Tuesday, December 29, 2015

College Men Accused of Rape Have Rights Too

2015 has seen some important milestones in the fight for due process for college students. Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE)  distributed a flyer on California campuses with sage advice for young men who may face the possibility of a false rape charge, warning them to beware of sexual encounters with women who have had even one drink; counseling them to save conversations with sexual partners; and reminding them that not deleting correspondence on Twitter, on FaceBook, on their cell phones, may provide necessary evidence of consent from a woman determined to bring a false charge of rape. Harsh advice, but necessary in today's culture, where a young man can be accused at any time of rape and expelled from college with no evidence from the woman, no due process from the authorities, and no chance to confront his accuser or even present his side of the story. Indeed, going into 2016, the atmosphere on far too many college campuses encourages reporting alleged sexual assaults to campus administrators rather than to the police. Still, FACE was able to get that flyer out, and by encouraging young men to adhere to campus policies and alerting them to the possibility of false accusation, there is reason to hope that students in the coming year will avoid false accuasations of rape and unjust expulsions from college.

There are other hopeful signs. State Represenatative Matthew Manweller plans to introduce a bill in the Washington State Legislature that would provide students accused of non-academic offenses the right to hire lawyers. This right would apply even in cases based on accusations made by one student against another. Representative Jared Polis (D-Co) apologized for his remark that private colleges should automatically expel students accused of sexual assault even if there is only a 20 percent chance that they are guilty. The sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act are beginning to pay lip service to the importance of fair hearings for accused students. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La) has raised due process concerns. And Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has disupted the idea that calling the police hurts the investigative process, pointing out that without a victim cooperating with the police, there can be no legal case.

Going forward, organizations such FACE will continue reaching out to college students, warning them of the new danger young men face on campuses as women are encouraged to report alleged sexual assaults to college administrators rather than to the police. There will be more resources to assist students if they are falsely accused of rape, and encouragement for young men who need help to obtain a fair hearing under the law. Students accused of rape are beginning to find their voice, a voice that calls for justice under the law and protections guaranteed under the Constitution.