • elm

            Oh, for sure. The rape in question was years prior and was finally being investigated by the school and the head coach and AD lied about why Gibbons wasn’t playing in the bowl game. There’s a lot of problems with what happened in this case.

            I was only bringing it up as an example of a school having a different standard of proof than the legal system. My apologies if I gave the impression that Michigan was awesome overall in their handling of the issue. (On the other hand, they acquitted themselves better than, say, FSU and many other schools have once they did start to investigate a charge of a football player raping a woman.)

            • shah8

              I feel icky about defending FSU, but I don’t think FSU’s malign conduct was particularly severe, if you’re talking about the Winston case. They did what virtually all state grant university do, and not investigate the case seriously. Michigan, as a culture, was far worse, including the star player texting rape threats if the woman insists on coming forward among a general theme of intimidation. It took an appalled public at large to shame Michigan into finally doing something about it.

              Lastly, as I usually say in these threads, the actual case against Winston was pretty damned weak, given what investigation the police did do, in comparison to other rape cases involving athletes that make it to the justice system. It’s not just the hearsay he said she said, there are some affirmative reasons to reject, such as the intoxication claim, which was tested immediately (as I understand it) and found that she wasn’t drunk or given a mickey (for the drugs that do show up after metabolization). So forth and on.

        • Lurker

          While I definitely support prosecuting and punishing all types of rape, I think that also judicial principles are important. As a European, I cannot help noting that this kind of imposing academic discipline after the judicial investigation has ended without prosecution would violate ne bis idem here. The academic discipline is considered, in the jurisprudence of European Court of Human Rights, part of administrative use of public power. It is a human rights violation to punish a person administratively if there has been a prior police investigation that ended without prosecution or verdict.

          Similarly, it would be a human rights violation in Europe to prosecute a person if there has been a prior academic disciplinary investigation.

          • dave

            There is definitely a tension between the reality that because of our societal attitudes, rape and sexual assault are rarely punished and our due process values.

            In a vacuum I would generally be against the expulsion of students for alleged criminal conduct for which there was not enough evidence to even charge the student with a crime.

            On the other hand, the decision not to charge students with sexual assault is often made int he context of a larger community that wrongly excuses sexual assault. University justice provides an opportunity for the university community to pass exercise its judgment (which is sometimes superior to the community’s when it comes to sexual assault).

            As a person whose politics lean left and who has an extremely firm belief in the importance of due process, the rights of the accused, and the rights of the convicted and imprisoned, I find these cases to be very difficult.

      • GoDeep

        Are there times where the evidence is not sufficient to convict a rapist but the school can take action against the perpetrator because it does not need to adhere to a much higher legal standard?

        Its actually the law. The DOEd has requested that schools use a much lower standard than in criminal trials. Instead of “not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”, or even “clear and convincing evidence” standard, the DOEd wants schools to use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. That amounts to a coin flip (50/50) standard.

        Its beyond me why the DOEd would want anything less than a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. We’re going to find someone guilty with less than clear and convincing evidence? Sounds Orwellian to me. Some schools are pushing back against this lowered standard, we’ll see if there’s any action here.

        • Aimai

          Since its not a criminal trial there’s no reason to expect such a high level of proof. Its an administrative choice. The school is entitled to weigh the overall right of the school not to have abusers on campus quite highly compared to the theoretical right the student has to finish out the semester or get his degree. What are the standards that are used for other infractions that a student might engage in? That might give us some guidance. What is the liklihood that a person who rapes one person on campus will reoffend? How does it compare to other forms of recidivism among, say, drug dealers or students who get drunk and destroy property?

          • GoDeep

            Reading the accounts I’ve read I don’t have much faith the system consistently delivers justice in either direction. And I don’t think anything less than a “clear and convincing” standard is justifiable. Part of the reasons schools like Occidental delivered shitty ass sentences to those found guilty (I think one Occidental student was sentenced to write a book report!!) is b/cs the schools have no reasonable basis to believe the student is actually guilty of anything. Having a higher standard of proof will help ensure serious penalties can be levied. Can you imagine if the Duke Lacrosse team or the Hofstra Five had been tried under a coin flip standard?

  • Both Sides Do It

    Related: Twenty-three Columbia students just filed complaints alleging violations of Title IX, Title II, and the Clery Act stemming from Columbia’s institutional response to sexual assault.

    There’s a whiff of sea-change regarding legal treatment of harassment / sexual assault based on grassroots action. If someone could point me toward some legal sociology work a la Scheingold or McCann that’s specific toward these issues I’d appreciate it.

  • Bloix

    A little selective editing here, you might say. From the linked article:

    “In the wake of the unrest last spring, Tom Elverson’s job was eliminated. Two other controversial deans had their responsibilities shifted, another left for a new job, and five new Title IX staffers were hired. Instead of relying on a jury of students and faculty to adjudicate sexual misconduct cases, Swarthmore has tapped a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, Jane Greenspan, to do the job. Not least, for the first time in recent school history, the college expelled students for sexual misconduct — four in all.”

