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Friday, 11 July 2014

Statistics vs Lived Experiences for Women at College

By Liberate Zealot
*Content Warning for discussion of sexual assault, rape, stalking, domestic violence, and rape culture*

Recently in the feminist/social justice sphere of social media that I inhabit a variety of people have been naming Cards Against Humanity and one of its originators, Max Tempkin, as good examples of those with privilege listening/learning/and properly apologizing for when they harm others.  And this regard for the game, and its creators, especially of Max, is something I take great issue with.

Not only because it is a game created by a bunch of (to my knowledge) heterocis white dudes who are upper middle class and therefore its hard to take any of its racist/sexism/homophobic/transphobic/ableist jokes as "ironic".  After all Max Tempkin wrote a lovely apology about that using all the appropriate language of "privilege" and how irony doesn't "punch down."

The issue with this apology and Cards Against Humanity is that I know Max.  We attended the same small liberal arts college, we have many mutual acquaintances, and Max Tempkin is a rapist.



While attending Goucher College Max Tempkin raped a freshman during her first few weeks on campus.  Besides a couple of people disliking him, calling him a "Tentacle Monster" and refusing to play Cards Against Humanity he never faced any repercussions.  In fact Max eventually became a member of Goucher College's J-board, a group of students, staff, and professors who sit in judgement of student "misconduct" which does include allegations of rape, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking.  He has gone on to be lauded as a success story for Goucher.

Max Tempkin and his victim are but one of a dozen stories I know of sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence happening in relation to Goucher.  What makes this all particularly rage inducing is that during my junior year in a Women Studies class we discussed how according to statistics there had never been a rape or sexual assault at Goucher.  We then discussed how each of us could name multiple cases of rape and sexual assault and harassment.

I have been sexually assaulted, but luckily not while attending Goucher.  Luckily I didn't have to encounter my rapist the way this woman had to continue to encounter Max (it is too small a school to fully avoid anyone).  I haven't had to see him lauded by people as a success or, even worse, a good person.

I didn't have to hear details of my assault being bandied about the way other cases were shared around Goucher's campus or hear people sit in judgement about whether it was a real rape or not.  I didn't have my stories of sexual harassment and intimidation (or pictures/videos of these) spread about like a joke.  I didn't try to report only to be silenced and threatened by fellow students.  I didn't have campus security ignore the increasingly loud, disruptive, and abusive behaviors of my boyfriend.  I didn't have to endure my alma mater employing the man who would go on to stalk me, threaten my life, and drive me in fear from the state while he continued his career of teaching at various colleges.

I didn't experience those things, but other Goucher women did, and any justice they did eventually see was hard won and miniscule. And to the best of my knowledge none of the men involved in these stories ever faced any serious consequences.

But  none of this shows up in Goucher's statistics.  Statistically it is a perfectly safe, small, liberal arts school, with a lovely secluded campus, and a large female student population.  And again, none of its 70% female student population has any need to fear sexual assault, harassment, abuse, or stalking. The statistics show that never happens at Goucher.

Except for how multiple members of the lacrosse team burst in on one of their team mates having sex and so intimidated the girl that she jumped out the first floor window in nothing but a sheet.  Or how later that year members of the same team harassed and threatened a girl to withdraw her rape allegation against another player.  Or how if you're raped at a party you might be shamed by other students because "we all know him, he's never done anything like this before, what did you do?"  Or how your boyfriend can break into your room, push you around, trap you so you can't escape, shouting at you while you scream for help, and security (which is great at finding a "party" of 8 people drinking peacefully) never shows up, even then the RA lives down the hall.  Or how women don't feel confident approaching the school about their rapes and so someone like Max Tempkin makes it onto the "Justice" Board. Or how your stalker ex will continue to be employed at the school you just graduated from while you work to get a restraining order on him for threatening to kill you.

Goucher isn't one of the 55 colleges named as Title IX offenders because they do not properly handle allegations of sexual assault.  Their "sexual misconduct" policy is not too difficult to find on line.  They do a "training" at the beginning of freshmen year to cover sexual assault information.  They have free services for victims.  Statistically they're safe and would handle any issues of sexual violence appropriately.  Of course according to appearances Max Tempkin is a model alumni of Goucher.  And according to appearances he understands privilege and power dynamics.

