Thursday, May 29, 2014

So, who's the extremist here?

This blog and its predecessor have taken a lot of abuse over the years. I've gotten messages from angry readers saying they hoped I'd be brutally raped. We've been called rape apologists, misogynists, and pretty much every other vile name in the book. They don't like the very topic of this blog, so they try to reduce us to caricature and demonize us by branding us as extremists. This gives them an excuse to avoid responding to the substance of our positions.

We've persevered, if only because we've received notes from young men telling us our blog was important in their decisions not to take their own lives. But the whole "extremist" label is something we need to address.

The overriding theme of this blog is the need for a balanced approach to sexual assault. 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. I think we've been true to that theme. If that is "extremism," then I am proud of it. I don't think we're extremists, but let's explore that question:


This blog has written more posts about the hostility of American colleges to men accused of rape than any other subject. Feminist bloggers have not treated our posts with respect, to put it charitably. Are our concerns valid? There is overwhelming evidence that they are.

The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) is the leading risk management consulting law firm dedicated to best practices for campus health and safety in higher education. Among other things, it advises colleges on their sexual misconduct policies and practices, and it has more to do with shaping the sexual assault landscape in the academy than any organization outside the Department of Education. Since the year 2000, NCHERM has had in excess of 3,000 college clients. No group has more effectively fought for the rights of sexual assault victims on college campuses, and its feminist credentials are impeccable.

Now, NCHERM's President and CEO Sokolow and NCHERM has written a landmark letter called "An Open Letter to Higher Education About Sexual Violence."  Read it. It says what this blog has been trying to say for years, only better, and in more forceful terms. And, no, I'm not kidding.

First, the letter recounts the sea change that occurred when, in April 2011, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, issued it's "Dear Colleague letter" advising colleges that they must adhere to certain policies designed to protect victims of sexual misconduct. NCHERM applauded that letter. For years, its leader, Brett Sokolow, had campaigned for reforms similar to those announced in the April 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter.

But after the "Dear Colleague" letter was issued, it didn't take long for Mr. Sokolow to see that colleges were reacting to pressure from the Federal government in ways that were unfair to male students. He said that colleges were 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 said the reaction borders on "hysteria."

Then last month, Mr. Sokolow cautioned colleges that when a man and a woman engage in mutually tipsy sex, the school can't single out the guy for discipline. This was a letter of immense importance that was ignored in the feminist community. It espoused the same position COTWA had recently taken. (It is well to note that this same position had been heavily criticized by feminist pundits just a few weeks earlier when a Wall Street Journal writer had taken it.)

And now, in NCHERM's latest landmark letter, Mr. Sokolow paints a chilling picture about the hostility on American college campuses to the rights of men accused of sexual violence. The letter goes into detail about recent cases NCHERM has investigated that illustrate, beyond any question, what this blog has been saying for years: in the "hook up" culture, the evidence is often too murky to warrant charging and punishing the male accused of sexual misconduct, but that's exactly what too many schools are doing. Among many other things, the letter states that "in a lot of these cases, the campus is holding the male accountable in spite of the evidence – or the lack thereof – because they think they are supposed to, and that doing so is what OCR wants." And that in "case-after-case . . . sincere victims believe something has happened to them that evidence shows absolutely did not . . .." And: "We see complainants who genuinely believe they have been assaulted, despite overwhelming proof that it did not happen."

We appreciate NCHERM's concern for sexual assault victims, and this blog attempts to be sensitive to that critical interest. It is not enough to say that schools must respect the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault. Schools must also respect students who are the victims of sexual assault. While many (including COTWA) believe that colleges have no business adjudicating sexual assault cases because they are uniquely unqualified to do so, that argument has not prevailed. NCHERM's letter is an attempt to strike the balance this blog preaches: to eradicate heinous misconduct by punishing offenders while insuring that the innocent aren't punished with them. It's a tough balance, and it often doesn't make for pithy blog posts that will rally the true believers on either side, but it is the only fair and just approach.

So, tell me again, who's the extremist?


It is no secret that this blog and its predecessor have been staunch critics of the OCR's "Dear Colleague letter" because we feared the very thing that NCHERM says has now occurred. We were heavily criticized for it. A far-left organization went so far as to unfairly put us on a hate list, noting that we "featured stories about allegedly false rape accusations and 'feminist'-crafted 'anti-male' legislation."

In point of fact, the sole legal mandate we criticized with any frequency was -- you guessed it -- the "Dear Colleague" letter, which is not "legislation" but a federal agency's interpretation of existing law. As for our criticisms being "hate" speech, this claim rings hollow given that NCHERM has just exposed the excesses spawned by the "Dear Colleague" letter far more persuasively, and in far scarier language, than we ever could. If our blog is "hate" speech, we shudder to think what that makes NCHERM.