    • junker

      Didn’t you recently make a big show about how awful Scott Lemieux was and how you wouldn’t sully yourself by reading his posts and commenting on them? That didn’t take long.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Nobody could have anticipated a bad faith Dramatic Exit!

      • Marek

        Regardless, you did leave out something important about “Rape Culture at Swarthmore.” Which is really just “Rape Culture Anywhere.”

      • I love the Dramatic Return!

        Bloix is no Mizner.

  • McAllen

    And then we have Brown University, which actually did find a student guilty of rape and punished him suspended him for a year, allowing him to come back before his victim graduated. Note also that because the victim appealed the suspension was in practice mor elike a semester.

  • JL

    I would love to see universities crack down on sexual assault. I really wish that current interpretations of Title IX didn’t involve most (or all) of campus being mandated reporters. Mandated reporting is a huge barrier to people who are seeking support but don’t want to make a report.

    • elm

      Aren’t counseling services and victim’s assistance programs exempt from the mandatory reporting on campus?

      • JL

        Based on my experience talking to people at different colleges, the extent of this seems to vary by college, though there’s usually at least one person in the counseling center who is exempt (in responding to disclosures workshops for college students, I teach them to know what the policies are on their campus and who that person/people are).

        • elm

          Wow. That’s highly problematic if you can’t even seek counseling services if you don’t wish to have your assault reported.

  • cpinva

    this is something that just continues to amaze me. it has never even crossed my mind to force myself on another person, and I have a difficult time understanding the mindset of someone who would. why aren’t these being reported as the criminal acts that they very obviously are? exactly what punishment is a school better able to mete out, as opposed to the local prosecutor and courts? the worst the school can do is expel the person, hardly sufficient punishment for these heinous acts.

    • Lurker

      I agree completely. It is clear that the universities in question lack both the will and the ability to investigate these heinous crimes. And even when they do investigate, they can only suspend or expulse a student. This means that either a guilty person is let off with far too little punishment or an innocent person is punished because the university lacks investigative skills and relies on hunches. These should be investigated by the police and tried in courts, not left to semi-judicial, powerless academic panels.

  • ns

    Let’s be clear what the real power dynamics are here. At most elite liberal arts colleges, men are completely at the mercy of their accusers and the administrators who, in effect, function as a star chamber. This is essentially what the 2nd circuit found in Yusuef, when they sustained his title ix claim.

    And let’s not forget the most powerful people on these campuses do not believe in due process.

    “Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of “rape.” She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. “To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don’t care a hoot about him.” Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”

    Who cares if the accused are guilty, if it fits in the world view of a critical studies phd.

    • FMguru

      Solid but not spectacular MRA concern trolling. I award this comment three out of a possible five fedoras.

      • ns

        Thanks! Always thought MRA concern-trolling was a bit out of my range.

      • T. Paine

        Too few outraged exclamation points?

      • burritoboy

        hey, let’s not smear fedoras, which in themselves are a most excellent and elegant headgear, with the vileness of MRA trolls. (now, if you want to smear baseball hats worn backwards, be my guest, that shit is awful)

        • hats

          how about 3 delinquent child support payments?

  • low-tech cyclist

    You expect crap like this at Western Mississippi State or Podunk Christian College. (Fred Clark, who blogs as Slacktivist, did a series of posts recently recounting stories of similar incidents at three evangelical colleges, including the infamous Bob Jones University.)

    But Swarthmore?? I’d expect somewhat more enlightened attitudes. If this is how it is at places like Swarthmore, it’s not likely to be a whole lot better anywhere else. How is it still like this in 2014?

    It makes me glad I don’t have a daughter. And I’ve already started making sure my son knows better than to assume a right to his friends’ bodies.

    • Origami Isopod

      Rape culture is not limited to highly conservative regions. It permeates the entire culture. Not dissimilar from structural racism in that wise.

      I am trying to recall where I have seen, in the past few days, at least one rape survivor talk about how her very liberal circle of friends disbelieved that her ex-partner had raped her and shut her out of their circle. That was hardly a unique anecdote; I personally know another survivor to whom that happened.

      • low-tech cyclist

        I know, but I’d have expected it to be the exception rather than the rule in liberal circles. I mean, this sounds like freakin’ 1974, only it’s 2014. I’d have thought we’d have moved the ball forward at least somewhat over the past 40 years.

        • Origami Isopod

          Other than LGBT rights in certain areas, most notably marriage, the ball hasn’t been moved forward very far and in many cases has been moved backwards.

          • Philip

            See also: how schools have responded to mental health/wellness issues.

        • opposite

          University administrations are not “liberal.” The Ivy League rapist is more likely to be connected than the the State U rapist and therefore seen as more problematic for the administration to deal with. Elite schools may have more resources for rape prevention and/or victims but they are also likely more adverse to dealing with the “date” rape that occurs on their campus.

          • New Name, Bros

            They are precisely liberal. They are not left.

    • Jose

      What kind of bigoted jackass are you to think that this conduct should be expected anywhere?

      • Aimai

        Is it bigoted to say that I expect it everywhere?

