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The White House Podium

Executive Order From Biden Could Improve How US Colleges Handle Sexual Misconduct

President Joe Biden is potentially going to improve on a Trump Administration policy that weakened how American colleges and universities that receive federal funding handle cases of sexual misconduct and assault accusations on campus, according to administration officials. 

Biden is projected to sign an executive order this Monday that would direct the Department of Education to review certain changes to policies that were implemented by former president Donald Trump. These policies include Title IX which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded institutions. 

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While Biden was campaigning he had a major focus on gender equality, and a big piece of that was a commitment to do better at protecting the young women of America who are constantly threatened at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. He promised to strengthen Title IX if he won and “sign a second executive order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council,” according to two administration officials.

Biden had the plans to create the council before he even took office as well. The order will direct the DOE to review Title IX, and potentially shift how colleges handle allegations of sexual misconduct/assault in the future. 

Back in 2018 Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, rescinded an Obama-era policy that made it standard for cases regarding sexual assault to require “preponderance of evidence,” and instead required “clear and convincing evidence” to make an allegation valid. Essentially, colleges and universities needed clear cut evidence that an assault occurred to actually do anything about it. These changes that were enforced by DeVos allowed colleges and universities to get away with ignoring the hundreds of allegations that appear on their campuses every year. 

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“The DeVos changes reduced the liability of colleges and universities for investigating sexual misconduct claims and bolstered the due process rights of the accused, including the right to cross-examine their accusers through a third-party advocate at campus hearings,” according to the Associative Press.

With the DOE now expected to review these policies, it’s expected that Biden is intending to make America’s colleges and universities a much safer place for students, and giving them the security of knowing that should something happen to them, they’ll have all the resources, information, and support they need to make sure they remain safe and the right parties are punished appropriately. 

The White House Gender Policy Council is a resurrection of the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was an Obama-era council that worked to combat issues specifically related to women’s rights. That council was disbanded under Trump, and Biden’s resurrection of it with a new name aims to “acknowledge that inequities can affect people of all genders, however, the council will primarily focus on issues facing women and girls due to the disproportionate barriers they face,” an official claimed. 

According to White House officials, “the new council is tasked with helping push gender equity on the administration’s domestic and foreign policy efforts. Some of the issues the council will focus on include combating sexual harassment, addressing structural barriers to women’s participation in the workforce, decreasing gender wage and wealth gaps, addressing caregiving issues that have disproportionately impacted women and responding to gender-based violence.”

Westworld Show

Actress Evan Rachel Wood Among Victims Accusing Marilyn Manson Of Grooming And Abuse

Evan Rachel Wood, most famously known for her role in Westworld, has now publicly accused Marilyn Manson of “horrifically abusing” her for years. In an Instagram post from Wood she detailed the allegations and named Manson by his stage and real name of Brian Warner. 

Wood has previously spoken out numerous times about being the survivor of domestic violence and while it was always assumed that she was discussing Manson, this is the first time she’s ever called out his name specifically in a public setting. The pair were originally known to have a relationship back in 2007, when she was just 19-years-old and he was 38. The two were then briefly engaged in 2010. 

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After Wood’s post detailing the allegations, at least three other women have followed suit and posted their own personal experiences/allegations against Manson on Instagram. One of the individuals has since deleted her post as well. 

Manson’s team has yet to comment on any of the allegations, however, many aren’t expecting much to come from them as his team has adamantly denied similar allegations that have appeared within the past years of Manson’s career. 

In Wood’s Instagram post, she claims that Manson began grooming her as a teenager and that she was “brainwashed and manipulated into submission” by the singer. 

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“The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson. He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail. I am here to expose this dangerous man and call out the many industries that have enabled him before he ruins any more lives. I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent.”

Wood has been a prominent figurehead and activist for domestic violence survivors within the past years. She penned the Phoenix Act domestic violence bill which was passed into California law in 2019. At the time she discussed her past and how she was raped on two occasions and detailed her own stories of surviving domestic violence. 

