Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is how bad it is on American campuses: the leader of the sexual grievance industry has been branded a "rape apologist"

This is how far we've come: the leader of what can aptly be called the sexual grievance industry has been called a "rape apologist."  An anonymous reader at The Dartmouth lobbed that name at none other than Brett Sokolow, founder of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, which counsels colleges across America on how to make it easier to punish college men for sex offenses.

Why is Mr. Sokolow a "rape apologist"? Because he had the audacity to assert that automatic expulsion is not appropriate for all forms of sexual misconduct since it encompasses a wide range of behaviors, from inappropriately touching someone at a party to rape.

Calling Brett Sokolow a "rape apologist" is about par for the public discourse about rape. Recently, Jezebel's Katie Baker suggested that keeping an open mind about a rape claim is rape apology. Another writer, Jessica Wakeman, attacked Judith Grossman's perceptive article about the absence of due process protections for college men accused of sexual assault as "rape culture" and "victim blaming." See here and here.

We are stranded in an age where, when it comes to sexual assault, any concern shown for the rights of the presumptively innocent is deemed "rape apology." This blog frequently discusses the critical balance that is at the heart of just sexual assault policies: every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. While the latter concern typically is absent from the public discourse, rarely have we seen such vitriol directed at persons who express the slightest concern for the rights of the presumptively innocent in sex cases as we've seen lately.

As for the merits of Mr. Sokolow's comments: it is easy to dismiss COTWA's concerns as lacking objectivity since it is our mission to tell the stories of the wrongly accused. But it's not so easy to dismiss the views of Sokolow. Elsewhere, Mr. Sokolow said colleges are having a "fear-based reaction" to the Federal government's Title IX policy, and "that a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” Mr. Sokolow says the reaction borders on "hysteria." He pointed out that expelled students no longer automatically have the option of just registering at another school. Nowadays, schools share information, which makes that problematic, so students who are expelled have a lot more at stake.

Finally, policies mandating expulsion for even slight forms of sexual misconduct do no favors to victims of sexual abuse. When a policy requires young men to be expelled for even mild sex offenses, such as inappropriately touching at a party, that policy undermines confidence in the system and makes it all the more likely that even young men who deserve some punishment will be let off the hook. Most persons charged with officiating sex offenses on campus strive to be fair even if the school's policies aren't. When the punishment doesn't fit the crime, they will exercise leniency.