  • Tyler


    whether you agree or disagree, this letter from the parent of an alleged perpetrator is worthwhile reading

    somebody upthread mentioned the concept of reporting these crimes to local law enforcement – I know that is not always easy for victims but it’s the best forum for the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault crimes – the victim advocates cannot have it both ways: first they say “we must take sexual assault very seriously” – but then they don’t want local law enforcement to treat the assault as the felonious crime that it is – instead we need to rely on campus kangaroo courts run by some Ph.D. in sociology who got themselves promoted to “Dean” and these panels have no experts whatsoever. even if well-intentioned, these panel members are not equipped to handle an alleged crime with the complexity and trauma of sexaul assault – these panels are fine for allegations of plagiarism or minor nuisance offenses like underage alcohol/drug possession – as someone said upthread, there is no need to bother local police with every picayune campus offense – but if sexual assault is to be taken seriously, then the investigation and adjudication cannot be left in the hands of completely unqualified people

    the cynic in me thinks that what motivates the victims to rely on campus panels is the very low or sometimes nonexistent burden of proof – what passes as “evidence” in one of these tribunals might never reach the inside of a real courtroom – the comments from that Vassar administrator may represent a prevalent belief that these panels are more about global “social justice” than about true justice for the actual victim and alleged perpetrator

    I have two high schoolers going to college in a few years, one boy and one girl – in the unfortunate event that either one of them is in this situation, I want local law enforcement and criminal courts involved: for my daughter the alleged victim, she will have real qualified experts working on the case : police detectives, forensic investigators, prosecutors. by the same token for my son the alleged perpetrator he will have basic constitutional rights accorded to every criminal defendant – those little things like the 4th, 5th, 6th amendment – and the federal rules of evidence

    I feel for the victims of sexual assault but I think they are barking up the wrong tree when they demand stronger campus judicial panels – instead the panels need to stay in their lane and leave serious crimes to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I suppose the move by Swarthmore to hire a judge is a step in the right direction but what authority will she given to institute a rigorous investigation and adjudication system? or will she just be a figurehead whose face is used to legitimize the bankrupt existing system?

    I know some folks will jump all over me and call me naive for my “faith” in the criminal justice system. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’ll take my chances with the local prosecutor over some “professor” or “dean” who’s never investigated anything beyond some kid slipping some notes into the classroom during a test.

    • sharculese

      but I’ll take my chances with the local prosecutor over some “professor” or “dean” who’s never investigated anything beyond some kid slipping some notes into the classroom during a test.

      Because no campus official could possibly have experience with sexual assault investigations. That’s impossible.

      • ProfDamatu

        It’s also completely impossible that colleges could, in consultation with law enforcement, develop specific training for people who might sit on sexual assault disciplinary boards…indeed, my participation in just such training must have been a figment of my imagination.

        • Tyler

          I appreciate your input – people who sit on these panels need to educate the public about their credentials and training. that education effort may quell some of the complaints coming from both victim advocates and alleged perpetrators

          • ProfDamatu

            Thanks for a civil response despite my snark! It’s also worth noting that procedures vary pretty dramatically across universities; the process here is, in my opinion, much more education-oriented and focused on student rights (both accuser and accused) than what I remember being the case from, say, my undergrad or grad institutions.

          • Aimai

            Tyler, as someone who has a girl going off to college next year I think you might want to do a little investigating to grasp that the liklihood of your girl child being raped is INFINITELY larger than the chance that your boy child will be falsley accused by exactly the same kind of young woman your daughter is (i.e. a college aged woman who is in college to get a damned education). There really are enough real rapes in this world that young women don’t have to resort to false accusations to get their kicks. If you don’t suspect that your son is going to engage in forced sex with his classmates why do you assume that girls no different than your daughter are likely to raise false accusations?

            You might also want to grasp that the kinds of rapes that happen on campus, happening as they do between acquaintances, don’t always lend themselves to the kind of “law and order” style forensic investigation by your imaginary police professionals. Forensic evidence isn’t always the issue since the guy can claim it was consensual rough sex.

      • GoDeep

        Its not that its impossible, its that its not their training, background or expertise. I’d no more want a Dean investigating rape than I’d want a rent-a-cop investigating Al Qaeda. Rape is a serious crime and deserves serious resources with serious penalties in the offing. Expulsion is simply not a strong enough remedy; nor can a campus tribunal–where people may know both the accuser and the accused–realistically deliver justice. Someone convicted of rape should find themselves in a prison, not hanging out on the beach for a semester.

        • Aimai

          Expulsion is a pretty good remedy for the victim. And that may be (not is, but may be) a pretty good thing for schools to be considering.

          • GoDeep

            Victim’s consideration is important obviously, but I don’t think it carries the day. Should a rapist expelled for rape from Princeton be free to rape non-college girls in NJ? There’s a serious public safety consideration here since most rapes are committed by serial rapists. If I recall serial rapists commit like 80% of rapes. Those ppl should find themselves in a jail cell.

    • Stan Gable

      One thing to note though is that while the author’s kid went through a lot of angst over this, it’s also very likely that he would have had far more angst had this been brought as a criminal matter. As it stands, he wasn’t punished for anything – it’s not clear what was at stake in the college tribunal, but he certainly wasn’t facing jail time.