Why is it that the things at colleges and universities say, find, and report about sexual violence and harassment in no way matches the lives of their female students? Why do the appearances of things so often clash with the experiences of women? Why the fuck do we have to keep fighting these same battles against rape culture and sexism, again, and again, with so little progress?


*Details of various instances I've named have been withheld to protect the victims, in some cases this includes the names of the perpertrators as naming them could result in their victims being identified.  Max Tempkin is named because yesterday his victim and close friends of hers spoke up on Facebook and Twitter.  At the time there was no police involvement, so for clarity's sake Max is an alleged rapist, not a convicted one.*  

20 comments:

  1. Quote: "Or how someone the student body knows has been accused of rape, like Max Tempkin, makes it onto the "Justice" Board."

    The key word to this whole thing is "accused" – your tirade reads like Max raped someone, while all their is at this point is an accusation. Anyone can accuse anyone else of anything; what matters is proof.

    A lot of time "proof" is exactly the thing that makes real, horrible rapists get away with it – it's hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt many, many times. But that doesn't make your assumption correct, or that girl's accusation true.

    If Max really raped someone, what evidence do you have? Knowing him in person doesn't count, and the fact that there was a lacrosse team of monsters or rape at parties at the same school that Max and his accuser attended doesn't count either.

    This isn't meant as a troll – seriously. Justice is extremely important. And if Max really did rape someone, then every effort to expose as much evidence and get as many people speaking honestly about it who were involved should be made. Share any proof you have to substantiate the claim that he raped someone, and if you have evidence that can contradict what he shared in his apology (http://blog.maxistentialism.com/post/91476212698/this-is-a-blog-post-thats-incredibly-confusing), you should share that too.

    Thanks

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    1. Hi, as of the time of writing this the victim has asked to not be personally identified and I respect that. Close friends of hers are speaking out on Facebook and twitter if you care to learn more.
      As you can see from the rest of my post my interest is not just with Max but with a culture at Goucher (like many other US colleges and universities) where students did not feel safe in reporting rape, sexual assault and harassment, or domestic violence. There are other instances of violence against women in relation to Goucher that I was much more intimately involved with, but the victims are not speaking out, so they and their attackers/stalkers, details of the events are not named.
      Ultimately my goal is always to support the physical, mental, and emotional safety of the victims of rape, assault, or domestic violence. I try in my writing to never endanger such things. So your request for more info will have to go to someone who is less concerned about respecting the rights and requests of the woman who has just begun publicly speaking about being raped by Max Tempkin. And you can throw on an allegedly on that statement for your comfort if you like.
      And if you're so concerned, heres a nice deconstruction of his post. http://lilithbell.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/rapists-arent-monsters-and-thats-why-theyre-scary/

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    2. In the United States it is illegal to release the name of a rape victim (or alleged rape victim) without that person's consent.
      True this isn't a formal news source and I would probably not face legal penalties for naming her. However, I see no reason I should name this woman.
      Any other details in the incident are for the involved woman to release. I have no intention of speaking for or over her.

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    3. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      I want to be clear that I am *not* assuming the woman is lying, like some of the other comments you referenced elsewhere in this thread have done. Thanks for deleting them.

      The only points I'm trying to make are this:

      1. To assume that the woman is lying is an irrational, unsubstantiated assumption based on no evidence.
      2. To assume that Temkin raped the unnamed woman is an irrational, unsubstantiated assumption based on no evidence.

      Either assumption is equally invalid and equally unsubstantiated. That's all. Until either one is proven, neither can be stated as fact. Your article states it as a fact, which is what I was responding to.

      Many women are indeed assumed to be liars. Many rapists get away with it, many people treat consent like it's some sort of "mystery" to figure out what "no" means.

      These are real, serious issues.

      Having publications ("official" or not) state things as fact on the Internet purely because of an accusation is a very real, serious issue, too.

      As you said, this post has a lot in it beyond Temkin – so why not keep the writing about rape culture at Goucher and other universities, but keep the claims about Temkin raping someone out of the post? At least until the victim is ready to speak up publicly, and evidence comes out, etc.

