Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Anarchic Environment: Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

By Allen R. Gray
NDG Special Contributor

 

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but far too often I was made to see things through adult eyes. There have been unruly worlds in the past—the lands ruled by feudal lords, the lawless plains of America’s western frontier—but my experience with this sort of world was more contemporary.

There used to be a saying in the Black community of 1960s Dallas: “If you want to kill a (negro) take him to Dallas. That adage was a comment on the lawful neglect that was prevalent and allowed to exist in the Black community—and it is the ideological certainty of any isolated environment. That premise was even more compounded when it came to Macon Street, a two-block row of houses that ran adjacent to Bexar Street in South Dallas. The demonstration of just how dangerous an environment can become when the law—either by omission or commission—permits criminal acts to be practiced unabated I witnessed firsthand.

It was early one morning, that I sat at the breakfast table with Ricky and Jerry, two brothers who were even years older than my older brother. They were schooling me daily in the pugilistic arts, so they often held me near. One the fateful morning, they both argued with their mother about what they planned to do to the daughter of Mr. Maurice, a man who lived two houses down on the other side of the street. They had learned that Mr. Maurice had raped their sister and their intent was to pay him back in kind. Reporting the matter to the police was out of the question for all of Macon Street knew that nothing would be done. Ricky and Jerry’s mother warned—even begged—them against their planned act of vengeance.

A recent decision in a U.S. District Court expands the rights of a person accused of rape or sexual assault, pulling back progress made by the Obama administration. (Photo: Peter Forster / Unsplash)

“I know what he done…A lot of men done did the same thing to other young girls,” she told them. “But what y’all talking about doing is wrong before God.” Her pleas fell on deaf ears. Her sons were committed, and their actions were premeditated.

Ricky and Jerry’s scheme was simple in design. Using the child’s game of hide a go seek as a false front, that they planned to unfold their murky deed while others were lost in its innocence. They called the game, instead, “hide and go get it.” It was on that very night that their plot began to unfold.

The dim illumination of a solitary street light was their starting point. The streetlight pole served as home base. And so, it began. Jerry counted down, “Five. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty…,” as the neighborhood kids that unwittingly participated in the “game” scattered in all directions, as did Mr. Maurice’s daughter Carol. I held fast to the murky overtones of the home base light as Ricky and Jerry began their hunt. In a matter of a few minutes I could hear screams and shouts of resistance and then mournful wails as the brothers enacted their revenge. And then all at once the grief-stricken noise ceased.

Carol did not die because of what happened that night—but never again did she live freely and in innocence. No longer did Carol participate in the games of children.

The sights and sounds of that day played back to me vividly when I heard of the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols that allowed the Education Department under the Trump regime to move forward with plans to alter rules that govern how colleges and universities must respond to complaints of rapes and sexual assaults, which was enacted on August 14, 2020.

As crazy as it may seem, these rules, which were endorsed and manufactured by Education Secretary Betsy De Vos, expands the rights of a person accused of rape or sexual assault, narrows the definition of what is considered a sexual assault, and requires educational institutions to investigate less cases of sexual assault than they were required to in the past. Attorney generals from 17 states and the District of Columbia fought against the decision, but Nichols vehemently rejected all 17 causes of action—plus the one from District of Columbia.

Prior to this most recent decision, the Obama administration felt that rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses were so prevalent that they established rules to combat this social disorder in January 2014. In May of that same year a list of 55 prominent universities that were under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights in the United States Department of Education for violating students’ civil rights had the names of their university published publicly. This would be the first time that the names of institutions undergoing such investigations were made public.

The announcement was made possible due to pressure applied by Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the New Campus Anti-Rape Movement.

Data collected by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) showed that there is a tremendous need for laws that would protect victims of rape more than those accused of rape.

RAINN reports that in general every year there is an average of 433,648 sexual assault victims in the United States alone. That means that every 73 seconds, someone in American is the victim of rape or an attempted rape. Sadly, every nine minutes that victim is an underaged child. Furthermore, RAINN revealed that one in four women are raped by the time of their 44th birthday; and even 8 percent of men report that they have been a victim of rape by the time they turn 44.

Those statistics are startling in themselves, but in a closed and sometimes isolated environment like that of a college campus, the number of rapes and sexual assaults increase exponentially.

What is true of an isolated college campus is also true of other environments that are somehow secluded from normal society and are sometimes negligent of oversight or often left without hard and fast regulations—like a prison, a military base, or an ethnic neighborhood like the one on Macon Street. In environments such as these, women and men are up to five times more likely to become the victim of rape or sexual assault.

Still, some people are impassive when a victim of any sort is far removed from them or their close associates.

No matter what atrocities the statistics divulge, Madame DeVos stood unmoved and unempathetic. DeVos saw the new measure as “yet another victory for students and reaffirms that students’ rights under Title IX go hand in hand with basic American principles of fairness and due process.” One can’t help but wonder if there is some other objective that motivates her decision.

It is uncertain exactly who it is DeVos is attempting to protect, but a view of the facts in a different light can lead one to a sobering conclusion.

There are over 76 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges. Of those enrolled in undergraduate courses, 53 percent are white; and 61 percent of graduate students are white. Of all college students, white men comprise over 40 percent of that population. Yet, a study performed by Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2014, revealed that 63 percent of the rapes perpetrated against college females were done by white males. The BJS also reported that an estimated 90 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported, because most women are afraid of retaliation or that nothing will be done.

Many of these white male culprits will undoubtedly become our future business leaders, politicians, and, perhaps, Supreme Court justices. By assuring the rights of the accused we are less likely to hear a Brett Kavanaugh have to explain, “I liked beer. I still like beer…There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do, and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime.” It is not uncommon to hear a nonchalant and cavalier attitude with the assailant, but with the victim the cuts are long and deep and permanent.

For a victim of rape or sexual assault, the crime becomes a life-altering event. Over 90 percent of the women who experience rape display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. One-third of rape victims contemplate suicide, and half of them will attempt suicide. Rape victims suffer through severe and unexplainable distress. They are also ten times more likely to use major drugs. They are emotionally unhinged, and they experience irreparable dysfunction both at home and at work.

I look back on that night from all those years ago like a reoccurring nightmare from which I cannot awake. I’ve never learned what lasting effect it may have had on Carol or how her emotions may have affected those around her, but I imagine the outcome may not have been kind.

Now, imagine, if you can, a modern-day world in which all of society was without rules or laws that would bridle mankind’s bestial nature. The children of Macon Street were reared in just such an undesirable setting. A rare few of the Macon Street kids emerged from that world unscathed (or so it seems) to go on to have lives that could be considered relatively normal.

When crime of any sort can exist and goes unchecked, it tends to spread like a virus for which there is no cure. It festers and spreads like a stage four cancer. A crime like rape or sexual assault isn’t limited to just one race. It infects us all like the coronavirus. However, it is difficult to ignore that one race tends to stand out among all others and because that race, is white laws and policies were altered.

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