The Campus False Accuser Support Act

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I recently wrote to several federal legislators about issues with the current policy the federal departments of Education and Justice have foisted onto America’s post secondary education institutions. This included criticism of the policy pushed by the Education department’s “Dear Colleague” letter, and a request that my state’s federal legislators work with Senator McCain to get some answers from the Justice department regarding their settlement with the University of Montana-Missoula.

It’s been a while, and I’ve received a reply from Senator Sherrod Brown. It looks like yet another autoreply (that’s mostly what I get from Senator Brown,) but it tells you exactly where he stands on the issue.

Ohio voters, take note – men’s rights activists will get no help from this senator. He belongs to the feminist lobbyists who advocated for the discriminatory law and policy in the first place.

Senator Brown responded to my concerns regarding the way current policy compromises due process, and creates an environment which encourages false accusations…

Actually, no. He didn’t. His office responded, probably in the form of a volunteer. The volunteer also didn’t respond to my concerns, but instead to my gender, apparently assuming that because I’m female, my concern would be satisfied by the same sloppy lip service the senator’s feminist constituents have been willing to accept.

The letter I received:

Dear (my actual last name:)

Thank you for getting in touch with my office regarding sexual harassment on college campuses.

Today, one of out of five women [sic] will experience sexual violence while attending college. In too many instances, sexual harassment or sexual assault cases are left unreported or the assaulter is exonerated of any charges.  

The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act or Campus (SaVE) Act would ensure colleges and universities are doing their part to minimize sexual crimes on campuses. It would require all institutes of higher education participating in a title IV [sic] program, except foreign schools, to include their policies and procedures for handling sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in their annual security report. Additionally, the legislation would promote awareness and prevention across campuses by requiring schools to provide transparent information to their student body on programs and assistance related to sexual crimes.

We have a solemn responsibility to protect young people from harm and to ensure those who are guilty of a sexual crime are held accountable. Should the SaVE Act come before the Senate, I will keep your views in mind.

Thank you for your advocacy.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

In other words…

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Me: Dear Senator Brown, I’ve noticed some serious problems with certain federal policy. The policy is bad. I see that Senator McCain is doing some investigation. I’d really like to see my state’s senators support him in that investigation.

Senator Brown: Dear Mrs Female, Yeah, we’re making that policy federal law. Isn’t that great?

Having read “Should the  SaVE Act come before the Senate,” one would think this bill was still under discussion. After all, if it has yet to come before the Senate, then the Senate can’t possibly have voted on it yet.

One would turn out to be wrong.

The Bill passed in March, and it takes effect in March of 2014. The reason it slipped by unnoticed is that it wasn’t an independent bill. It was part of the Violence Against Women Re-authorization Act.

This is the law:

Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act text

Campus SaVE act summary

This pretty much goes along with what the Department of Education had tried to mandate using threat of denial of federal funding. The difference is this makes it federal law.

It significantly changes the wording of the Higher Education Act of 1965, adding stipulations requiring colleges to substitute college disciplinary boards for courtrooms in cases of allegations of sexual misconduct. It also mandates both the use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt” as a standard, and that these institutions allow the accuser to appeal a not guilty verdict.

In other words, it reduces the standard of evidence, and allows for double jeopardy.

The law also increases the list of offenses that universities must report among statistics on campus crime.

There is absolutely no good purpose for this design. The only thing this will do is allow accusers the ability to railroad through at school accusations which would not hold up in court due to lack of evidence.

This is a false-accuser support bill, with a built-in stat-counter to assist in the manufacture of evidence for its own support.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Robert Portman will be receiving letters and phone calls from me on this topic, as will the House representative for my area, along with a few other representatives.

I recently wrote to several of you about federal policy related to post secondary education institutions’ handling of accusations of sexual misconduct. My letters stated my concern over the way federal policy compromises due process, specifically citing issues with the policy laid out in the Education department’s Dear Colleague letter to colleges and universities all over the U.S. I also encouraged everyone I contacted to support Senator John McCain’s investigation into the Justice Department’s actions toward the University of Montana-Missoula. I had hoped to see some investigation into the obvious abuse of power exercised by that department, but instead it seems that the effort has quietly stalled.