      We've got to stop treating rape as some sort of special crime. Rapists can't keep getting excused as if they "slipped up" or just "misread" someone. Fuck that. But we also can't create an anti-evidence culture, as irrational/harmful (maybe worse?) than a rape culture, where claims about rape happening can be made anywhere any time, and if you ask for evidence, you're slut-shaming or perpetuating a culture of misogyny...

      ...No. Asking for evidence is treating this seriously. We need to treat it seriously and stop downplaying rape.

      Thanks for reading (and not deleting) my long comments, I haven't intended them to be as long as they've come out.

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    4. The author has already stated that their use of the word "rapist" instead of "alleged rapist" is not a formal accusation but an attempt to respect the experiences of the victim in this case. But I wanted to address a different point.

      Evidence is, of course, paramount in any legal battle. However, we have to ask ourselves, in a case like this, could concrete evidence even exist? Because it's starting to sound like "if you were raped and nobody witnessed it, were you really raped at all?" If a tree falls in the forest ... ?

      Asking for evidence while knowing there is no evidence that anyone could furnish that you would deem adequate is essentially saying "I don't believe rape victims tell the truth." Saying that your support is contingent on tangible evidence is saying that there is virtually nothing that the majority of rape victims can do to garner your support.

      Nobody on this blog has the power to prove guilt. To make that the goal or pretend it ever was is very much beside the point.

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  2. Your interest might not be with Max, but you just called him a rapist. Either put up or retract.

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    1. What, in your opinion, would constitute "putting up"? Is there actually any action that a victim of rape could take that would prove to you that he or she was raped?

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    2. Cyaneus, is there any action that someone accused of rape should take to prove to you that he or she is not a rapist?

      My guess the answer would be just as stupid as your question.

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    3. No, and I think you're deliberately missing my point. Legally, the burden of proof is on the accuser, so very few people have the need to go around proving that they are *not* rapists. The majority of people who are accused of rape won't face legal consequences for their actions, as the attrition rate is only about 12%. The legal system seems to favor the accused, who is innocent until proven guilty.

      But victims of sexual assault are frequently harassed and vilified when they accuse their rapists. Even if a victim is unable to provide concrete evidence of their sexual assault (an inherently difficult task in the first place, and nearly impossible this long after the fact), "put up or shut up" statements set a precedent that assumes victims in any case are lying. Precedents like this are what prevent an estimated majority of all rapes from being reported, and continue to discourage conversations about how our communities should respond to accusations like these. They don't contribute to the discussion, they attempt to shut it down.

      All that said, this blog author is presumably not the victim herself, and presumably wasn't there as an eyewitness. In legal situations, the author would be obliged to refer to this as an "alleged rape" and Mas as an "alleged rapist." Since the victim isn't seeing legal recourse, Max isn't likely to face any legal consequences (and probably wouldn't be, even if the victim did intend to prosecute). Dropping the "alleged" in this article isn't an attempt at a formal accusation (so I'm assuming), but is done to show support for the victim by regarding her story as true.

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  3. What, in your opinion, would constitute "putting up"? Is there actually any action that a victim of rape could take that would prove to you that he or she was raped?

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  4. 1) "any of its racist/sexism/homophobic/transphobic/ableist jokes" - What jokes? In the years since the game has come out, they've purged any truly offensive and mean-spirited cards from the game (surprise sex, passable transvestites, etc). Name the cards you're referring to, or you look like you're guessing - something that you do a lot over the course of this 'article.' Ugh.

    2) "We went to the same college and have mutual acquaintances" is NOT criteria to say "I know Max." Just because you were on the same campus and know people who know him does not mean YOU do. I know it makes your melodramatic screed FAR more impactful-seeming to say "I KNOW him and he's a rapist," but it's also transparently fucking untrue. So, like, maybe don't lie?

    3) His name is "TEMKIN." Not "Tempkin" - "TEMKIN." Googling the guy even once would've told you that! Kinda makes your claim to "know him" - despite not even knowing the name dude you're ACCUSING OF BEING A RAPIST WITHOUT A SINGLE CAVEAT OR "ALLEGEDLY" - seem extra false.

    For posterity, when you inevitably scramble to cover up your mistake: http://i.imgur.com/NIMG1Af.png

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    1. 1) Roofies. Altar Boys. Holocaust. Hutus and Tutsis. Ugandan Warlord. Black People. Smallpox Blankets.

      Yer fulla shit.

