Sexual assault is a serious crime, and it should be treated as such. Since 2011, when the Obama administration's Education Department released its infamous "Dear Colleague" letter, many colleges and universities have taken it upon themselves to create a legal system that bears more in common with star chambers than with the legal regime under the Constitution.
Locally, the San Luis Obispo Tribune ran a long article last week on Melissa Giddens, a Cal Poly SLO graduate who is outraged that the school's Title IX office didn't find her sexual assault complaint credible enough to warrant disciplining the student that she says attacked her.
Giddens said she was sexually assaulted in October 2014. When she reported the incident in January of this year, what she received in response was a statement from Cal Poly — backed up by the California State University Chancellor’s Office — that she was not as credible a witness as her alleged assailant.
And there's the big problem: Giddens waited more than two years to report the assault.
It was a Friday — Oct. 10, 2014 — when Giddens, then a sophomore, attended a party with a group of friends, a group that included the man she said later sexually assaulted her.
Giddens’ recollections of what happened that night are limited. She said she ended up separated from her friends and, at one point, asked for a cup of water. A man handed her a cup provided by a third man, who said, “This one’s special.”
According to the report, “(Giddens) stated she went into the living room to talk with friends and that is the last thing she remembers from that night.”
The next morning, Giddens said she woke up in bed at her Poly Canyon Village apartment, with her alleged assailant next to her. She was partially undressed and he had his hands down her shorts, she said.
“I did not consent. I had been drugged. And when I woke up, I was being violated,” Giddens told The Tribune. “When I woke up and realized what was happening, he said ‘Do you like this?’ And I just froze out of fear.’ ”
Giddens believes she was drugged, but two-plus years later, a blood test isn't going to detect that.
Giddens told the investigator that the alleged assailant then left for work. Later that day, she said she vomited blood and was told by a doctor that that was a sign she might have been drugged.
Giddens said a friend told her not to report what happened. And for two years, she followed that advice.
Some friend. At this point, if there's one person most to blame in letting a rapist go free, if Giddens is telling the truth, it's this unnamed "friend."
I don't know if Giddens is telling the truth, or if two years later she decided that she regretted a drunken one-night-stand and convinced herself that filing a Title IX complaint was the way to salve her conscience. While the Tribune report paints a largely sympathetic account of Giddens case, the absence of the investigator's report leaves too much unknown about the case.
One of the things we've been trying to do over the last several decades is to destigmatize victims of sexual assault. We've been encouraging victims to come forward—immediately—so that the full force of the law can be brought down on their attackers' heads.
Had Giddens gone to police that first day, they would've drawn blood to detect the presence of any drugs she may have been given. Her testimony less than 24 hours after the attack occurred would've held an immense amount of weight. They could've located DNA evidence on her body that would damn her assailant.
Two years later, the physical evidence is non-existent. Her testimony is questionable; dulled by time.
At the risk of being accused again of blaming the victim, women really do need to band together and really watch out for each other at parties where drink is being imbibed. Don't let your girlfriend go off alone with a guy—drunk or not. Don't leave a party until all your girlfriends are together. And never go off alone with some guy you met that night.
In a follow-on column, the Tribune's resident Democrat, looks at the numbers on sexual assault reports at Cal Poly and is disgusted.
Just look at the numbers. In the last two years, Cal Poly’s Title IX office has received 140 complaints of sexual misconduct, domestic violence and stalking. Of those 140, they investigated 44, and of those 44, they handed down sanctions in only 19 cases.
Add it up and it means that of the women who had the courage to come forward, less than 15 percent reached what they might possibly feel is a suitable result. But most probably didn’t even feel that, because a lot of the results are nothing more than slaps on the wrist.
Barely 4 percent resulted in the most severe action: the expulsion of the offending student. That’s pathetic.
I don't know if these numbers are good or bad vis a vis the truth. It's like looking at the FBI's uniform crime reports, looking at all violent crimes and complaining that only a fraction of a percent of those reported crimes resulted in the accused perpetrator getting the death penalty.
The proper response, with concerns for the rights of both the accuser and accused is to maybe move this quasi-judicial process from an academic environment designed to spread knowledge and learning to a judicial department, i.e. the criminal justice system.
Does any reasonable person really think some education bureaucrat is qualified to run a competent investigation into sexual assault? Would we trust these investigators to do a kidnapping? A murder?
Instead, the Tribune's resident Democrat takes aim at the 6th Amendment.
Meanwhile, the situation could get even worse, if the Trump administration has anything to say. Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education is looking to raise the burden of proof in these cases and give further protection to assailants.
It’s just one more layer in a prehistoric strata of shame that has long buried concern for victims under coddling for their abusers.
This must stop. And with the #MeToo momentum, there’s no better time to start the stopping than right now.
(Note that the Obama era standard was a lowered "preponderance of the evidence" standard, put in layman's terms "more likely than not." DeVos is suggesting moving that standard back up to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that's usually reserved for judgments of the sort that can ruin someone's life.)
Yes, let's stop letting the accused off so easy. And let's not stop with sexual assault. Robbery, battery, attempted murder, manslaughter, murder. All of these are violent crimes that can leave their victims permanently scarred or far worse. Requiring certainly beyond a reasonable doubt is "coddling" criminals. We must stop it. Seriously?
Is this the world Democrats want? One where the mere accusation is sufficient for ruining someone's life.
Do you want sexual assault treated like a serious crime? Then treat it as a serious crime. Don't leave the investigation to education bureaucrats.