Learning nothing from Rolling Stone, U.Va. institutes radical sexual assault policy
Most reasonable people thought the lesson from the Rolling Stone gang-rape debacle was to think before making statements or taking actions with potentially detrimental consequences before even a few facts were in. But for the University of Virginia, the message appears to have been: More radical action!
Just one week before the Columbia Journalism Review published its scathing report on the Rolling Stone article about an alleged gang rape at U. Va, the school of Thomas Jefferson published a new sexual assault policy. The new policy is modeled after the California "yes means yes" law that has failed to find backing in other states (so far no other state has come close to passing its own version) except for on college campuses.
The new policy makes nearly all sexual or perceived sexual contact a punishable offense, with little recourse for the accused. The new policy defines sexual contact as "any intentional sexual touching/however slight/with any object or body part … performed by a person upon another person." By that definition a misplaced hug is a violation of the policy.
The new policy also defines affirmative consent as being informed, voluntary and active throughout sexual activity. Lack of protest or silence does not constitute consent. One area where the policy seems to be practical is by defining incapacitation as "a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication." In theory that would cut down on accusations coming from someone who had even a sip of alcohol; in practice, schools make no such distinction since the goal is to look tough on sexual assault.
U.Va. also asks whether "the person initiating" the sexual activity knew their partner was incapacitated, but we've seen in some cases that even if the accuser initiated the contact, the accused can still be found guilty.
Further, simply obtaining affirmative consent is not enough, because there's no way to prove consent in a he said/she said situation without recording the incident. The new U.Va. policy also states that consent can be withdrawn at any time and that if someone withdraws consent "through clear words or actions" then sexual activity must cease. But we've also seen cases where a student is accused even after they stop the activity when their eventual accuser asks.
One could say those examples aren't from the University of Virginia and therefore don't apply.
Understandable, except that those examples are part of the culture currently surrounding campus sexual assault policies. And given U.Va.'s rush to judgment following the Rolling Stone story, I don't have any hope that the university will act any differently than the nearly 70 schools being sued by former students who were denied due process after being accused of sexual assault.