Sex Marks the Spot

Colorado is hot. Too hot.

Sound familiar? After reports that a seventeen-year-old was raped at a CU football recruiting party in 1997, that school, too, was going to revamp its policies. Four years later, stories surfaced of a sex assault at another party, but after the Boulder district attorney declined to file charges, those stories sank back out of sight until first one, then a second, then a third woman filed federal lawsuits. And now that depositions in that first lawsuit -- including one from the blabby DA -- are pouring out ugly details by the day, CU has decided that maybe, finally, it's time to conduct a real investigation. And it appointed Lawrence to co-chair the effort.

When the Air Force first investigated the situation on that campus last spring, its team found "no systemic acceptance of sexual assault at the academy, no institutional avoidance of responsibility, or systemic maltreatment of cadets who report sexual assault." But when Congress's independent team, headed by former Florida representative Tillie Fowler, released its report a few months later, it noted that a "chasm in leadership" at the academy had "helped create an environment in which sexual assault became a part of life."

Sound familiar?

On February 16, CU -- the number-one party school in the country, whose recruitment parties apparently include entertainment by professional strippers as well as unconscious coeds -- is expected to name the rest of the investigative team that will join Lawrence and her co-chair. Although Fowler would be a welcome addition, the more standard Colorado choice would be Taco Gilbert, and he's got time: Removed from his slot at the academy, he's now assigned to the Pentagon.

The Air Force Academy has said it wants its response to the sex-assault scandal to be a model for how to handle such a crisis.

So far, CU is following the playbook.

Back to Boulder

Before the Kobe Bryant sex scandal, and the CU sex scandal, and the Air Force Academy sex scandal, there was JonBenét Ramsey. More than seven years after the six-year-old beauty queen was found murdered in Boulder on December 26, 1996, that story lives on.

Walter Davis remembers his introduction to the dead girl. "The first time I saw her on TV, which was in one of the videos from one of the performances, I didn't know anything about child beauty pageants," says Davis, a professor emeritus in the English department at Ohio State University. "I found myself in tears, watching it. I found myself wondering, 'How could anyone do this to a child?'"

He began investigating the bizarre world of beauty pageants and the even more bizarre world of the Ramseys. "As I worked further, she just emerged for me more and more," he says of JonBenét. "I not only fell in love with the child, but it occurred to me that the thing to do was to try to give her the voice that had been taken away from her. It hit me with a flash: 'I'm going to write a play in which she doesn't die.'"

The result is one of the more unusual chapters in the entire Ramsey oeuvre, an Evening With JonBenét Ramsey, a book combining Davis's play on JonBenét -- Cowboy's Sweetheart, which takes her into imagined adulthood -- with his essays on the effects of psychological and sexual abuse.

But while those glamour shots of JonBenét were what gave a basic murder story legs enough to circle the globe, suggesting that the Ramseys were guilty of anything can be dangerous these days. After seeing the family's attorney, Lin Wood, on Larry King's show one night, Davis says, he sent the lawyer an e-mail describing his work and received this reply: "Publish your book and I will buy myself another Jaguar and thoroughbred racehorse in the money I will make off of you."

Not that Davis plans to make any money off this himself. Any proceeds from the self-published book -- available through -- will go to organizations working with sexually abused children.

"We lost sight of the primary thing," he says. "Here was evidence of a very sick family, here was evidence of a national epidemic -- the way parents feel it is their right to use their children to satisfy their needs and desires, no matter what it does to the child."

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