More on the Stubblefield Sexual Assault Case


As reported yesterday, owing to accusations of repeatedly sexually molesting a man with cerebral-palsy, Anna Stubblefield has been placed on administrative leave without pay from her position as chair of the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers-Newark (Rafaella De Rosa is the acting chair of the department; Stubblefield does not appear on the list of faculty in the department, though her name can still be found on a few university pages; here is her old page at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference). According to nj.com, Stubblefield met the victim, D.J., in 2008. The criminal charges she faces concern incidents in 2011. A civil action by D.J.’s family mentions an incident in 2010. I haven’t been able to tell when Stubblefield was relieved of her position, though an earlier article about Rutgers University being cleared of liability in the case from July, 2013, reports that Rutgers says then that “Stubblefield no longer works for it.” The article also says that, according to D.J.’s family, Stubblefield admitted to having sexual relations with D.J.

Stubblefield received her PhD from Rutgers University in 2000. Her dissertation is entitled “Anti-black Oppression and the Ethical Significance of African American Identity,” and before taking a position at Rutgers-Newark she worked at Temple University. Her research has been largely on philosophy of race and disability.

D.J., “a 33-year-old man with cerebral palsy since infancy whom doctors have declared severely mentally disabled,” met Stubblefield, 44, through his brother, who introduced them owing to Stubblefield’s declared expertise in “facilitated communication.” Facilitated communication is a technique by which the hands and arms of a person who had been unable to communicate through speech, text, or signs, are supported and moved over a keyboard by a facilitator. “The patient is allegedly able to communicate through his or her hand to the hand of the facilitator which then is guided to a letter, word, or picture, spelling out words or expressing complete thoughts. Through their facilitators, previously mute patients recite poems, carry on high level intellectual conversations, or simply communicate,” says one skeptical website. The American Psychological Association says of the technique that “study after study showed that facilitated communication didn’t really work…. Most schools and treatment centers stopped using the technique in the mid 1990s.” Stubblefield has defended facilitated communication, arguing in an article in Disabilities Studies Quarterly (2011) that opposition to facilitated communication may function as hate speech. Stubblefield’s lawyer claims that D.J. consented to sexual relations with Stubblefield through facilitated communication.

There is a hearing in the criminal case this coming Thursday. The civil trial will take place once the criminal case is over.

UPDATE: Those interested in the controversy over facilitated communication can read more about it here.

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