When I lived in Kuwait and Qatar, I was appalled by the way rapes were treated, it was like this huge wave of abductions and violations, and nothing was done. As it turns out, things are changing a lot slower in my own country than I thought. This new film, The Hunting Ground, is by the same person who documented violence and rape in the US military, spurring then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a truly decent man, to put the fear of God into the military leaders who were covering up the many rapes and blaming the victims. We have the same problem on college campuses.
There is only one cure. We have to raise our sons to respect women. We have to continue raising the bar for equality in our country until women have equal access to jobs, health treatment, legal proceedings, etc. Films like The Hunting Ground are painful, and at the same time, help us to face, and to overcome our societal short comings.
I love it that this film is “giving voice to those who have no voices;” that these courageous women speaking out have bravely named their rapists and described their circumstances. It can’t be comfortable, but it is their right. I am proud that they are not intimidated by fear of the ‘blame the victim’ mentality they have endured on their college campuses. When did colleges and universities begin placing money-making and winning teams before the well-being of their students?
New film gives chilling account of sexual assault on college campuses
Sexual assaults on college campuses have reached alarming levels and the issue has drawn the attention of Congress and even President Obama himself. The latest research indicates that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted and as many as 90% of reported assaults are acquaintance rapes. It is believed that more than 100,000 college students will be sexually assaulted during the current school year. Nowhere is the deck stacked more against sexual assault victims than in college athletics. In just the last few years alone there have been cases at Florida State, Michigan, Oregon, Vanderbilt andMissouri.
All of this is a backdrop to a harrowing new film that premiers in theaters on Friday in New York City and Los Angeles. The Hunting Ground is a jarring exposé that shines a bright light on the epidemic number of sexual assaults taking place on college campuses each year.
The Hunting Ground features a group of survivors who faced harsh retaliation and harassment for reporting that they had been raped. The film focuses on institutional cover-ups and the brutal backlash against survivors at campuses such as Harvard, Yale,Dartmouth, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USC and the University ofCalifornia-Berkeley, among others.
Some of the most vexing stories featured in the film involve women who were assaulted by athletes. While The Hunting Ground isn’t all about sports, the most dramatic moment in the film occurs two-thirds of the way through when the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston—who after a strong showing in last week’s Combine is projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in this spring’s NFL draft—appears and tells her story publicly for the first time. The woman, who is named in the film but SI.com has chosen to protect her identity, is shown on camera and gives her life-changing account of what she says happened the night in December 2012 she left a Tallahassee bar with Winston.
A high school honor student who planned to attend medical school, the woman is articulate and attractive. She looks like the girl next door, a person you would trust to babysit your children. It is uncomfortable to watch—yet impossible to look away—when she describes being beneath Winston on his bathroom floor, repeatedly telling him “no” before being physically overpowered.
“We’re grateful it’s the first time people will get to hear [her] story,” said The Hunting Ground director Kirby Dick. “It’s her first-hand testimony. Up to this point it hasn’t been in a public space.”
The woman’s parents also appear in the film. Her father talks about driving to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with his wife to be with their daughter hours after the incident.
There is nothing easy about retelling these stories for the world to see. But the attorney for the woman who says she was raped by Winston, John Clune, said his client decided to break her silence in the film because she felt it was the right venue to tell her story.
“The film was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Clune said. “The work by these filmmakers is nothing less than groundbreaking. It took tremendous courage, but our client and all of the incredibly brave women in the film have advanced the cause of rape survivors everywhere.”
The Hunting Ground also examines a sexual assault accusation against a Notre Damefootball player in 2010. Tom Seeberg, whose daughter committed suicide after she says she was sexually assaulted by a Fighting Irish starter, tells a heartbreaking account of school officials thwarting the investigation into his daughter’s complaint. A former Notre Dame police officer reveals that he and his colleagues were not allowed to approach or question an athlete on athletic properties.
The film also mentions rape cases involving football players at Missouri and Vanderbilt, as well as basketball players at Oregon.
The testimonials of rape survivors are wrapped between raw footage that is both gut-wrenching and disturbing. A small mob of unruly fraternity pledges at Yale are captured on film outside a freshman dorm for women, chanting: “No means yes. Yes means anal.” All the while a guy with a bullhorn is shouting: “Louder.”