In the past Woods has never directly named Manson as her abuser, and has even denied that it was him on a few occasions. However, many individuals attribute that to the numerous court cases Wood was involved in and her own psychological trauma. Most people were able to conclude that Wood was discussing Manson in the past when she came out as a survivor of domestic abuse based on the timing of when she discussed being groomed and abused by an older man.

Netflix

Netflix Documentary Affects Yoga Industry

While yoga has been a discipline of many for several centuries, the concept of “Bikram” yoga has seen a huge increase in popularity since its creation during the 1970s.

However a recent documentary on Netflix, focusing on claims of sexual abuse against founder Bikram Choudhury, has forced many yoga studios to invest thousands of dollars on rebranding in an attempt to keep hold of their share of the $16 billion Americans spend on the industry each year.

Family-owned yoga company Bikram Yoga Scarsdale has received many emails over the past year from clients asking why they have not changed their name and if they are even going to. Co-owner and yoga instructor Nicole Pike spoke about the effects the sexual abuse claims and company name has had on her business, confirming that they have had to rebrand. The company will now be known as Sweat Central and offers “original hot yoga” rather than Bikram classes in a further attempt to distance themselves from Choudhury.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is currently available on Netflix and takes a look at the life of Bikram Choudhury, who made a fortune thanks to his trademarked Bikram hot yoga empire. However the main focus is on the numerous sexual abuse claims from women against him.

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When allegations first started to appear over six years ago many yoga studios changed the names of their classes and studios in an attempt to distance themselves away from Choudhury while staying true to the original teachings, with Pike confirming that:

“While the classes themselves are amazing, Bikram the person has done terrible things we in no way want to be associated with. We want people to feel comfortable at our studio, and confident that their money is in no way supporting him.”

With this in mind she is spending around $20,000 on rebranding to keep her customers’ faith and trust in her business rather than stopping providing the actual classes.

Choudhury was once seen as a leader of mental and physical healing among the world’s yogi community, thanks to his form of hot yoga, which involved a sequence of 26 postures carried out for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees. According to research the exercise has provided many benefits to students, including improving endurance and lowering stress levels as well as aiding mindfulness and mental strength. It is also practiced to help improve balance, tone muscle and increase your flexibility.

Yoga as an industry has seen a massive growth worldwide with the sector now worth a staggering $80 billion in America alone, with $16 billion being spent each year not just on the classes but also on equipment, accessories and specific clothing. With over half of us using yoga as a much needed stress relief aid a further 59 percent claims it helps them to sleep better.

Still Hot Yoga in Druid Hills, Georgia used to be called Bikram Yoga Decatur until assault allegations started to surface in 2014, prompting studio owner Cleve Willis to change the name making sure his students would not link his studio with Choudhury.

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Willis spent $1,500 in preparation for the backlash he said he could see coming. However, while he changed the studio’s name, signage and accessories, Bikram classes still appears on the schedules so as not to confuse clients that may be searching specifically for these classes online.

“They can still see we’re not associated with the guy, but we do the actual traditional class. Someone new coming into town may not know what it is. That’s why we didn’t change the name of the class.”

With roughly 36 million Americans taking part in yoga, an increase from 20.4 million in 2012, 72 percent are women. This has led to a #metoo style movement throughout the yoga community with many teachers as well as students coming forward to discuss unwanted touching in classes as many instructors are providing hands-on corrections without the student’s consent.

Unfortunately for 29 year old instructor Kelsey Lowe from Bikram Yoga Harlem in New York, she has had first hand experience of this abuse. Working with a male instructor at a different New York City studio she says this backlash has not come as a shock to her. Talking about her experience she says:

“He was coming to adjust me, but it was a little too close for comfort. You can feel someone’s body up against yours and it’s like, “I don’t even know this guy’s last name” kind of thing.”

After the incident she chose to change studios and works within her current studio, both practicing and teaching yoga. However she believes leaders gaining “cult-like followings” – such as Choudhury – aids sexual misconduct as “you can’t give all this power to one person.”

It is hoped that the backlash from the Netflix documentary will not affect the business in a negative way, rather making sure that unwanted actions are eradicated for good.