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  5. Just so people know, messages have been, and will continue to be deleted if they automatically assume the woman who is naming Max as her rapist is lying. You have other places and platforms to perpetuate rape culture of immediately doubting women who name rapists. You will not do so here.

    Comments that focus on the content of what I've written will be allowed as long as they remain at a certain level of respect and do not engage in rape apology and triggering language. I and the other mods will be determining what counters as apology and triggering language, not the posters.

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  6. I just want to point out that, as someone who was on J-Board with Max, he almost never showed up. Also, we weren't allowed to touch cases involving sexual misconduct or violence. Those went straight to the administration. We dealt solely with drugs, drinking, loud noises and vandalism... or at least we did for the years I was on the board.
    Please don't take this in any way as me defending Max. Far from it. I remember being warned about him within days of arriving to campus (he was working for the Obama campaign at the time).

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. "The author has already stated that their use of the word "rapist" instead of "alleged rapist" is not a formal accusation but an attempt to respect the experiences of the victim in this case."
    I don't really buy this. The only person that can outright come out and call him a rapist is the accusing woman, as if he truly is, only she knows that for a fact. Vice versa if he isn't a rapist, but the burden of proof isn't on him. I see why might be biased though. Everything else about the article was worrying though.

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  9. I find this blog post to be extreme and somewhat dangerous in its line of argument. If an accuser has the right to anonymity (which is a good thing), why not the accused as well? There are two competing good here, one being the need to support victims of sexual assault and not to place a personal burden of proof on them or treat them with scepticism, etc. That’s an enormously important thing. However the other good is the notion that people accused of crimes should be considered innocent until there is proof of their guilt, especially the accused denies wrongdoing vehemently. If I accuse a person of murder over facebook, it’s completely insane for everyone to say they’re “probably a murderer” based on some statistic about the overall percentage of true and false accusations or whatever. What your blog is really saying is that since this man was accused of rape on facebook, and since he falls into certain demographic categories that he can’t help (being a young man mainly), it’s fine to just call him a rapist for the sake of policy and convenience. I find that to be irresponsible and dangerous.

    A better solution that fulfills both social goods is to support the victim fully and without scepticism, and keep the accused’s identity anonymous in case they are indeed innocent. That way we aren’t potentially ruining the lives of innocent people in the name of policy considerations.
    Seems to me that certain people want to drag Temkin through the mud as much as possible (hence why you’re calling him a rapist but then saying you don’t quite mean it as a literal accusation, that’s your way to avoid libel I guess, but it’s still libel if Temkin knew or cared about what you write). You can say this is to protect women from him (a good goal if he’s guilty), or to create a culture in which rapists are subject to great stigma (also a good goal), but again that’s a presumption of guilt of an individual that you don’t have evidence to make. Temkin is not some symbol of rape or patriarchy, he’s an individual human being who may or may not have done anything wrong, and should be treated as such.
    Think of it this way, suppose one day you discover someone has accused you of a very serious crime on facebook, that you in fact did not commit. How would you like your friends, family, and society to respond? To presume your guilt in the name of helping the victim, or to give you an honest and fair shake on the evidence? I think the latter option is much better for all. Thoughts?

    I'm writing this because I was once falsely accused of a sexual assault when I was 16. The girl eventually recanted everything and apologized to me personally for making up the story (saying she made it up to get sympathy because she was depressed), but I will tell you from experience that it is a complete and total living nightmare having everyone around you treating you like a rapist based on an accusation that was made up out of thin air. Now this is not to say Temkin is innocent because I don't know, but it's not "supporting rape culture" to treat a person as innocent in absence of solid evidence that they are guilty. The accusation is itself evidence, sure, but so is the denial, equally. Statistics and policy considerations should not be invoked to condemn an individual man where it's no more than her word against his.

