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Letters to the Editor (3/11/15)

Investigate Assaults

Thank you for taking the time to address the important topic of sexual violence on college campuses in your recent article, "Manning Up" [February 25]. College rape culture is an issue that has been silenced for too long. However, prevention programs like the recent One In Four presentation at Saint Michael's are only half the battle. As Ken Picard notes in the article, "colleges and universities have been under intense pressure from the feds to do a better job of investigating and preventing campus sexual assaults." Schools have been quick to tackle prevention, generating feel-good press that gives top officials ample opportunity to emphasize that none of their athletes and/or students have been accused of sexual violence.

What takes much more courage is the investigation. After two years of working with the Saint Michael's College Feminist Club on issues of sexual violence, it has become apparent that what we need is for an official to stand up and say the truth: Many students, athletes and nonathletes alike, have been accused of sexual misconduct. It's time for colleges to put more effort into investigating cases and less into covering them up. Expulsions and convictions don't make for the kind of headlines that attract prospective students, but ending violence and supporting survivors matter more than a nice article in Seven Days. It's time for colleges to "man up" and have the courage to thoroughly investigate sexual violence cases, no matter what the cost.

Madison Braz


Wrong on 'Revenge Porn'

In her piece "Shaming: Is it Criminal?" [Poli Psy, February 25], Judith Levine fails to recognize the importance of holding perpetrators accountable for the nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images.

Nonconsensual distribution of images is an increasingly common tactic used by domestic abusers to maintain power and control over their victims. Abusers threaten to disclose intimate images of their partners when victims attempt to leave the relationship. They use this threat to keep their partners under their control, only to make good on it once their partners find the courage to leave. Nonconsensual distribution has destroyed victims' ability to maintain or seek employment, thwarting attempts to gain independence and safety. 

Ms. Levine asks: "What makes revenge porn different from identity theft?" The answer is clear — unlike identity theft, revenge porn happens within the context of relationships in which women are treated as objects. It is a tactic used against women, intended to degrade and silence them. It cannot be repaired by canceling credit cards. 

Ms. Levine's minimization of the violation and her blatant blame of the victim who "capitulates to feeling humiliated" demonstrate the need for legislation. Her comments indicate a lack of understanding of coercive control and a lack of empathy for those violated.

The Vermont House rightly recognizes that such seriously harmful acts warrant civil remedies and criminal sanctions. The proposed legislation will hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, ensure that victims receive remedy or remuneration, and deter those who would otherwise consider harming someone in this way. 

Auburn Watersong


Watersong is the associate director of public policy for the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Look to Texas

[Re "Prison Brake: Bill Proposes to Reduce Vermont Inmate Population," February 25:] Doing what Rep. Mollie Burke (P/D-Brattleboro) proposes in H-221 would be terrible for Vermont in all areas of the state. Not too many years ago, two inmates walked away from a supervised work program and killed a teacher in her home here in Vermont. That is just one example.

The Vermont Department of Corrections does a good job of making sure proposed housing for inmates is safe for the people in the community and the inmates themselves. By this I mean that the proposed housing has to be free of drugs and alcohol, have no firearms on the premises, and be accessible to corrections officers at any time of the day or night before the inmate can be put on the furlough program. I don't think this is unreasonable.

In states like Texas and Tennessee, inmates are made to wear marked, highly visible uniforms and be chained together while working on the state highways to lighten the workload on the state highway crews. This helps to keep the budget down and deters criminals from reoffending. I think Vermont needs a little Texas logic in the Statehouse!

David Leggio


Ethics for All

It was gratifying to read about the new House Ethics Panel [Fair Game, "Ethics 101," February 18]. Now it's time for Burlington to have its own way to review city officials for questionable conflicts of interest. I would suggest starting with Yves Bradley, chair of the Burlington Planning Commission and a commercial broker at Pomerleau Real Estate.

Mr. Bradley's overlapping interests include being chair of the board of Burlington College and the realtor who handled the sale of the Catholic Diocese property to BC for Tony Pomerleau. Bradley may be a very nice man, but should someone with such interlocking interests be presiding over the commission that makes zoning-change recommendations? Let the new panel decide. 

Next let's direct the ethics investigators to city councilors Karen Paul and Jane Knodell. Their positions on the BC board would seem to conflict with upcoming decisions in response to a growing citizen uprising about the cash-strapped college's decision to sell their property to developer Eric Farrell. Mayor Weinberger is committed to conserving part of this beautiful waterfront parcel from paving and building. Save Open Space-Burlington's call for keeping 100 percent of the land open has gathered steam. The decision on committing the Conservation Legacy Fund may ultimately rest with the city council. A clear conflict of interest?

The chair of the Burlington Conservation Board works for Housing Vermont, which would ultimately want to participate in building on the BC land. Another conflict?

Burlington is a small city, and consequently it is easy for lines to cross — all the more reason for a new independent panel to keep a close eye on our tangled webs.

Andrew Simon