      • Origami Isopod

        Meanwhile the victim deals with the fallout for years.

      • ProfDamatu

        Of course I don’t know how it works everywhere, but my understanding is that yypically, in a sexual assault case, at most universities the accused student would probably be facing suspension (a long one, i.e., more than a semester) or possibly expulsion, depending on the facts of the case, if found responsible.

        • Aimai

          Something that people are tiptoeing around here is the way in which rape is treated as a different kind of crime from the other crimes that students typically commit–such as drinking, property damage, theft, battery on another student or faculty, plagiarism etc..etc..etc… Also, and this relates to that, the different statuses that students have w/r/t their college careers–the ownership that students (and their parents) feel for the degree the student is pursuing and the money they have paid to get it.

          From the point of view of a college as a community its really important that people who rape/assault other students be forced out before they can spread the harm any farther. But from the point of view of a college as a sports franchise, or as the seller-of-degrees-to-a-customer the right of the rapist to pay a fine/be given a pass may surpass the idea of a safe community for women to learn in. Contrary to the assumptions of (some) people upthread Deans and faculty advisors are not free to bounce students from campus or force them out because the students, even the rapists, are consumers of a valuale commodity which the college is selling.

      • GoDeep

        The repercussions could be quite serious even if no jail time obtains. Under expulsion the student might be out tens of thousands of dollars. In the case of the young man at Annapolis recently acquitted of rape he will owe the gov’t nearly $100K (he was acquitted of rape but forced out over lying to investigators–at the alleged victim’s request no less). After expulsion and with a rape on his record the alleged assailant may not be able to enroll in college.

        I don’t think the college-based system work for either accuser or accused. For the guilty expulsion is too light, for the innocent expulsion is too serious.

  • J R in WV

    Back in 1967 or so, I applied to Swarthmore, and also to Dickinson.

    Swarthmore declined my application, but Dickinson accepted me, so that’s where I went. My fall back school was WVU, but it was a very large school, and people I went to HS with would be there, some of whom I didn’t care for.

    I expect they would have been different people in some ways at the U, so maybe that would have been OK.

    Now, reading this, I’m so glad Swarthmore didn’t accept my application. Sounds like the total amount of hypocrisy there exceeds even that of Republican ministers, filled with hate for liberals!

    • Hey! That’s what happened to me!

      I did transfer from Dickinson to Wesleyan after my first year.

      (Swarthmore rejected me three times in all.)

  • I find this all to be horrible.

    My family has long-standing ties to Swarthmore and Haverford: my sister went to Swarthmore (1967-71), my brothers and I to Haverford (1970-80).

    My chief complaint about the article is that it makes such a big deal about how all this is a deviation from Swarthmore’s Quaker values. As a Quaker myself who used to visit the Swarthmore campus a lot, there was nothing at all Quaker-ish about the place. It was a big reason I didn’t go there.

    My 40th Haverford reunion is next month and quite a few of us will have pointed questions for the administration about this issue.

    And oh, as many others have pointed out upthread, of course this woman was raped.

    • Western Dave

      Haverford’s breathing a total sigh of relief that this story bumped the Haverford School/Haverford College drug bust out of the front pages of the news here in Philly.

      And, folks, as sad as it is, this represents progress. The college fired people, they overhauled stuff. The alumni are roused. etc. etc.

      But the basic problem is this: the college can’t solve the problem. Only the men on campus can solve the problem. By not raping people. It’s not hard Swatties! You can do it!

      • Nobdy

        It requires more than just “not raping people” since the vast majority of Swarthmore men are probably already not raping anyone and yet people are getting raped. Combating rape requires A) Not tolerating rapey behaviors in others (You see that guy at a party leading that super drunk girl upstairs? You separate them, make sure she is with a more sober friend, and then you tell him why it’s not okay to make the moves on someone who is that drunk) and B) Combatting rape culture. Part of that can’t be done on campus, part of it involves presentations about what constitutes rape and the like, but part of it must involve the law and the administration because there WILL be guys on campus who will try and commit rape and they MUST be caught and punished.

        When you have hundreds of men in one place some of them are going to be rapists. It’s not good, it’s not acceptable, but it’s true.

        • Marek

          Yeah, this.

  • Charlieford

    “Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’”

    OK, so, I’m old. I get that. The musty conventions of the 1960s and ’70s don’t hold anymore. My worldview is so out-dated, I can’t begin to understand how things work circa 2013.

    Back in those days, when a gal had been having sex with a guy for three months, and then has him in her room, and then gets in bed with him, those were some pretty strong signals. Even if there was a conversation about “just being friends” at some point.

    Back then, too, if the gal had said “no” at that point (or even “basically ‘no'” I suppose), that wasn’t nuthin’. A stand-up guy would’ve put his clothes on and left. Later, he might have told her, “Maybe, given our history, we shouldn’t even be very close friends for awhile. At least maybe we shouldn’t be alone in your room at bed time.”

