LOADING

Type to search

Editors' Picks National Opinion

Stand With Title IX: On Betsy Devos, Men’s Rights, and Attempts at Reform

After consulting with men’s rights groups like the National Coalition for Men, it looks like Betsy DeVos is ready to begin reforming Title IX. In a recent speech at GMU’s Antonin Scalia Law School, she confirmed her intentions to initiate changes that ensure the rights of the accused.

DeVos seems to believe that campus sexual assault policies are charging too many innocent men and that they must be changed to ensure that “the handling of complaints is fair and accurate.”

Her secretary for civil rights, Candice Jackson, claimed in an interview that “[rape] accusations—90 percent of them—fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.”

But this skepticism against victims extends far beyond the White House.

In Emily Yoffe’s recent series of articles for the Atlantic, “The Bad Science Behind Campus Response to Sexual Assault” and “The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy,” Yoffe recognizes the need to protect victims but condemns campus litigation for being too harsh. She argues that under the Obama Administration, the OCR “encouraged bias against the accused.” Further, Yoffe refers to policies of affirmative consent and those that designate drunken students as unable to consent as “intrusive and impractical.”

Reading Yoffe’s work was deeply unsettling. It is one thing to read Reddit’s ‘Red Pill’ thread, where subscribers who refer to themselves as the ‘manosphere’ argue that free drinks at the bar prove women have it better in life than men. It is another thing entirely to read well-researched and flawlessly presented justifications in favor of reforming the system so that sexual assault victims face more skepticism.

One of Yoffe’s primary justifications for reforming campus sexual assault policies is the belief that there are far more false rape allegations than statistics present. Although a 2014 White House report estimates that between two and ten percent of reported rapes are false, Yoffe believes that the 45% of allegations dropped due to “withdrawn complaints and insufficient evidence” are proof that the number of false accusations is far higher.

However, the fact that so many women are coerced, pressured, and shamed into withdrawing their complaints is not proof that they are liars but is rather a testament to the struggle of seeking justice. The fact that there are so many instances in which guilt isn’t absolved, but the case is dropped due to a lack of usable evidence, is a testament to how difficult charging rapists can be.

I won’t argue that every sexual assault allegation made is true, but there is something deeply disconcerting about adopting the belief that so many thousands of women would voluntarily go through the ordeals of a trial and then drop their allegations on a whim.

In fact, a study by the University of Chicago Law School finds that rape law itself is being ignored due to the vast amount of victims who choose out-of-court settlements to “avoid the trauma of continuing investigation.”

Women and men aren’t making rape allegations out of boredom; they are trying to work within a system that is failing them.

Yoffe argues that interim measures after an assault accusation, like no-contact rules and class reassignments, are “unjust to men.” Yes, in an ideal world, no one falsely charged of rape would have to go through the inconvenience of dropping classes or switching dorms. But what she impliesthat this inconvenience compares in the slightest to the incapacitating physical and mental trauma rape victims undergois absurd.

We do not live in an ideal world. The demands of both victims and their accused assailants cannot be simultaneously met, and the possibility of a false positive does not compare to the trauma caused by false negatives. If I had to choose between a world in which someone unjustly has to drop their favorite math section and a world in which someone has to sit in class every single day with their rapist, the choice would be pretty clear to me.

Another one of Yoffe’s arguments against Title IX is that sexual assault victims are given too much leeway when testifying. She points out that there is no neurobiological reason for victims to feel frozen or have difficulty recalling their assault, and that “science offers little support” for the claim that trauma impedes resistance to rape.

I’m actually going to go ahead and take Yoffe’s word for it, but you don’t have to be a scientist to know that much more goes into reporting, testifying, and surviving sexual assault than neurobiology.

Testifying in a sexual assault case is unique. A study by the National Institute of Justice identifies multiple barriers to providing strong testimonials, including “not having proof, fear of retaliation from perpetrators, and hostile treatment from authorities.”

In a world where rape victims are subject to the questioning of their character and sex lives, intimidated by police, and silenced by their communities, it is no surprise that recounting their assault is a difficult task.

