Harvard Students Protest Return of Professor Guilty of Sexual Harassment

Harvard Students Protest Return of Professor Guilty of Sexual Harassment

AUSTIN SIEBOLD was browsing through Harvard University’s course catalogue when an intriguing subject caught her eye.

“I saw this class, it was on colonialism, post-colonialism and de-colonialism, and I thought that sounded really interesting,” she recalls, “And then I clicked on it and it was taught by John Comaroff and I was like, ‘Holy…'”

John Comaroff is a professor of African and African American studies who was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting several graduate students. The university conducted an internal investigation into the 78-year-old’s behavior and found him guilty of verbal misconduct in violation of its guidelines on sexual and gender-based harassment and professional conduct.

No wonder Austin was shocked to see that Harvard had quietly let the fox back into the hen house.

Rape Culture At Harvard University

“The reality is that our campus promotes a culture of sexual abuse, a culture of misogyny and harassment and discrimination,” explains student activist Rosalie Couture.

Couture’s view is supported by the fact that in February 2022, 38 faculty members including Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Jamaica Kincaid signed a letter questioning the findings of the Comaroff investigation. Its closing paragraph states, “We the undersigned know John Comaroff to be an excellent colleague, advisor and committed university citizen […]”

This is a typical example of the bystander betrayal that marginalizes victim-survivors of sexual assault. The self-serving arguments usually sound like:

  • (S)he’s nice to me so (s)he deserves a pass.
  • (S)he makes money for the company/institution so (s)he deserves a pass.
  • Their work is good so they deserves a pass.
  • Their songs/movies are good so they deserves a pass.

It is also an example of how manipulators excel at grooming their social circles into blindly supporting them, even in the face of glaring evidence of their wrong-doing and convictions.

However, when the facts about Comaroff came to light, the faculty members who supported him were left red faced. A week after the publication of the letter, 34 of the signatories withdrew their support.

Did Rejection Trigger A Rant About Corrective Rape?

Lilia Kilburn told The New York Times that Comaroff kissed her lips without her consent. She informed him that she was in a same-sex partnership to repel further advances from the professor. Instead of backing off, she says Comaroff began ranting that in some parts of Africa she and her parter would be targets for so-called corrective rape or femicide.

For his part, Comaroff’s attorney say that he “categorically denies ever harassing or retaliating against any student.” He acknowledged that he discussed rape with Kilburn but claims to have done so in a paternal way to warn her of the dangers women in same-sex couples might face in Cameroon.

Unsurprisingly, Kilburn and two other graduate students, Margaret Czerwienski and Amulya Mandava are suing Harvard University for dismissing repeated allegations that Comaroff was harassing students and ignoring claims that he leveraged his position of power to frighten the students with threats of sabotaging their careers if they report his aggression.

Students Do Not Feel Safe With Comaroff On Campus

Students were horrified to learn that Comaroff was allowed to return to teach at Harvard for the fall 2022 semester. They launched a protest over his present on campus which Harvard ignored because they welcomed Comaroff back to teach for the Spring 2023 semester.

Harvard is sending a clear message that, when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, the institution will protect itself and its faculty but students are on their own. Ultimately, the student uprising is a demand for the right to study in peace without fear of sexual harassment or assault from those in positions of power.

Student activist Rebecca Araten says, “This man is not safe to interact with undergraduate students.”

Is Harvard University An Abuse Enabler?

Austin spearheaded the second demonstration against Comaroff on February 25, 2023. After she saw his course in the catalogue, she says, “I enrolled in the class and used information I was able to gather from that to help me plan this.”

She alerted Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student association that aims to dismantle rape culture at the school. They collaborated with Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers’ Feminist Working Group. The action received support from Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard and the Student Labor Action Movement.

In their official statement, Our Harvard Can Do Better, repudiated Harvard for hiring Comaroff in 2012 despite allegations of sexual misconduct that stretched back to the 1970s. They described the school’s enabling of the disgraced professor as “shameful.” Furthermore, they are accusing Harvard University of being “systematically biased in favor of abusers.”

Taking Matters In To Their Own Hards

Per The Harvard Crimson, over 100 students attended Comaroff’s Colonialism and its Postcolonial/Decolonial Afterlives: Critical Readings class on January 25. As soon as the professor started to speak, the students stood up and shouted in unison, “Justice for survivors!”

