Rolling Stone Rape Story Reversal

So wow, you try to blog about stuff you learn from reliable, respected news sources, and look what happens. This week, Rolling Stone totally backpedaled on their blockbuster gang rape story from last week. Apparently, whatever they figured out in the last seven days, they were unable to determine in the prior many months of researching this story, and here’s what they have to say about it:
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.
I get their whole thing about wanting to respect the victim’s privacy, but they’re a news and commentary source, and a darn good one—usually. They had one job, dammit, and that was to write a well-researched, fair and balanced story. They didn’t even ensure that the date of the event was valid, or that there was a guy from the fraternity who worked at the place the victim worked. How can you call a source credible if you don’t check any facts?
Bottom line is they blew it, and that makes my original remarks about the story even more important. A college campus is no place to render justice, and neither is the court of public opinion. I have no doubt that something happened to this young woman, and it probably was awful, and my heart goes out to her, but unless she wanted to press charges with the police, the details should have stayed between her and those she chose to support her. I don’t blame her; it sounds like she was pushed to do this—the magazine sought her out to tell this story publicly, not the other way around. Spreading unverified rumors about something so heinous is as wrong as the act itself, and Rolling Stone should know better.
via: Rolling Stone Says It No Longer Trusts Woman in Gang Rape Account | TIME

Rape is NOT an Honor Code Violation

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week, you’ve no doubt read, seen, or at least heard about this Rolling Stone exposé detailing one young woman’s horrifying experience of gang rape at a UVA fraternity house. I recommend reading the article on an empty stomach, because the story will likely sicken you. It’s the sort of thing you read and wonder how one group of human beings could ever do that to another, particularly human beings who are smart enough and dedicated enough to be attending a high profile university. The focus of the article, however, is primarily on UVA’s and many other universities’ mishandling of rape cases and how the federal government is pressuring them to do a better job or face losing federal funding. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I fail to see how that’s really the big deal.
If you asked a mother and father to adjudicate an incest allegation between two of their children, would you expect an equitable resolution and a satisfactory outcome? For those who couldn’t read my sarcastic tone, the answer is no, of course not. You don’t ask strongly interested parties to adjudicate anything; generally, you ask them to recuse themselves in favor of neutral parties, preferably those with expertise in criminal and legal matters. University administrators and classmates are neither. Like the aforementioned parents, they are highly biased and ill-equipped. And understand, I say this as much for the accused as the accusers. An allegation of rape is not something that should be decided by a bunch of overachieving poli sci majors. Even if the case never makes it to the formal legal system, should students be allowed to be labeled as rapists by a kangaroo court? And potentially be expelled, lose scholarships, or be thrown off athletic teams? Such a ruling could unfairly effect the student’s entire life, if, in fact, they’re not guilty. I’m sorry, but the college honor council should not be imbued with that kind of power.
Sexual assault is a serious and despicable criminal act, not an honor code violation. In the FBI’s violent crime statistics, rape is second only to murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Plagiarism and stealing the rival team’s mascot don’t make the list. If a victim chooses to come forward, his or her case should be brought to the police, not the university cheerleading squad. To quote Robby Soave from his article in Reason magazine, “Cheating and raping are not related things. The former is an academic infraction deserving an academic punishment, like expulsion; the latter is a violent crime deserving a rigorous police investigation.” Universities don’t need to get better at handling rape allegations; they need to get the hell out of the way.
via: The UVA Rapists Should Not Have Been Expelled –

