Does it end?

By now, the majority of us are well aware of the flood of sexual harassment accusations against dozens of well-known men in the entertainment industry. The New York Times reported in October that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had reached settlements with at least eight women in the past, regarding accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment. 83 women have now come forward to say that Weinstein acted inappropriately toward them.

But the reports haven’t stopped at Weinstein. With the re-introduction of the #MeToo hashtag – started by activist Tarana Burke a decade ago, and gaining attention when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the tag following publication of the Times article – it became clear that this is a much bigger problem than anyone had anticipated.

Björk, an Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer and actress known globally for her avant-garde style, was just one industry member who disclosed via social media that she, too, had been victimized.

in the spirit of #metoo i would like to lend women around the world a hand with a more detailed description of my…

Posted by Björk on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The list of survivors in Hollywood, female and male, goes on and on: Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Lady Gaga, Gabrielle Union, and Molly Ringwald, to name a few. Terry Crews has also openly discussed the negative impact that harassment has had on him.

The list of incriminated men is incredibly long, too. Danny Masterson, Hollywood actor. Matt Lauer, television news reporter for NBC News. Charlie Rose, television host and reporter for CBS, PBS and Bloomberg LP. Russell Simmons, cofounder of the Def Jam record label. Louis C.K., comedian. Michael Oreskes, NPR news chief.

These are only a handful of those affected by allegations, whether making or facing them. Some individuals have admitted to acting inappropriately (apologies were later issued by Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose, for example), but the stories keep coming, and are not limited to Hollywood. Former Chief Justice and Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Roy Moore has also recently been accused by multiple women of harassment.

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Following the thousands who have used the #MeToo hashtag to talk about their experiences with abuse and harassment are several women in powerful government positions, including four United States Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Those who are able are continuing to talk about those experiences, which often happen at work and which they must often brush off. But here’s the thing: the harassment is not limited to awkward hugs or inappropriate shoulder rubs from a boss. And although women most often face these sorts of abuse, they are not the only ones suffering.

 

Lest anyone think these reports are a fluke, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2011, nearly 20 percent of U.S. women had been raped at some point, and roughly 43 percent had survived some other type of sexual violence. That translates to numbers into the millions (mouse over chart for more exact figures).

In much the same way that these affronts are not isolated to one kind of assault, they are not isolated to one country. A survey from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that in 2011, nearly half of French, Finnish and German women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. A quarter or more of women in nearly every other member country of the European Union reported the same (mouse over map for exact figures by country).

Might these incidents be driven less by actual sexual desire, and more by the desire to exert power? That would likely explain why so many assaults occur while in the process of a job interview or a meeting with a professional superior, and why those accused are often in higher-level positions of authority.

Plenty have been told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become independently successful. That independence is the path to the American Dream. However, becoming self-reliant, and thus powerful, takes time and work. What price do these survivors pay to get there? Must they endure the Weinsteins, the Roses, the Mastersons and all the others to get ahead?

For many, the answer is “yes.” Socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals in particular – mostly women, but some men as well – such as single mothers or women of color, might be left with no other choice than to accept harassment for the sake of supporting their families and themselves. Not everyone has the ability to go to college, or to seek out a job at which they can be free from unwanted sexual advances.

Ideally, those experiencing or at risk of harassment or abuse could “save themselves” via independence, or by removing themselves from the situation. Unfortunately, to suggest such a solution in the real world is to let predators off the hook, and to oversimplify an immensely complicated problem.

It has been established that gender roles and power dynamics enforced through societal norms encourage sexual aggression. It has been shown over and over again that many men feel entitled to forcing sex with a woman if he thinks that she has “led him on.”

Why has society established these norms in the first place? Why has it taken so long for these issues to get noticed, and why must it fall to survivors to call for change via the #MeToo movement?

Most importantly – what do we do about it?

UT community, Knoxville residents stand together in Take Back the Night event

The University of Tennessee’s Women’s Coordinating Council invited members of the UT community to stand together as a community during their annual ‘Take Back the Night’ event on Thursday, Oct. 19.

