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Sex Assault Not Unusual on Campus, Says #MeToo

FILE - People participate in a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017. Women aged 18-24 are more likely to experience sexual violence than any other female demographic in the U.S., data show.
FILE - People participate in a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017. Women aged 18-24 are more likely to experience sexual violence than any other female demographic in the U.S., data show.

She’d never been in his apartment at night, or even dusk, as it was now. Low purple light spilled into the living room, its walls lined and stacked with books. Light from the TV flashed red, blue and white, the nightly news.

She was 19 and the man beside her -- an intern supervisor -- was far too old to be putting an arm around her shoulders. Or sliding closer on the couch, as he was doing now, cupping her face in his hands to plant a kiss.

The story surprised her friends, but not deeply. Same song, different verse, they said. All her friends had experienced that particular blend of discomfort and fear brought on by an older man overstepping his authority.

In the days following, she poked around, searching out other female students who’d worked with him. One by one, they told her the same thing: No, they’d never gotten weird vibes. No, they’d never been invited to work at his apartment. And no, he’d definitely never touched them.

Knowing it would be another case of “he said/she said,” and that she had no evidence to show the school, she let it go. Statistics show that is not an unusual response.

But these past few weeks have seen a wash of public support for victims of sexual harassment and assault after powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was outed for longtime predation.

Survivors are speaking up louder than ever, and campus activists are using that momentum to end the dynamic that powerful men -- like professors -- have over students who are eager to please intellectually and for good grades.

FILE - Participants march against sexual harassment and assault at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017. Data show that about 80 percent of victims of sexual violence knew their offender.
FILE - Participants march against sexual harassment and assault at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017. Data show that about 80 percent of victims of sexual violence knew their offender.

Women 18-24 are more likely to experience sexual violence than any other female demographic in the U.S., according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). College students within that age group are three times more likely than the average American woman to be assaulted. Young women within that age group not attending university are four times more likely.

According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, about 80 percent of victims knew their offender. No matter where they occur, these incidences are likely to go unreported, off or on campus. Nearly half of all targets say they thought their offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of assault.

And, 20 percent of both groups cited fear of reprisal as the reason for not reporting.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” said Clarke Rose, a student at the American University of Paris. “More importantly, it’s [expletive] necessary” to bring the issue to light.

Awareness campaign

In the days following allegations against Weinstein, millions took to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media to share the hashtag #MeToo. The posts were part of an awareness campaign, aimed at exposing the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault, and rape culture in the United States.

Rose took part in France’s parallel – and somewhat more aggressive – campaign, #BalanceTonPorc, or “rat out your pig.”

FILE - A vendor sells #MeToo buttons during a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017.
FILE - A vendor sells #MeToo buttons during a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017.

“A lot of people have responded to #MeToo by asking why survivors are always the ones who have to come forward and bear our traumas in order for people to see us as human,” said Sofie Karasek, 22, to MTV. Karasek organized a candlelight vigil for the survivor advocacy group, End Rape on Campus, in Washington.

“It’s also a crucial time to point out that people accused of sexual assault don't just leave college and then disappear into the ether,” she said. “They can become powerful people who run companies, like Harvey Weinstein.”

In the weeks since, more allegations have spilled out, many against notable and powerful men. Female legislators and state employees have spoken out about their male colleagues in California, Massachusetts, and other states, citing harassment and inappropriate behavior.

In the last week, a criminal investigation was opened into allegations of sexual misconduct against three psychology professors at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. At Berklee College of Music in Boston, the administration caught flak this week for allowing a professor to quietly leave the school after a student accused him of sex abuse.

“Rather than being able to fully focus on coursework and learning, these students are burdened with the constant fear of violence and harassment on campus,” said Shivani Desai, a national campus organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF).

“The #MeToo movement highlighted a reality of violence that women, queer, and trans folk already painfully and intimately knew – because we live it day in and day out,” Desai said.

“The power and reach of millions of voices provided a national platform, one that emphasized the dangerous culture that affords perpetrators and bigots positions of power and allows them to make harmful decisions.”

FILE - Participants, holding a sign protesting sexual harassment and assaults in the workplace, walk at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017.
FILE - Participants, holding a sign protesting sexual harassment and assaults in the workplace, walk at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 12, 2017.