The Kissing Room Book Review

Research Triangle PublicationsThe Kissing Room by Cheryl Anne Gardner. $1.99 from Smashwords or $1.99 from Amazon. From the cover: Merle tells us her tale of love, longing, and desperation. As she struggles with the guilt over her husband’s suicide, Merle’s gut wrenching quest for redemption takes her on a downward spiral into a hell of her own making. Resigned to a life of self-mutilation, abuse, and despair, will she find hope in a mysterious stranger, or will she die? Approx. 16K words. I recently had the pleasure of reading Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Kissing Room, a novella of only 16K words. The Kissing Room is not a light, cheery romance for a Sunday afternoon; rather, it’s a dark, disturbing story that threatens to repel the reader with its brutal honesty, but compels him to read on, anxious for resolution. Consider yourself warned—if you dare to sample the first page, make sure you’re in a comfortable chair. This fast-paced story is hardly a chronological one, beginning in the middle of the action, and then alternating between what happens next and what happened before. The story also fluctuates frequently between gentle, romantic, or bittersweet moments and truly ugly, stomach-churning scenes of violence and despair. I would add, however, that even the nastiest situations are not described graphically or in lengthy detail, though neither are they for the faint of heart. The Kissing Room is told in the engaging, first person voice of Merle, a woman whose short life has already seen too much tragedy, making her wizened and weary beyond her years. While the reader may not agree with her choices or even understand her reasons for making them, it is impossible not to sympathize with this character and want to see her prevail. The character of Lain was less clear to me, and I wasn’t always sure I liked him, but that did not seem important; I was rooting for Merle, and if he made her happy, that was all that mattered. The Irish pub setting of the story is unique and authentic, with both the language and the details bringing it to life. I could always see and feel the story happening as though I was a participant, rather than some disconnected voyeur. The only time I felt thrown out of the story was when the point-of-view suddenly shifted from Merle to Lain for a brief passage near the end. I understand why the author did this, but for me, it broke the spell. Fortunately, I was so caught up in wanting to know what would happen, I just ignored it and went on. I think I’ve made the point that The Kissing Room is not exactly a “beach read” with its violence and macabre themes, but I don’t mean to imply that you will not enjoy it. I read the book nearly straight through, and only stopped because of an unavoidable interruption. I was annoyed to have to pause the action going on in my head, and went back to it as soon as I could—I just had to see how it would end. When it is all said and done, Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Kissing Room is a deeply touching love story; you just won’t know it til it’s over.

Halse Anderson’s “Speak” Labeled Pornography

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.
—Ray Bradbury, Coda to a later edition of Fahrenheit 451
When I was in high school, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was required reading. It was one of the better books we were given to read, and it stuck with me. Fahrenheit 451, if you haven’t read it, is about a future world where books deemed dangerous to society are banned and burned, in order to protect people from their potentially inflammatory ideas (pun intended).Research Triangle Publications The books so designated included anything historical and most of classic literature and poetry, lest anyone reading them be inspired to an original thought. I’m reminded of this book today after reading an editorial in the September 18th Springfield, MO News-Leader, entitled “Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education”. In this piece, Dr. Wesley Scroggins reports on some books that are part of the Republic, MO school curriculum, which he feels are inappropriate for the school system and should be removed. Which tasteless tomes has he targeted? Besides some sex education materials designed to explain the birds and the bees to the eighth-graders before they figure it all out for themselves, he picks on Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak. This highly acclaimed, award-winning book is extremely popular with both teachers and students, because it presents an ugly topic—teenage acquaintance rape—in a fictional, non-preachy, easily accessible format. Speak takes a painful subject, ordinarily relegated to whispered conversations, and places it squarely in the hands and minds of those who need it most. Dr. Scroggins objects to two passages in the book which hint at the rape of a high school freshman by a boy she met at a party. Dr. Scroggins refers to these passages as “soft pornography”. Pardon me while I laugh so hard I choke on my own spit. Speak is told in the voice of the victim, a young girl whose description of the experience is perfectly age appropriate and about as objectionable as an evening with the Disney Channel. Maybe less so. I find myself wondering what his real motive is, as I can’t see any reasonable person being offended by the material in this book. The Scarlet Letter was a whole lot racier, and does nowhere near what Speak can do to encourage young people to open up about their problems, rather than keeping it all inside. But what am I saying? I’m sure Dr. Scroggins hates The Scarlett Letter, too, since it opens up that nasty can of worms about religious leaders who abuse their positions of power… This attack on free speech hit a little closer to home for me, since it was my discovery of Speak several years ago that inspired me to write Little Miss Straight Lace. Speak was the first book I ever Free eBooksread that managed to explore the unpleasant aftermath of teenage sexual abuse in a realistic, but fictional format that would appeal to anyone. LMSL takes a similar approach, but focuses on mature adults embroiled in a conspiracy tying back to traumatic experiences in their youth. I can only hope that my words will carry a fraction of the impact that Ms. Anderson’s have. And I can also hope that some future-world maniac will threaten to ban my work from schools and libraries, as I could use the publicity. I suppose Ms. Anderson owes Mr. Scroggins a debt of gratitude for his very public, ultra-conservative tirade, since it has already spurred a renewed interest in her already popular book. Sorry, Dr. Scroggins, your book-burning plan just backfired.