The exploding media on sexual assault has created a spark in conversation on the topic. Hollywood may be the main focus at this point but a burning issue today is the sexual violence on college campuses. Betsy DeVos reversed Obama’s Title Ⅸ policy on campus sexual assault investigations, making it much harder to convicted (Para. 4, Tatum). Under the Obama policy to be convicted you needed the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence”, used generally in a civil lawsuit and requires only testimonies and little evidence to convict. Under DeVos it has raised to a higher standard called, “clear and convincing evidence”, this is used in civil or low offence criminal cases that requires more true evidence and testimonies are not always taken as that. In this new policy DeVos leaves it up to the schools how to deal with sexual assault on their campus, many have chosen to go the rout of the new policy seeing that it will create less bad press for their school. The issue is of morals, would schools rather have justice for the victims and create a safe campus or keep their reputation by merely allowing people to get away with these crimes. Students on campuses should not only be protected against sexual assault but have a fair chance to get justice in our judiciary system.
DeVos set this policy in place to protect falsely accused suspects in sexual assault cases. Although she is protecting these victims she is doing the opposite to aid the men and women who are sexually assaulted. RAINN recently reported that 70% of sexual violence victims do not report their encounters to the police, and from that only 25% of the assaults end in arrest (RAINN). With this policy in place the number of people who report this crime will decrease because of the disgorgement felt from the unsafe campus.
Put yourself in the shoes of a victim. Sitting in the courtroom being questioned about an event that will forever scar you. The only evidence that will be placed in court is the rape kit you received in the hospital and your word against your abusers word. The neurobiology trauma of sexual assault impedes the ability to resist or fully remember the assault, that being said your account of the abuse could waver or change (Yoffe). You get your timeline slightly off in your testimony, because of your emotional mistake the case becomes closed. The fellow student is back at school, for you walking on campus will never feel safe again. This is an example of what could happen with the new policy DeVos set in place. The higher standard of proof for conviction could easily let someone like the assailant in this scenario go free without any punishment.
The most frightening thing about this issue is that 1 in 4 women on college campuses will experience sexual assault while at school (Perez-Pena). That means if you are reading this and so have 40 other people, you may be in the group of 10 females that will have an unwanted encounter. Something that may be confusing for people to wrap their head around is, what is sexual assault? According to The United States Department of Justice sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”(Para. 2, United States Department of Justice.) If you are in a relationship and you do not have consent from your partner or you do not give consent that is also referred to as sexual assault or rape.
Sexual violence is not something that is ordinary or inevitable, it can be handled. Some colleges are increasing their security staff as well as teaching students what it means to be given “consent” without government help, but not every school sees this as a priority. When people are confronted with the situation of being sexually violated they tend to freeze and not know how to resist. We can work on informing the public that just because the word “no” does not come out of their mouth, that does not mean you have consent. If a policy is revoked as it was by DeVos, a woman who has never attended public school and neither have any of her children, than we should expect that higher standards of on campus protection and improved education on how to protect yourself against these attacks should be added to balance out this decision. There have been no new additions on how to help the issue, only one to harm those victimized.
“Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics.” Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics | RAINN, RAINN, www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence.
Capecchi, Anemona Hartocollis And Christina. “‘Willing to Do Everything,’ Mothers Defend Sons Accused of Sexual Assault.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/22/us/campus-sex-assault-mothers.html.
PÉrez-peÑa, Richard. “1 In 4 Women Experience Sex Assault on Campus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/09/22/us/a-third-of-college-women-experience-unwanted-sexual-contact-study-finds.html.
Tatum, Sophie. “Education Department Withdraws Obama-Era Campus Sexual Assault Guidance.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Sept. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/09/22/politics/betsy-devos-title-ix/index.html.
Yoffe, Emily. “The Bad Science Behind Campus Response to Sexual Assault.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 8 Sept. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/the-bad-science-behind-campus-response-to-sexual-assault/539211/.
Great piece! I would also like to point out that many of on-campus rape and sexual assault cases are rarely ever taken to an actual court (state or municipal). Instead they are handled by the college administrative staff and on-campus police. Sadly colleges’ main priority is to make money and most of these cases, which would lead to bad PR, are swept under the rug, leading to less victims reporting attacks- they know justice will not be served. Colleges should be held accountable for these cases, by not allowing the victim to take the attacker to court is a travesty to justice. People should fight for their right to a fair trial. And colleges should feel the pressure of the years of neglect. Families of victims should seriously consider obstruction of justice and Title IX lawsuits against colleges. The system set in place gives so much leeway for the attackers and rapists, leaving campuses unsafe for women wanting a better education. Truly disappointing that the most “developed” nation in the world cannot fathom simple body and gender rights.