One senator’s office responded to my letter, but not to its contents, touting as a solution to my concerns a federal law which further enforces the most troubling policy changes the federal government has tried to push on colleges and universities. The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act presents significant danger to anyone seeking higher education. If this law is allowed to take effect,  it will apply the following mandates to post-secondary educational institutions

  • That there be an investigation and on-campus disciplinary hearing whenever there is an accusation of sexual misconduct.
  • That the hearing must be held using a lower standard of evidence for conviction than is used in a court of law, even though heavy penalties with long term effects (such as being kicked out of school and banned from campus) may follow a guilty verdict.
  • That accusers be notified of a right to not contact actual law enforcement regarding the accusation.
  • That in the event of a not guilty verdict, an accuser can subject the accused to effective double jeopardy by appealing the verdict

This combination provides would-be accusers with a means to bypass law enforcement, bypass the legal system, bypass the laws against bringing false charges and committing perjury, bypass the right of the accused to due process, and use college disciplinary boards as an easier means to secure conviction and potentially seriously life-impacting punishment. This will include false accusers who can get friends to testify, and it will include accusers who can look convincing while bringing a word against word case.

Instead of protecting students from a dangerous environment, this bill will create one. It will place students in jeopardy of having their academic careers and their future employment prospects easily destroyed by false or exaggerated accusations. It will also protect at least some sexual predators from the criminal penalties that they should face.

The first thing to understand about sex crimes and false allegations is that we are never going to eliminate either the incidence of innocent people being penalized, or guilty people escaping the justice system, because sex crime cases can be subjective, lawyers can be sneaky, and mistakes can be made with any case.

What we can do is ensure that the reason innocent people sometimes get penalized is not because they were denied their right to a fair trial, and the reason guilty people sometimes get away is not because their initial conviction didn’t have to be based on any real evidence and a deserved conviction was overturned because the initial handling of the case didn’t involve a thorough investigation… or because victims were satisfied with the kangaroo court and mock punishment supplied by their school, and decided not to pursue criminal charges.

We have a legal system for a reason. We would not want a law dictating that university curriculum be written by trained chefs, or that restaurant menus be designed by doctors, surgery done by attorneys, criminal cases argued by civil engineers, or city infrastructure designed by interior decorators. Why should we accept a law dictating that legal and law enforcement issues be handled by educational institution administrators? This is not their job. They do what they do because that’s where their expertise is. It is ridiculous to cut the police and legal system out of the equation when there is any accusation of sexual abuse. Crimes as serious as the various types of sexual misconduct should be investigated by trained law enforcement officers, and should an investigation lead to charges, those charges should be heard in a court of law.

Even if we decide that these administrators are so qualified, the procedures laid out in this bill would deny those accused on campuses across the U.S. the right to a fair trial. Instead of having their cases heard before a qualified judge and/or jury, students accused of sexual misconduct will be subjected to investigation and trial by educators, with a reduced standard of evidence, and even if found innocent, they’ll face double jeopardy as their accusers will be allowed to appeal the initial decision and force them to go through the experience a second time.

In addition to increasing the chance that falsely accused students would be found guilty and face penalties, a legitimate victim’s choice to substitute a school hearing for a real trial would effectively protect perpetrators of sex crimes from the legal penalties they should face. While having one’s academic career wrecked by a false allegation is terrible, getting away with only having one’s academic career wrecked following the commission of a rape is equally terrible.

It leaves the rapist free to rape again.

This law is a major departure from the constitutional guarantee of due process, and a violation of student rights. It will create on post secondary institutional campuses a legally hostile environment which can interfere with students’ focus on their studies, and their ability to obtain their education in peace.

I strongly urge you take action to prevent the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act from taking effect. Do not stand back and allow the attack that this law is; an assault on the U.S. justice system, and the right of citizens to due process when accused of a crime.

Part of that letter is taken from my Breaking the Glasses post, “The Nature of the Allegation.”

I’m hoping others will join me in writing to your senators and state reps about this issue, before this law takes effect. I don’t mind if people copy mine verbatim, but if you write your own, I’d love to see them posted in the comments section under this post.

You can find your state’s senators’ contact information here:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

You can find your state’s  house representatives’ contact information here:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

If you happen to write or call and get an interesting response, please feel free to share that in the comments here, too. I think everyone interested in the outcome of this bill would also be interested in knowing what their representatives have to say about it.

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