The purpose of this event was to bring awareness and eliminate all forms of sexual and domestic violence. Students were invited to partake in the silent march and hold signs to stand in solidarity with victims and survivors. The march concluded at the Torchbearer with a Candlelight Vigil.

The Women’s Coordinating Council leads participants in candle light ceremony following the silent march. //Arial Starks

Neesha Arter is an author and journalist from New York City and served as this year’s keynote speaker. Arter shared her own experience dealing with sexual assault when she was 14-years-old. During her story, Arter fought back tears in remembrance of her experience.

“You can pretend like it didn’t happen, but it is bound to come out in some way,” she said.

Arter wants people struggling with domestic violence and sexual assault to know that it is necessary to confide in someone and share your story with others. She inspired other women to get up and share their stories.

A UT senior, who wants to remain anonymous, shared her story for the first time to the audience. She explained how she had never told anyone of her story before due to the backlash she received from her peers.

“I felt so inspired by the bravery of Neesha telling her story, so I just thank you for allowing me the safe space to tell mine,” she said.

Knoxville resident David Strawbridge shared that he was there in support of a friend that dealt with domestic abuse.

“My friend never spoke out against domestic violence and lost her life because of it, so I refuse to sit back and be silent on her behalf,” he said.

Strawbridge appreciates events like these and wants to be involved in the movement in any way he can.

UT’s Student Counseling Center provides counseling, psychotherapy and mental health outreach and consultation services. If you or someone you know is in need of help outside regular business hours, you can contact crisis-trained professional at 974-HELP (4357).

 

Featured image by Arial Starks

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Panel educates students on new Title IX procedures

If a University of Tennessee student finds themselves a victim of sexual violence, where do they go?

This year, they can walk into the brand-new Title IX Office on Melrose Avenue and their report will be the first step in a process UT’s Title IX staff spent the summer trying to perfect.

The Title IX Office teamed up with the Chancellor’s Honors Program to familiarize students with the 2017 Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Retaliation by hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday night.

Title IX is the federal policy established in 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of students and employees at educational institutions that receive federal funding. This includes prohibition of sexual harassment or violence.

The 2017 fall semester is the first time in school there has been a stand-alone Title IX Office. It’s run by Ashley Blamey, the former director of the Center for Health, Education, and Wellness.

During the panel, Blamey explained that if a student experiences harassment or violence, the Title IX Office is where they should go.

How it Works

Blamey told the audience to start by thinking of UT as a town that contains up to 40,000 people on any given day.

“Given the size of our community,” Blamey said, “there are going to be people who are outside of our community values.”

When something happens to a student that falls outside of UT’s community values and is relevant to Title IX, the student can walk into the office and make a report.

From there, the student has three options. They can request limited action, report to the Office of Student Conduct or report to law enforcement.

Limited action measures include connections to medical care, counseling, communication with faculty and any arrangements that need to be made with housing, work or transportation. The Title IX Office can also issue a no-contact directive, which Blamey describes as “a line in the sand” that UT can issue to stop interaction between two University-affiliated parties.

“These [limited action] pieces are designed so that someone can continue to live their life,” Blamey said.

If a student chooses limited action, they have the right to request that their contact with the Title IX Office never be released, as well as the right to refuse to name the respondent.

If a student chooses to report to the Office of Student Conduct, the person they accuse will be investigated by the Office of Student Conduct.

Betsy Smith, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, who sat on the panel, explained that a school investigation looks different than criminal proceedings.

“We’re not looking to take away the life or liberty of an individual,” Smith said.

While a criminal court has to prove something took place “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the university has to prove something is “more likely than not.”

If the Office of Student Conduct meets that burden of proof, the accused person is subject to University discipline.

If a student chooses to report to law enforcement, a police investigation will take place with the goal of criminal prosecution in mind.

Blamey explained this process with a series of flowcharts and she reminded the audience “none of this is as simple as it looks on paper,” but the goal of the panel was to help students understand why the Title IX Office is here.

The Prevention Goals of Title IX

The main goal of the Title IX Office, as well as the Center for Health, Education, and Wellness (CHEW) is to prevent these incidents before they happen.

The process of prevention starts before new Vols even make it to campus. They take an online module the summer before their first semester and sit through a session on safety and consent at orientation.

