This series started in an effort to bring awareness to the issue of colleges attempting to adjudicate accusations of sexual assault on their campuses. Part 1 discussed two separate cases: Both women were clearly not responsible for what they were accused of; however, both had life-altering consequences. Part 2 discussed a case in which both the female and the male said it was not rape, and both parties filed their own Title IX lawsuits after the school refused to drop the case. Part 3 not only outlined an additional innocent woman, but also brought the effects of a few of the “lucky” young women who were accused and found not responsible and the lingering effects of the accusation. In Part 4, a young woman who was actually a victim of sexual assault was later held responsible regardless of the facts presented.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is one of the resources available to those who find themselves accused. SAVE recently released a detailed report on this topic. The 261 lawsuits reviewed included 207 separate universities. If that is not considered a systematic failure, I don’t know what is.
One judge involved in the case of Dez Wells v. Xavier University said:
“Moreover, it appears to the Court that the [University Conduct Board] here, a body well-equipped to adjudicate questions of cheating, may have been in over its head with relation to an alleged false accusation of sexual assault. Such conclusion is strongly bolstered by the fact that the County Prosecutor allegedly investigated, found nothing, and encouraged Defendant Mother [Michael] Graham to drop the matter.”
Another judge, this one involved in John Doe v. Brandeis, said on page 12 of her ruling:
“Whether someone is a ‘victim’ is a conclusion to be reached at the end of a fair process, not an assumption to be made at the beginning. Each case must be decided on its own merits, according to its own facts.”
Case after case in this analysis shows the repeated lack of due process, shifted burdens of proof, a presumption of guilt, negligence, breach of contract and erroneous outcomes that cause major damage to people’s lives. These cases continue to be filed, not only by the accused but many times by the accusers because their cases were mishandled so badly.
I am not involved in politics and can only offer my suggested changes that extend across the board.
First and foremost is dismantling the “one in five” theory — the oft-repeated claim that one in five men on college campuses has been sexually assaulted. President Obama and other politicians have repeated this statistic, which has been thoroughly debunked.
National standardized definitions need to be put in place that clarifies where the lines are crossed from sexual harassment to sexual assault to rape. By lumping “any unwanted sexual contact” into the same group, yes, one in five men will have experienced something under that broad definition. That does not mean one in five men was raped. Standardized definitions are needed so that punishments can fit the crime in a similar fashion to how criminal homicide is handled, with Murder 1, Murder 2, Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, etc.
One of the first things I did in this process was email a survey to more than 50 attorneys who have been named in Title IX cases that originate from sexual assault. Twenty of them responded that they agreed 100 percent with national standard definitions, along with a new study to be done based on those definitions to determine exactly how many men are truly raped on campus.
The other thing I found interesting is that 20 attorneys also told me these cases should NOT all be turned over to local police. Many rape victims will not go to local police, and forcing legal and criminal action would deter many victims from stepping forward.
There should be a national standard of practice imposed in addition to the “Dear Colleague” letter outlining what the procedure will be, based on the definitions as stated above. This outline should also outline what acceptable investigation is, as well as require that all of these investigations and administrative hearings be reported from start to finish. All students’ constitutional and due process rights should be upheld. There should not be an allowance for any student to be punished prior to the determination at the end hearing. If any student feels threatened by any other student, she or he should look into a restraining order or a no contact order. An accused student should never be punished or have temporary sanctions simply for being accused. If any of these are not followed, the college should be sanctioned immediately. Someone needs to hold universities accountable, and if that requires a specific department within the government, then it needs to happen.
I also spoke with Dr. Warren Farrell, the author of The Myth of Female Power and formerly on the board of the National Organization for Men in New York. I asked what her solution would be for college students falsely accused of rape. Her response:
First, since the university’s primary role is to educate, its first step should be to sponsor confidential communication counseling to help the young woman and man hear each other’s perspectives. Only if that fails should the University then hand it over to the non-university police with their guarantee of due process. Why? The university has too much of an incentive to support only the boy as victim, and deny due process to the girl, for fear of undermining public relations, angering donors, and being punished by the federal government.
In the meantime, the best the young woman can do is:
- Do everything possible to hear the man’s perspective ASAP by doing nine things: listen, listen, listen; empathize, empathize, empathize; and apologize, apologize, apologize. Once she’s empathized and taken responsibility, she can let his know her best intent without subtracting from her empathy and apology. Her attitude: she must care about him, not just about saving her ass. Her goal: for her and him to both be on the same team.
- If she cannot access the man, get to the university president. Explain that the most important way of reducing the boy’s psychological damage is for him to be empathized with and apologized to. Ask the president to sponsor a private, confidential meeting, with the best interests of the boy in mind.The system makes these efforts very challenging, which is why the system needs changing. In the meantime, the best defense is an alliance.
I would like to add that if you are a female or male who has been wrongly accused of sexual assault, you are not alone. I cannot say that enough. There are resources available to you and hundreds of people who have stood where you are standing. Here are a few resources you might not know are available:
I want to thank all of the John Does and their families who were willing to talk to me, their attorneys for putting me in contact and FACE for helping to spread the word about this series.
The second-most-common question I have been asked is, “Why are they John Doe?” The answer to that is simple. They or their family members asked me not to publish their names. In many cases, the simple accusation means automatic guilt. Moving forward becomes difficult when your name has been dragged through the mud over and over again, especially in our world of social media. They just wanted to tell their stories. I gladly let them have their anonymity.
This article was originally published in the Western Journal and republished here with the author’s permission.