nailsMy husband and I traveled to the Boston area this weekend to visit family and listened to my mother advise us to get this new nail polish, for our daughter, that is an indicator for GHB. Just paint it on, stir it in your drink and watch it change color is someone is trying to “slip you a mickey.” When we didn’t rush to take her up on her advice she confidently told us that date rape is “rampant” on college campuses. My mother is another victim of the main stream media slant on this topic. In her mind college is now one of the most dangerous places for a young girl to be. Alas, for the casual news reader this is true. But for the more informed, the landscape is more complex. There are many related issues that should be addressed that the MSM is not focusing on.

Most are familiar with the recent UVA story reported in Rolling Stone magazine about a young woman named Jackie who reported being raped by a number of fraternity brothers. The details of that story seem more fluid than current gas prices, with about as much rationale behind them. Rolling Stone has admitted an error in not contacting those whom Jackie accused in her story to reporter Rubin Erdely and allowing them to give their side of the story. Given that so many of her details have either not been provable or proved to be absolutely false (there was no Drew in Phi Psi fraternity, nor did they have an event on the night in question) it would have been prudent to investigate her story further before reporting it as fact.

That the facts were missing did not stop UVA from reacting and suspending all fraternities on campus. Better to appear proactive than thoughtful or on the side of due process I suppose.

The problem with this case, and others on college campuses, is that the accused enjoys none of the rights normally afforded to those in our criminal justice system. They are not assumed innocent until proven guilty. They do not get to face their accuser and, the way cases are handled on college campuses, they are not afforded legal representation for what is in fact a crime, not a violation of campus regulation.

Much of the hysteria over campus sexual assault stems from a 2007 study which claimed one female student in five will be the victim of sexual assault while at college. This “fact” was repeated many times by the MSM and even President Obama when he announced the creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The study itself has now been widely criticized for having a small sample size (2 universities) and ambiguous questions which counted a whole host of physical contact as sexual assault. The result has been the creation of the image for many people like my mother of college campuses as akin to Sodom and Gomorrah. The typical response to the statistics by colleges has been to develop policies that have stripped away the accused’s rights.  Forbes magazine wrote, “The Task Force Report will almost certainly worsen the already critical due process crisis on our college campuses.”

We all remember the infamous Duke lacrosse team assault accusation by Crystal Magnum which later proved to be utterly and demonstrably false. In contrast, consider Tamara Green who was trying to get the police to take her accusation thirty years ago, that Bill Cosby assaulted her seriously. Unfortunately for people like Green, there was little hope of her case being heard, but it was not because society turned a blind eye to the tragedy of the victim. It was because we honored the “innocent until proven guilty” foundation of our criminal justice system and we just didn’t have the ability to prove guilt in such cases. How many convicted felons have been released because modern techniques with DNA have proven their innocence. We must recognize the great injustice in those cases and uphold that foundational principle.

In today’s world of DNA testing and surveillance cameras, there are a lot more ways to gather evidence in a sexual assault case to give us some assurance that justice will be served. That is ultimately what happened in the lacrosse team case. These new tools give true victims the ability to see the criminal brought to justice. The public is still responding the the perceived indifference on the part of law enforcement in such cases and tends to give heightened credence to accuser’ claims. Our new ability to test the veracity of the accusation, however,  has outed several false victims which is a shame for those who are true victims of this crime. The heightened public awareness now also means that there are significant consequences to the mere accusation of date rape, so how a university handles those accusations is extremely important.

Duke University’s response to the accusation in 2006, to suspend all the lacrosse players, is an example of knee jerk overkill which is common on campuses which do not have policies in place for dealing with such issues and whose main focus is to protect the reputation of the institution, not the cause of justice. Threatening e-mails, hate calls, castigating signs placed on private property, and others acts of vandalism against coach Mike Pressler at Duke were not investigated and punished by the University which only serve to encourage such behavior in the future. To treat these as mere first amendment instances is dangerous.

The University of Missouri is looking for a new Title IX administrator. That is someone on campus whose job is to explore this complex landscape and help develop the types of policies that were missing at Duke eight years ago. Such policies should seek to uphold the principals of justice guaranteed by the American justice system. It is important to take seriously any accusation of criminal sexual assault. It is also important to uphold the rights of the accused until the system has been allowed to render due process.  Universities that provide protections for both parties will see their reputations rise.

One of the four candidates the University is considering is Ellen Eardley. In a recent interview with the Columbia Tribune she said “I want the … office to be a place where we can say ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ and no one bats an eye.” Not exactly the deep critical thinking one would hope to find in such a candidate.

Ms. Eardley is a partner at Mehri & Skalet, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm where she specializes in civil rights issues such as race and gender discrimination cases. In her comments to the Tribune she outed her own bias stating that she “believes in giving voices to victims and providing remedies for their situations, which she said the law often fails to do.” She is walking in with a stated bias in favor of the accusers which puts into question her commitment to the cause of justice for the accused.

“I am always thinking about ways not to just solve clients’ problems but how we can put systems in place with settlement agreements or whatever so these individual client experiences never happen again,” she said. I wonder what settlement she would have recommended for Crystal Magnum to ensure that her experience never happened again.  For the women who responded to the 2007 survey where they were encouraged to think about a late night groping session after a couple of beers where they felt “uncomfortable”  (which was marked as a sexual assault,) what would be in such an agreement for them?

Lest you think I am coming down too hard on my fellow women in this, think about the lasting effects of a culture that nurtures female victimhood. Jack Rivlin, editor in chief of The Tab, a student tabloid media start up, believes that the signs are everywhere in the 15-30 year social spectrum that the feminist movement is forcing boys to reject girls all together. “Teenage boys always have been useless with girls, but there’s definitely a fear that now being well-intentioned isn’t enough, and you can get into trouble just for being clumsy,” he says. “For example, leaning in for a kiss might see you branded a creep, rather than just inept.”

Males in this age group are choosing to check out rather than engage with the opposite sex.  Breitbart London notes that “ever-increasing numbers [of males]  are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish lad culture, all of which insulate them from a hostile, debilitating social environment created, some argue, by the modern feminist movement.”

University of Missouri policies could potentially exacerbate this problem. Men who are afraid to date will not develop the social skills necessary to succeed in relationships. This will further hamper their efforts to interact with the coeds on campus. It could be a vicious cycle.

Are there sexual assault cases on campus? I’m sure there are and they should be dealt with by professional law enforcement and the court system. Does the University have an obligation to provide a safe environment for its registered students? Absolutely, but that is a delicate balancing act, balancing the rights of the accused as well as the accuser.

When we have a K-12 system that teaches openly about sex; the how to’s, that everything is normal, that you have a right as soon as those sex hormones kick in to grab the freely supplied condoms and enjoy the natural experience, that hook ups are perfectly ok, can we really be surprised that there is confusion on college campuses about what is acceptable or not acceptable sexual contact? In a misguided effort to compassionately remove the stigma of uncommitted sex, we have blurred the lines of what the rules are and this is the result. It will be up to people like Eardley to begin putting those lines back in place. This will not be an easy job and the University should carefully consider its priorities for this position before selecting a candidate.

 

PublishedDecember 22, 2014

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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