Thursday, April 24, 2014

Let's Just Keep It To Ourselves

Salon's Katie McDonough is very unhappy.  Brown University student Lena Sclove, the victim of sexual violence by a man she reportedly had considered a friend, states that she expects either to transfer from the University or take two years off until her assailant graduates.McDonough says Sclove

like so many other survivors of sexual violence, knew her assailant. After she reported the assault, the university conducted a board hearing and found him responsible for sexual assault and the use of physical force. The board recommended a two-year suspension, but Brown’s senior associate dean of student life  J. Allen Ward reduced the sentence to a single year. Sclove appealed the decision, which allowed her assailant to remain on campus pending the final decision. As Kingkade notes, Sclove’s assailant didn’t officially leave the school until Thanksgiving. The only full semester he was suspended and off campus was Spring 2014. He will be free to reenroll in the fall. This was his punishment for raping and choking a fellow student.

It is difficult to believe a student could have committed these offenses if his only punishment was to be suspended, and stay away from the school, for a period of effectively less than one year.  In the Huffington Post piece to which McDonough linked, Tyler Kingkade writes that Sclove "reported the assault" within two weeks and on October 11 the fellow was "found responsible" for four offenses.  Brown found him responsible for, as the college termed it, actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical force and injury; sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature; sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force, or injury; illegal possession or use of drugs and/or alcohol and/or drug paraphernalia.

Kingkade leaves out a lot of facts- which perhaps are being kept confidential, though he doesn't tell us. With much left unstated, the fourth offense may have been of either an aggravating or mitigating nature, unknowable because we don't know what transpired nor even what drugs (alcohol being a drug) were involved.

The second offense, involving "non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature," may have been as minor as contact with certain parts of a woman's body.  The first offense, in which the young man engaged in behavior which he would expect to result in physical harm, probably was significant, though it's rather cryptic and thus uncertain.. But...  "sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force, or injury?"

Pardon the speculation, but that sounds an awful lot like what we used to call-  in the days before we adopted exquisitely sensitive language- "rape."  And if it rape, what is this "reported the assault" about? Reference to "assault" is appropriate, given that it is a fine generic term summarizing what we know the individual committed.  But... "reported?"

To whom or what did Ms. Sclove report this violent, alleged (as it was at that time) attack? Kingkade addresses the lax policies of several Ivy League schools in dealing with sexual violence, specifying Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth- and Columbia University, which won't even release statistics pertaining to what, in the rest of society, is called a "crime."

In what appears to be a problem going far beyond The Huffington Post or Slate, few if any seem to be asking: why not the police?  We already knew about the Roman Catholic Church and Penn State University, two institutions which largely turned a blind eye toward sexual predator(s) in their midst. The Roman Catholic Church may have believed it was beyond the law, representing a religion, adherents believe, has been ordained by God as "the one true church" (and whose leader is a head of state). With Penn State- well, you know- football.  It is disturbing that universities, without motive to protect a sports program (which justifies everything) treats violent crime in an apparently cavalier(not Virginia Cavaliers) fashion.

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