Campus sexual assault policies

Last week, I saw this article on Facebook, advocating that sexual assault policies do a disservice to those accused just as much as to the victims. The author says:

But the men suing their former schools say the rules regarding transcripts are murky and inconsistent, meaning they don’t know whether violations will be disclosed, or how, or for how long. They also say they never deserved such harsh punishments in the first place — and shouldn’t be prohibited from finding a job or going to graduate school as the result of what they see as a broken adjudication system.

While I think it’s important for schools to be clear about what punishments are, how the process works, and how it affects people permanently, I have a hard time reading this and other similar articles without cringing. Something about the way this genre of articles portrays survivors of sexual assault dismisses the very real trauma they feel regarding the incident. By sympathizing with the accused, these articles subtly place their feelings above those who have been assaulted, invalidating their portrayal of the crime. Sympathy for the accused further perpetuates rape culture and encourages light, if any, punishment for the accused.

That these articles get written, however, is a testament to the difficulty of understanding these cases for many people, as well as the challenges of implementing Title IX for universities. Our legal system treats people as innocent until proven guilty and places the burden of proof on the prosecution. But rape cases aren’t usually given any sort of justice, let alone through the US legal system. More often, they’re handled by universities, who don’t have to abide by the same standards and cannot inflict the same punishments. What these articles tend to get at is this: No one seems to understand how universities deal with sexual assault. And since this point is reasonable, it lends a sort of legitimacy to articles that tend to be written rather insensitively. Instead of focusing on the issue at the heart of the matter – the way universities handle sexual assault cases tends to be unclear to everyone involved and doesn’t give either party something that resembles justice – they write sob stories about how perpetrators’ lives were ruined by sexual assault cases with a subtext of the perceived innocence of the accused.

I guess in the end what I’m asking is this: Is it possible to write an article that discusses the problems (for both parties) in universities’ handling of sexual assault cases without dismissing the victim’s claim?


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