“In Tennessee, some of our students have never had that conversation before,” Blamey said. “Some people say ‘you can’t educate to change this issue’ and I say ‘if that’s the case, we should all go home’.”

Once students are on campus, they can receive bystander training through CHEW’s Volunteers Speak Up program.

Blamey described Title IX issues as public health issues that all members of the campus community can work to prevent.

“Every single person in this room can help change this,” Blamey said. “If you are here, then you are part of the change.”

Title IX in 2017

Multiple students at the panel addressed concern over recent comments about Title IX investigations on campus made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While Blamey acknowledged that UT will have to take into account any future guidance that comes from the federal government, she reassured the students present that the procedures put in place at UT are here to stay.

“There is no concern, or shouldn’t be, that Title IX is going away,” Blamey said.

So far this semester, Blamey said things have been running more smoothly than before.

The Title IX Office has seen an increase in reports. Since getting its own building, more students have been walking in.

The new policies were made with the experiences of students who are victimized and students who are accused in mind, and the panel was an early-semester push to make students aware of what those policies are and what the Title IX Office does.

“We’re worked really hard…to be more clear, to make the language more accessible,” Blamey said.

“As far as our interactions with students, it feels much more thoughtful.”

 

Featured Image by Nima Kasraie, courtesy of Creative Commons

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

UT campaigns aim to curb sexual assault on campus

Written by Alaina Briones

The Office of Equity and Diversity shed light on sexual misconduct at The University of Tennessee with a report detailing 38 cases of student-on-student sexual misconduct reported in 2015.

According to the data, UT was unable to take disciplinary action in 21 of the 38 cases reported. In eight cases, UT either honored requests against disciplinary action or the accuser declined to participate in the student conduct process.

However, many cases are never reported due to the victim feeling ashamed or unsure about the steps to take.

One victim shared her experience about being sexually assaulted in Presidential Court her freshman year.

“I didn’t think anyone would believe me, honestly. I was extremely intoxicated, and also underage at the time. I had no clue what to do, so I did nothing,” she said.

In July 2016, UT settled a federal Title IX lawsuit for $2.48 million after eight women accused the university of maintaining a “hostile sexual environment” regarding sexual assaults and the “deliberate indifference” towards student athletes.

These complaints briefly mention former Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning’s sexual assault complaint made by former Volunteers trainer Jamie Ann Naughright from 1996.

The lawsuit placed UT under strict observation of the national media. Jimmy Cheek said the campus added several programs and positions “dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response.”

Sarah Gardner, Sexual Assault Prevention and Support Coordinator in the Office of Health Education and Wellness, is among these positions added in response to the university’s scrutiny.

Gardner’s role includes prevention work and sexual health education. She makes sure students understand what sexual assault policies and “consent” mean. Her other important role is intervention. She works closely with colleagues to make sure that students referred to the Office of Health Education and Wellness are “okay, safe and successful” during their time at UT.

The university has implemented several campaigns through these resources to bring awareness to UT’s campus.

The Office of Health Education and Wellness sponsors The Red Flag Campaign, which brings awareness to relationship violence. Another awareness program called the Red Zone educates students about the fall semester time when students are statically more at risk for sexual assault.

“The goal is to create a campus culture where students watch out for one another and where they take care of each other. It’s about changing the culture,” Gardner said.

Seventy-five to eighty percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance/non-stranger, classmate or friend, according to the Red Zone. A 2007 report on Campus Sexual Assault funded by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that 20 to 25 percent of female undergraduates experience attempted or completed rape during their college careers.

The university’s 2015 report showed 17 students who identified the alleged attacker, 17 students declining to identify and four students reporting the alleged attacker as unknown to them.

UT Wellness Coordinator Fletcher Haverkamp works with a team to carry out tasks relating to policies, new programs and communications surrounding sexual assault and relationship violence. His job is funded by a Violence Against Women grant from the Department of Justice awarded to UT in 2015.

One of his main focuses at the moment is active bystander programming for undergraduate students, but specifically fraternity men.

Haverkamp encourages everyone to be an active bystander, and emphasizes the importance it can make in situations of distress. He challenged students with an active charge to take responsibility in situations, “accept responsibility for the situation, because if it’s not you then nobody else will do it.”

