Cam­pus rape:

Pre­sumed guilty?

The Week (US) - - News 17 -

In 2016, a Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts stu­dent was forced to leave school fol­low­ing an evening with a fel­low ju­nior. She per­formed oral sex on him; at the end of the night, they ex­changed phone num­bers. It was only later that she de­cided, based on “train­ing” she’d re­ceived, that she had been sex­u­ally as­saulted. The way this case was han­dled by col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors “may seem per­verse,” said Emily Yoffe in The At­lantic. But that ap­proach was man­dated by Obama-era cam­pus sex­ual as­sault guide­lines—which vaguely de­fined as­sault as any “un­wel­come” con­tact, low­ered the stan­dard of proof against ac­cused stu­dents, and stripped them of ba­sic con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions in­clud­ing ac­cess to ev­i­dence and the right to cross-ex­am­ine wit­nesses. The re­sult, said Na­tion­alRe­ in an edi­to­rial, was “a vast, morally out­ra­geous, and op­pres­sive sys­tem of kan­ga­roo courts” that es­sen­tially pre­sumed male stu­dents guilty in any am­bigu­ous sit­u­a­tion. Thank­fully, Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos last week an­nounced she would re­write those rules—ar­gu­ing they do “a dis­ser­vice to ev­ery­one in­volved.”

“This is ex­actly what sur­vivors, their ad­vo­cates, and sup­port­ers of women’s rights have feared since In­au­gu­ra­tion Day,” said Renée Gra­ham in The Bos­ton Globe. DeVos is wor­ried about “the rights of the ac­cused” but failed to men­tion that “only 2 to 10 per­cent of rape allegations are false,” ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Re­source Cen­ter. Un­til the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ter­vened, most vic­tims were ex­tremely un­likely to see their at­tack­ers pun­ished for their bru­tal crimes. DeVos’ roll­back “should come as no sur­prise,” said Dana Bol­ger and Alexan­dra Brod­sky in The Wash­ing­ton Post. Af­ter all, she works for “a pres­i­dent who has bragged about sex­u­ally as­sault­ing women”—and get­ting away with it.

What­ever you think of DeVos, she hap­pens to be right in this in­stance, said Lara Bazelon in Politico .com. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s guide­lines— which threat­ened col­leges with the loss of fed­eral funds if they didn’t com­ply—were “ripe for abuse at the hands of scared, ill-trained ad­min­is­tra­tors.” Just last month, four fem­i­nist Har­vard le­gal schol­ars wrote to the Ed­u­ca­tion Department, de­scrib­ing how “ter­ri­fied” col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors had “over­com­plied” with the di­rec­tive. Courts have re­versed col­leges’ guilty find­ings on due process grounds in at least 59 cases—21 this year alone. In this coun­try, “every per­son ac­cused of a se­ri­ous charge de­serves a fair process be­fore judg­ment.”

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