October 09, 2014

A Standard I Believe To Be Wrong

I had never heard of Treon Harris before the story about his suspension by the University of Florida football program in the wake of an allegation of sexual assault made by a female student at the school. I have nothing invested in his guilt or innocence. But as I read a long commentary by Andy Hutchins, a sports journalist covering the Florida Gators, I came across an assertion that just struck me as wrong.

But we need to be fair to Harris, who would merit a presumption of innocence in a court of law that he's not going to get in the court of public opinion, and to his accuser, whom we should believe because we must believe victims, and to the process of investigating this incident, which will take time and care to do right.

Do you detect the problem in the standard that has been set out by Hutchins? It is a flagrant double standard that leads to the statement contradicting itself and rendering all the nuanced effort at fairness to be nothing but the sort of pious hypocrisy historically used as the justification of lynching. I’m going to translate it for you into what is REALLY being said.

For all we talk about Treon Harris being legally innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, the reality is that we should presume him guilty. After all, the accusation MUST BE BELIEVED, and any investigation that is conducted MUST result in his being deemed a rapist. To do otherwise is to fail to believe the victim, and we must believe the victim.

Hutchins is, of course, simply parroting the politically correct party line that has been set forth by the Obama Administration, the screeching harpies of cable news, and the anti-male extremists of the feminist movement. On a college campus today, the standard of guilt necessary to find a male student guilty of sexual assault has been reduced to a mere preponderance of evidence – what amounts to “we think it probably happened” – and accusers are permitted to demand repeated hearings and proceedings until they get the result they demand, meaning that the prohibition of double jeopardy enshrined in the Bill of Rights has been rejected in the name of “believing the victim”. We have in recent years seen horrible miscarriages of justice in such cases based upon the standard of “we must believe victims” – universities denying accused students the right to legal representation in hearings, universities denying accused students of the right to cross-examine their accuser lest they “revictimize the victim”, “expert testimony” by “victim advocates” which include the assertion that one sign of an accused student’s guilt is a claim of innocence (so much for the right to plead “not guilty”), an Ivy League university expelling a student because the accuser was the daughter of a major donor, and even an incident in which a student was deemed “responsible” for a sexual assault and expelled despite his being cleared by the local police and prosecutor and his accuser having been indicted for having filed a false report in the case. An ethic of “believing the victim” is one in which the presumption of innocence in every instance must be rejected and replaced with a presumption of guilt.

Does this mean that I believe we must presume every accusation of sexual assault is a lie? Hardly. We can, should, and must take every accusation of sexual assault at face value until and unless the evidence leads to some other conclusion. This necessarily means that we can, should, and must investigate every accusation properly. And following such investigations we can, should and must bring charges when and if they are warranted by the evidence. But what we cannot do, should not do, and must not do is declare the accuser a “victim” and the accused a rapist or sex offender based upon the mere fact that an accusation has been made.

And let no one mistake me for an apologist for sex offenders. Too many women in my own life have been victims of sexual assaults for me to ever dismiss rape as something trivial or accusations as unworthy of consideration. Having seen the impact on one of those women of having law enforcement officers blame her for the assault and refuse to investigate her claim lest it mess up the life of the man who assaulted her, I’m a fan of vigorous prosecution of those who engage in sexual assault. I would, in a world in which the United States Supreme Court had not declared capital punishment for rape to be cruel and unusual punishment, advocate for laws imposing the death penalty for rape. But just as I don’t want to see rapists go free because we do not take the crime seriously enough, I also reject the notion that it is better to brand an innocent man as a sex criminal lest we leave an accuser feeling that she has not received justice. Because after all, one does not remedy past injustice be creating future injustices in the opposite direction.

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Comments on A Standard I Believe To Be Wrong

Like you, I had not heard of Treon Harris before this. Nonetheless, it does seem that the attitude of many feminists (both male and female) is "why would she accuse him if he were not guilty?"

Of course, that begs the question of the nature of his guilt. Is he guilty of rape or associating with a liar? Maybe he is guilty of being famous while black. He might even be guilty of ending a "Fatal Attraction" relationship.

|| Posted by Mark, October 10, 2014 06:28 AM ||
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