As the protesters exited the classroom, Comanoff responded to their demonstration with a smirk. One of the students confronted him and said, “Smile in hell, asshole!”

The students then marched to the Baker Center where Comaroff’s office is located. They taped pages from Kilburn, Czerwienski and Mandava’s lawsuit to his door.

The student activists are demanding Comaroff’s resignation and calling for an end to Harvard’s “cultures of harassment, misogyny, and discrimination.”

Will their calls for justice continue to fall on deaf ears? And, if so, should Harvard University retain it’s status as an elite institution when it is failing to keep students safe and many of its most esteemed faculty members are so barbarously ignorant about rape?

References

  • Boit, D.A.C., Hamid R.D., and Schisgall E.J. (2023, January 25) ‘More than 100 Students Walk Out of Embattled Harvard Professor Comaroff’s First Class of Semester.’ The Harvard Crimson. 
  • Alaimo, K. (2022, February 14) ‘Harvard professors’ initial letter of support for John Comaroff sends a disturbing message.’ Think – Opinion, Analysis, Essays. NBC News.
  • Hartocollis, A. (2022, February 8) ‘A Lawsuit Accuses Harvard of Ignoring Sexual Harassment by a Professor.’ The New York Times.
  • Kim, A.H., Xu, M. (2022, February 10) ’35 Harvard Professors Retract Support For Letter Questioning Results of Comaroff Investigations.’ The Harvard Crimson. 
  • Our Harvard Can Do Better. PRESS RELEASE: 100s of Students Shut Down Abuser’s Class. January 24, 2023.

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Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Predictor Of Femicide

Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Predictor Of Femicide

Non-fatal strangulation in intimate partner violence is a powerful predictor of femicide, the main cause of premature death for women globally. A woman who has been targeted for non-fatal strangulation by a partner or family member is 750% more like to be killed by the same perpetrator.

Non-Fatal Strangulation Is A Gendered Crime

Non-fatal strangulation, also known as non-fatal asphyxiation, affects 10 times as many women as men, making it a gendered form of domestic violence. It occurs in 45% of attempted femicides.

Non-fatal strangulation and stalking are considered two of the most serious red flags of escalating aggression that can lead to femicide.

“It actually takes about 7 seconds occlusion of the blood vessels to make someone unconscious,” Gail Starr, clinical coordinator for Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).

Healthcare Workers Can Be A Lifeline For Victim-Survivors

Informed healthcare professional are often the only hope for women targeted for non-fatal strangulation by current and former intimate partner or family members. It is often overlooked as victim-survivors are often too terrified and disoriented to report the violence they are experiencing at the hands of their partners and family members.

Traces of non-fatal strangulation are only discernible in 50% of the cases. Therefore, learning to identify the signs of non-fatal strangulation is crucial in femicide prevention.

Some physical signs of non-fatal strangulation are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Brain damage
  • Hoarse voice
  • Paralysis
  • Motor and speech disorders
  • Stroke
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence 
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Seeing dark spots
  • Tunnel vision
  • Memory loss

Non-fatal strangulation can lead to strokse as there is a risk of blood clots forming in the artery. The strokes can occur days or weeks after the act of violence occurred.

Some psychological signs of non-fatal strangulation include:

  • Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidality
  • Dissociation
  • Compliance
  • Amnesia

Legislation Against Non-Fatal Strangulation

So far non-fatal strangulation has been criminalized in England and Wales, where it carries a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

References


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Book Review: ‘Unmasking Manipulation’ by Meredith Wesley

Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence by Meredith Wellesley

MEREDITH WESLEY’s Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence is the first book I’ve selected to review because it is an excellent self-help resource.

I had the honor of endorsing the book in 2020, the year of its publication after the author sent me an advanced copy. I knew that the focus of the book was psychological manipulation but what came as a pleasant surprise was that Wesley had written a how-to manual for women seeking to untangle themselves from the powerful tentacles of psycho-emotional abuse.

I mentioned that Unmasking Manipulation is written for women, as it uses the feminine gaze and its contents speak directly to anyone who has experienced manipulation in the context of misogyny. Keeping in mind that the women’s rights movement began in 1848 and has been in progress for less than two hundred years, it is essential that women share their stories and perspectives in a world that has historically erased them. 

Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is Wesley’s ability to detail a range of manipulation tactics and teach readers to recognize them in daily life. However, another characteristic of the book I found especially useful is the practical way that it is structured into sections, each one addressing common aspects of the manipulation process. Wesley excels at explaining complex topics in clear and direct language, which is helpful for readers in the early stages of recovery from psycho-emotional abuse who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

In Unmasking Manipulation Wesley compares misogynistic abusive power and control to warfare and illustrates why she has come to this conclusion. She effectively articulates the shocking sensation of having one’s face pressed up against the glass of the systemic oppression of women.

Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence by Meredith Wesley is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book stores.

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Gérard Depardieu Charged with Rape and Sexual Assault

Gérard Depardieu Charged with Rape and Sexual Assault | #MeToo | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

GÉRARD DEPARDIEU, 72, has been charged with rape and sexual assault of a 22-year-old colleague.

His attorney, Hervé Temime, told AFP on Tuesday that the French actor, “completely rejects the accusations.”

The alleged sexual assault and rape took place at one of Depardieu’s homes in Paris on August 7 and August 13, 2018, while they were rehearsing a scene from a theatre play at his home in Paris.

“The actress told police she had been assaulted by the actor twice this month at Depardieu’s home in Paris.”

The accuser knew Depardieu before the alleged attacks took place. According to a source close to the case, he is a friend of her family.

Her agent to French digital news service BFMTV that she is “devastated” by the alleged attacks. 

Depardieu’s attorney responded with the statement, “I had a long meeting with Gérard Depardieu and I am absolutely convinced that his innocence will be established.” 

There’s really no such thing as rape. It’s only a matter of a girl putting herself in a situation where she wants to be. Violence isn’t committed by those who do the act but by the victims, the ones who permit it to happen.

Gérard Depardieu

French prosecutors dropped the investigation in 2019

Investigations into the rape and sexual assault allegations against Gérard Depardieu were dropped by French prosecutors, who issued the following statement, “A number of investigations undertaken as part of this procedure have not enabled us to characterize the crimes alleged in all of their individual parts.”

The case was reopened last year and Depardieu was charged on December 16, 2020. He is currently free but under judicial supervision.

Depardieu claims to have “had plenty of rapes”

In an excerpt from a 1978 interview with Film Comment magazine, Depardieu admitted that he was a rapist:

“It was my pal Jackie – he was sixteen or seventeen – who took me along on my first rape.” 

He pauses, then adds as an afterthought, “He’s dead now, Jackie.” 

The incident occurred, Depardieu adds nonchalantly, in a bus depot; the girl, a brunette in her early twenties, was waiting for a bus when the teenager and the nine-year-old began teasing her.

“One thing led to another and, hup!!” – Depardieu suddenly rises halfway out of his chair, like an animal bounding after prey – “that was that.” He pauses. “It was normal. After that, I had plenty of rapes, too many to count.”

Depardieu returns to his chair and glances at the faces around him. He is surprised to note that they are registering something like horror. 

“There was nothing wrong with it,” he explains. “The girls wanted to be raped. I mean, there’s really no such thing as rape. It’s only a matter of a girl putting herself in a situation where she wants to be. Violence isn’t committed by those who do the act but by the victims, the ones who permit it to happen.”

In a taped interview with Time Magazine, journalist Richard Corliss asked Depardieu if he had committed rapes, and he replied, “Yes, but it was absolutely normal in those circumstances. That was part of my childhood.”

Depardieu denied making the statements after the fact. Instead, he qualified his previous statements, saying, “It is perhaps accurate to say that I had sexual experiences at an early age. But rape – never. I respect women too much.” 

The interview with Time was recorded in French and Depardieu’s lawyers argued that his statement was poorly translated, that he had not participated in but witnessed multiple rapes.

Time Magazine refused to retract the interview.

Who is Gérard Depardieu?

Gérard Depardieu is a lionized figure and widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in French cinema. He made his film debut in 1973 in the film Les Valseuses (Going Places).

The Oscar nominee has appeared in 170 films, including Green Card and Cyrano de Bergerac. However, he did not attend the Oscar’s ceremony due to public outrage over his admission of multiple rapes during his youth.

References

Editors (2021, February 23) ‘French actor Gérard Depardieu charged with rape.’ France 24. Retrieved February 22, 2021.

Zoglin, Richaed. (2001, June 24) L’Affaire Gérard Depardieu. Time Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2021.

Mann, Judy. (1991, March 20) How Do We Handle The Rapist Turned Heartthrob? The Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2021.


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