The Yale University basketball team will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962 this week, but that milestone has been overshadowed by the expulsion of former team captain Jack Montague for an alleged sexual assault.
Montague was expelled by Yale on February 10. Last Wednesday, the Yale Daily News confirmed that the reason for the expulsion was “sexual misconduct.” In between, the story gained steam when the basketball team wore shirts supporting Montague, while posters went up across campus accusing the team of “supporting a rapist.”
On Monday, Montague’s lawyer, Max Stern, released a statement saying that Montague plans to sue the school to “vindicate his rights,” calling the punishment “wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure.” He added that Montague has been “pilloried as a ‘whipping boy’ for a campus problem that has galvanized national attention.”
The statement says that “the facts not in dispute” in the matter are that Montague and the accuser slept in bed together four times. According to Stern, the dispute is over the consent to sexual intercourse in the fourth episode — the accuser says that she did not consent to it, but Montague says she did. However, after the act in question, the lawyer says it is an undisputed fact that the accuser reached out to Montague and “voluntarily” spent the rest of the night with him in bed.
This is the part that Stern harps on.
“Only two persons could have known what happened on that fourth night. The panel chose to believe the woman, by a ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ We believe that it defies logic and common sense that a woman would seek to re-connect and get back into bed with a man who she says forced her to have unwanted sex just hours earlier,” the statement reads.
While it is true that only two people know exactly what happened that night, it is incorrect for Stern to say that it “defies logic and common sense” that a woman would return to bed with her abuser.
In fact, as the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape points out, there are many reasons why someone would maintain a relationship with an abuser.
Though it may be difficult for the public to understand, it is common for survivors of sexual abuse to continue relationships with their abusers after the abuse has stopped. Individuals react to trauma in different ways. For example, it is common for victims to maintain contact with their abusers because they may still feel affection for them even though they hate the abuse. This is especially normal when the abuser is a member of the family or a close family friend. It is also common for some victims to maintain contact in an attempt to regain control over their assault. Others may maintain contact in an attempt to regain a feeling of normalcy.
As detailed by Jezebel in “How to Make an Accused Rapist Look Good,” it is becoming increasingly common to discredit accusations based on a victim’s actions before or after an alleged sexual assault — be it friendly text messages with the accused after the fact, sexual jokes beforehand, or merely a delay in reporting time. But this is a very damaging trend, because there is no “proper” way for a victim to react to a sexual assault, and trauma presents itself differently in everyone. When it comes to sexual assault, the only thing that should be on trial is consent.
It’s clear Stern believes that Montague is a scapegoat for the university. He says that it is “not coincidental that the decision by Yale officials to seek expulsion of the captain of its basketball team followed by little more than a month the report of the Association of American Universities (AAU) which was highly critical of the incidence of sexual assault on the Yale campus, and the Yale President’s promise, in response, to ‘redouble our efforts.'”
Stern says that Yale is “oblivious to the catastrophic and irreparable damage resulting from these allegations and determinations,” and says that the signs around campus calling Montague a “rapist” are slander because Montague was never “accused of rape.”
Of course, a panel of the Yale University-Wide Committee (UWC) did find that Montague had “unconsented-to sex” in October 2014 with a female Yale student who is currently a junior. But there have been no criminal or civil charges against Montague, who was three months from graduating at the time the punishment was handed down. The accuser reported the incident to Yale’s Title IX coordinator a year later, and a Title IX official filed a formal complaint with the UWC.
The YDN reported on the hearing process:
When a member of the Yale community files a formal complaint of sexual misconduct, the UWC appoints an impartial fact-finder to interview relevant parties and compile a report of the events in question. After the report is completed and presented to the UWC secretary, the UWC chair — currently ecology and evolutionary biology professor David Post — selects a five-member panel from the larger 30-member UWC body to conduct a hearing. At the hearing, both the complainant and the respondent are permitted to make a 10-minute statement and are then interviewed by the panel. Additional witnesses may come before the panel at the panel’s discretion.
A childhood friend and fellow Yale classmate of Montague’s said that the UWC policies “go against established law and strip an accused student of due process and any form of proper defense one might receive in a real court.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy told the YDN that the procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct are “thorough and fair.” He says that it is very rare for such an allegation to end in expulsion.
“One out of five formal sexual misconduct hearings ends without a finding against the accused, and, in two out of five cases, the accused student receives a reprimand or probation,” Conroy said. “Only about one out of 10 cases ends in expulsion, and the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history.”