Oh, I almost forgot: to "prove" that our blog is a hate site, that far-left organization cited just one specific post of ours -- read it for yourself and tell me if there is even a shred of "hate" in this post: (Our detractors probably wish I had doctored that post to eliminate some imaginary misogyny. I didn't, because our site does not trade in misogyny. See it from the Internet Archive -- I believe the link was captured about two months after the post was written, and prior to the time the far left organization published its hate list: see here.) The far left organization obviously made assumptions about us that were wholly unwarranted without bothering to read our blog. Neither a representative of that organization, nor the writer of the piece on the hate list, have ever apologized to us for this, nor have they issued a retraction.  By any measure, our inclusion on this list wasn't just a disgrace, it was actionable libel.

So tell me, honestly, who's the extremist here?


A woman who teaches gender course(s) at Harvard, and who was recently denied tenure, injected herself into an on-line debate under an student newspaper article about rape. She was quoted in the article itself as saying that "the rates of false accusation pale — indeed, pale to the point of transparency! — when compared to the rates of rape and other forms of sexual violence that do take place."

I posted comments under the story and, among other things, I asked this professor "if it is proper to trivialize the victimization of one group just because the victimization of another group might be 'more statistically significant'?" I can't see that she ever answered my question, but someone using her name made this comment under the story: "The COTWA website is very similar to some of the white supremacist websites on the internet."

We will allow our readers, and we challenge our detractors, to find even one post that bears any resemblance to a "white supremacist" site. Even one. Our two most prominent posts on this site actually highlight the problems faced by minority young men when they are falsely accused of rape. See here and here. For our post on Brian Banks, we received this comment from a staff attorney with the California Innocence Project that cleared Brian of the charges: "Thank you for the amazing write-up on Brian's story. Your write-up is far more comprehensive than any I've seen on the web."

Again, who's the extremist here?


RAINN, the nation's leading anti-rape organization, has also recently taken a position COTWA has long advocated. RAINN debunked the "rape culture" meme: "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime."  This is what we've been preaching here for years. RAINN decried the "inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape." It cites the work of Dr. David Lisak, just as this blog has done, in explaining that the notion of "rape culture" is inaccurate.

The "rape culture" meme has always struck us as unnecessarily, and purposefully, gender-divisive, not to mention incorrect. RAINN seems to appreciate that insisting rape is spawned by cultural norms where it is accepted that men abuse women isn't just factually unsupportable, it turns off potential allies in an important fight. RAINN deserves our support.

On the "rape culture" meme: a few years ago, I wrote a piece after a University of Vermont fraternity was suspended over a "survey" that asked members who they would like to rape. I called it indefensible and noted: "We have long held the view on this blog that trivializing the word 'rape' is no laughing matter . . . ." We dared to suggest that it is not fair to consider this "rape survey" -- which, apparently, was the work not of a dreaded, misogynistic fraternity, but rather of a lone frat brother -- as some sort of evidence that we live in a "rape culture." I noted: "A 'rape culture,' of course, not only would tolerate but would condone such a puerile survey. Our society does neither."

Well, this particular post got into the crosshairs of a prominent radical feminist named David Futrelle who writes a blog intended to mock "men's rights" sites. Read about it here. David Futrelle had a conniption because I dared to suggest that this act of a single person in promulgating a "rape survey" is scarcely evidence that ours is a "rape culture." (Mr. Futrelle must have been seized with apoplexy when RAINN itself chided the purveyors of the "rape culture" meme.)

Now I was in trouble, because this radical feminist blogger, Futrelle, decided he was going to teach me a lesson. Among other things, he proceeded to criticize me for not advocating against . . . prison rape. It must have escaped David Futrelle's notice that my blog's focus is not on prison rape, but on the wrongly accused. (I don't write about leukemia, either, but that doesn't mean I approve of it.)

David Futrelle proceeded to mock our site in a way that was jarringly childish. At the time, we linked to sites that listed the statutes of limitations for rape charges (I believe one of the sites we linked to was RAINN's).  David Futrelle proceeded to zero in on this, and said we link to the statutes of limitations about rape "in case anyone reading is worried about getting caught [then he crossed off "getting caught"] being falsely accused for something they did [he crossed off "did"] didn’t do a long time ago." Get it? David Futrelle jokingly suggested that our goal is to help rapists beat the rap. Defamation has never been so knee-slappingly funny.

The singularly misguided Mr. Futrelle is, of course, unschooled in the issues we write about. The havoc to the innocent when statutes of limitations for sexual assault are enlarged is not some extremist "men's rights" concern (I frankly wonder, has any "men's rights" site ever written about it?). It's a due process concern shared by a defense attorneys, the ACLU, and many others interested in civil liberties. But, hey, why let the truth get in the way of a radical feminist's attempts to mock the wrongly accused?