Student activists are “meeting with their administrators” to push back on issues like Title IX guidelines, which prohibit gender discrimination -- such as sexual harassment -- at colleges and universities that receive federal funding. Those guidelines were recently rolled back by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

A recent poll out from ABC News and the Washington Post shows 54 percent of American women have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” in the workplace. Thirty percent of women said their male colleagues were the perpetrators, with 25 percent saying these were colleagues who held sway over their careers.

Like their college-age counterparts, 95 percent of American women reported the offending male colleagues went totally unpunished. Since the last similar poll conducted in 2011, a majority of those polled said they consider sexual harassment a serious problem.

“Students have been organizing against sexual violence for countless years, and they will continue to fight for themselves and their communities,” Desai said of on-campus activists.

“What is most important, is that at this moment in history, we, all assault survivors, are sharing and listening and loving and finding out, we are not alone,” Rose said.

Do you know someone who has been harassed or assaulted by an older, more powerful person? Please share your thoughts in the Comments here, and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Thanks!

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FILE - The Purdue University Marching Band plays with facemasks in place before the start of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, May 30, 2021.
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FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.
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FILE - The University of Cincinnati pep band plays during their spring NCAA college football game, April 2, 2016, in Cincinnati.
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Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Philadelphia's Drexel University

FILE - Signs lie next to a tent pro-Palestinian students and faculty of Drexel University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania erected at an encampment at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, April 25, 2024.
FILE - Signs lie next to a tent pro-Palestinian students and faculty of Drexel University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania erected at an encampment at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, April 25, 2024.

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, prompting a lockdown of school buildings, a day after authorities thwarted an attempted occupation of a school building at the neighboring University of Pennsylvania campus.

After several hundred demonstrators marched from Philadelphia's City Hall to west Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, Drexel said in a statement that about 75 protesters began to set up an encampment on the Korman Quad on the campus. About a dozen tents remained Sunday, blocked off by barricades and monitored by police officers. No arrests were reported.

Drexel President John Fry said in a message Saturday night that the encampment "raises understandable concerns about ensuring everyone's safety," citing what he called "many well-documented instances of hateful speech and intimidating behavior at other campus demonstrations." University buildings were "open only to those with clearance from Drexel's Public Safety," he said.

Authorities at Drexel, which has about 22,000 students, were monitoring the demonstration to ensure it was peaceful and didn't disrupt normal operations, and that "participants and passersby will behave respectfully toward one another," Fry said.

"We will be prepared to respond quickly to any disruptive or threatening behavior by anyone," Fry said, vowing not to tolerate property destruction, "harassment or intimidation" of students or staff or threatening behavior of any kind, including "explicitly racist, antisemitic, or Islamophobic" speech. Anyone not part of the Drexel community would not be allowed "to trespass into our buildings and student residences," he said.

On Friday night, members of Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine had announced an action at the University of Pennsylvania's Fisher-Bennett Hall, urging supporters to bring "flags, pots, pans, noise-makers, megaphones" and other items.

The university said campus police, supported by city police, removed the demonstrators Friday night, arresting 19 people, including six University of Pennsylvania students. The university's division of public safety said officials found "lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields," and exit doors secured with zip ties and barbed wire, windows covered with newspaper and cardboard and entrances blocked.

Authorities said seven people arrested would face felony charges, including one accused of having assaulted an officer, while a dozen were issued citations for failing to disperse and follow police commands.

The attempted occupation of the building came a week after city and campus police broke up a two-week encampment on the campus, arresting 33 people, nine of whom were students and two dozen of whom had "no Penn affiliation," according to university officials.

On Sunday, dozens of George Washington University graduates walked out of commencement ceremonies, disrupting university President Ellen Granberg's speech, in protest over the ongoing siege of Gaza and last week's clearing of an on-campus protest encampment that involved police use of pepper spray and dozens of arrests.

The ceremony, at the base of the Washington Monument, started peacefully with fewer than 100 protesters demonstrating across the street in front of the Museum of African American History and Culture. But as Granberg began speaking, at least 70 students among the graduates started chanting and raising signs and Palestinian flags. The students then noisily walked out as Granberg spoke, crossing the street to a rapturous response from the protesters.

Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to protest the Israel-Hamas war, pressing colleges to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall but demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University.

Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested on U.S. campuses over the past month. As summer break approaches, there have been fewer new arrests and campuses have been calmer. Still, colleges have been vigilant for disruptions to commencement ceremonies.