    Back in those days, the gal might have gone to her friends and asked, “You know how me and Biff are trying to ‘just be friends’? Do you think it will complicate that agenda any if I allow him in my room at night and get in bed with him?” And her friends might have had some advice for her.

    That was then. Now, it’s different.

    But, I guess I’m wondering, do these really work, the conventions of nowadays? I mean, most of the time, if a gal gets in bed with a guy, that has no significance at all, and most of the time the guy gets that, but very rarely the guy acts out, despite the gal’s clear protestations that she basically doesn’t want to have sex with him?

    Is this what mothers tell their daughters these days? “Honey, when you’re alone with a man in your room, and if you allow him into your bed, and then if you get into your pajamas and get in bed with him, be sure to tell him whether you want to have sex or not, and if you don’t, be sure to make that clear”?

    Because, from my standpoint, I think they’re all nuts. I’m sorry. I’ve been studying and working on university campuses since the early 1970s, and on the ground, what was true then is true now: Take a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to rent a car because their frontal lobes aren’t even developed yet, throw them in a room at any hour of the night with no adult supervision, encourage them to make up their own rules about what’s appropriate and what’s not as they navigate their and others’ sexuality, add alcohol and stir, and you’re lucky if all you get is stories like the one told here.

    But, like I said, I’m old. Maybe things really do work different now.

    • Aimai

      What makes you think that he wouldn’t have raped her if she’d had a long discussion with him, they’d agreed to break up, and then she’d asked him to leave the room? Do you think he was somehow not at fault because they had been in a sexual relationship, it ended, but he went ahead and continued it? Like the prior sexual relationship meant she had given up all right to remove consent?

      Because in bed/not in bed isn’t the bright line here. I’m under an obligation not to invade another person’s body no matter how close I stand or lie with them. Your argument, btw, is no different than that made by men from highly segregated cultures about women having the temerity to use public transportation, or to expose their faces. A rapist is going to rape.

      I’ve been married for going on 19 years now–it occasionally happens that my spouse and I lie in the same bed and don’t have sex. Propinquity has nothing to do with rape–it doesn’t cause it, it doesn’t force it to happen. Rapists rape.

  • Hulloder

    You don’t have to be comfortable with casual sex.

    Clearly some actions are speaking ones to you, other observers, and many rapists.

    Please don’t, however, lose sight of the fact that if a few words ever speak louder than all preceding action, “No – get off me” would be among them.

    • Hulloder

      Whoops, I am incapable of hitting buttons. Meant to be a reply to Charlieford above.

    • Charlieford

      “Please don’t, however, lose sight of the fact that if a few words ever speak louder than all preceding action, “No – get off me” would be among them.”

      Absolutely agree.

      I’m just not going to lie to anyone and tell them they can count on that working.

      • Aimai

        No one lied to this girl EXCEPT HER BOYFRIEND.

        • Charlieford

          There’s lies of commission and lies of omission.

          If our society is failing to get the simple notion across to our young women that climbing into bed with a guy puts them in some jeopardy, and that, as much as it would be wonderful if words could save them at that point, in fact, they won’t–then yes, as a society, we’re lying to our young women.

          • Aimai

            You seem to think that a few inches or location protects women from assault. It doesn’t. Since he chose to rape her regardless of her location in the room or in his life what she did, or did not do, did not constitute a provocation or a failure on her part. I’m sorry to explain this to you but this is, in fact, the case. I’ve had to share space with strange men when I was walking back from my village in Nepal–did that encourage them to rape me? Apparently not. The only central issue here is whether there is a rapist in the room or not. The poor girl essentially DATED A RAPIST without knowing it. Thats the issue. Someone would have had to warn her about this guy three months before she started dating him.

            • Charlieford

              I see failure all over the place.

              The biggest failure was the guy’s: He didn’t stop when she said “stop” (or whatever she said), and that makes the act one of rape.

              It takes nothing from that judgment, however, to say that it’s a failure of common sense for a young woman to climb in bed with a young man and not expect that there may be some unwanted attention on the horizon.

              Now, I understand some will disagree with me. They will say, “You are undercutting your previous judgment about the young man by saying anything about the context or about anyone’s behavior other than his.”

              That’s only the case if we’re operating in a simplistic either/or view of the world.

              An analogy: There are neighborhoods near where I live where it is very unwise to walk alone at night. The chances of some kind of crime being committed against you are rather high. If I choose to so walk in that neighborhood at night, and someone does assault me or rob me, they are a criminal. I have every right to walk the streets if I’m obeying the law, and they are clearly in the wrong and breaking the law. If the police were to catch the perpetrator, I wouldn’t expect them to mitigate their efforts to see the guy prosecuted, just because I was in the neighborhood at night.

              But I also wouldn’t be shocked or offended if they also turned to me and said, “Bud, what kind of idiot are you taking a stroll in this neighborhood at night? You need to take more care.”

              And if I responded that I’d “strolled many neighborhoods before at night, and even this one before on several occasions with no trouble, and since I have a right to, I’m going to keep strolling this neighborhood at night,” I would expect them to take a very dim view of my intelligence, and my common-sense in particular.

