A double-standard on campus sexual assault hearings

July 24, 2015

 

Across the country, young college men are being accused of sexually assaulting young college women based either solely on an accusation or occasionally on flimsy witness statements.

 

No one is arguing that sexual assaults never happen. But the degree to which the definition has been broadened in order to "fix" the "epidemic" has ensnared many young students who are not the monsters the media would have you believe.

 

And the narrative being pushed by activists has been one of black and white, good and evil. According to them, accusers, mostly women, always tell the absolute truth, and the accused, almost universally men, are awful even if proven innocent. That double-standard has led to policies that treat accused students as guilty-until-proven-innocent. These policies also have to carve out special provisions that ensure accusers are innocent of sexual assault even when both parties would have a reasonable claim.

 

This double-standard has produced policies that state that an accuser who has been drinking alcohol (any amount) is absolved of anything they willingly consented to that night on the grounds that they wouldn't have done so sober. Conversely, accused students who were also drunk are not absolved of their decisions.

 

Notice the double-standard? If being drunk means you can't consent, presumably a drunk accused student would also be unable to consent, meaning that the two students essentially sexually assaulted each other. But of course findings such as this won't help schools prove to the Department of Education that they take accusations seriously, thus the one-sided policies.

 

We saw this play out recently at Amherst College, when a student who was in an alcohol-induced, black-out state received oral sex, only to be accused of sexual assault nearly two years later. The woman in that case claimed the accused forced her to perform the sexual act after she decided midway through she didn't want to do it anymore. The accused student, known as John Doe in the lawsuit who has since filed against the school, argued that he didn't remember the event since he also blacked out from inebriation.

 

Amherst's sexual assault policy states that "an individual may experience a blackout state in which he/she/they appear to be giving consent, but do not actually have conscious awareness or the ability to consent." Amherst went out of its way to prove that Doe was not in a blackout state when he received oral sex from his accuser, writing in its response to Doe's lawsuit that witnesses said Doe only looked "pretty drunk" and was able to leave the dorm where he was drinking and walk somewhere else using a pedestrian sidewalk.

 

Amherst quoted Doe's roommate as saying Doe was "function[ing] normally," "seemed fine" and did not appear "blacked out." This despite Amherst explicitly saying in its policy that one might not be able to tell if someone else is blacked out or not.

 

Regardless, Doe's state of drunkenness — and the fact that he himself would not have been able to consent to sexual activity – did not matter to Amherst. All that mattered was the accuser's state of drunkenness and her claim that she withdrew consent at some point during the activity. It didn't seem to matter to Amherst that text messages from the accuser immediately after the event show her to be a willing participant who was in no way considering the event a sexual assault.

 

To really understand how this double-standard works, one must look at another recent example of campus sexual assault, this time occurring at Occidental College. In that case again, both students were drunk, meaning that if all things were truly equal, neither student could consent. But things are not truly equal when it comes to campus sexual assault, and even witness testimony that the accused student in that case was "slurring his words" and "stumbling" over other people did not matter.

 

At Occidental, the accused student even tried to bring forward a counterclaim of sexual assault in order to prove just how biased the system was. The school predictably dismissed his claim, in part due to "the timing"; he had filed his complaint after his appeal was denied and after he was punished with expulsion. The implication of course was that he wouldn't have filed his claim had he not first been accused.

 

If two people get into a fist fight, both can file charges — there's no "first to file" standard. If there is a clear instigator, the charges against them might hold up better. For campus sexual assault, all that matters is who accuses — usually the woman, especially if she has had feminist professors or Title IX coordinators help her reinterpret a drunken hookup as rape.

 

That's exactly what happened at Occidental. The accuser, listed as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, felt bad about the evening and talked to a counselor. Eventually she spoke to Danielle Dirks, a Title IX advocate, who listened to Jane's story and told her it was rape. Jane responded by saying, "Oh, I am not calling it rape yet." Dirks then told her the accused "fit the profile of other rapists on campus in that he had a high GPA in high school, was his class valedictorian, was on [a sports] team and 'from a good family.'"

 

Of course, after hearing this, Jane filed a police report against the accused student (listed as another John Doe in his lawsuit). Police concluded that the sexual activity was consensual and that both students were drunk but appeared — through text messages and other evidence — to be able to knowingly consent. Not liking this outcome, Jane went to Occidental, whose private investigators came to the same conclusion after speaking with multiple witnesses.

 

Yet Occidental still went ahead with a panel of administrators who, despite a police investigation and witness testimony to the contrary, found the accused student responsible for violating school policy and expelled him.

 

In that case, Occidental went out of its way to show that she was too incapacitated to consent to sex. This despite text messages showing consent from Jane — who initiated the sexual contact by sitting on the accused student's lap and kissing him — and despite that she was able to leave her dorm after tricking her roommate into thinking she was asleep, walk to another dorm, find the accused student's room, all while texting the accused student and her friend that she was going to have sex. Also, the accused student, who by all accounts was just as drunk, should have known this.

 

Had this been the previously mentioned fist fight, the clear indication that Jane was the initiator would have probably worked against her. But in the world of campus sexual assaults, that didn't matter.

 

So to recap: Schools go out of their way to prove that men who have been accused weren't too drunk to consent but that women who are accusing were too drunk. Policies are also written to ensure there are clear guilty and innocent parties, i.e., that the accuser is innocent and the accused is guilty, despite evidence showing that both were unable to give consent.

 

At some point this double-standard must be addressed — and ended.

 

Read more at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/a-double-standard-on-campus-sexual-assault-hearings/article/2568914

 

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