In the last few years, campus sexual assault has emerged as a national issue. Students at dozens of colleges and universities have filed civil rights complaints against their schools, claiming that the problem is so silenced, underreported and grossly mishandled that it violates federal laws that prohibit the discrimination of women.
On Friday, Nov. 1, America Tonight is taking on the issue in a special live town hall program airing at 9 p.m. ET. We're bringing together students, professors, experts, activists and parents to take a hard look at the campus culture that may fuel assaults, the latest research on college rapists, the role of alcohol and how colleges and universities are dealing (or not dealing) with the problem.
These are some of the activists, journalists, advocates and others who will be in the room.
When Hannah Zeavin was a freshman at Yale, her friend was raped. Over the following two years, Zeavin came to believe that this was no isolated incident on campus, and that the university was failing to protect its female students. Along with 15 other students and recent alumni, Zeavin filed a civil rights complaint against Yale in 2011 "for its failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX." After a 15-month investigation by the Department of Education, both parties reached a “voluntary resolution agreement.” But the case helped start a movement across the country; 25 colleges and universities are now under investigation for their sexual assault procedures.
Keli Goff is an expert on youth and minority issues, a correspondent for The Root, a contributor to the Washington Post's women's blog "She the People" and the author of “Party Crashing,” about generational divides in the black community. Her 2011 editorial, “Why Are Feminists Afraid to Admit the Connection Between Alcohol and Rape?” sparked widespread controversy for bringing the issue of binge drinking to the forefront of the conversation about campus assault, a flash point in the debate around campus sexual violence to this day.
Follow her on Twitter: @keligoff
Lynn Phillips is a lecturer in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A social and developmental psychologist by training, her research explores issues including the hypersexualization of young girls, the way pornography affects hook up culture, consent and coercion in young women’s sexual lives and the social implications of the media's “hypermasculine” ideal. She has also worked with incarcerated rapists in a sex offender treatment program. Her most recent book, “Flirting with Danger,” which was adapted into a documentary last year, looked at how young women develop their ideas of sex and domination, and why they often resist calling their own experiences abuse or rape.
The woman taking on the military
Susan Burke has risen to national prominence as the leading attorney-advocate against sexual assault in the military. Last year, she filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 19 men and women veterans and active-duty servicemembers who alleged that they were sexually assaulted while in the military. The class action also accused of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other leaders of denying them their constitutional rights of due process. She has also worked with members of Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The numbers guy
During the last 20 years, clinical psychologist David Lisak has surveyed 2,000 male college students to produce some of the most cutting-edge research on college sexual assault. His work has helped guide rape prevention and response policies at major institutions, including many universities and the U.S. Armed Services. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Lisak is also a founding and current board member of 1in6, a nonprofit dedicated to helping men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences as children.
Follow 1in6 on Twitter: @1in6org
The Title IXers
Annie E. Clark says she was raped by a classmate as a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When she reported the assault to the school administration, she says the official likened the situation to a football game, and told her to look back on the game and think about what she should have done differently. Clark, along with Andrea Pino, filed a Title IX complaint against the university earlier this year, alleging that its mishandling of sexual assault on campus made it an unequal place for female students.
Follow her on Twitter: @aelizabethclark
Andrea Pino is an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a first-generation college student in her family. She says she was raped by a classmate her sophomore year, and afterwards became an activist against sexual violence on campus. She filed the Title IX complaint with Annie Clark, and also teaches sexual assault prevention and researches the national prevalence of sexual violence and trauma-induced illness.
Follow her on Twitter: @andreactually
Erin Gloria Ryan is the news editor at the popular women’s blog Jezebel, where she writes witty and insightful commentaries on things that women should be mad about. Often that thing is sexual violence. Her blog posts include: “Women Who Question The Existence Of Sexual Harassment Are So Cute,” “‘Rape Culture’ Is Just Drunk College Sluts Lying, Says Major Magazine” and “Reminder: Getting Drunk Doesn’t Cause Rape to Magically Appear.”
Follow her on Twitter: @morninggloria
The campus security expert
From 2003 to 2009, Steven Healy served as the director of public safety at Princeton University. He is now a managing partner and co-founder of Margolis Healy, a consulting firm specializing in campus safety, security and regulatory compliance. He has testified before Congress multiple times, most notably before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Congress after the Virginia Tech massacre to discuss security on America’s campuses.
