Monday, April 13, 2015

Rapism...(TM)

The Curious Case Of Peter Yu.

Peter Yu is a Chinese national living and (previously) studying at Vassar College in upstate New York. Athletically and academically gifted, Yu was a well above average student who was popular with his college peers and seemed to be enjoying a fulfilling campus life. All that changed back in 2012 when female student and fellow rowing-team member,  Mary Claire Walker, accused Yu of rape. Undoubtedly, rape is not a light matter and although I do not have access to the details of the incident and would never seek to pass judgment from a distance, there are aspects of the case that are disturbing to say the least.

According to the accusation made by Walker, Yu had non-consensual sex with her in his dorm room - taking advantage of her state of inebriation. Walker's story is that....
[she and Yu] consumed alcohol at a team party in February 2012; one of Walker’s friends seems to have thought she was very drunk. After the party ended, Walker accompanied Yu back to his room. They started to have intercourse, but Yu’s roommate entered the room and interrupted them; Walker then said she didn’t want to go any further, and she left.
Yu was subsequently expelled from Vassar by a college tribunal for the alleged rape. Yet, the story is not so simple as it at first might seem.

Walker's accusations were made almost exactly one year to the day that the incident was alleged to have taken place (a significant point which I will address later), which doesn't diminish the possibility of her claims, per se, but it does cast doubt on them. In the intervening period - an entire year - Walker neither made a police report, nor sought any kind of medical exam in the immediate aftermath of the alleged rape. In fact, she seemed to have quite merrily exchanged Facebook messages with Yu, apologizing for her own behaviour (Yu was apparently a virgin and Walker seemed to believe that she had taken advantage of him), and ensuing messages between the two of them were cordial if not downright friendly - Walker even sending a message the following day that she had had a "wonderful time" and later, inviting him to dinner.

Although, the trauma of rape makes these kinds of actions entirely plausible, there is enough ambiguity to cast significant doubt on the accusations. But that isn't even the main problem with the case; the manner in which the accusations were made and the college tribunal's actions in response have left a major question mark over the fairness the treatment of Yu and the clear possibility that his legal and civil rights have been trampled upon. Within days of the accusations, a college tribunal had was convened and  less that two-and-a-half weeks later, Yu had been found guilty and expelled.

According to several reports, and Yu's lawsuit, the Vassar college tribunal had all the trappings of a kangaroo court in which a guilty verdict would be the only outcome regardless of the evidence. The deck was stacked against Yu for several reasons. First and foremost, his accuser was the daughter of a long-time professor at the college and the tribunal consisted entirely of colleagues of his accuser's father despite Yu's requests for a student to be on the judging panel. Yu alleges that the short amount of time between the charges being filed and his tribunal offered him little opportunity to mount a reasonable defense or have legal representation, and furthermore, he alleges that the tribunal did not allow cross-examination of his accuser nor did it give suitable credence to the cordial exchange of e-mails between Walker and himself which would seem to be significant counter-evidence to the accusations.

In light of this, the timing of the accusation has, for some, come under suspicion. Vassar has a statute of limitations of sorts which gives alleged victims one year from the date of any incident to file a complaint. By filing a complaint on the final day that the school permits claims to be made, it is suspected that Walker cleverly avoided a counter-claim that she, in fact, was the sexual predator. Walker's e-mails in which she expressed regret for "taking advantage" of Yu - who was a virgin at the time - when they were both extremely drunk are a testament to this possibility.

With the deck stacked so heavily against Yu, it is no surprise that he was found guilty by the tribunal and subsequently expelled. Yu has since applied to and been rejected by several schools and told not to bother applying by several others. The harm to the man's life has been huge and to make matters worse his lawsuit has recently been dismissed.

Surprisingly - or maybe not - Yu's case has gone largely unnoticed and ignored by Asian-American media and advocates. To me there is more than sufficient cause to view the way Yu has been treated as a major miscarriage of justice. I cannot know if Yu's race - or nationality - played a role in his case, but there are disturbing echoes of racially inflected false rape accusation from the past in which a white woman's mere allegations and a rigged jury has been enough to ensure guilty verdicts for minority men.

The silence of Asian-America is all the more acute given the apparent fearful ambivalence towards Asian men's sexuality of some in the Asian-American Progressive Reactivist Wannabe movement. Seemingly ever-ready to frame any hint of a strong Asian male sexuality as somehow threatening or implicitly unhealthy, Asian-America once again throws the baby out with the bathwater with its inability to offer a nuanced position on issues relating to Asian men's sexuality. Perhaps the intellectual process is unable to get past the fact that Yu's case cannot be framed as part of the black/white narrative that causes Asian advocacy to draw an ontological blank. Regardless, it is disturbing that Asian advocacy and commentators have little to say about Asian men's sexuality unless the sıbject is framed as fundamentally negative or reinforces racial stereotypes of the angry Asian sexual predator.

In the bigger picture, Yu's case is part of a larger problem of campus rape and how colleges are addressing the issues. Schools have been accused of not taking rape allegations with enough seriousness or sensitivity and there is a cultural history of treating rape victims poorly by authorities so in some ways, efforts by colleges to soften the process for victims has merit and may be necessary. The Yu case, however, seems to go far beyond this and there are reasons to suspect that Vassar's tribunal process denied Yu any chance of a reasonable and rightful defense and may have allegedly been biased in favor of a fellow professor's daughter.

4 comments:

  1. Wow. Funny that I never even heard of this story until you posted it. The guy's entire life was destroyed by an unfounded accusation, a whole year after it supposedly happened. This is just crazy.

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    1. Hi Byron

      Yeah, the case has been going since 2013 and I came across it by accident browsing the web recently. The guy's life is definitely ruined.

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  2. Apparently in schools, the rules of due process and evidence etc. do not count anymore. It is just emotion and rhetoric and hyperbole. And you also have students that came up with bright ideas like this.
    https://www.thefire.org/harvard-crimson-column-time-to-get-rid-of-academic-freedom/
    Schools apparently no longer promote scholarship, but rather political activism.

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    1. Apollyon

      That would seem to be true - definitely true in Yu's case. The guy underwent a kind of extra-judicial lynching.

      That article is interesting and makes a good point about people jumping on the bandwagon of nebulous presumptions of justice - it is all about giving power and faith over to whoever has the most compelling rhetoric regardless of whether their ideas stand up to logical scrutiny.

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