              Now, I could come back and say, “People get robbed in their own, safe-ish, neighborhoods too–maybe this guy was coming to get me no matter where I was.” Maybe.

              Maybe our boyfriend here was going to eventually rape her, no matter what. Maybe she’s such a poor judge of character she missed the tell-tale signs of his predatory character for three months. Or maybe he’s so good at deceiving people she couldn’t have known. Maybe he was determined to attack her, no matter what, and if she had told him he ought to go, before he laid on her bed, he would have refused.

              All that’s quite possible.

              Here’s the difference between you and me, then: Despite agreeing to that, I’ll still tell any girl who asks my advice, “No, don’t climb into bed with guys you don’t want to have sex with.”

              • Ronan

                “It takes nothing from that judgment, however, to say that it’s a failure of common sense for a young woman to climb in bed with a young man and not expect that there may be some unwanted attention on the horizon.”

                I dont want to get into this (and I dont really agree with *all* that aimai has said above), but this seems to be very, very deeply wrong to me.
                It doesnt follow that sharing a bed with someone you know, and trust, and have/or had a relationship with (friendship, ex partner whatever) is logically going to extend to rape or ‘unwanted attention’. As a factual statement I think youre completely wrong, as this is something that occurs *regularly* without leading to rape.
                If I had a daughter I certainly wouldnt advise her never to crash at a male friends house, or never share a tent, (or a bed) with someone she knew and trusted. That’s absolutely insane.

                ps concentrating on this case specifically, the analogy isnt ‘walking around a dangerous neighbourhood’* but walking around a neighbourhood you know and are comfortable in.

                *i dont buy the bad neighbourhood analogy in general either, but thats not relevant.

                • Charlieford

                  “It doesnt follow that sharing a bed with someone you know, and trust, and have/or had a relationship with (friendship, ex partner whatever) is logically going to extend to rape or ‘unwanted attention’.”

                  That’s not quite what I said, is it?

                • Ronan

                  yes it does. what else does its a failure of common sense *in the context of your post* mean, then ?

                • Charlieford

                  We’re not in the realm of “logic” here, we’re in the realm of human behavior and experience. In that context, I said “and not expect that there may be some unwanted attention on the horizon.”

                  As, indeed, there was.

                • Ronan

                  there wasnt ‘unwanted attention’ here, there was rape. so yes, my summation of your comment was correct.
                  your rhetoric about ‘human behaviour’ or ‘experience’ (whose experience ?) are just soundbites, particularly considering youve accepted youre not dealing in ‘logic here’

                  but look, i dont want to get into this. i think your argument is nonsensical. let it be noted

                • Marek

                  I think you guys are talking past each other.

                • Ronan

                  marek – no, we’re not

              • Hulloder

                That’s an extremely poor analogy. This was a friend that she trusted. She was in her own room. She was not alone on a street surrounded by strangers. “Going to bed in my PJs now” should not be judged as risky behavior.

                Neighborhoods with a high violent crime rate are much more easily identified than the rapist-in-waiting behind one of your friends’ smiles.

                Walking alone on Mug-n-Rob Avenue, versus attempting to sleep in your own bed while a friend/ex is crashing there… these are just not very close to the same at all.

                • Charlieford

                  The analogy was not to compare the young man to the bad neighborhood, but to illuminate how one can be perfectly within one’s “rights,” and behaving very unwisely (or, if you prefer, stupidly) at the same time.

                  However, having known a lot of young men, and having once been one, I’m not sure that analogy would be completely off. If they’re not a bad neighborhood, per se, they’re the sort that can be very unpredictable, especially in matters of sexuality.

                  That really shouldn’t be that much of a newsflash at this late date in the race’s history.

                  But I guess that’s how we keep getting these stories from college girls saying, “But I knew him, we were friends, how could he do something like that?”

                • Aimai

                  You are so full of shit. There aren’t more stories of women who were raped by friends than there are stories of women who weren’t raped by friends–rape is frequent but not as frequent as perfectly harmless interactions between the sexes. So girls in college aren’t being led astray by whatever fantasy parent/friend you imagine telling them “nothing bad ever happens to girls in college.” On the contrary people have been warning women not to have friends, go out, stay in, dress well, dress badly, study with other people, study alone for fucking ever–they were telling me the same thing in college 30 years ago. People get raped and assaulted by friends and strangers–nothing that the individual woman does can prevent that.

                  I’m aghast and disgusted that you think so poorly of men that you assume that each and every one of them will rape if given the slightest opportunity. That has not been my experience of men at all. Yes: people have sexual desires. No: nothing excuses putting sexual desire over the desire of the person next to you and raping them. That line is actually incredibly clear.

                • Hulloder


                  I don’t believe men are unpredictable to the extent that they all possess some rape event horizon, where under the wrong circumstances they will set about raping because no explicit rejection beyond that point will stop them.

                  To take sex out of it, when I served in a bar I kept my tips in an unlocked drawer. If my roommate steals the money, that doesn’t make my behavior dumb or risky; that doesn’t make all males helpless to the lure of unguarded cash; that makes my roomie a thief.

