Sexual assaults in universities

Forcible sex offense reports double at U-Md. and U-Va., echoing increase across U.S.
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post, 2014-11-04

Reports of forcible sex offenses at the flagship public universities of Virginia and Maryland doubled last year, according to new federal data.

There were 19 such reports at the University of Maryland in 2013, up from nine the year before, and 27 at the University of Virginia, up from 11.

The increases, echoed at many colleges and universities,
reflect growing awareness of sexual assault on campuses across the country.

[I disagree with that ascription of causality.
That may be a part of the reason,
but it ignores what, I am quite sure, is a far more significant reason
for any real increase in sexual assaults in American universities:
namely, the radical change in behavior of female college students
since previous periods,
specifically, since the 1960s, when I was a college student.
Back then, certainly on my campus, and I believe on most any other campus,
the idea of a female college student drinking herself into a state of unconsciousness
while in the company of male classmates,
let alone while in the company of football players,
was unheard of.
Do any women of my generation, born in the 1940s, who went to college in the 1960s,
assert that such behavior was accepted back then?
Come on AAUW, how about speaking up on this issue?
I would like to hear about such accepted behavior.
Or perhaps my university was unusually dry.

A factor in addition to the rise in coed drinking I've just suggested
is coed dorms.
Coed dorms are a new concept --
certainly back in the 1960s there were separate dorms, or the equivalent,
for male and female college students.
Indeed, back then at my university and at many others,
there were rules called "parietals",
governing visits of members of the opposite sex to a person's dorm room.
Going beyond limits on the hours during which such visits were permissible,
typically those rules mandated one or more of:
"an open door policy": the door to the dorm room must be open during a cross-sex visit;
the once-famous "one foot on the floor policy":
one or both of the couple enjoying the visit
must keep one foot on the floor at all times.
These parietal rules were part of
the in loco parentis policies of universities back then.

Further, at my university and many others, female students had curfews:
They had to be back in their single-sex dorms after a certain hour, the curfew hour.
This was usually coordinated with the library closing hour,
allowing a female student to study at the library until it closed,
then give her ample time to make it across campus back to her dorm.
At my university, this was enforced by literally locking the doors to the girl's residence halls at the curfew hour.
If, for some reason, they returned after the doors were locked,
they had to ring security, sign in, and give as reason for their tardiness.

Finally, to return to the drinking issue.
It it is the practice these days to put the blame on men having sex with women under the influence (of alcohol)
on the man.
The argument goes:
"Rape is sex without consent;
a female cannot give consent when she is drunk;
ergo, sex with a drunk women is rape."
Well, that's a neat argument for blaming men.
But let's (gasp) take a view more considerate of problems men may have.
It is a fact that drinking large quantities of alcohol causes lapses in judgment, and reduces inhibitions.
This is reflected legally in the laws concerning
"Driving Under the Influence" (DUI) or "Driving While Intoxicated" (DWI).
The laws state that if your blood alcohol level is above a certain level,
you are legally presumed incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
Note that these laws apply uniformly to men and women alike.
Well, if high levels of intoxication can lead a woman to be unable to give consent,
then surely they also can lead a man to do things he would not do when he is sober.
If two drunken people, college students say, have sex,
is it really fair to put all the blame on the man?
I don't think so.
The old-school solution to this problem was as stated above:
For women to avoid situations where such problems could occur.
Was that solution really so bad?
Does "female empowerment" really require that
women can get drunk as a skunk while with their fellow male students,
then put all the blame on sex that occurs with
their equally judgment-impaired male students
on the man?]

School officials and others familiar with the issue say
colleges with rising totals of sex offense reports
should not be perceived as being more dangerous than they were before.
Rather, they say, the numbers mean more students are stepping forward to get help.
Also, schools are documenting the problem more thoroughly than ever,
educating students about preventing sexual assault
and developing procedures to handle complaints.

“When these systems are put in place,
you’ll see more people coming forward and reporting
because they’re confident in the response from the institution,”
said Abigail Boyer, an assistant executive director at
the nonprofit Clery Center for Security on Campus, based in Pennsylvania.

New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused
New York Times, 2014-11-20

As the Columbia University student tells it, the encounter was harmless fun: A female freshman invited him into her suite bathroom, got a condom, took off her clothes and had sex with him. But as that young woman later described it to university officials, the encounter was not consensual. The university suspended him for a year.

He felt the outcome was unjust, but he did not know what to do about it. His lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg of Manhattan, did.

Invoking Title IX, the federal gender-equality statute that is typically used to protect the rights of female students, he sued Columbia, saying his client had been “discriminated against on the basis of his male sex.”

At a moment when students who have been sexually assaulted are finding new ways to make their voices heard, and as college officials across the country are rushing to meet new government standards, a specialized class of lawyers is raising its voice, too. They are speaking out on behalf of the students they describe as most vulnerable: not those who might be subjected to sexual assault, but those who have been accused of it.

To do so, they have appropriated the legal tools most commonly used to fight sexual misconduct and turned them against the prosecution, confronting higher education’s whole approach to the issue, which they describe as a civil rights disaster.

“Everyone’s first blush when you think about this is: It’s sort of an ugly position to take,” Mr. Miltenberg said of defending the accused students. “My own family members have said to me: ‘What are you doing? You’re 49 years old. You have a successful business litigation practice. Why would you jump into this?’ ”

He said he felt compelled to get involved when he saw how colleges handled accused students. “You’ve got factual statements made that you’re not necessarily allowed to review and you’re certainly not allowed to have copies of,” he said. “You may or may not be able to present your witnesses. You probably don’t have the chance to cross-examine.”

