Thursday, March 5, 2015

The general counsel of a large university equates students accused of sexual assault with perpetrators

The student newspaper at Indiana University in Bloomington quotes the University's Vice President and General Counsel Jackie Simmons on IU's new sexual assault policy. Her language is troubling and offensive -- read what she says, and try to keep your head from exploding: “Most effort went into how we wanted to protect the rights of victims, how to make sure they get the right care and how to protect the due process rights of the perpetrator.”

Read her quotation again. Simmons not only has declared accusers "victims," but her words evince a palpable contempt for the presumptively innocent men who are accused: they are "perpetrators."

Language matters, especially the language used by the general counsel of a large university on a subject as important, and as politically charged, as sexual assault. Simmons' comments signal an unmistakable hostility to the presumption of innocence when it comes to accusations of  sexual assault.

Due process is the greatest bulwark against tyranny ever devised by man. It wasn't devised to protect "perpetrators" but the innocent, and in order to protect the innocent, it must be applied to everyone. Ms. Simmons' background suggests that she ought to know better than to make reckless comments that manifest contempt for the presumptively innocent, at least some of whom have been wrongly accused. She owes the wrongly accused, and the men of IU, an apology.