Futrelle's mean-spirited fusillade on our site was not just a misfire, it was wholly unjust, and it diminishes whatever credibility he might have outside his circle of like-minded ideologues. The fact that David Futrelle doesn't share our worldview on "rape culture" is no excuse for him to unleash a torrent of vitriol that accuses us of trying to help rapists.

As it turns out, the leading anti-rape organization in the United States does not share Futrelle's view, either. So again I ask, who's the extremist here?


We get offended over the absence of due process protections on campus.

Our detractors are the kind of people who get offended over use of the word "seminal" since it's "blatantly sexist" and "perpetuate[s] inequalities or marginalization." They have conniptions over a sleepwalking man statue and can find oppression in snow penisesThey are happy to accuse people of "rape apology" when they want to keep an open mind in rape cases. Hell, earlier this year, an administrator at a prominent college openly wondered why the school can't expel on the basis of a sex accusation!

Seriously, who's the extremist? And why is it even necessary to have to write this?

Ladies and gentlemen, in the past several months, NCHERM and RAINN have made the principal arguments this blog has been trying to make for years, and they've done it better than we ever could. Both understand that the victims of sexual assault are not served by trampling on the rights of the presumptively innocent.

This blog is read by many in the men's rights community who are largely sympathetic to its message since the victims of wrongful accusations are overwhelmingly (but not entirely) male. We urge the men's rights community to respect the important balance we always speak about. It is not enough to insist on respect for the rights of the accused.

To our friends in the feminist community, we urge you to not assume guilt in a given case based on the fact that sexual assault occurs too often. Too many feminist writers spend too much time rushing to judgment and criticizing those who urge caution as rape apologists. This probably plays well in their circle, but it's not gaining them any friends elsewhere. They would do well to take note that few people, including few women, identify as feminist.

COTWA does not have a monopoly on the truth, but our overriding message -- about the need for vigilance to protect the rights of the accused and the need to appreciate that rights of accusers and victims -- is the right message, the fair and just message.

We are not extremists; the people who try to silence our message are.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sen. McCaskill acknowledges due process needed in efforts to curb campus sexual violence

Sen. Claire McCaskill is holding roundtable discussions about sexual crimes on campus. She wants to insure that survivors are getting the services they need, and that the sexual assault perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes.

Last month, we expressed concerns over the Senator's efforts. She had circulated an extensive survey about sexual assault to 350 college and university presidents. The survey was promulgated by McCaskill’s Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, which is charged with “ensuring that the federal government spends taxpayer money as wisely and effectively as possible.” We wondered what that particular committee has to do with sexual assault on American college campuses.

We opined that it is a worthy impulse to gather information about the ways American institutions of higher education treat serious criminality, but noted that this survey is troubling in several critical respects and should be recalled and rewritten.

First, the survey repeatedly classifies persons who make accusations of sexual misconduct as “victims,” and in one place, it calls persons merely accused of sexual misconduct “offenders.” That should be unacceptable to all persons of good will.

Words matter, and it is never proper to brand persons accused of sexual misconduct as guilty merely by virtue of the accusation. This, of course, does a grave disservice to the presumptively innocent. We take offense when newspapers do it (we once complained to the New York Times for calling a rape accuser a “victim,” and the Times reporter immediately removed the word “victim” in the on-line content of the story), and it is all the more offensive when our elected representatives do it. Sen. McCaskill represents not just accusers but persons who are accused as well.

Second, the survey contains a most troubling, and frankly bizarre, query on page 14:

Below is a list of policies and procedures that may discourage victims from disclosing and reporting assaults at some schools
1. Disclosure of offender’s rights in the adjudication process
. . . .
The survey asks the college to identify whether or not it adheres to this policy.

The survey’s implication seemed to be that it is somehow improper to insure that students accused of serious sexual offenses are aware of their rights. Advising the presumptively innocent of their rights is both a fundamental and immutable aspect of due process long enshrined in the laws of every enlightened civilization. A student’s due process rights should never be considered a candidate for elimination or compromise because they might “discourage” an accuser from making a formal report, and to suggest otherwise is both appallingly insensitive to those accused and offensive to long-settled principles of fairness. It should have no place in a survey promulgated by a United States Senate subcommittee.

This survey is but the latest manifestation of hostility to the rights of young men accused of sexual offenses on campus. College administrators, already skittish about federal oversight of their handling of sexual assault, need to be assured by Senator McCaskill and her subcommittee that disclosing the accused’s rights in the adjudication process is not merely acceptable but mandatory.

Sen. McCaskill held her first campus sexual assault roundtable, and she made sure to say this: “I know that that’s not all that’s required. I also want to make sure that the steps we take going forward are the right ones, and that we respect the rule of law in this country, which includes due process."