To women’s rights activists, objections like those may have an oddly familiar ring. For decades, activists have argued that campus policies were biased against accusers, who are typically women; that the officials who run the investigations lacked training; that assailants were absolved far too easily. (One recent study determined that among students found by their colleges to have committed sexual assault, fewer than one-third were expelled.) Now, defense lawyers are denouncing inconsistent standards and inadequate training, but they arrive at the opposite conclusion: The system is biased, the lawyers say, against men.

Last month, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty published an op-ed criticizing Harvard’s sexual misconduct policies for “the absence of any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing,” for exceeding the parameters of Title IX and for “the failure to ensure adequate representation for the accused.”

Harvard defended those policies as “an expert, neutral, fair, and objective mechanism” but said it would continue to review them.

During the 12-month period it most recently tracked, the federal Education Department received 96 Title IX complaints related to sexual violence. In the previous period, that number was 32. The department does not track how many were lodged by women and how many by men.

A database maintained by a group called A Voice for Male Students counted 11 lawsuits this year in which male students “wrongly accused of sex crimes found themselves hustled through a vague and misshapen adjudication process with slipshod checks and balances and Kafkaesque standards of evidence.”

A group of 30 or so lawyers from across the country participate in a running email discussion about how to approach these issues; 20 or so gathered in Washington last month to share their experiences.

A similar number recently stepped into the political arena when they signed a letter denouncing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act proposed by Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri; the measure is intended to help universities address sexual misconduct more effectively. “By presuming that all accusers are in fact ‘victims,’ ” the letter said, “the proposed legislation does a grave disservice to those accused of serious sexual offenses.”

Members of this small but fast-growing legal specialty say the problem dates to 2011, when the Education Department advised colleges to take sexual assault more seriously and to lower the burden of proof for people bringing complaints. Since then, a White House task force has issued new guidelines and the Office of Civil Rights has released the names of more than 85 colleges that are under investigation for not doing enough. Faced with all that political pressure, said Joshua Adam Engel, a lawyer in Mason, Ohio, colleges are panicking.

So are students. Since the beginning of the current semester, when a senior named Emma Sulkowicz began carrying her dormitory mattress as a public protest against the way Columbia had handled her sexual misconduct complaint, Mr. Miltenberg said, he gets a call from a new male Columbia student more or less weekly.

The client who sued the university for discrimination argued that his suspension amounted to “a rush to judgment, pandering to the political climate on campus” and pressure from women’s groups. Columbia has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying it failed to prove anti-male bias. “That argument proceeds from both a misapprehension about the nature of university disciplinary proceedings — which are not criminal prosecutions — and a misunderstanding about Columbia’s definition of sexual misconduct — which is intended to protect students not only from forcible rape, but also from unreasonable pressure to accede to sexual advances,” Columbia’s lawyers wrote in a filing last month.

Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center, said the growing involvement of lawyers could be beneficial. But too often, she said, defense lawyers enter the campus proceedings “shouting from the rooftops about things that aren’t relevant to the matter at hand.” Those include due process, a set of regulations that private colleges are not required to observe, and the right to avoid self-incrimination, which applies only to people facing criminal prosecution. “It’s when the decision-makers aren’t equipped to handle attorneys that the decision-makers start getting pushed around, policies start getting changed, and that is where a school can get in real trouble with Title IX,” Ms. Bruno said.

Lawyers for the accused, Mr. Miltenberg said, are not always seeking to have judgments overturned. “Most of the time I’m looking to seal the records or have this redacted upon graduation so it doesn’t follow them around for the rest of their lives,” he said. But success does not come cheaply. Litigating a case through a trial could cost $100,000, he said.

Judith Grossman, a lawyer — and a feminist, she made a point of adding — got involved in the cause when her son successfully fought an accusation of sexual misconduct. “I think that there is no question that there is an issue of sexual assault in this country, on campus and off campus, but this is not the first issue in our country where a bumper sticker approach has been applied to a nuanced problem,” Ms. Grossman said.

The alternative, however, is not so easy to identify. Mr. Miltenberg said he thought colleges should leave the investigation of serious crimes to the police. But the judicial system moves slowly, he acknowledged, and if a daughter of his were assaulted he would not want her sharing a campus with her accused assailant for years as the case inched toward trial.

At Columbia, which recently became one of the few colleges to offer free legal help to both accusers and the accused, Suzanne B. Goldberg, a special adviser to the university’s president on sexual assault prevention and response, observed that “lawyers can help protect the rights of accused students.” But, she said, “they come at a potential cost” to what is set up to be an educational experience. “There is no cost-free solution,” she said.

Author of Rolling Stone article on alleged U-Va. rape didn’t talk to accused perpetrators
by Paul Fahri
Washington Post, 2014-12-01


[The author of the widely-discussed story in Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin] Erdely
declined to say
whether she knows the names of the alleged perpetrators, including “Drew.”

“I can’t answer that,” she said.
“This was a topic that made Jackie [the woman who claims to have been gang raped]
extremely uncomfortable.”

[What an unclear set of statements.
What was the "topic that made Jackie extremely uncomfortable"?
Whether "[Erdely] knows the names of the alleged perpetrators"?
Why would that make "Jackie" uncomfortable?
I can see that, possibly, "Jackie" might fear some sort of retaliation if the names of the men she is accusing had raped her were made public,
but why would she care if the reporter Erdely merely said that she knew the names?]