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Excitement around new Ted Bundy film further perpetuates violence against women as commentary period for Title IX changes comes to a close


Last Thursday, Jan. 24, Netflix released “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” the much-awaited docu-series in which the American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, burglar, and necrophile gets a turn at telling his own story. Through archival footage, interviews, and recordings from death row, Bundy is given a second chance to redeem himself beyond the grave after his 1989 execution at Raiford Prison in Bradford County, Fla.

But it doesn’t seem as though Bundy needs any redeeming at all. Despite having been sentenced to death row in 1979, it took 10 years to finally execute him. For far too long, Bundy was able to postpone his death, composing what was seen as compelling arguments and evidence that denied the murder of more than 20 women.

The heinous acts that Bundy committed were met with skepticism for years, in large due to his alleged inability to meet the profile of the “typical” serial killer. His good looks, charisma, and intelligence simply didn’t fit the bill for a Grade A psychopath. The Netflix series trailer even quotes a woman as saying, “He was charming, goodlooking, smart…are you sure you have the right guy?”

This week, Ted Bundy’s celebrity is further heightened by the release of a trailer for the film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” To be shown at the renowned Sundance Film Festival, Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron is cast as Bundy, adding yet another layer of sex appeal to the once most-sought-after man’s notoriety.

This revitalized “hype” around Ted Bundy comes from a long tradition of giving men the benefit of the doubt when they are in the wrong. Their acts don’t necessarily need to be as unthinkable as Bundy’s, either. Instead of being held accountable for their actions, legal authorities, friends and relatives, and strangers alike all find reasons to let these assaulters off the hook.

Even in the face of the #MeToo movement, boys and men are still not experiencing the full repercussions of their actions.

After being publicly shunned for the numerous sexual assault allegations made against him, Louis CK made an unannounced comeback at an underground comedy club in L.A. last August. Likewise, after a widely publicized, heart-wrenching testimony by his victim, Stanford rapist Brock Turner only served three months of his already pathetically short six-month sentence.

The popularity and near-obsessive consumption of this revisiting of the Bundy case is by no means a coincidence. Not only do this docu-series and film join a large collection of similarly-themed popular media (films, shows, and literature), but they are also a reflection of how our current administration—and in turn, our society at large—view the issue of violence against women.

In November of last year, the Trump administration proposed multiple amendments to Title IX, the federal regulation that prohibits sex and gender discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. As Student Body President Lemuel Bourne ‘19 explained in his email yesterday, President Obama’s 2014 revision to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter “gives institutions of higher education more effective procedures and methods for handling cases of sexual violence and discrimination on and off campus.” This email was sent out to the entire university in support of the sexual assault awareness and prevention group on campus, Take Back the Night.

As it originally stood, Title IX outlined the criteria of what constitutes as sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, in addition to what measures college campuses must take in order to ensure the safety of sexual assault survivors and their accused. As Bourne wrote, some measures may include “class schedule changes, residence hall changes, or no contact orders issued between survivors and accused students.”

With the amendments implemented by the Trump Administration, the regulations currently in effect are significantly weakened. Changes include, but are not limited to, cross-examination of survivors by advisors of the accused during conduct hearings, limitations on a university’s ability to respond to assaults occurring “off-campus” including in any off-campus housing, recreational activities, or other such social gatherings, and an increased standard of evidence that requires “clear and convincing evidence” rather than the original “preponderance of evidence.”

The new changes to the Title IV regulations have devastating consequences for survivors of sexual assault, as well as anyone who may experience sexual assault in the future. Instead of ensuring the safety of victims’ learning environment and tackling their trauma head on, we as a society would rather bend over backwards to find glimpses of what can be considered redemptive in an assaulter. We continue to silence women who muster up the courage and bravery to speak out against their assaulters and fight for justice.

The fanfare surrounding Ted Bundy is a symptom of a larger, more pervasive lack of regard for women’s safety. Our virulent culture has not only normalized violence against women, but has even come to celebrate it. To consistently meet acts of violence against women with skepticism or downright disbelief makes women more vulnerable than ever before.

The new amendments to Title IV astronomically increase the danger victims of sexual assault experience on college campuses, while protecting the privilege and underserved safety of boys and men who have been taught that they can get away with anything.

And yet, amidst the controversy surrounding Zac Efron’s new film, Ted Bundy survivor Kathy Kleiner Rubin spoke out in favor of both the film and its leading man. Kleiner Rubin was brutally attacked by Bundy after he broke into her Florida State University sorority house in 1978.

“I believe that in order to show him exactly the way he was, it’s not really glorifying him, but it’s showing him, and when they do say positive and wonderful things about him … that’s what they saw, that’s what Bundy wanted you to see,” Kleiner Rubin said in an interview with People.

What Kleiner Rubin wants us to see is that just as there is no single description of who a sexual assault victim is, there is no one image of who a serial killer, assaulter, kidnapper, or rapist is, or can be, either. Instead of grasping at straws of qualities and character that allow us to defend boys and men and deny their actions, what we should be focusing on is believing women in the face of violence and trauma and doing everything we can to ensure their safety and protection.

“What it boils down to is a belief in basic fundamental human rights and human dignity. Sexual violence is a violation of an individual’s bodily autonomy, a violation of that individual’s fundamental right to their own body. And that’s unacceptable,” Take Back the Night Vice President Kelsey Wyatt ‘20 said.

All proposed amendments to federal regulations are followed by a 60-day commentary period in which the general public can express their opinions. Today, Jan. 30, marks the final day of the commentary period against the Title IX amendments. By clicking this link, you will be able to take action and submit a comment to express your disapproval of the proposed changes, which Take Back the Night strongly advocates for.

Wyatt leaves us with a final thought: “If human dignity and human rights are the basis for our society, then a violation of these is fundamentally against our society, and is a wrong that must be made right. And today’s the day.”


Feature Image: Courtesy of The Indian Express

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Excitement around new Ted Bundy film further perpetuates violence against women as commentary period for Title IX changes comes to a close