                • Charlieford

                  “I’m aghast and disgusted that you think so poorly of men that you assume that each and every one of them will rape if given the slightest opportunity.”

                  Again, that’s not exactly what I said.

                  But, moving on, just a few more statistics for you, then:

                  “95 percent of attacks are unreported, making sexual assault the “silent epidemic.” Sexual assault remains the most drastically underreported crime.

                  “48.8% of college women who were victims of attacks that met the study’s definition of rape did not consider what happened to them rape.

                  “43 percent of college-aged men conceded to using coercive behavior to have sex (including ignoring a woman’s protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse) but did not admit that it was rape.”

                • Aimai

                  Uh…please don’t lecture me about the rape statistics–as an adult woman in this society I’m well aware of them. But they don’t say what you want them to say–they say what I am arguing which is that better rape prevention training for the large percentage of males who volunteer that they have raped someone but “don’t call it rape” would be a very effective way of making colleges safer for female students. But also what Hollodor said upthread: there is no “rape event horizon” that men fall into by accident. That’s why we are talking about changing rape culture.

                • Charlieford

                  As I’ve said several times, these young men are culpable for their actions, and my own inclination (were I the responsible administrator) would be to come down on them extremely harshly.

                  And nothing I’ve said is incompatible with having very sharply drawn rules about what a college will tolerate and what it won’t.

                  Nor is it inherently incompatible with “better rape prevention training,” whatever that might be.

                  But show me the law or rule that isn’t broken, and regularly, and I’ll believe your “training” will constitute “a very effective way of making colleges safer for female students.”

                  I’m not saying don’t do it. Give it your best shot. Let’s see what happens.

                  Meantime, until this little experiment in psycho-biological-engineering gets up and running effectively, I’m telling young women not to rely on it.

                  If 43% are *admitting* to coercing women into sex, this will be no small task.

                  If our attempts to improve the numbers on something like “critical thinking” over the past decades are at all indicative of how it will go, well, I’m holding on to my bets.

                • Michael


                  I’m aghast and disgusted that you think so poorly of men that you assume that each and every one of them will rape if given the slightest opportunity.

                  Maybe it takes a man to have a sufficiently low opinion of men, but I don’t think it’s overly misanthropic to acknowledge that
                  1. some men will indeed rape given the opportunity;
                  2. the percentage is higher than we might hope, and includes many a man who might not give indication of that propensity before or after;
                  3. the likelihood of any individual man to rape does vary based on hormone cycles, drugs/alcohol, and, yes, ease of opportunity;
                  4. Per Charlieford’s frontal lobe comment above, undergraduate males are not necessarily “men” in a maturity, perceptiveness or self-control (not even accounting for rape-acculturation)

                  None of this makes what happened to Ms. Sendrow not rape, or makes her in any way at fault. It merely counsels that young women be aware that young men are often (not always) untrustworthy.

                • Charlieford

                  I would go perhaps a little further than Michael, and assert–no doubt controversially–that it’s a mistake to assume that a man is always either a rapist, or not.

                  By that, I’m not saying that a man who rapes isn’t, legally, a rapist–he is. But he may not necessarily be a rapist in a robust ontological sense. That is to say, many men–heck, people for that matter–will act “out of character” given the right circumstances.

                  That doesn’t mean he isn’t responsible. He is. But our legal system takes into account whether someone shows remorse or contrition for their crimes for a reason: Because it recognizes that criminality can be a matter of degrees.

                  All women should familiarize themselves with the sexual escapades of John F. Kennedy. JFK was without remorse. He was a dedicated predator. (His kind may be few, but few is more than enough.)

                  More urgently, they should at least entertain the possibility that, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, there’s probably at least a little of Jack Kennedy in all of us.

  • Aimai

    Charlieford raises this “what do mother’s tell children these days” and that hits very close to home, for me, since my oldest daughter goes off to (probably) Columbia next year. I absolutely have to have a talk with her about the dangers of living “en famille” in a dorm with people who do not have her best interests at heart–about not mistaking the camaraderie of dorm and college life for safety. I plan on giving her Gavin deBecker’s book “The Gift of Fear” to encourage her to trust her instincts and to be bold in moving agressively to prevent herself from being targeted by predators. But all that being said on a political, structural, level I reject the notion that rape happens in mixed sex groups because of something girls like my daughter do to bring it on themselves.

    The boys she goes to school with are solely responsible for their own behavior at all times, regardless of what they (or society) thinks of as temptation. I absolutely reject the notion that boys are entitled to sex because female bodies are present in the same way I (and the college) would reject the notion that people are entitled to take what they want so long as no armed guards are present. I raised a great human being who would no more hurt another person than she would strangle a kitten. Is it so much to ask that the parents of the boys she will be at school with take the same damned attitude and work harder to raise human beings and not predators? Or that the school take a more pro-active stance in educating all their students in how not to be a rapist?

    • Charlieford

      I absolutely agree with all that. I also agree with those who say we’re nowhere’s near that world yet.

      And, in fact, you can put me in the camp of those who have come to believe we’ll never get there.

