Reporting rape

How One College Handled a Sexual Assault Complaint in the New York Times shows how Hobart and William Smith College botched the investigation of a student’s rape complaint.

As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

. . . At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

College officials aren’t competent to investigate violent crimes. All victims of assault should be told to call the police immediately — before evidence is destroyed — and cooperate fully. Treat sexual assault as a crime, not a violation of the student behavior code.

All sexual assaults should be reported to the police immediately — for the safety of the victim and possible future victims.

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  1. Crimson Wife says:

    I could see turning to the school if the police decline to prosecute the case or if there is a hung jury or mistrial. Criminal prosecution has a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard while school discipline is usually “preponderance of the evidence”. So if the evidence supports the alleged victim’s case but isn’t enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then there may be a role for the school to discipline the alleged rapist.

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      But would a school follow the evidentiary and due process procedures that a court would? Like allowing the accused counsel and the right to question his accuser?

    • You’re assuming that the school’s primary motivation is the security of the students.

      From the various eruptions over the years about schools suppressing evidence and dissuading victims from reporting a crime it’s clear that the motivations of those who work for the school are, at best, mixed. This story does nothing to persuade anyone that schools have, as their main interest, the safety of the students.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Criimson. Preponderance of evidence means a lower standard. Which means a substantially increased chance of having either the wrong guy or a guy who didn’t commit rape. So should he be disciplined even though innocent because he’s “alleged”?

    • Crimson Wife says:

      Most of these cases there is no dispute that the accused had sex with the accuser. The dispute is whether the woman legally consented to the sex or not. Taking advantage of a drunk girl is wrong, regardless of whether it crossed the line into a crime. I do think that we should hold a very strict standard for throwing someone in prison for rape, but the college is doling out punishments that are much less severe.

      • SuperSub says:

        While the accused males don’t end up in prison…an expulsion or prolonged suspension can have serious life-altering consequences.
        You’re right that in these cases there’s usually no argument over whether sex occurred. The problem with ‘preponderance of evidence’ is that an accuser effectively only has to show that she was drinking to claim a reduced mental state, therefore negating any assent, spoken or otherwise, that occurred the night of intercourse. Victim had sex, check, victim was drinking, check…now any intercourse is not consensual.
        Drinking, though, is not a permissible defense in this case for the accused.

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    They can *call* it whatever they want, but most schools wouldn’t know a standard of proof if it came up and kicked them in the nuts.

    On disciplinary matters, college administrations just sort of go with whatever feels right at the time.

    Which is fine — they’re not courts. They’re more like parents, or so the saying goes.