I recently watched a 20/20 episode entitled “Reversal of Fortune”. 20/20 was reporting on a newly granted mistrial in the case of two Vanderbilt University football players, Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, who were convicted of aggravated rape and sexual battery. 20/20’s episode can be viewed here.
In January of this year, the two men were sentenced to jail. Now, due to what 20/20 described as a “failure to disclose” violation by one of the jurors, who was the actual jury foreperson, the judge declared a mistrial. Both men are now out of jail and under GPS ankle monitoring. A new trial with a new jury is expected.
Before watching this 20/20 episode, I was not too terribly familiar with the case, having only seen snippets of it on social media. After watching the episode, I was really disturbed and had this question: From where did we get this culture of rape?
According to 20/20, a night of drinking between the 20-year-old Vandenburg and an unnamed 21-year-old neuroscience major resulted in her being passed out in his car. Allegedly, Vandenburg drives her to his dorm and the security footage appears to show him going inside and returning with several of his teammates. Another female, presumably another student, can clearly be seen in the video walking over to the vehicle and viewing the passed out woman. But, she appears not to intervene. Instead, she walks away from the car and away from the dorm.
The campus surveillance evidence seems to show the football players carrying the unconscious woman inside the dorm, leaving her lying on the hallway floor. Two of them proceed to photograph her with their cellphones, and later they carry her into the dorm room of Vandenburg. According to the timestamps on the security footage, she is not seen again for 30 minutes.
Law enforcement was eventually able to retrieve a video that Vandenburg allegedly took with his cellphone of what transpired inside his dorm room, because Vandenburg allegedly sent that video to two of his childhood friends, 2100 miles away in California. According to 20/20, one of his friends responds to his video with a text message suggesting that they “gang bang” her. The actual cellphone video was not presented in this 20/20 episode. However, 20/20 reported that it shows the unconscious female student was penetrated with objects, including a water bottle, while Vandenburg, Batey, and two other football players* were in his dorm room.
During the trial, Batey’s defense attorney attempted to blame the actions of that night on the drinking and partying culture of Vanderbilt University. Still, my question remains: From where did we get this culture of rape? How has this culture of rape, disrespect, and devaluing others entered into our lives and into our congregations? When did we stop caring for one another and looking after each other? Even if the night began with bad decisions, how did it spiral so far downward that now lives and careers are ruined? What are we to learn from this and how can we teach our children differently?
How can we, as a church, fight against a culture of rape? Safe Church Ministry has resources that can help.