Furthermore, Yoffe uses science to argue that victims ought to have done more to fight back against an assailant. This is just another spin on the traditional methods used to humiliate survivors. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable looking a survivor in the face and telling her that, given her neurobiology, she should have been able to fight instead of freeze, you should reject this belief once and for all.

Yoffe also seems to ignore the fact that about one in every ten victims of rape are men. Feminist activists don’t fight for strict sexual assault policies in a bid to sabotage the male gender, they do it in an effort to ensure justice for all. In a time where male rape is still regarded more as a punchline and less as the serious issue it is, reporting assault carries the same barriers of stigma and skepticism for men.

According to Yoffe, “fears of negative social-media campaigns, bad press, bureaucracies, and activists”  are what forced schools to redefine sexual assault policy. I am one of those activists. And in fact, I actually agree with a key part of Yoffe’s arguments: any system that charges the innocent is a broken system. Justice that is impartial to one group of people is no justice at all. I welcome any change that would balance the scales.

But the scales are already tipped against victims.  

Changing the definitions of sexual assault to make sentencing harder will only lessen the already-low numbers of rapists brought to justice. Increasing the skepticism survivor testimonies are met with will only harm victims, both men and women. Forcing victims to occupy the same spaces as their rapists will only reinforce a culture that normalizes sexual assault.

In the face of an administration that is slowly dismantling the few protections given to survivors, let’s stand by Title IX. Let’s stand by women.

Tags:

You Might also Like

  • Christopher Hawks

    I’ll stand with the rule of law, thanks very much. Yoffe’s articles did an outstanding job explaining the problems with the current system. DeVos may mess it up, or she might not. Right now she’s taking a look at changes in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Duke lacrosse, University of Virginia and mattress girl are just three high profile cases that fell apart, only in the case of mattress girl could there be even the slightest doubt and the poor guy she accused was found not responsible twice by the University and not charged by the police.

    Is changing a class a big deal? Maybe not, but the accused remain wholly innocent until convicted in our criminal justice system. Since it’s no big deal to change a class, how about the accuser change a class? Yes, yes, I know, can’t blame the victim, etc but the accuser has the burden of proof! Or least the accuser should. I welcome the end of campus kangaroo courts and so should you. What do they teach you at Yale? I went to a humble little state school and I can figure this out.

    • momof3kids

      What kind of world do we live in where an individual can accuse someone of something heinous and not expect some scrutiny of the accusation. Like her or not Ms. Devos is moving cautiously and in a reasoned manner. Come on ladies we are much stronger than simply pointing a finger and then hiding under a rock hoping someone else will supply a free band-aid or cut us some slack because of our gender. Yoffe has got a lot of it right…time to wake up and smell the roses or women will lose agency that us olders fought long and hard to get. I remember my freshman year in the all-women dorm with lock doors, bedchecks and 3 feet on the floor rules. Own your actions and your accusations and don’t expect a free pass.

  • FreedomFirst

    Let’s stand by women and men who condemn feminism as the bigoted hate movement that it most definitely is, who mock ‘rape culture’ as a ridiculous Rolling Stones romantic fantasy, and who return us to a gender-blind rule of law in which drunk girls are charged with rape every time their equally drunk boy is.

  • Charlie Hurd

    You’re welcome to your own opinions, but not your own set of facts. This is just an opinion, not backed up by facts.

  • Daphne Girl

    Colleges seem to have a party culture. There is some truth in Ms. Jackson’s statement.

    Next the author states “. . . so many women are coerced, pressured, and shamed into withdrawing their complaints is not proof that they are liars but is rather a testament to the struggle of seeking justice.”

    Always the fault of the system, whatever that means…abolishing our civil rights and judicial system for sexual assault charges made by women. They are to be believed at all cost, ‘victim’ directed investigation, abolish all SOLs, (women take more time).

    The suggestion that women are coerced, shamed, etc. to drop a rape charge is nonsense. Especially on college campuses. There are entire departments devoted to this, there are resources and money thrown at this, staff at hospital, specially trained police, rape groups and counselors abound. There are people who will help all the way thru the system and beyond. So that argument is moot.

    “In fact, a study by the University of Chicago Law School finds that rape law itself is being ignored due to the vast amount of victims who choose out-of-court settlements to “avoid the trauma of continuing investigation.”

