It has the elements of so many sexual assault allegations before it: fraternity members, a lot of alcohol, football players, freshman girls. And like too many other stories about sexual assault, this one also includes a university that failed a sexual assault victim and allowed campus rapists to get off scot-free.
This weekend, The New York Times published a gut-punch of a piece (on their front page, in fact) about a young woman called Anna who is a student at Hobart & William Smith, a college in upstate New York. During her first few weeks of college, Anna was sexually assaulted while drunk by several football players on the night of a frat party. After Anna sent texts that she was afraid, a friend found her drunkenly bent over a pool table, face down, surrounded by six or seven football players, including one right behind her who had his pants down. Keep reading »
I haven’t been following the Australian swimming community’s sexual abuse scandal. I only feel like I have been. That’s because these sorts of heartbreaking stories are so goddamned familiar: a coach is accused of sexually abusing the young charges under his tutelage and with whom he has shared lots of private time, often far from home.
In Australia’s case, several coaches were accused of sexual abuse of both male and female swimmers between the ages of 11 and 16. One coach is Scott Volkers, who is accused of child sexual abuse by three now-adult women. Volkers is accused, among other things, of rubbing the genitalia of a 13-year-old girl and groping the girls’ breasts; he has long claimed his innocence. Charges were dropped against Volkers in 2002 because accusations could not be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Two years later, in 2004, prosecutor Margaret Cunneen advised against recharging him.
Currently, Australia is holding an investigation (called a “royal commission”) focusing on the country’s institutional response, including whether Cunneen’s advice not to recharge him was appropriate. At the time, Cunneen showed skepticism that the abuse could be prosecuted. Which, as a lawyer, is her job to prove. However, what Cunneen said about it all was pretty offensive to these victims. Cunneen said it could all be seen as “trivial … almost fanciful” and it would be difficult to prosecute Volkers for molestation because his victim may not have developed breasts yet. “It is legitimate to consider whether 12-year-old swimmers even had breasts,” she said. Keep reading »
When my feminist friends and I began our communal Facebook message thread, we envisioned a no-holds-barred place to discuss careers, gender politics, and the gospel of Beyoncé. But ever since soccer season took the Internet by storm, our only mentions of “Flawless” have concerned abs. In the past week alone, my “progressive” peers and I shared 10 “World Cup Hottie” listicles, 18 winky faces, and too many Netherlands-based puns to count.
As over-the-top as our behavior was, we were never ashamed. There was an implicit empowerment to our objectification, like a hard-earned reward for eons of inequality. Even when I read our conversation (and watched a video of Ronaldo slow-motion jogging) in a very public, very crowded coffee shop, I didn’t bother to turn down my laptop brightness. If anyone saw my screen, I trusted they would be impressed: I wasn’t some creepy guy browsing Google images of Megan Fox — I was a proud woman, flaunting the sex drive to which I was entitled! Keep reading »