Since I spend far too much of my time watching CNN while working I’ve been unable to avoid the endless promos they’ve been running for a “documentary” they are airing this weekend called The Hunting Ground. The show purports to explore the epidemic of campus sexual assaults taking place around the nation, but focuses particularly closely on Harvard. Before going any further, let’s watch the trailer, which is certainly ominous in the extreme.
While many cases are apparently touched upon, the show zeroes in on accusations against Brandon Winston, who we’ve written about here before. Winston was accused by fellow student Kamilah Willingham of raping her one night after a lot of partying. She later complained that the university did little or nothing about it and didn’t want to believe her, a claim which seems to be repeated in this film. Of course, the “little or nothing” included Winston being suspended for school for an entire year and later taken to court over the matter. But as with many other such accusations we’ve seen, most of the charges – including all the ones involving sexual assault – were dropped except for one, where he was found guilty of a misdemeanor of a “nonsexual nature.”
Apparently this film was so skewed and biased that, as Ashe Schow repoorts at the Washington Examiner, 19 Harvard law professors and other activists – including “feminist icons” – have written a letter of protest against the airing of the film.
“We believe that Brandon Winston was subjected to a long, harmful ordeal for no good reason. Justice has been served in the end, but at enormous costs to this young man,” the professors wrote. “We denounce this film as prolonging his ordeal with its unfair and misleading portrayal of the facts of his case. Mr. Winston was finally vindicated by the Law School and by the judicial proceedings, and allowed to continue his career at the Law School and beyond. Propaganda should not be allowed to erase this just outcome.”
The 19 professors include feminist icon Nancy Gertner; outspoken critics of campus rape hysteria Elizabeth Bartholet, Janet Halley and Jeannie Suk; as well as President Obama’s former mentor Charles Ogletree.
So one sided is the coverage that the film apparently fails to note that the accusations against Winston really fell apart once the police got hold of the case. Willingham claimed to have “proof” of the assault in the form of a condom used by her assailant and also alleged that she and her girlfriend were probably drugged by him as part of his nefarious sexual assault scheme. The cops disagreed.
The accused student, Brandon Winston, was not indicted on a separate accusation, but on the same accusation from Willingham and her friend. He was not indicted on the serious charges of sexual assault, nor was he indicted for any charges relating to Willingham. Willingham had proven to be an unreliable witness, having presented a condom she claimed to have been used by Winston during the rape of her friend. The condom actually belonged to a different male student, who had used it with Willingham.
As for the claim of drugging, no drugs were found in Willingham or her friend, except for the cocaine she had willingly used and distributed amongst her friends the night of the incident.
There are clearly incidents of rape which take place not only on college campuses, but across the nation, and they need to be aggressively prosecuted. There are also, unfortunately, many cases of young women making poor decisions – frequently while drinking and using drugs – and waking up the next day with serious regrets. The campus rape culture crowd has taken to referring to this as incapacitated rape, as discussed in this recent article at Mashable.
Women with a history of incapacitated rape drank more heavily, used marijuana more often and had more sex partners than women with no history. (Heavy drinking was defined as four or more drinks on one occasion.)
Those behaviors may relate to their previous assault, write Bates and her co-authors. Research shows that “severe sexual victimization” predicts future alcohol use, which may be a way for survivors to cope with their trauma.
Survey participants who’d been raped while incapacitated also continued to associate alcohol with sexual enhancement.
That article is worth a read in full, particularly because they lump in rapes and “attempted rapes” of young women who have been partying too heartily. (It seems that “attempted rape” includes getting drunk or high with your girlfriend, making out with her and asking for sex but being turned down.) In any event this entire phenomenon is getting out of control. The events at Harvard described in the film and the linked article do point out one serious flaw in the system, though. The “victim” in that case related how the college urged her to keep the case “in house” and not go to the police. We see that over and over again in these stories and it’s a criminal failing on the part of the schools. Let the cops investigate sexual assault accusations. That’s why we have police.