Thank you, Sen. McCaskill. Words matter. They matter when an accuser is improperly called a "victim" and they matter when a United States senator reminds her listeners about the importance of due process. In the public discourse about campus sexual violence, there needs to be honest dialogue about appropriate measures to attack the problem, but due process must always be part of the conversation.

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. The latter concern typically is absent from the public discourse. Sen. McCaskill should be encouraged to bring due process into every discussion on this subject.

'Young: Another side to the campus sexual-assault mess'

It's a familiar story: A student is suing a university over the alleged mishandling of a sexual assault report. But the suit filed in federal court in New York City last week against Columbia University has a different twist: The student is male -- and his complaint is that he was denied due process when the university suspended him for a year and a half on a complaint of sexual misconduct.
According to the suit, the student, identified only as John Doe, had a consensual "hookup" with his accuser, a fellow student and his roommate's ex-girlfriend, in the bathroom of her dorm room, shortly before the end of the 2013 spring term. He claims that the young woman invited him to her dorm room for a sexual encounter. In the next several days, he says, she texted him to express concern about how their encounter would be perceived in their social circle if it became known.
After both students returned to school, in September, Jane Doe filed charges within the university's disciplinary system, accusing the young man of "non-consensual sexual intercourse." After what John Doe claims was an egregiously biased investigation, in an atmosphere of heightened attention to the problem of campus sexual assault and university inaction, he was found responsible and punished with a suspension until the fall of 2015. Remarkably, the lawsuit states that the accuser unsuccessfully tried to appeal the sentence as too severe.
The lawsuit claims that John Doe was railroaded because Columbia University was anxious to shield itself from criticism for being too lenient with male students accused of sexual assault, particularly student-athletes. (The accused was a member of the crew team.) The complaint also alleges sex discrimination, asserting the student was singled out for unfair treatment because he is male.
Far from being an oddity, this suit is part of a growing trend. Similar complaints are pending against other schools, including the University of Michigan and Vassar College. A Pennsylvania federal judge this month refused to dismiss such a lawsuit against St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. In April, Ohio's Xavier University settled a lawsuit from basketball player Dez Wells, who was expelled in 2012 over what he says -- and the county prosecutor agrees -- was a false accusation of rape.
Are all of these male plaintiffs innocent of wrongdoing? Nobody knows -- just as nobody knows whether all of the female students who are suing schools for not taking their reports of sexual assault seriously were really assaulted. But the lawsuits from men highlight issues that tend to be neglected in the campaign for the worthy cause of preventing and punishing sexual violence. Among these issues is the tendency in college hearings to presume guilt in he said-she said cases, particularly with strong pressure from the federal government for schools to use the lowest evidentiary standard. This is exacerbated by disciplinary codes which define "non-consensual sex" so broadly that even slight intoxication can negate consent and verbal persuasion can be deemed coercive.
The claims by male plaintiffs are reminders that there is, quite literally, another side to the story. The complaint from Columbia's John Doe says he had to get counseling for suicidal thoughts as a result of the sexual assault accusation, that his academic and athletic career has been irreparably damaged, and that the university ignored his complaint of being harassed on campus by the accuser's friends. If true, his plight deserves as much sympathy as that of a woman who is ignored and harassed when she brings an accusation against a popular campus athlete.

Lawsuit: Sexual misconduct investigations at Drew U. discriminate persons accused of sexual assault

Lawsuit: Sexual misconduct investigations at Drew U. discriminate against men
Louis C. Hochman/ By Louis C. Hochman/

MADISON — A federal lawsuit claims Drew University discriminated against a student accused of sex assault because he's male — and that its own investigation meandered as steps taken against him ruined his "entire academic career."

Student Kevin Parisi was never charged with any crime related to the sex assault claim, and the school ultimately found him not responsible. But he says the school's investigative practices were punishment in and of themselves, and derailed his college experience and future livelihood.

In an email to Tuesday, Drew University spokeswoman Elizabeth Moore said the school was "confident that the university behaved lawfully and appropriately and we are vigorously defending the allegations."

The school will make its response to the lawsuit to the court June 2, at which point the University will "defend these claims vigorously within our civil justice system and anticipates that its handling of this difficult situation ultimately will be vindicated," she said.

In the lawsuit, Parisi claims that he and his accuser had "what was clearly consensual sexual activity on or about September 24, 2013" — toward the beginning of their junior year. The two had been friends, had lived in the same dormitory previously and had sexual intercourse during their freshman year, he says.

The lawsuit describes a night that begins with the two agreeing to be "cuddle buddies" after the accuser and her boyfriend broke up — and then a progressing to more intimate acts, each with specific permission.

But Parisi says his accuser was adamant he never tell anyone — because her boyfriend wouldn't take her back if she knew.

The lawsuit says once Parisi's accuser confessed to her boyfriend about the sex, together they made a false claim to the university that Parisi and the accuser had sex without her consent.

