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Campus Sexual Assault Tag

The drama swirling around Rolling Stone, staff writer Sabrina Erdely, and the University of Virginia continued today when Phi Kappa Psi's UVA chapter filed a $25 million dollar lawsuit against the magazine over a (now-retracted) story claiming that a freshman girl was gang raped during a house party. Erdely's "A Rape on Campus" story published in November of last year, and immediately ignited a firestorm of debate over campus "rape culture." The fraternity's image was trashed, their house vandalized, and both the university and fraternity national chapter suffered a major hit to their reputations. By December, however, Erdely's account of the attack on "Jackie" began to unravel. Following investigations by law enforcement, the university, and an increasingly skeptical media, Rolling Stone published a frantic retraction---and then the lawsuits started. More via Reuters:

For years, we have heard that that 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 college women are victims of rape or sexual assault. The studies behind the statistic tended to be agenda-driven and unscientific, but now according to hundreds of news stories, there’s a new, more comprehensive survey that confirms epidemic levels of sexual predation on campus. Could these researchers be right?

Here at Legal Insurrection, we devoted a lot of (virtual) ink to the Rolling Stone campus rape story debacle. Sabrina Erdely's now-retracted article on "Jackie's" traumatic gang rape---and its relation to the campus sexual assault problem Erdely so desperately wanted to prove exists---serves as a textbook example of how not to conduct an investigation, and may end up costing Rolling Stone more than its reputation (or at least, whatever is left of it.) Back in May, University of Virginia associate dean of students Nicole Eramo filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Rolling Stone, its parent company Wenner Media, and journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely for their portrayal of Eramo in Erdely's story. Eramo argues that Erdely and Rolling Stone knew Jackie was unreliable, had serious doubts about the story, and yet ran with it anyway because they were desperate to fulfill their own narrative and sell magazines. As I said in May, the benefits of attempting to salvage Eramo's reputation via the courts must outweigh the risk that opposing counsel and the MSM could find something that causes further damage; her attorneys likely would not have filed the suit had they not performed that analysis. Still, Rolling Stone has decided to answer the complaint by claiming that UVA actually contributed to the faulty report. Via WaPo:

We have been covering the absurdity of the "Yes Means Yes" movement, and the violation of fundamental due process rights under the banner of "rape culture," for quite some time: In our coverage, we frequently have posted this parody video from 2007. Now life is imitating parody, as reported in The Washington Examiner (via Instapundit), Advocacy group distributes sexual 'consent contracts' to college students:

We've discussed extensively the problems and scandals surrounding the campus sexual assault investigation process. Procedures that favor the accuser, and offer no protection to the accused, have led to lost academic careers, ruined reputations, and high-profile lawsuits brought by the accused against the institutions that allegedly threw them under the bus. One such lawsuit has risen out of sexual assault allegations brought against "John Doe" by another female student at Amherst College. John Doe was expelled after Amherst's kangaroo court decided with 50.01% certainty that he may have raped "AS." After the expulsion, John Doe's attorney dug deeper into the case, and discovered a series of text messages that eviscerated AS's testimony:
In fact, as Doe’s attorneys later would discover, AS had texted two people after the hookup—a friend, and a possible paramour. Even before hooking up with Doe, AS had texted the other male student, telling him, “I mean I happen to have my room to myself this weekend, if you wanted to come over and entertain me.” After she finished with Doe, AS resumed flirtatious texting with the male student, who came to her room and spent the night with her. He found her “friendly, flirtatious, and spirited,” and not “anxious, stressed, depressed, or otherwise in distress.”...

The number of lawsuits by men wrongly accused of sexual assault on campus is increasing almost by the day. Most remain silent, preferring to go the "John Doe" route to avoid further reputational damage. Slowly, however, some men are going public, often where there names were already published anyway in high profile cases. One example is the suit against Columbia University by Jean-Paul Nungesser after Emma Sulkowicz drew attention to the allegations by carrying a mattress around campus. Here is one story playing out at San Diego State University, in which the charges were plastered all over campus and the news, only to be dropped once police investigated. Where does someone wrongly accused go to get his reputation back? It started with the arrest of Francisco Paiva Sousa, SDSU sex assault suspect out on bail:
A day after being arrested on suspicion of a sexual assault near campus, an SDSU student is out on bail. CBS News 8 cameras were there when 20-year-old Francisco Paiva Sousa was released from jail Wednesday. He was taken into custody Tuesday in connection with the alleged assault Sunday. Sousa said nothing as our cameras caught up with him after he made bail. The SDSU sophomore is accused of forcing a female student to perform oral sex while at a party off campus, according to campus police. Detectives say it happened at a duplex on College Avenue sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning....

