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In Yale speech, Carter decries violence against women

“People often ask me how it feels to be a former president,” Jimmy Carter began his speech to a packed Woolsey Hall yesterday. “I tell them that one thing that illustrates it the best I know is a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine. A little boy looks up at his father and says, ‘Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president.’”
Despite the humorous beginning, President Carter quickly moved on to a more serious issue—violence against women and girls, the topic of his latest book. From Egypt and Djibouti to Yale’s own campus, Carter argued that this is a pressing and overlooked global epidemic, citing issues ranging from genital mutilation to slavery, and from sexual violence to unequal pay.
“These facts are hard to believe but they should be ever-present in your mind,” he said.
During an onstage conversation with Yale preisdent Peter Salovey ’86PhD, Carter also spoke frankly about an issue closer to home—the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. Carter said sexual assaults are not isolated incidents but instead the crimes of serial rapists who know they can act with impunity because of weak enforcement mechanisms and a culture in which women are afraid to come forward.
Citing a 2013 article in the Huffington Post which reported that six students at Yale found guilty of “nonconsensual sex” had been allowed to remain on campus, Carter challenged Yale and universities nationwide to use expulsion to address those found guilty of campus rape.  “Why would anyone want a serial rapist to stay on the campus?” he demanded to loud and sustained applause.

Salovey, visibly uncomfortable, responded by saying that polices “had changed over the last year or two.” (Deputy press secretary Karen Peart later told the Yale Daily News that the Huffington Post article was not wholly accurate in its portrayal of Yale's sexual misconduct policies. We covered the controversy over those cases here and here.)

Carter encouraged students to demand change from their administrations and hold their peers accountable. Though he said the problem can and should be addressed, he noted that progress is often met with resistance.
“This is a problem for us to face,” he said. “The question is do we have the courage to do it. Do we men want to give up the special privileges that we have?”
Audience members praised the former president’s candor and commitment to actionable change.
“I appreciate that he’s bringing to the forefront issues that make us think, that are challenging, even pushing back against Salovey,” Zoe Reich-Aviles ’15 said.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Jimmy Carter, sexual misconduct
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