It blames Drew for barring Parisi from all university buildings except the cafeteria and his classrooms while an investigation was ongoing — forcing him to sleep on the "on the filthy floor" of a nearby apartment's kitchen, aggravating his anxiety and digestive disorders. That led to his grades slipping, and his eventual academic suspension, the lawsuit alleges.

And it says Drew's investigation went on too long, as it was suspended while the school waited to hear back from police on their own investigation — started after the accuser and her boyfriend contacted police.

Detective Lt. Dennis Lam of the Madison Police Department told Tuesday the accuser never came to police headquarters to discuss her initial claim, and the case has since been closed with no charges.

The lawsuit points to a university policy saying investigations and hearings about alleged sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should be concluded within 15 days — though the policy does allow for extensions.

The "human rights policy" in Drew's student handbook — one of the policies the lawsuit references — also includes statement that "fact-finding may be placed on hold at the request of law enforcement." However, Lam told he couldn't speak to any steps the school might take in response to a law enforcement inquiry.

Parisi further blames the school for not investigating his own allegations that his accuser made a false claim about the sexual assault — confiding in a close friend and trying to convince her to lie about it. He also says the school never looked into his allegation the accuser broke a no-contact order to call him from a blocked number, and apologize for "ruining" his life.

It says the investigation — which ended Dec. 17, when Parisi was deemed not responsible by the school — not only interrupted his academic career, but threw into chaos his prospects for a future as a college-educated member of the workforce. It wasted the money his parents spend on his college education as well, the lawsuit alleges.

As the majority of those accused in sex assaults are men, Parisi argues in the lawsuit, "male respondents in sexual misconduct cases at defendant Drew are discriminated against solely on the basis of sex. They are invariably subjected to discipline without the benefit of due process."

The lawsuit says Drew didn't adhere to its own guidelines for investigations, and the "guidelines and regulations themselves are insufficient to protect the rights of male students."

The lawsuit names the accuser and her boyfriend as well — seeking as-yet unspecified damages from both of them, and the school.

Parisi's attorney, Solomon Rubin, has not yet returned a call from seeking comment.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shocking injustice at Columbia University: a student is fired from the school blog on the basis of an unfounded accusation

The editors of Bwog, the online blog counterpart to the Blue and White magazine at Columbia University, New York City, have "asked [a] staffer to permanently and immediately resign" based on an anonymous tip that unspecified allegations have been made that the staff member "violated Columbia University’s Gender Based Misconduct policy . . . ." The editors claim the "decision was not made lightly . . . ."

You see, at Columbia University, some women are writing the names of alleged rapists on bathroom walls. We assume that the fired staffer's name was scribbled on some bathroom wall by some unidentified woman using a toilet.

But surely, that's not sufficient reason to fire him, is it?  Since the "decision was not made lightly," surely the editors arrived at it only after verifying the accusation by considering credible evidence and concluding that the staffer likely committed the alleged offense, right?

Ah, no, not exactly. Here is what the editors said: "Our decision does not reflect a position on the innocence or guilt of this former staff member, nor does it comment on, take a position on, support, implicitly or explicitly, any allegations of fact or law made against such person." (Read the editors' statement here.)

The import is as clear as it is chilling: the editors' decision to dismiss the staffer had nothing whatsoever to do with the merits, validity, or strength of the allegations lobbed at the staffer, or with the staffer's guilt or innocence. The staffer deserves to be fired, the editors think, because of an unfounded accusation that the editors of Bwog haven't been able, or haven't bothered, to verify or confirm.

How do the editors of Bwog justify this unconscionable decision? With a non sequitur, of course: ". . . allowing this staffer to continue his affiliation with Bwog would have tacitly endorsed a rape culture we so firmly stand against." The firing "is meant to reflect our zero-tolerance policy toward rape culture and sexual assault."

If you are doing a double-take over that other-worldly rationale, as we are, let's make sure we understand: they had to fire a staffer who, for all they know, might just be innocent -- or else they would be endorsing "rape culture." Presumably, "rape culture" refers to a culture that fails to punish young men on the basis of unfounded accusations.

But wait, it gets even weirder: "To have allowed this staff member to remain a part of Bwog would have . . . been a conflict of interest, hampering our ability to accurately report on campus activism."

Did you get that? It would be a conflict of interest to treat this staffer fairly.

It is Salem, 1692, at Columbia University. And somewhere, Senator Joseph McCarthy is nodding his head with approval.

The fact is, the editors could have stood firmly against sexual violence while also upholding the staffer's right to be treated fairly. The one has nothing to do with the other. It's not an either/or proposition.

In addition, the editors could have used the unfounded accusation as an occasion to affirm their fidelity to principles of fairness and due process.

Instead, they kowtowed to the mob and gussied up their decision to fire the staffer by claiming "conflict of interest."

Down the rabbit hole we tumble.

