UNC wrestling coach Mock pushes for sexual assault discussion
You’ve seen the commercial.
A celebrity standing alone, struggling to find words, tears building.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault are hard subjects for everyone to talk about.”
Another few moments of the tearful public figure followed by another flash of words.
“Help us start the conversation.”
The public service announcement sponsored by NoMore.org and the Joyful Heart Foundation is, in a word, haunting.
One of the announcements aired during coverage of the NFL playoffs Sunday afternoon, and when Hilary Swank’s face filled the screen for this particular 30-second spot, it caught the attention of North Carolina wrestling coach C.D. Mock.
For Mock, the message of the PSA echoed the same message he’s tried to convey in a website he started to tell the ongoing saga of his son’s sexual assault case at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“I’m the father of a young man who, we believe, has been falsely accused of something,” Mock said. “He is being ramrodded by the university that he’s at before he has been deemed to be guilty of anything.”
His son’s case is a complex one, but one that isn’t unfamiliar — a party, alcohol consumption, a hazy recollection, a bedroom, ambiguous consent, sexual acts and an accusation.
Mock’s son, Corey, was accused of sexual assault at UTC in May 2014 and was adjudicated according to the school’s policy. At the end of the first trial conducted by a campus judicial officer — also a faculty member — Corey was found not responsible for the assault.
But a plea from the accuser and the school urged the judge to review the case. At the end of the judge’s weeklong review, Corey, a nationally ranked collegiate wrestler who began his career at UNC, was found responsible for the assault and expelled from school.
FAR FROM OVER
Since then, the case has bounced between the chancellor’s office and the school and a Nashville Chancery Court. A Nashville judge granted him permission to attend classes while the case is reviewed, but the process is far from over.
Mock said he felt helpless. He felt his son’s side of the story had been lost in all of it, and so, what began as a letter to the wrestling community warning fellow wrestlers of his son’s situation, transformed into a website to tell his story.
“I wanted to get it out to wrestlers, and that was all I was looking to do,” Mock said. “That was my first post on the blog. And that was thought out, absolutely. I regret having to go into details, but unfortunately, the crux of any sexual assault case is consent and many of those unfortunate,
unpleasant details that I had to go into are a big part of our defense. I would say that there are a couple of posts that I regret a couple of the comments that I made — but very few.”
The first few posts are filled with strong, inflammatory rhetoric, alleging that advocates of rape victims are, “old, single hags who hate men and have nothing to do but lobby politicians.”
Though Mock said he regrets the language used in some of his earlier posts — ones mostly fueled on emotion — he explained that without those words, the posts would have lost their shock value and wouldn’t have helped create the conversation that he believes needs to happen.
“I regret using that terminology,” he said. “However, without it, we probably wouldn’t be as far as we are.
For Mock, the main point of discussion is the ineffectiveness of the school’s sexual misconduct policy. UTC’s sexual misconduct policy, like those in schools across the country, is fluid and constantly under revision. The most recent revision of the policy, published Jan. 5, puts the burden or affirmative consent on the accusing individual.
In the posts, he writes that the policy is ineffective because it eliminates the voice of the accused and pits the accuser’s words against the words of the accused.
“We have to find a way to protect (women), and I don’t know anybody on the planet that isn’t all for that,” Mock said. “But we shouldn’t be doing it at the expense of creating a lot of victims in young men, and that’s what I have found this current policy, nationwide policy, has created.”
BYPASSES DUE PROCESS
Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet has been outspoken about her university’s new sexual assault policy, which was adopted over the summer. Harvard’s policy is based on the preponderance of evidence standard, to which Bartholet and a group of her colleagues at the law school object. For Bartholet, the new policy, similar to ones being adopted by institutions of higher education across the nation, bypasses the accused party’s right to due process.
“I think that something went on in the federal government that represents a particular feminist faction, not at all the larger group of feminists, but one faction, got its views heard and the polices that the federal government has been promoting at universities, this is just a moment in time that will pass,” Bartholet said.
Like Mock, Bartholet also disagrees with the main tenet of affirmative consent or ‘Yes means yes,’ found in many of these new sexual assault policies like the one adopted by UTC.
“I think ‘yes means yes,’ although it sounds reasonable, is a horrendous policy,” she said. “I think it basically involves the federal government and a university administration intruding into the privacy of individual student relationships.
At UTC, consent is defined as “an affirmative, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual act.” Affirmative consent can be obtained through either words or non-verbal actions, according to UTC’s policy on sexual misconduct and relationship violence. Consent cannot be obtained from, “another person who is incapacitated if one knows (or a reasonable person would know) that the other person is incapacitated.”
Duke Director of Title IX Compliance Howard Kallem said the affirmative consent sexual assault policy is actually designed to quell some of the ambiguity that can go on in sexual misconduct cases.
“You’re trying to create a culture in which people communicate with one another,” Kallem said.
Kallem said affirmative consent could be shown by non-verbal actions in some cases, which can often lead to more ambiguity.
Different sides believe in different consent definitions and different ways to adjudicate sexual assault allegations. But Mock believes that the only way to truly fix the broader problem on college campuses needs to be addressed long before an individual steps foot on campus.
“It is your responsibility to take responsibility for everything that happens to you,” Mock said of advice he gave his daughter. “You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. You need to be careful. It’s not a safe world. Don’t ever go to a party without a friend. Don’t ever go somewhere where you’re alone.’ All of the common sense things that I hope most parents tell their kids.
“Our focus is on laws. Our focus shouldn’t be on laws. Our focus should be on common sense raising kids.”
Corey’s case is far from over. He’s currently allowed to attend classes while a Chancery Court in Nashville reviews his case. Mock said he intends to continue blogging through the whole process and mentioned the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against the school for the way in which his son’s case was handled.
Though he’s maintained that he isn’t a spokesperson against the way college campuses handle sexual assaults, he’s become a de facto advocate for other parents and accused individuals in similar situations.
“I’m not out there to convince people that my son is innocent,” Mock said. “That’s not my issue. I’m out there to convince people that my son might be innocent. There are questions here that need to be answered. This is not black and white. That’s the purpose of the blog. But just as importantly, I’m hoping that my blog creates a discussion because there needs to be a discussion.”