In another scene we see drunken frat boys spilling out of a house where there is a sign out front that says: “THANKS FOR YOUR DAUGHTERS.” It’s enough to outrage any parent with a daughter heading off to college.
The film is directed by Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the team behind the Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War, which revealed systemic sexual assaults and cover-ups within the U.S. military. That movie prompted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to announce significant policy changes and inspired the passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act.
Dick and Ziering started looking into the situation on college campuses shortly after the release of The Invisible War. “We were astonished that the problem was as serious in higher education as it was in the military,” Dick said.
Full disclosure: I appear in The Hunting Ground as an expert. Two of the cases in the film—Lizzy Seeberg’s alleged assault at Notre Dame and running back Derrick Washington’s sexual assault of a student at the University of Missouri—are featured in my book The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, which I wrote with 60 Minutes correspondent Armen Keteyian.
Some of my research is also featured in the film, including the statistic that student-athletes are responsible for 19% of the reported sexual assaults on campus, despite the fact that they comprise just 3.3% of the male student population. Those figures arose from a first-of-its-kind study I conducted with researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the mid-90s when we were granted access to judicial affairs records and police reports at colleges across the country.
Over the past 20 years I have researched hundreds of cases of sexual assault involving athletes. During that time I’ve interviewed countless sexual assault victims. The thing I found most telling was what prosecutor Willie Meggs did not say in the film. Meggs was asked if he thought a rape took place in Winston’s apartment. It was a perfect opportunity for the man who chose not to prosecute Winston to say no. Instead, he said something “bad” happened in that apartment that night. He just didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove it.
That’s not unusual. That’s typical. Only about 20% of rapes reported to the police in the U.S. are prosecuted. Yet at least 92% of reported sexual assault claims are found to be true. The problem is that date rape cases are very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when alcohol is involved and the incident occurs in the perpetrator’s apartment, dorm or hotel room. The doubts raised by those factors are amplified when the accused is a star athlete.
The greatest achievement of The Hunting Ground is that it empowers rape victims to team up with each other and come forward. It’s fair to say that for the first time in many years, women like Jameis Winston’s alleged victim have powerful allies.
By the time the NFL draft takes place in May, the film will be in theaters around the country, the name of Winston’s accuser will be everywhere and more details about the night in question will likely come out. All of this brings to mind the legal maxim caveat emptor, which essentially is a warning that means let the buyer beware.
Jason Licht, the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ultimately has to decide whether to use the first pick on Winston. He’s on record saying: “This is the most important pick, potentially, in the history of the franchise.”
Memo to Licht: Watch The Hunting Ground.
The ramifications in this instance are equally big for the NFL, whose image took a beating over the last year after Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking out his then-fiancé in an elevator. The controversy erupted after Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed a two-game suspension without bothering to obtain and watch the video.
Memo to the Commissioner: Watch The Hunting Ground.
No matter what happens with Winston, the film succeeds in its main goal: to shine a light on sexual assault on college campuses. It’s an important issue that isn’t going away, and if something drastic isn’t done immediately, it will only get worse.
Jeff Benedict is a lawyer and has written five books on athletes and violence against women, including Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Violence Against Women, and Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA’s Culture of Rape, Violence and Crime.
We’ve talked about the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant in Atlanta ever since we found it several years ago. We know just how to get there, so we wait for Atlanta going-home traffic to die down. Atlanta is an hour ahead of Pensacola, so we have time before we get hungry.
It is so cold, and the cold results in a sharp, clear night in Atlanta. All the buildings are beautifully lit; Atlanta looks beautiful at night. We successfully navigate from freeway to freeway and miss our exit, but when we take the next exit – at Emory university – there are all the ethnic restaurants in the world, including the Trip Advisor #1 rated Ethiopian restaurant, Desta, which we briefly consider and then head on to the Queen of Sheba, just minutes down the road.
It is still there, in a shabby looking strip mall next to the Target, between the halal meat shop and the dusty looking shop that sells international plugs and wiring.
We order our favorite, the Vegetarian Injera, and we also order a Tilapia.
Every taste on this Veg plate is different from the other. It is a fabulous dish, enough for two, filling, but also satisfying because of all the tastes. While I don’t normally care about tilapia, the Tilapia below was the best I have ever eaten, crispy and perfectly cooked. You pull the fish off the bone with pieces of injera (the pancake on which you can see the veg dishes) or even with your bare fingers. It was all as delicious as we remembered.