The impulse to eradicate sexual violence is a noble one, but too often it is animated by a disturbing hostility to the rights of the presumptively innocent. The injustice of rape can't be fought by piling more injustice atop it. Sadly, that's exactly what the editors of Bwog have done. They've allied themselves with a disturbing tradition of seeking "justice" for rape victims by resorting to extra-judicial or even vigilante means. The hanging trees of the Old South were silent witnesses to the most virulent expression of this tradition, but it continues to manifest itself today in a multitude of more subtle, but still unconscionable, ways. It scarcely seems necessary in the 21st Century to assert that men accused of serious criminality should not be punished, and their good names should not be sullied, on the basis of unfounded accusations without affording them an opportunity to fairly defend themselves. But political correctness trumps fairness at Columbia University.

Professor Alan Dershowitz once wrote: "As one civil-liberties lawyer, who is concerned about the sometimes vigilante attitude toward accused rapists, puts it: 'Some people regard rape as so heinous an offense that they would not even regard innocence as a defense.'"  We appreciate that it is difficult for young women and men in college to buck peer pressure on such an emotional and politicized issue. But that is not a sufficient excuse to get it wrong on an issue this important.

The fact that the editors' puerile-to-the-point-of-shocking rationale is taken seriously in some quarters tells us how far we've strayed from rational discourse on these issues.

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. This action by the editors at Bwog is more evidence that the latter concern is too often absent from the public discourse.  The editors are disgracing a once-great institution.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One of the best articles ever on campus rape justice

Cathy Young nails it. Here's how it starts:

"PASSIONS HAVE been running high on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, with women telling wrenching stories, universities being accused of failing victims, and the federal government seeking ways to force schools to do better. It seems like an unimpeachable cause. But, like many moral crusades, this one relies on too many uncritically accepted claims, often embraces blind zealotry, and has the potential to hurt innocent people without necessarily aiding those it seeks to help."

It goes on from there -- it is a primer on the issues we try to cover here on this blog. Please -- please -- read the entire piece here:

Sandra Fluke wants to further erode your son's rights on campus

Sandra Fluke and two other women have proposed certain "necessary measures" for universities to combat sexual assault. Their advocacy, if accepted, would further erode the rights of men accused of sexual assault on campus.

Among other things, they say this: "Schools should have rape shield statutes to protect assault survivors from character assassination, which sadly often occurs in hearings."

Let's put aside any discussion of the substance of this suggestion -- rape shield laws have been enacted across America (but the actual laws are not as simple, or as broad, as Fluke et al. suggest). Let's instead put their suggestion into larger context: Fluke et al. want colleges to adopt this one, significant rule of evidence -- a rule that favors the accuser -- but they have no concern whatsoever about whether colleges adopt evidentiary protections for the accused.  I suspect they would oppose any such rules.

The fact is, college disciplinary proceedings typically are not governed by codified rules of evidence. They are the legal equivalent of a free-for-all where anything goes, and the quality of "justice" varies from one panel to the next. Such proceedings have none of the multitude of safeguards that courts employ to promote fairness for all parties.

By way of example, there are no rules stating that only relevant evidence may be admitted, and that even relevant evidence may sometimes be excluded; there are no rules forbidding or limiting the admission of evidence of other wrongs to prove conduct in conformity with character; there are no rules limiting the admission of evidence of subsequent remedial measures or withdrawn guilty pleas; there are no rules regulating the admissibility of out-of-hearing statements by persons who are not present to testify; there no rules regulating the admission of expert or lay opinion evidence.

In judicial proceedings, those points are all addressed in carefully crafted rules of court designed to insure fairness.  Do Fluke and comrades want to see them enacted in college proceedings? There is no indication they do.

Whether schools should adopt a rape shield law is topic worthy of consideration -- I think they should, but only if colleges also adopt the entire panoply of evidentiary rules that insure fairness for all parties. Justice, fairness, and due process are supposed to be even-handed, not lop-sided. That Sandra Fluke et al. evince no concern for the rights of the presumptively innocent is troubling beyond measure.

But wait, they aren't finished yet. They also say this: "Survivors should also be given options -- either an open hearing or a closed-door model -- and given adequate time to decide which path is best for their individual scenario."

This suggestion is so backward, it is difficult to know where to begin. It starts with the other-worldly premise that accusers are necessarily "survivors," and therefore, accusers should have a significant right that the accused does not have-- specifically, to actually dictate the form of the hearing.

The wrongness, the puerility of these suggestions is so obvious that they seem unworthy of serious debate. The fact that childish suggestions are entertained in the sexual assault milieu tells us how far we've strayed from rational discourse in this politicized field. Let's not mince words: these suggestions are as stupid as they are unfair, and that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Yes, Department of Education, colleges routinely mishandle sexual assault claims, but not in the way you think

The gender zeitgeist du jour is that colleges routinely mishandle sexual assault claims to the detriment of accusers. The evidence for this is elusive at best. But as explained below, colleges are almost certainly mishandling sexual assault claims to the detriment of accused students.