Follow Margolis Healy on Twitter: @margolishealy
Lee Giordano is the training coordinator for Men Stopping Violence, a nonprofit dedicated to ending male violence against women, and has conducted hundreds of workshops and trainings at community organizations and universities. He became an activist against the abuse of women and girls while a student at Georgia State University, where he studied sociology and women’s studies, and says he realized the importance of men being vocal and visible allies in the movement to end violence against women. He received his Master’s in social justice education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The victim advocate
Daniel Carter has more than 20 years of experience as an advocate for victims of campus violence, and has helped develop six major pieces of federal legislation, including the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights and the Clery Act, which requres colleges to disclose annual crime statistics He is currently director of 32 National Campus Safety Initiative (32 NCSI) for the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, a national nonprofit founded by families and survivors directly impacted by the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech. In 2008, he was recognized on the floor of Congress as “probably the leading person in this Nation in advocating more action and tougher action against crimes that are committed on campus.”
Follow him on Twitter: @sdcartertn
Catherine Sevcenko is a staff attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit that advocates for students’ and professors’ rights to free speech and due process. Before graduating magna cum laude from George Mason School of Law, Sevcenko had a career as a Foreign Service Officer. She says her postings in Budapest, Munich and Moscow both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall gave her a deep appreciation for the power of free speech.
The falsely-accused's mother
Sherry Warner-Seefeld’s son, Caleb Warner, was accused of raping another University of North Dakota student in 2009. The university found him guilty of assault and banned him from campus for three years. The police, however, charged the alleged victim with filing a false report and issued a warrant for her arrest, which remains outstanding. In 2011, the university repealed its ban, saying Warner’s guilt was “not substantiated.” During the entire ordeal, his mother has advocated for his innocence.
Danielle Dirks is an assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Dirks did not intend to become an activist for sexual assault victims, but students began coming to her and pouring their hearts out. Since 2011, when she started at Oxy, Dirks says she's spoken to dozens of young men and women who say they've been raped, assaulted, harassed, stalked or cyber-bullied. Earlier this year, along with another professor, Dirks filed a federal complaint against the college for mishandling sexual assault cases, including assigning one student found guilty of rape a five-page paper as punishment. Her research and teaching focus on questions of justice and inequality.
Follow her on Twitter: @danielledirks
Steve Thompson is the Sexual Aggression Services Director at Central Michigan University and author of "No More Fear." He started teaching self-defense as a college student, after a rash of sexual assaults on his campus. When one of his students was raped, he came to believe that self-defense classes don’t work, and give women a false sense of security. Since then, he’s interviewed rapists in prisons, police officers, psychologists, doctors and thousands of survivors and has become a national specialist in profiling sex crime aggressors.
The athlete defender
Peter Ginsberg gained attention in 2012 when he represented Dez Wells, a former basketball player at Xavier University who was expelled after a female student accused him of sexually assaulting her. A grand jury declined to indict Wells after hearing the evidence, and Ginsberg filed a federal suit against the university and its president for allegedly failing to follow proper procedures, causing his client severe emotional distress and destroying his personal and professional representation. Ginsberg is the managing partner of Peter R. Ginsberg Law, LLC, and has represented multiple star athletes in defamation suits, including the NFL players Michael Irvin and Jonathan Vilma and PGA golfer Vijay Singh.
The awareness raiser
Kidnapped as a teenager when she was 17-years-old, Angela Rose has become a tireless advocate for victims of sexual violence. In 1998, she helped Illinois pass the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, which enables the state to hold a sexually violent person in custody under psychiatric care if the person has been convicted of a previous sexually violent offense, exhibits a mental disorder and is seen as a threat. She is also the founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a nonprofit that promotes educational and artistic projects on college campuses to try to shatter the silence that so often surrounds the issue of sexual assault.
Follow her on Twitter: @angelarosepave
Emily Yoffe is a regular contributer to Slate magazine, where she writes the Dear Prudence column. Her advice focuses frequently on sex and relationships, and grapples with readers’ most sensitive questions about sexual trauma. Earlier this month, Yoffe’s column “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk,” which urged young women to make themselves less vulnerable to sexual assault by drinking less, generated enormous backlash, striking one of the most sensitive nerves in the conversation about campus sexual violence.
Follow her on Twitter: @YoffeEmily
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