    This one is a no brainer. For many, making an accusation pays.

    And I’ve heard this idea before and it is troubling: “the possibility of a false positive does not compare to the trauma caused by false negatives.”

    From another author: WA Post December 6, 2014
    No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims By Zerlina Maxwell:

    “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.” Yes guys, just get over it already!

    Rape is a horrible crime. But I fear the hysterical cries of rape culture and redefinition of rape and sexual assault that seem almost childish, causes rape to be minimized for real victims. It’s doing more harm for victims than anything I’ve seen in a long while. But this victimization as a lifestyle has taken hold and has become quite a big business.

  • It is another thing entirely to read well-researched and flawlessly presented justifications in favor of reforming the system so that sexual assault victims face more skepticism.

    Interesting choice of words. Guess what? The whole point of the proceedings is to find out whether or not the complainant is actually a victim.

    Also, has it occurred to you that if a well-researched and well-organized piece makes the case for a stronger burden of proof, maybe it deserves serious consideration?

    Although a 2014 White House report estimates that between two and ten percent of reported rapes are false….

    No, that’s how many reports (not reported rapes, because by definition there was no rape) were proven false. Big difference.

    Not to mention that a report doesn’t have to be false to be not true. Mistaken identity, mistaken memory (especially if the complainant was drunk — that’s why investigators rightly ask the complainant if s/he had been drinking) and mistaken belief in consent all happen.

    However, the fact that so many women are coerced, pressured, and shamed into withdrawing their complaints is not proof that they are liars but is rather a testament to the struggle of seeking justice.

    Or maybe they had an attack of conscience?

    Or when they were questioned, they were found to have lied or had unreliable memories?

    But I’ll be the first to agree that some people get coerced into “admitting” things they didn’t do. Ask Brian Banks.

    The fact that there are so many instances in which guilt isn’t absolved, but the case is dropped due to a lack of usable evidence, is a testament to how difficult charging rapists can be.

    In our system, one is presumed innocent until (and unless) proven guilty. Don’t like that? Move to North Korea.

    I won’t argue that every sexual assault allegation made is true, but there is something deeply disconcerting about adopting the belief that so many thousands of women would voluntarily go through the ordeals of a trial and then drop their allegations on a whim.

    Much of the ordeal is reliving the rape. Which, of course, isn’t a problem for someone who’s making it up because there’s nothing to relive.

    Yoffe argues that interim measures after an assault accusation, like no-contact rules and class reassignments, are “unjust to men.” Yes, in an ideal world, no one falsely charged of rape would have to go through the inconvenience of dropping classes or switching dorms. But what she implies—that this inconvenience compares in the slightest to the incapacitating physical and mental trauma rape victims undergo—is absurd.

    Sorry, this isn’t Oppression Olympics. It doesn’t matter how much worse someone else has it. An injustice is an injustice.

    We do not live in an ideal world. The demands of both victims and their accused assailants cannot be simultaneously met,

    Truism. (That’s the accusers and the accused. Once again, too soon to label “victim” and “assailant”.)

    and the possibility of a false positive does not compare to the trauma caused by false negatives. If I had to choose between a world in which someone unjustly has to drop their favorite math section and a world in which someone has to sit in class every single day with their rapist, the choice would be pretty clear to me.

    Non sequitur. Just because there’s a trade off doesn’t mean you necessary decide things one way or the other all the time.

    Again, we don’t know whether or not someone is a rapist or someone else is a victim until after the proceedings. Until then, they’re equals. (Title IX is all about equal rights by gender, right?)

    In any case, I wouldn’t force someone to sit in class every day with someone who might be her (or his) rapist. But I’d separate the two equally.

    Another one of Yoffe’s arguments against Title IX is that sexual assault victims are given too much leeway when testifying. She points out that there is no neurobiological reason for victims to feel frozen or have difficulty recalling their assault, and that “science offers little support” for the claim that trauma impedes resistance to rape.

    You’re quite right. In particular, criminal profiler Pat Brown describes shattered memories and “incongruous” reactions by rape victims in her book How to Save Your Daughter’s Life.