Legal Scholars Call on Universities to Reform 'Victim-Centered' Sexual Misconduct Policies

Say new policies should focus on due process

Harvard Law
Harvard Law Library (AP)
February 19, 2018

Nearly 140 legal scholars have signed a letter calling on universities to reform current policies governing sexual misconduct allegations with a renewed focus on due process, rather than by a doctrine of "always believe the victim."

The letter highlights dangers inherent in "'victim-centered' practices" that "undermine neutrality in campus Title IX processes," and claims the imbalance has been plaguing institutions for nearly three decades.

According to the authors, the misleading victim-centered procedure was introduced in the early 1990s and been on the rise since the 2006 publication of an End Violence Against Women International manual, titled "Effective Report Writing," which mapped out methodology for achieving a "successful prosecution" of sexual assault complaints.

The contemporary campus disciplinary system is likened to the daycare abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s, during which accusations against caregivers ran wild and children were coaxed into relating extreme tales of abuse, including Satanic sexual rituals.

In Title IX procedure, the accuser has been assiduously reimagined not as "complainant" but as "victim," as part of the definitional collapse of relevant terminology, according to the document, published by the non-profit criminal watchdog, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments.

Signatories include litigators, higher education reformers, and scholars from institutions ranging from Harvard Law School to the U.S. Naval Academy.

They deride trauma-informed theories, such as rape trauma syndrome, which sought to identify common neurological symptoms that appear in the aftermath of assault, as being based on only "illusory evidence." The use of these methods in the investigatory process leave Title IX procedure open to corruption by memory fragmentation, with inconsistencies in victim statements or behavioral abnormalities explained away as evidence of ongoing trauma, according to the letter.

Meanwhile, accused students are presumed guilty and have been found at numerous schools to have received "incomplete or faulty" evidence, making it nearly impossible to build a defensive case, according to the letter.

In fact, since 2011, over 200 lawsuits have been brought by accused students against their universities, alleging that their rights were violated in sexual assault procedures, according to Title IX for All.

Yale University is currently facing three separate lawsuits brought by men who were disciplined for alleged sexual misconduct.

Last year alone, 25 such suits were filed against both private and public colleges, according to Title IX for All.

The problem has been exacerbated by the Obama-era guidelines outlined in the infamous 2011 "Dear Colleague Letter," which continue to be followed by many Title IX college investigators, despite being rescinded last year, explain the SAFE signatories.