It’s so, so frustrating to have
reported to the school, been let down
by the school, brought it to the
federal government and then get let
down by the federal government.
Alexandra Brodsky, to Huffington Post
In some cases, rapists receive no more than a “written reprimand” about their behavior. Yale University’s recent report on sexual violence might suggest that petty theft is a greater crime than violence against women.
I recently received a very neutral e-mail from the University Title IX Coordinator, in which she included a link to the fourth semi-annual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct. Because I have concerned myself with women’s safety and equality since these terms became available to me, I was not entirely surprised by the lack of seriousness evident in the descriptions of the many complaints listed in the “report.”
Both The Huffington Post and The New Haven Register precede me in presenting articles that criticize the diplomatic and ineffective term “nonconsensual sex,” repeated throughout the document. This term symbolizes what appears to be an attempt to make vague and illegitimate the complaints of the few women who have spoken up about sexual violence. Anyone who has ever considered the problem knows that the vast majority of women who experience sexual harassment and assault do not report it. This is often due to a combination of self-blaming and active hostility on the part of the authorities who are responsible for investigating and prosecuting sex crimes (For instance, I once spoke to a Philadelphia police officer who said he liked to “get to the women before the rape advocates did,” suggesting that women fabricated rape complaints, especially after talking with one another).
If we take for granted that most sexual violence goes unreported, we should be even more alarmed by the acts reported below, and the fact that they are met with disciplinary actions so slight as to be laughable to both the respondents and to outside parties like myself.
Here are a few highlights from the report: (And below I list articles detailing the 2011 Title IX complaint)
It is clear that fines will not deter Yale from sustaining itself despite this utter lack of concern for half of the student body (See Huffington Post link above regarding the fines of $155,000 this year). It should also be clear that a man who rapes and harasses women commits a crime that is neither tolerable nor forgivable. He does not deserve to keep a position at an ivy league university, a position that could instead go to any number of capable, non-violent, respectful individuals. The priority in addressing his behavior must not be (as it often is, even in the recent national harassment cases we have seen involving mayors and potential mayors) “counseling” or “gender sensitivity training.”* This is not a “sensitivity” issue. This is about violent crimes against women that are directly related to both their ability to obtain a quality education and their human rights in general.
In the meantime, I can attest to the fact that concerned female students will feel it is their duty to write articles such as this one, putting aside for at least a period of time their own academic interests and writing (or, perhaps their grocery shopping at the very least). It is unthinkable that women who endure sexual violence must continue to attend classes and frequent the same libraries and dining halls as their assailants. That these women manage to succeed, as they must, is to no credit to the university.
*On the issue of seeing the rapist as the victim, I suggest Barbara Johnson’s essay “Muteness Envy.” In it she combines an exploration of the trope of women’s silence throughout the English poetic tradition. Beginning with Keats, Johnson moves into an analysis of Jane Campion’s film The Piano and public reactions to it. She ends with a discussion of “Take Back the Night” ceremonies and our culture’s general ability to conflate women’s pain and pleasure, men’s aggression with their victimhood. The concluding paragraph can give you a sense:
Alexandra Brodsky’s Protests and Efforts After Being Asked by Yale Authorities to Cover Up an Attempted Rape by Another Yale Student