Dart Fellow Kristen Lombardi and the Center for Public Integrity have released the first part of what promises to be a groundbreaking series about the often mystifying processes colleges use to handle sexual assaults of women on campus.
Lombardi blends legal information, survivors’ accounts in print and multi-media form, and a detailed explanation of the various ways campuses deal with this widespread problem (She cites one study that estimates that as many as one in five women is sexually assaulted during her college years.).
In this opening installation of this nine-month investigation, Lombardi paints a devastating picture of an ineffective system that often humiliates and isolates the victim while doing little to punish the perpetrator. A reporter’s tool kit full of useful information for other people seeking to investigate the subject further is included, too.
While the initial part of this project focused on colleges’ procedures for handling sexual assaults, Bernard Lefkowitz writes in Our Boys about a suburban New Jersey community that gave tacit permission to, and then supported, young male rapists in their abuse of Leslie Faber, a young developmentally delayed woman.
Our Boys is set in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the home of Thomas Maypother, later known the world over as Tom Cruise. The leafy, nearly all-white suburb gave an air of being unchanged since its founding in the late 1800s.
But there was a dark side to this seemingly idyllic enclave. Martin Clayton, my former boss at South Shore Community News, told me that he used to refuse to deliver pizzas in the town because he would inevitably be stopped by the police and asked why he, a black man, was int the community.
The town privileged its athletes, the “boys’ in the title, who often destroyed houses at weekend parties and treated women and property with equal doses of contempt.
The details of exactly what happened in the basement between a number of the boys and the young woman will likely never be fully resolved, and Lefkowitz made it clear that some violation occurred with a baseball bat and a broomstick.
This is chilling enough, and the true outrage of Lefkowitz’s book is how the townspeople support the boys as their actions become more known. Lefkowitz strikes an effective balance between providing enough detail to let the reader judge for herself while also making it clear where he stands.
It’s unnerving content, but an area that we must confront if we are to make any dent in the problem. Lombardi and Lefkowitz deserve praise for bringing this critical issue, and the lack of accountability, to light.