The university says it aspires to become a front-runner in sexual assault prevention. Resources are available for those who experience prohibited conduct. UT will assign a Title IX Coordinator to the Sexual Assault Response Team to work with the student to evaluate care, support needs and discuss options under university policies.

“There is a national culture regarding blaming the survivors. People will often question what was happening before someone was assaulted… What I would like to break is this myth that it’s ever the survivor’s fault. A survivor doesn’t ask for this experience to happen to them,” Haverkamp stated.

If an attack occurs, UTPD directs students to find a safe place, contact a trusted individual, preserve all evidence, seek medical care and consider any campus resource.

For more information on sexual assault at The University of Tennessee, visit this website.

 

Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Jimmy Cheek talks diversity, sexual assault lawsuit

[title_box title=”Jimmy Cheek talks diversity, sexual assault lawsuit”]

On Wednesday, March 23, the Student Government Association hosted its annual Cheek Speak, an open forum with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek.

At the event, all students were encouraged to bring forth their campus issues and questions to discuss with the chancellor. Also present were Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Chris Cimino, and Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Melissa Shivers.

The discussion began with an update on the recent bill to defund diversity and inclusion programs at UT. Cheek wanted to emphasize that while the bill is of great concern, it would not affect minority scholarships or other multicultural life organizations on campus.

“Our statement continues to be that diversity and inclusion remains very important on our campus, and you can’t do that without activities that aggressively pursue diverse students,” Cheek said.

Many students also voiced concerns about the new mandatory $300 meal plan, which was set in place to help fund the new Student Union. Cimino responded that while he understands the meal plan can cause financial strain for some students, the refund policy makes it reasonable and the requirement will not be revoked.

Cimino also addressed the ongoing closure of Tom Black Track, saying that the construction is currently on hold until the summer months and there is no reason why it can’t be open until the work resumes. He said he would look into making the track accessible for students for the several weeks.

The discussion then turned to the current lawsuits against UT regarding sexual assault and the allegations that the university is promoting a “sexual assault culture” among students. Cheek noted that UT does have a sexual assault problem, but also said that every other campus in the country has the same problem, calling it “a national issue.”

On this issue, Shivers referred to the new proposed student code of conduct, which would create a new board to hear all conduct cases and allow uniformity in the decision-making.

“The code of conduct changes would also allow for amnesty policies, where students who are in trouble, maybe who’ve had too much to drink, have the opportunity to make sure their peers stay safe without being penalized,” she said.

Shivers called on students to present their own ideas to the administration about what can be done differently to reduce sexual assault on campus and to increase options for survivors of sexual assault.

Finally, Cheek addressed Gov. Haslam’s recent efforts to privatize services on campus. Cheek said that this process remains in its early stages and that they are still verifying numbers and comparing costs and benefits.

“We outsource about 40 things on campus right now,” Cheek said. “We want to make sure we get the same service and the same control over services that we have.”

Cimino said that no decisions will be made on privatization until 2017.

Edited by Ben Webb

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Former Tennessee players accused of assaulting former wide receiver Drae Bowles

[title_box title=”Former Tennessee players accused of assaulting former wide receiver Drae Bowles”]

A federal lawsuit by six unnamed UT students claims that Tennessee football players twice assaulted former Tennessee wide receiver Drae Bowles, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The lawsuit states that the university and its staff, including Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, athletic director Dave Hart and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, violated Title IX laws and others by taking “deliberately indifferent” actions in regards to several separate cases of alleged rapes involving former Tennessee players.

Bowles assisted the woman who accused former Tennessee players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams of rape by taking her to the hospital following the incident.

He also supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities.

The lawsuit claims that the day after the matter occurred, one of the victims witnessed several football players “jumping” Bowles with football coaches on hand, and a second confrontation between him and several players is said to have taken place in the team facility.

Former Tennessee player Geraldo Orta told Knoxville police, “Bowles had betrayed the team and that where he (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.”

Bowles gave a testimony that led to the indictment of Johnson and Williams, but he has yet to comment on the filing of the lawsuit.

The Tennessee Journalist will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Cody McClure