The smoke may have cleared, but the Rolling Stone retraction disaster isn't over yet. UVA associate dean of students Nicole Eramo has filed a multimillion dollar defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, its parent company Wenner Media, and journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely for their portrayal of Eramo in the now-retracted and forever infamous "A Rape on Campus." One of Eramo's chief responsibilities at UVA was to handle allegations of sexual assault. In the complaint, she argues that Rolling Stone and Erdely used her to personify the "campus indifferent to sexual assault" narrative and as a result caused her emotional and physical distress, and damaged her reputation. The complaint itself is a parade of horrors. It lays out the allegations Rolling Stone and Erdely made one by one---that Eramo coddled Jackie, that she was indifferent to Jackie's allegations, that she pressured Jackie to not report a rape, that she abused Jackie, and that she attempted to suppress Jackie's rape---and lays out the case that Rolling Stone's own subsequent statements to the media prove that those allegations weren't only untrue, but "categorically false" and defamatory per se.

I and my wife are happily married, and neither of us is abusive, much less criminal. But under the University of Virginia's broad new "sexual assault" policy, my wife could be deemed guilty of "sexual assault" when she hugs me without advance permission. So, apparently, would any couple in America that engages in making out, without lots of explicit discussion in advance -- that is, pretty much every person in America who is married or in a committed relationship.  U. Va.'s policy bans a wide array of conduct that is perfectly legal under Virginia state law, and that neither involves sexual intercourse, nor occurs against anyone's wishes. This is an outrageous invasion of students' privacy, and an insult to U.Va. alumni and state taxpayers (like me). U.Va. adopted its new "Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment" to appease the Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work. Under its policy, if you hug your boyfriend, and as an inevitable result your "clothed" "body parts" (such as "breasts") touch him, you could be accused of “sexual assault” that "consists of" "sexual contact.” That's because U.Va. now defines such touching, “however slight,” as sexual assault, lumping together both touching and intercourse as "sexual assault" when they are deemed "sexual" and occur without "affirmative consent."

Yet another Complaint has been filed by a male student disciplined after a campus adjudication of alleged sexual assault, this time against the California Regents for the conduct involving UC-Santa Barbara. As in all the other complaints, there are allegations that the sexual relations were consensual, a substantial delay in reporting, and alleged bureacratic bungling and mischief denying the male student. But this one has a unique twist -- the male was on leave of absence and the conduct was after the semester was over and the female accuser was transferring to another school.  This raises a unique question of the reach of university jurisdiction to enforce campus sexual conduct rules. What is not unique about this case is the salacious nature of the alleged facts. According to the Complaint, the accused male and accusing female were part of a group sex encounter at his parent's Lake Tahoe house, after school was over in June, with the male having graduated and the female transfering:
32. On June 14, 2014, John Doe and Jane Doe, along with a group of friends, traveled to Jane Doe’s parents’ home in Lake Tahoe for the weekend to celebrate the end of the school-year. Although some of the individuals on the trip happened to be members of the UCSB Mock Trial Team, the trip was in no way sponsored by or affiliated with UCSB. * * * 37. While John Doe was out of the house, L.B. approached Jane Doe in the master bedroom and asked whether she would be interested in having group sex with her and B.R. Subsequently, Jane Doe, L.B. and D.J. advised B.R. that they would be interested in the group sex only if John Doe was also involved. 38. When John Doe returned to the house, Witness B.R. advised him of B.R.’s earlier conversation with Jane Doe, D.J. and L.B. and inquired whether John Doe would be interested in taking part in the group sex.

The Rolling Stone rape story debacle keeps getting worse. We now have a ton of information about how Sabrina Erdely and her team lashed together their potentially libelous tome about a victim named Jackie, and those who sought to silence her. We know that Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity targeted by the story, is exploring its legal options, and we know that nobody involved on Rolling Stone's end is going to suffer any real consequences. What we've been missing---at least until now---are faces for the names of those who have been harmed by Rolling Stone's negligent reporting. Ryan Duffin, identified as "Randall" in the article, and Alex Stock, identified as "Andrew," both played significant roles in the story Jackie spun for Erdely and that Erdely in turn published. In her statements to Erdely, Jackie said that she made contact with three friends the night of the alleged rape. Jackie called Ryan late that night, and when he met up with her he says that he saw no physical evidence on Jackie's person to suggest that she had been attacked. Jackie told Erdely a completely different story, and said that Ryan had indicated that he wouldn't speak to Rolling Stone about what happened because he "didn't want to be part of [Jackie's] shitshow."