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    1. I was wondering when this post would get man talking about the time he or a friend had been falsely accused of rape/sexual assault. Not to say you weren't falsely accused, but I can't help that notice that every post about a rape accusation has one or more men talking about how they or a friend's life was (nearly) ruined by a false accusation. Seriously, you guys makes up 2-8% of all rape accusations, how are you so good at finding posts about rape? (Of course I think people, especially one's talking about their friends are more hoping that they're false than being fully sure they are).
      Anyway, on to your content. I named Max because he was named on Facebook by the woman and her closest friends (I had already known about the rape, but this was the first time in almost 10 years that she was publicly discussing it and so this was the first time I had publicly discussed it as well). Max also wrote a post talking about it. In fact pretty much everyone who has come to this page has done through from channels established by Max's post, not from anything I or other people who know the woman have written or shared. So, while I've written about this I'm not the one who first named Max or publicized the rape accusation. The publicity happened once Max went public about it.
      These facts mean I don't feel concerned about naming Max.
      Likewise when all I'm doing is spreading the already public message of victim/survivors I don't see an issue with naming people accused. I'm a projector of the message, not the one doing the accusation. (If I had broken a story before a victim or the person they accused had gone public that would be a whole other issue). Should Jezebel, The MarySue, and Reddit have stayed quiet once the claim became public (should professional news sources not publish information?).

      Yes, I sound more supportive and believing of the victim than the majority of people posting on this specific instance. But again, I went to college with these people. I actually knew Max's a little better than I did the woman. And when I first heard about the rape (well before this story broke) my immediate reaction was "I can easily see that." Everything I knew about Max's attitude (read privileged, good with words and getting what he wants, and thinks rules don't apply to him in the same way they do to others) means I had already thought he had the qualities that gave him a more than normal chance of being Shrodinger's rapist. Hearing of the actual rape accusation just confirmed a vibe I'd already gotten from him. Now, other people who also know him can't see him as a rapist. Maybe he's changed, maybe he acts differently around different people, maybe either one of us is biased by our previous opinions of him. At the end of the day we're weighing in on our opinions based on things originally posted by the woman and Max. You can read what they're written, you can read what other people who know one or both of them have written, and you can make your own decision based on that.

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  10. Hey thanks for the reply. I don't know about the 2-8 percent number or anything like that but I can tell you my experience was real. It wasn't one of those situations where it was open to interpretation; she had made up a story from start to finish, a date that never happened, a sexual situation that never existed in my bedroom where she had never even been, etc. And her accusation would never have become part of any statistic because she never told the police, she just told a bunch of friends and made my life hell for a few months. And frankly, the amount of rumination and opinion about me from distant acquaintances was nightmarish. Everyone had their own little vibe and opinion about me and I learned who were and weren't my real friends. I'm thankful to this day that the ordeal happened a few years before facebook and blogging and social media became mainstream; I can only imagine how it would have been with all that in play.


    All I'm saying is that before you call someone a rapist, imagine walking a mile in the shoes of a falsely-accused person first, and consider the possible consequences to their life that you might generate. There was an 18 year old in the UK (Luke Harwood if you're interested in googling it) who was beaten to death in the street last year over a false rape accusation. The stigma you wish to attach to Temkin is severe and life-altering is what I'm saying, and it seems to me you have no evidence beyond a detail-less accusation that he strongly denies, and a personal "vibe" based on personality traits that are common among millions of young men who are perfectly harmless and law-abiding. You can see for this reason why some people find your blog post to be irresponsible.

    And to answer your question: Yes, professional news sources should not publicly name someone as an accused rapist based on one person's facebook post. That is not responsible journalism in the slightest. Opinion and gossip sites don't seem to follow the rules of proper journalistic institutions. When you repeat someone else's claim you become responsible to a certain degree for its perpetuation, that's obvious. If it turned out Temkin was innocent but recieved a great deal of damage to his life as a result of all this, you would indeed bear part of the responsibility for it, as would jezebel, redditors, etc (remember when Reddit came together and tried to sleuth out the Boston bomber and ended up mistakenly driving an innocent man to suicide? They had good intentions too). And I would also suggest that you are an accuser, not a mere projector of information. As you said: "We attended the same small liberal arts college, we have many mutual acquaintances, and Max Tempkin is a rapist." That is not merely relaying someone else's words. That is an assertion of fact made by you. You speak as though you know it to be true independently of the original accuser. Again, not to belabour the point but I do not believe that is a responsible thing to do all things considered. Anyway that's my book of a comment this eve.

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    1. Your posts are perfect. I don't see why OP is still trying to rationalise; she has assumed Temkin is a rapist and is guilty, it's as simple as that. She could be right, and she could be wrong, but clearly she was biased from the onset because of a "vibe" she got. Empirical proof it is not.

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