55 Schools Under Investigation

The Department of Education has announced that it is investigating 55 schools for allegedling violating Title IX in their handling of sexual assault cases. It appears that what is happening is that a handful of zealous sexual assault accusers are upset that the sexual assault complaints they filed at their universities have not led to discipline against the men they accused. As a result, they filed federal complaints under Title IX. The Department of Education has taken up their causes, consistent with the current administration's ideological agenda. Professor KC Johnson explains that "the list can be used to intensify the impression of an 'epidemic' of sexual assaults on campus, and thereby boost popular and political support for the Task Force/OCR joint call for reducing due process rights to students on campuses around the country."

The progressive news outlets have run with it. They are treating the accusers as if they are "victims" who were denied justice by schools that turn a blind eye to rape. It is critical to note that these news outlets never bother to discuss, much less investigate, the accused student's side of the story. This is so even though, in many cases, the colleges, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, found the accused's side of the story more credible than the accuser's. No matter, it is enough for these news outlets that a woman claims she was victimized without bothering to consider the evidence. Perhaps the most appalling example of this mindset appeared in Slate yesterday when the writer took a broad-brush and labeled the accusers "heroic activists." So much for impartiality, fairness, and journalistic standards.

The New York Times took up the accusers' cause in a front page story last weekend. The Times referred to them as"victims," without bothering even to mention the accused students' side of the story, much less investigate their defenses. Despite the Times sympathetic treatment of accusers, the picture the Times painted was one of accusers upset that they were not automatically believed by their schools. Here is how the Times story starts:
Emma Sulkowicz said she knew it would be awful to go before a disciplinary panel and describe being raped by a fellow student, but nothing prepared her for what came next. She said one of the two women on the panel, a university official, asked her, repeatedly, how the painful sex act she described was physically possible. 
Already anxious and queasy, Ms. Sulkowicz, a junior at Columbia University, said she felt her body freeze up and her heart race as she tried to answer questions that seemed to her to reveal not just skepticism about her story, but also disturbing ignorance in someone who had supposedly been trained for this role.
Feelings are elevated to the status of injustice. The reader is supposed to assume that the accuser was violated because she said so. The New York Times described the problem in a way that clearly signaled its bias: "Increasingly, stories like this are playing out at colleges across the country, as more victims go public, more of them file formal federal complaints, a new network of activists makes shrewd use of the law and the media, and the Obama administration steps up pressure on colleges."

This is not to say that justice was done in all or even most of the cases that prompted the Department of Education investigation. We don't don't know if it was, and neither do the New York Times or Slate. We do know that by any measure it is wrong to treat the accusers as "victims" -- which implies that the men they accused must be guilty -- merely because they feel they were denied justice.

Schools Routinely Mishandle Sexual Assault Claims: They Don't Know What They're Doing

Do schools routinely mishandle sexual assault claims? Of course they do. Colleges are uniquely ill-equipped to do justice in thorny matters of "he said-she said" sexual assault. Everyone who has ever studied the issue knows that.

But even if it were possible for schools to adequately investigate and adjudicate rape cases (it is not), the maximum punishment schools can dole out -- expulsion -- is scarcely enough to curtail rape. It isn't going to keep an expelled rapist from abusing women somewhere else, or even the same woman whose complaint led to the expulsion. In a country where the majority of college students are commuters, booting a rapist off campus isn't going to stop him from even legally frequenting the same off-campus hangouts where he committed his misdeeds as a student. If we were really serious about protecting women from rape, we would insist that every report be turned over to the professionals in law enforcement.

Schools Routinely Mishandle Sexual Assault Claims: To the Detriment of the Accused

Even the New York Times noted that schools are holding more men accused of sexual assault responsible. It quoted Colby Bruno, a lawyer at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston who works on campus sexual assault cases, said: “We regularly see schools actually holding attackers responsible, even expelling them, which we just didn’t see just three or four years ago.”  But the New York Times doesn't bother to discuss the injustices to students accused of sexual offenses.

Brett Sokolow, the nation's foremost authority on colleges' handling of sexual assault, recently wrote: ". . . in the last two weeks, I've worked on five cases all involving drunken hook-ups on college campuses. In each case, the male accused of sexual misconduct was found responsible. In each case, I thought the college got it completely wrong." Mr. Sokolow says that schools are wrongly charging male students when students engage in mutually intoxicated sex. That this hasn't generated an outcry in the progressive news media is sadly predictable. When a Wall Street Journal writer recently said the same thing that Mr. Sokolow said, the feminist community had a conniption. It is unfortunate that there has been no outrage whatsoever, much less similar outrage, over the injustices Mr. Sokolow noted to five male students.

