Washington October 25, 2011 (AVfM News) Last week on Thursday October 20, a red-line draft proposal for V.A.W.A. re-authorization was made public. That proposal includes a provision to apply guidelines set for college campuses as outlined in “Dear Colleague” letter issued by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (O.C.R), which instructs schools to abandon the use of a “reasonable doubt” standard in sexual assault cases and instead use the less stringent “preponderance of evidence,” standard. It will be introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee soon for deliberation.
This means that the diluted Preponderance of Evidence standard used in civil cases, and the removal of proper criminal justice entities in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault on college campuses, will be coded into federal law and not simply an extension of O.C.R. policy.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, an organization dedicated to V.A.W.A. reform, had been lobbying feverishly with the Judiciary Committee staff to support a repeal of mandatory arrest policy funding and also to make V.A.W.A. gender neutral, thus recognizing male victims and female perpetrators of intimate partner violence.
S.A.V.E. has also been very active in lobbying for the recognition of false allegations of domestic violence as well as well as speaking out about misconceptions regarding Domestic Violence and misinformation alleged to be rampant in the Domestic Violence Industry.
Despite the lobbying, none of S.A.V.E’s recommendations were included in the updated draft.
As reported by AFVM news, the new Title IX requirements for federal funding (almost every public post secondary education institution is heavily dependent on Title IX funding) include the en-statement of new procedures for dealing with accusations of sexual assault on campus. These procedures first and foremost require the establishment of student and faculty tribunals who are not accountable to the law in any way and need only the preponderance of evidence standard to essentially convict a male student of sexual assault. While the accused student may not be sent to jail they are expelled from school and their academic records will show that they perpetrated a sexual crime.
Since the introduction of the new O.C.R. policy, academics and legal scholars have bitterly complained about its constitutionality. S.A.V.E. has also been very vocal about the danger posed to young men in college stating that the guidelines will result in a flood of false allegations and innocent male students having their academic careers and lives destroyed by what amounts to Kafkaesque tribunals in which the accused are presumed guilty and have no right to face their accusers and on which the entire burden of proof is placed on them.
Indeed, as has been seen at the University of South Dakota in the case of Caleb Warnner who last year was expelled from school and had his academic record tarnished by a sexual assault charge that was proven false by police, these procedures are already the DE-facto policy on many campuses. He has since won back his right to attend school again but only after much expense and considerable damage to his reputation.
There have already been scathing commentaries coming from several sources. Open Market’s Hans Bader penned an article titled “Senate bill would further undermine due process on campus” in which he states:
“It really is strange for a bill to delegate to a federal agency the power to lower due process protections and standards of proof to be used against private individuals. I have never seen any bill like this before, and it may be unprecedented. Giving OCR this power raises the danger that it could some day demand an even lower standard of proof like “reasonable grounds” or “probable cause” that would require discipline even where the accused is probably innocent as long as there is some possibility of guilt, effectively creating a presumption of guilt.
It also sets a precedent for future legislation forcing institutions to lower the standard of proof in other kinds of cases that could lead to the firing of employees or expulsion of students. It is also strange to delegate to an agency like OCR that administers one statute (Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination and harassment) the ability to dictate the standard of proof for an entirely different statute that it doesn’t even administer (VAWA, dealing with domestic violence and violence against women).”
Phyllis Schlafly, President of the Eagle Forum released an open letter to all U.S. Republican Senators yesterday urging them not to support the circulating draft. “Conservatives need to stand against the falsehoods and unconstitutional policies that surround the domestic violence issue” she said. “The bill should be re-written so that it adheres to the truth, experience and constitutional policies and helps women instead of harming families.”
S.A.V.E. is urging supporters to contact the Senate Switchboard ( 202-244-3121) and contact their Senators so they can express their disapproval of the new V.A.W.A. Draft.