Kirsten Gillibrand's assault on reality
Alarmists peddling the notion that American college women are as at-risk of sexual assault as women in war-torn nations have been having a tough time these past several months.
Rolling Stone's gang-rape story fell apart after becoming an international call-to-arms for activists. The Columbia "mattress girl" saw her story crumble after Facebook messages were printed showing her completely friendly and at times loving conversations with her alleged brutal attacker. And purveyors of the debunked "1 in 5" sex assault statistic have finally started wising up. Even the movie that was supposed to turn the debate around, "The Hunting Ground," suffered from catastrophic errors, rendering it nothing more than propaganda.
Then, salvation seemed to come in the form of a survey by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll was meant to prove that yes, colleges are just as unsafe for women as the Congo or South Africa. While this survey suffered from the same fatal flaw as the debunked studies before it (broadening the definition of sexual assault to include almost anything to punch up the results), it breathed new life into issue.
Prior to the Post survey, advocates of due process had been gaining ground in the public eye. The number one reaction to articles published about campus kangaroo courts adjudicating felonies was: "Why are colleges doing this?" We saw the words "due process" make their way into articles about campus sexual assault, even articles sympathetic to accusers.
Capitalizing on this new wave of calls for draconian responses to an overstated problem is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senate's resident campus sexual assault alarmist. She's been making the rounds over the past week stoking the flames of bias against accused students and bemoaning due process as an impediment to justice.
Last Wednesday Gillibrand appeared on a panel hosted by the Washington Post, where she complained about how long criminal trials take.She made a similar claim Monday night on MSNBC, saying: "So the reason why there is a dual system is so that you can have a way to handle this case if the survivor doesn't feel comfortable going through a criminal trial — that could take a year or two or two or three."
Curse those long, thorough investigations with facts and evidence! We demand mob justice NOW!
Gillibrand was also interviewed for Sunday night's "Dateline," where she acknowledged that rape is a felony: "We're talking about rape. We're talking about a felony offense, a dangerous crime — and dangerous criminals on these campuses."
Yet Gillibrand's solution for this supposedly pervasive problem is not to treat sexual assault like it's a felony, but to treat it as a mere campus disciplinary matter. During the Post panel, Gillibrand said the reason schools could use a low standard of proof (just 50.01 percent sure the accused is telling the truth) and deny due process was "Because you're not throwing someone in jail."
So on the one hand she's saying that this is a serious issue and that we need to protect victims, and on the other hand she is saying "don't worry, accused students, the punishment isn't that bad."
To treat sexual assault seriously, it needs to be treated like the felony that it is. But that would mean requiring due process and sworn statements, something that would reduce the number of "victims" Gillibrand can claim to support.