President Joe Biden told the graduating class at Morehouse College on Sunday, which included some students wearing keffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes, that he heard their voices of protest and that scenes from the conflict in Gaza have been heartbreaking. Biden said given what he called a "humanitarian crisis" there, he had called for "an immediate cease-fire" and return of hostages taken by Hamas.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, while Israel's military offensive has left more than 35,000 people in Gaza dead, according to the territory’s health ministry, which doesn't distinguish between civilians and combatants.

update

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that he hears their voices of protest over war in Gaza

President Joe Biden speaks to graduating students at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.
President Joe Biden speaks to graduating students at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.

President Joe Biden on Sunday told the graduating class at Morehouse College that he heard their voices of protest over the Israel-Hamas war, and that scenes from the conflict in Gaza have been heartbreaking.

"I support peaceful nonviolent protest," he told students, some who wore keffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes. "Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them."

The president told the crowd that it was a "humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that's why I've called for an immediate cease-fire to stop the fighting" and bring home the hostages taken when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The comments, toward the end of his address that also reflected on American democracy and his role in safeguarding it, were the most direct recognition to U.S. students about the campus protests that have swept across the country.

Morehouse's announcement that Biden would be the commencement speaker drew some backlash among the school's faculty and supporters who oppose Biden's handling of the war. Some Morehouse alumni circulated an online letter condemning school administrators for inviting Biden and soliciting signatures to pressure Morehouse President David Thomas to rescind it.

The letter claimed that Biden's approach to Israel amounted to support of genocide in Gaza and was out of step with the pacifism expressed by Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse's most famous graduate.

The Hamas attack on southern Israel killed 1,200 people. Israel's offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to local health officials.

Some members of the graduating class showed support for Palestinians in Gaza by tying keffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes. One student draped himself in a Palestinian flag. On the stage behind the president, academics unfurled a Democratic Republic of Congo flag.

Valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher shows his mortarboard with a protest image representing a Palestinian flag as President Joe Biden speaks to graduating students at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher shows his mortarboard with a protest image representing a Palestinian flag as President Joe Biden speaks to graduating students at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The country has been mired in an ongoing civil war that has plunged the nation into violence and displaced millions of people. Many racial justice advocates have called for greater attention to the conflict and for greater attention in the US to the conflict as well as American aid in ending the violence.

"Thank you God for this 'woke' class of 2024 that is in tune with the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times," the Rev. Claybon Lea Jr. said during a prayer at the start of the commencement.

The class valedictorian, DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher, said at the close of his speech that it was his duty to speak on the war in Gaza and that it was important to recognize that both Palestinians and Israelis have suffered.

"From the comfort of our homes, we watch an unprecedented number of civilians mourn the loss of men, women and children, while calling for the release of all hostages he said. "It is my stance as a Morehouse man, nay as a human being, to call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip."

Biden stook and shook his hand after Fletcher finished.

The speech, and a separate one Biden is giving later Sunday in the Midwest, is part of a burst of outreach to Black constituents by the president, who has watched his support among these voters soften since their strong backing helped put him in the Oval Office in 2020.

President Joe Biden, right, congratulates salutatorian Dwayne Allen Terrell II, left, as valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher looks on at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.
President Joe Biden, right, congratulates salutatorian Dwayne Allen Terrell II, left, as valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher looks on at the Morehouse College commencement, May 19, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.

After speaking at Morehouse in Atlanta, Biden will travel to Detroit to address an NAACP dinner.

Georgia and Michigan are among a handful of states that will help decide November's expected rematch between Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump. Biden narrowly won Georgia and Michigan in 2020 and needs to repeat — with a boost from strong Black voter turnout in both cities.

Biden spent the back end of the past week reaching out to Black constituents. He met with plaintiffs and relatives of those involved in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in public schools. He also met with members of the "Divine Nine" Black fraternities and sororities and spoke with members of the Little Rock Nine, who helped integrate a public school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.

In Detroit, Biden was set to visit a Black-owned small business before delivering the keynote address at the NAACP's Freedom Fund dinner, which traditionally draws thousands of attendees. The speech gives Biden a chance to reach thousands of people in Wayne County, an area that has historically voted overwhelmingly Democratic but has shown signs of resistance to his reelection bid.

Wayne County also holds one of the largest Arab American populations in the nation, predominantly in the city of Dearborn. Leaders there were at the forefront of an "uncommitted" effort that received over 100,000 votes in the state's Democratic primary and spread across the country.

A protest rally and march against Biden's visit are planned for Sunday afternoon in Dearborn. Another protest rally is expected later that evening outside Huntington Place, the dinner venue.

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