When Rolling Stone inflicted its UVA "gang rape" fantasy on the American people, it didn't just damage its own reputation; it took down members of the targeted fraternity and university communities down with it. As I reported on yesterday, there will be no consequences for the RS staff members who contributed to the now-redacted article. No one has resigned in disgrace, or been given 15 minutes to clear out their office. It's business as usual at Rolling Stone---at least for now. Spokesmen representing Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have made a statement indicating that the organization will "pursue all available legal action" against Rolling Stone. From CNN Money:
"After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of reckless reporting by Rolling Stone magazine, today the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine," the fraternity said in a statement.

Last July, Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely went looking for a hot take on campus sexual assault. She reached out to a staff member at the University of Virginia for help, and after a series of conversations, found "Jackie." At first blush, "Jackie's" sexual assault story was horrifying on every level, from the setting at a well-respected fraternity to the alleged do-nothing attitude of university officials. She had details, a vivid memory, and friends to back up her account. Take level: scorching. Interviews were conducted. A story was written---but not long after publication, outlets like Slate and the Washington Post crashed the party with doubt, publishing stories highlighting inconsistencies in Jackie's story. They questioned Erdely's diligence in chasing down her leads, and things began to unravel.

Remember Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia student who's carrying her mattress around as long as her alleged rapist is allowed to remain on campus? Her alleged rapist is speaking out. Sulkowicz made national headlines with her harrowing tale of a consensual sexual encounter turned rape. After her alleged rapist was cleared by Columbia's internal justice system, Sulkowicz filed a police report with the NYP, but chose not to pursue the matter through the actual justice system saying she'd heard they'd mishandled cases, she didn't feel safe or comfortable chatting with them, and she was displeased by how long it would take for her case to get to court. Her accused rapist, Paul Nungesser, shared his story exclusively with The Daily Beast in what they're describing as, "dramatically at odds with the prevailing media narrative."

A story of rape is a story of power, degradation, and disrespect. It's the kind of story that makes you want---no, need---to shower with a lye bar and Brillo pad after you've heard it. A story that ends with, "and it was pretty much rape" has the same effect on me, but for a completely different reason. We have another he-said-she-said nightmare hitting the news out of Virginia. A John Doe and former Washington & Lee student has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the university expelled and discriminated against him in order to avoid negative attention, and that W&L Title IX officer Lauren Kozak routinely counsels female students that “regret equals rape.” Here we go again. Same song, different verse:
John Doe claims that twice, he had consensual sex with a student identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe. The first encounter occurred in his room at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house where they went after an off-campus party on Feb. 8. Both had been drinking, he said. He claims they sat on chairs in his room and talked for about an hour. He said Jane Doe then said that while she doesn’t usually have sex with a man when she first meets him, she found him very interesting. He said she moved toward him, initiated kissing, took off her clothes except for her underwear and got into bed with him. He said at no point did she say she did not want to have sex. He claims she spent the night, that he contacted her later through Facebook and that they had sex again in early March. He said she told her friends she had a good time. But at a Pi Kappa Phi St. Patrick’s Day party a few weeks later, Jane Doe left when she saw him kissing another woman, who is now his girlfriend.
Well, haven't we all been there.

As we reported over the weekend, Lena Dunham's account of being sexually assaulted by a Republican student at Oberlin is the other collapsing campus rape story. New details are emerging which cast a longer shadow of doubt over Dunham's claims. According to a new report from Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter, Dunham's publisher is going to alter the language in her book:
Publisher to Alter Lena Dunham Book After Rape Story Questioned, Attorney Says The publisher of Lena Dunham's book, Not That Kind of Girl, will tweak a passage where the star and creator of the Girls TV show describes how she was raped in college by a Republican named "Barry," an attorney for the man told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday. Attorney Aaron Minc said he has been in contact with Dunham's lawyers at Ziffren Brittenham in Los Angeles who assure him that future printings of the book, subtitled "A young woman tells you what she's 'learned,' " will come with a disclaimer that "Barry" is not the real name of the man who raped Dunham when the two were students at Oberlin College a decade ago.
In an even more explosive development, Random House has offered to pay the legal fees for the accused man known only as "Barry One."