A few weeks back, my buddy Joe wanted to see a scary movie called THE CONJURING. Popular as it was, he couldn't find anyone who wanted to see it, so as a good friend, I agreed to go. We arrived at this strange theater we'd never been to before just moments from screen time . It was dark, the previews had started and surprisingly the theater was packed as we entered.
We had no idea of the adventure we were in for -- and I don't mean the movie.
I never had gone through anything like this since going to "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW" at a midnight screening years ago on the Sunset Strip in LA. For that, the audience participated. They sang the songs, flicked on their lighters during certain spots and some of the audience got up and danced during a few of the numbers. It was interactive movie going.
But this was THE CONJURING. A far cry from cult classic film. Suddenly from all corners of the theater Joe and I heard the audience talking back to the movie. They were shouting out things like, "Don't go in there, Bitch!" "Run!" Get your ass out dere!" "Grab a knife, arm yourself, idiot!" "Nooo. Don't open that door, Fool!"
I'd never experienced this before. Unruly to say the least. Very distracting and not the way I wanted to watch a film. Strange neighborhood. Strange audience. Strange experience. But what I did find amusing is so many of these people had ideas of what others should do. They had preconceived notions of what they would do if the same things were happening to them, not to the characters in the film. It's so easy to judge when you're not in a situation.
Today I read an equally frightening story, but in HuffPo. This story really happened.
The New Haven, Conn. university investigated the December 2012 incident and suspended the perpetrator for a semester after finding him responsible for both "sexual harassment" and "sexual misconduct in the form of intimidation." But because the punishment was handed down the last week of classes before spring finals, and the university gave the student 72 hours to leave campus, his punishment amounted to a one-day suspension, said Winnie Wang, a rising junior who was the victim of the attack.
It seems to me this was nothing more than a slap on the wrist for such an awful crime. A hollow and weak punishment like this really does more harm than good. It sends a message that might very well deter other victims from coming forward. And who knows how their silence will propagate further attacks.
Stephanie Spangler, Yale's Title IX coordinator and deputy provost of student affairs, insisted the university is doing all it can to assist victims, noting the school uses "very broad definitions" of sexual misconduct to take as many complaints as possible.
On the surface that sounds fair. But I did say surface. What about in fact?
Spangler said if a victim is not satisfied with the punishment, they can appeal. Wang (the victim) said she did seek an appeal, but never got a response from the school.
Now here is where the opening of this post ties into the Yale incident. Shouting at the screen. Directing their attention, not to the accused, but to his victim--
During a hearing with the university committee that focuses on sexual violence, Wang said she was repeatedly asked why she didn't run away from her would-be assailant, who she said is far bigger than her. She broke down several times, she said.
That's like the shouting out to the movie, "Don't go in there, Bitch!" The problem isn't why this woman Ms. Wang didn't run, it's why this perpetrator attacked (he's no longer the accused but found guilty) in the first place. And then you have to examine why Yale thinks so lightly of it's student's safety that they'd give him such a light punishment for such a heinous crime.
The guilty dude's punishment is over in a day. Ms. Wang will carry this nightmare on for years. If a sexual attack is worthy of a hearing and a guilty finding, why isn't the punishment total expulsion?
Could it be that Yale has never had a situation like this before? Is this the first and they just used poor judgement in meting out their punishment? Hardly.
Yale changed its process for handling sexual assault complaints following a 2011federal investigation into the school's response to sexual assaults and sexual harassment on campus. The inquiry ended with a voluntary resolution in 2012, and Yale was fined by the Education Department for improperly reporting sex crimes.
I'm an Ivy Leaguer. I know what it takes to make it into a select school. And character is part of it. When that's breached, a slap on the wrist isn't enough.
The hearing adjudication group from Boola-Boola (Yale Whiffenpoofs) were not sounding like justices -- they were sounding like the unruly audience I witnessed at THE CONJURING At least I had the opportunity to ask for my money back. Ms. Wang can't be given her life back.