We have so many wonderful restaurants in Pensacola, but no Ethiopian restaurants. The closest is in New Orleans. We know we will be coming back again to the Queen of Sheba.
Sometimes, on the road, you just have to hope you’re going to be lucky. We weren’t hungry until we got near Auburn, but Auburn is a college town, and college towns, in our experience, usually have a lot of good places to eat.
Very near to the highway, we found Jim and Nick’s BBQ, which I didn’t know was a chain, but it seems to be a regional chain.
First good sign – fabulous smells as soon as we drive up. We can’t wait to get inside; it is freezing, below freezing, it is really, REALLY cold.
The inside is warm and cozy, all woody and country and full of divine smells and we can see great food coming from the kitchen. We have a great server, who guides us through some of our choices.
Their hot sauces are GOOD. Really good!
We both choose Pig On a Bun. It is a pulled pork sandwich with two sides. Our server tells us to order it Memphis style, which has cole slaw on top. We do. It is fabulous.
AdventureMan ordered his with baked beans and potato salad.
I don’t normally stop at chains, but this one was conspicuously high quality. We’d eat there again in a heartbeat.
The Sunday before Lent started, we were eating our early breakfast at the Shiny Diner when two parties came in. The first was a morning-after-the-wedding party, they grabbed one of the high tops that seat eight and more and more dragged in, and then the bride and groom arrived, still glowing from their wedding the day before.
As they were seated, another party came in, this party all in their pajamas, even the Mom! It was a morning-after-the-pajama-party party, and their fun was still continuing.
Pensacola: Party City!
In the category of ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’ is the fact that hundreds, thousands of rape kits have gone untested in police departments all over the United States. Too expensive, or so they say, to process them all, but the force of public opinion is relentless, and the result is that some of these kits are finally producing results and convictions that, at long last, give the rape victims some satisfaction.
I worked with one of the very first Rape Crisis Lines, back in the beginning when it was all new, in, of course, California. We worked with the victims, but we also worked with emergency workers and with police. It was a team. Most of the police I worked with were merciful and compassionate, but there are other places where the police culture is harsh, and rape victims are not well-treated. There are still those people who believe that somehow a victim asked for it in some way.
I learned some surprising things as I worked with the victims. I learned how strong and how smart victims (they’re not all women) can be. They did what they had to do to stay alive, and they memorized everything they could to be able to tell the police. Many made it a point to leave DNA in the car, or to save the rapist’s DNA. It was less about the physical violation than finding oneself in a position of utter powerlessness, and not knowing if you were going to survive. I didn’t pity the victims; I admired their courage and resilience.
JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Evidence from more than 6,600 rape kits that went untested for years in Houston have turned up 850 hits in the FBI’s nationwide database of DNA profiles, marking a major step in the city’s $6 million effort to address the backlog, officials announced Monday.
Charges have been filed against 29 people, six of whom have been convicted, since the city launched an effort in 2013 to test 6,663 rape kits — some of which dated back nearly three decades. Testing was completed in the fall, and the results have now been uploaded to a database used by investigators nationwide to compare DNA profiles of possible suspects, Mayor Annise Parker said.
“This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases are receiving the attention they should have years ago,” Parker said at a news conference, where she joined local law enforcement officials to announce the results.
Police are continuing to review the matches to see if charges can be filed in other cases. In the cases where prosecutors have won convictions, defendants have received sentences ranging from 2 to 45 years in prison. One case was dismissed after the victim decided not to pursue the case.
Rape kits include biological samples and physical evidence gathered from sexual assault victims that are later processed to see if they match a suspect’s DNA. Testing results are uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said there were some cases where suspects committed other crimes while rape kits that could have identified them sat untested.
“Now that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it’s up to us to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims. The ball is in our court and we will do our best to put the people who are responsible for these heinous crimes behind bars for as long as possible,” she said.
Experts say Houston’s backlog — and similar backlogs in other U.S. cities — are due in part to the high cost of testing which can run from $500 to $1,000 per kit, though advocates argue that the lack of testing signals that sex crimes haven’t always been law enforcement priorities.