      Some percentage of guys will ignore the rules, or define them for themselves, or just let their pelvis run the show for awhile. Just as some percentage of people will steal when no guards are present, text while driving, and murder if they feel like it.

      Does this statistical reality exonerate the individuals? Not at all. Punish away, I say.

      Just don’t expect the world to shape up into a place that’s safe for your (or my) daughters.

      My daughter’s a senior, and already knows these things. But if I were having a heart-to-heart on the matter, I’d share some statistics with her.

      From the Sarah Lawrence page:

      “At least 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career.

      “At least 80% of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.

      “On average, at least 50% of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.”

      I might even print those out and recommend she paste them to her mirror.

      And here’s one I didn’t know, but that I might be tempted to request she memorize:

      “In a survey of high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys [some of whom may be incoming college freshmen] believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances.”


      • Aimai

        The point here which you seem to have missed is that any girl can be raped any time by any man who chooses to do so, regardless of her prior aquaintance with her. So lecturing her about being “more suspicious” doesn’t change anything. The majority of boys with whom you will interact in college, including your boyfriends and study buddies, will not rape you and treating them as proto rapists and refusing (for example) to study alone with them or go out with them to see if you want to date them will not be dangerous. And, in fact, treating your potential study/lab/dating partners all as rapists in waiting would be incredibly damaging to your educational experience.

        This returns us to the problem of what to do to make colleges safer environments for all their members (students and faculty and staff). The only proven strategy is to make what you seem to think are “borderline” cases (i.e. rapes of opportunity or miscommunication or drunken selfishness or whatever you like to think they are) less likely to happen by educating all the male students about how manage being out and about as adults near other persons. Like: we might want to teach them how to handle disapointment, lack of sexual partners, thwarted desire, a tendency towards theft and abuse.

        • Aimai

          Sorry: should read “his prior relationship with her.”

      • MaximumMary

        But you are still placing the burden of solving the problem on women and their behavior, which also means that you are excluding from discussion solutions to the rape crisis.

        There was a great article in the NYTimes recently on Girls Courts, which have been set up in California to deal with trafficked teens and underage girls who enter the criminal justice system but are actually victims not criminals.

        I thought this quote from a public defender in the program was applicable to the problem our whole justice system has with crimes against women: ““the risk for boys comes from people who dislike them: the police, their peers or a rival gang.” In contrast, she said, “For girls, the violence in their lives comes from relationships — the person to whom she’s saying, ‘I love you.’ ”

        And that is the crux of the issue. The system is set up for a masculine dynamic, that there is a victim and perpetrator who are at some level enemies. It is not set up for crimes where the perpetrator is a predator who betrays the trust of someone who does not consider them a threat. It really is amazing to think of how much social pressure goes into making women to be appealing to men and not treat them as a threat. As well as the loud refusal to even entertain the thought that men who aren’t obvious evil raving monsters can and do rape women.

        Again, the greatest danger of violence for women comes in relationships. If we exclude from prosecution men who are violent within relationships, we are denying women justice. And women are refusing to continue to accept this status quo.

    • edi212

      It can work! I’ve never seen my mother more upset at my then teenage brother when she found notes in a yearbook saying awful demeaning predatory things about some girls in his class. And I’ve never seen him more hurt than when she thought he wrote them. Because she did raise a son who respects women as human beings and who believes that hurting other human beings is wrong.

  • Western Dave

    Without meaning to upset you too much, here’s what’s happened at Columbia recently. http://www.columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2014/04/17/university-needs-focus-individuals-not-policy

    Anonymous, the author of that piece, contacted me after I wrote this piece, which she read after it was facebook shared to her.

    • Western Dave

      Sorry, didn’t finish. Meant to say, Anonymous contacted me after reading my piece on The Fantastiks and rape culture. It prompted her to write the piece in the Columbia spectator I linked to. Like Michaela Cross at the University at Chicago, the women at Swarthmore, the woman at Harvard who wrote the Crimson piece, Anonymous is as frustrated by the college’s inability to provide proper mental health services to victims. a theme we’ve lost in this thread.

  • ajay

    Not an easy case to prosecute.

    –So, when he started to remove your clothes, what did you do?
    I told him to stop.
    –And what did he do?
    He stopped.
    –Did you ask him to leave your room?
    –Did you ask him to leave your bed?
    –And, some time later, did he start to remove your clothes again?
    –And did you tell him verbally to stop that second time?
    –Did you do anything non-verbal to get him to stop?
    –Did you make any gestures indicating that you did not consent?
    –Did you try to push him away or resist him in any way?

    • Hulloder

      All the same I would like to believe as a society we are all agreed “No – I don’t want to have sex with you” is not an invitation to re-initiate advances at 15 minute intervals until resistance is exhausted in the tired/drunk/passive among us.

      • Happens all the time

        ” is not an invitation to re-initiate advances at 15 minute intervals ”

        Interesting angle there.

        Does “NO” expire?

        What if they had fallen asleep and he had re-initiated advances that morning?

        Under the (otherwise) exact same facts, does a failure to, uh, “revive the no” mean it expired?

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