In addition, virtually ignored by progressive news outlets are disturbing allegations posited in federal lawsuits that college men are being denied due process in sex cases as part of a push to advance women's rights.

This mindset is consistent with the policies of the current administration, which has rolled back the due process rights of students (almost always male) accused in college sex cases, a move that is strangely applauded by progressives. Progressives who, in every other circumstance, champion the expansion of due process rights.

Cathy Young nails it: 'The White House’s Report on Campus Sexual Assault Relies on the Lowest Common Denominator'

"What's missing is virtually any recognition of the need for fairness to the accused."


Read it here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A boy who is modest about his body needs professional help; a girl who is modest deserves privacy

In order to understand where we're headed when it comes to "gender" issues, it's helpful to know where we came from.  For a long time, a couple of famous newspaper advice columnists, twin sisters Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips -- better known as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (aka "Dear Abby") -- held a mirror up to our culture's views on gender. (Imagine these two know-it-alls in one family. You wouldn't want to be caught in the crossfire of all that good counsel being fired back and forth across the Thanksgiving dinner table, take my word.)  Their views on gender issues were enlightening, hysterical, and frightening, sometimes all at once. The double standards could be infuriating.

Their views on the issue of modesty represent a sort of microcosm of a culture that was intent on keeping femininity in check and on insuring that boys conform to a certain masculine ideal. Whether things have changed much is open to question, but we suspect it is a good sign that a lot of people likely will find these views old fashioned and even infuriating.

In 1969, a parent wrote to Dear Abby complaining because her 14-year-old son was told he would have to swim in the nude at school with his male classmates, and the boy felt uncomfortable about it. Abby offered no sympathy: “[H]e had better overcome his shyness about nudity in the presence of other boys,” she lectured, “or he is apt to be uncomfortable much of his life.”

Abby's sister, Ann Landers, was even more direct. In a 1974 column, she bluntly told a 15-year-old boy who was embarrassed to shower with other boys: "You have a problem, Son." She rejected the boy's assertion that the school was invading his privacy as "a cover up for something else." (Hmm. He must be . . . gay or something!) She told the lad he needed to see the school counselor. There was something wrong with him.

Even worse, when the genders were reversed, the answer was completely different. A 13-year-old girl wrote to Dear Abby complaining that her school expected her to shower with other girls.  Compare Abby's advice with the advice given to the boys. Not only was there nothing wrong with the girl, but Abby declared: "No girl should be forced to stand naked before other girls if it disturbs her." 

Ann agreed in a 1974 column: ". . . girls are reared to be more modest about their bodies" than boys. 

Boys, you see, were supposed to feel completely comfortable around other naked males, or there was something wrong with them. Ann, in 1970, didn't see anything wrong with a father walking around the house naked since the couple's only child was male. She declared: "If a teen-age boy sees his father in the nude, so what?"  But a mother shouldn't be expected to feel comfortable when her son pulls the same thing. Ann in, 1973, said a 17-year-old boy who parades around the house naked in front of his mother needs professional help.

A boy likewise is in need of professional help if he likes to look at a neighbor woman sunbathing in the nude, according to Ann. That sort of conduct, she cautioned, doesn't bode well for his future.

But here's a real eye-opener. Ann had completely different advice when the genders were reversed. A 31-year-old female doctor's aide wrote confessing she conducted medical tests on a nude 19-year-old man, even though it wasn't necessary for him to be nude.  He was embarrassed, but the aide admitted that she "enjoyed the situation immensely," and hoped it would happen again with other young men. Did Ann slam her for invading the young man's privacy? Did Ann tell her she needed professional help because this conduct doesn't bode well for her future? Of course not. "Everyone has fantasies," Ann told her. "Stop feeling guilty."

Read it again if you don't believe me. And compare it to what she said about the boy who liked to look.

As daffy as Abby and Ann could be, their readers could always top them.  And here's my favorite. A reader wrote to Abby complaining about neighbors who allowed their 16-year-old son to cavort around their house naked. Read what the neighbor wrote, and ask yourself if the neighbor was paying a little too close attention to this boy:

"In the morning, he gets up around 6:45," the neighbor confides.  "He walks into the kitchen and fixes a bowl of cereal." (If you're wondering how the neighbor knows all this, your guess is as good as ours.) "Then he stands at the counter, watching the morning sports shows while eating his breakfast in the nude." (Holy cow!  The neighbor even knows what he's watching on TV!) "There is absolutely no evidence of arousal of any kind." (Thank goodness we have this neighbor to closely monitor the boy's penile engorgement.) "When the bathroom becomes available, he goes in for a shower."  (We're disappointed that we aren't told what kind of soap he uses.)

I'd say that this woman knows a little too much about the boy's daily routine. For once, Abby's advice was dead-on: buy some curtains, lady.