More than 12,000 kits went untested for years in Memphis, Tennessee, which is facing a lawsuit from rape victims as it tries to test the kits. In Detroit, prosecutors discovered more than 11,000 rape kits in an abandoned police warehouse in 2009, and Cleveland prosecutors have sent their entire 4,700-kit backlog for testing.
“This is not a Houston problem. It’s not a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide issue that built up over years and years,” Parker said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/juanlozano70
We really needed to visit Atlanta; old friends opened a restaurant and we wanted to encourage and applaud their dream come true. When we chose the dates, we didn’t realize it was going to be the coldest days in Atlanta – ever.
As we arrived, I said “Is that what I think it is?” and AdventureMan said “I think it’s from some factory, or blowing off some truck.”
No. No, AdventureMan, you don’t know snow. This was flurry. It’s too tiny to be sleet, it’s just flurry, but I’m really glad we are getting to our hotel quickly. Fortunately for us, the entire very cold time we were there, during their record-breaking cold, it was too cold to snow. We escaped as the temperatures started rising to return to Pensacola.
After we had lunch at 7 Spices (see below) in Mobile, we decided to take a Spring drive – yes, yes, it is spring now and then in FloraBama – and we head down to a place we love, Fairhope, AL, and then through Foley, AL to get to the beach road coming back in through Perdido Key. This route takes us right past a blast-from-the-past, an ice cream parlor so old timey it’s hard to believe it still exists.
Stacey’s Fountain is along highway 98 coming into Foley from Fairhope:
Here is the menu. The sandwiches and the sundaes are old fashioned, in small containers, not all super-sized like today. We each had an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and felt like we hadn’t hurt ourselves too badly.
There is a lot to be said for advertising. As we watch the local news at night, we switch to Mobile after the Pensacola news is finished. Mobile has a town nearby called Pritchard, and we always love to hear what has happened in Pritchard – mysterious murders, drug overdoses, family incest – it’s all there, right in Pritchard.
Between stories are the Mobile ads, and some are hilarious. One, however, for 7 Spice Grocery and Grill caught my eye. They show shelves and shelves of Middle Eastern goods, and mention a restaurant, too.
Time for a field trip to Mobile!
7 Spice Grocery and Grill (FaceBook page)
3762 Airport Blvd, Mobile, AL 36608
This is what 7 Spice looks like from the roadside:
The smells are divine. The smells coming from the kitchen are fresh meat being grilled, lamb, chicken, beef.
And we know we are at home. If you have read Walking Old Damascus, you will know we have loved traveling in Syria, and have loved Damascus for 35 – almost 40 years. Near our table is a hanging of the Roman Arch on The Street Called Straight; the last time we stayed in Damascus, at The Talisman, we stayed near this landmark, near Bab Thoma.
I ordered the appetizer plate; hummous, felafel, tabouli, baba ghannoush, little meat pies, stuffed grape leaves, and olives. Also a wonderful garlic aioli to dip into. AdventureMan shared some chicken with me, and I shared all these delicious tastes with him. They use a really good olive oil; it makes all the difference.
As we roll ourselves out of the restaurant, carrying more than enough for our evening meal, we have to walk past all the shelves in the grocery to get to our car. The prices are very reasonable and there are things I really need, like a whole bag of dried mint (have you ever tried making Middle Eastern food without dried mint? you need a LOT!) and chana dal, wonderful legumes, fig preserves, all kinds of little charcoals for braziers and big bags of henna . . .
There are wonderful Middle East restaurants also in Pensacola, but none like this. Worth a drive to Mobile to find this truly excellent restaurant on Airport Boulevard in Mobile.
Last week, we were in Atlanta, and stayed near a small town called Smyrna. We wondered several times where ancient Smyrna was, guessing Greece or Turkey. We were both right.
Today, the church remembers Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna. It is timely. There is a saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same (“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – Alphonse Kerr) – and today, too, we are seeing people killed for what they believe, when they do not fall into step with the specific style of belief of the crowd. Oh, the things we do in God’s name!
The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers
Today the church remembers Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna, 156.
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in what is now called Turkey, did not seek martyrdom and did not encourage others to do so. When persecution broke out, Polycarp made every honorable effort to protect his flock and himself. He even hid in the country but, eventually, the authorities found him.Since Christians worshiped Jesus Christ, an “unauthorized god,” and since they refused to worship the Roman gods or the “Divine Caesar,” they were considered atheists and subversives.