Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Presumed Guilty

This is an incredible story about Stanford University's policies on sexual assault.

"Imagine being a male Stanford student at your sexual assault hearing," said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. "The 'jury' has been told that denying the charges is a sign of guilt, and so is being persuasive and logical. They've been told that accusers almost never lie, that they need to be extra suspicious of men who don't seem like they'd commit rape, and that being neutral is taking the side of abusers. Additionally, the Department of Education has mandated that a sliver of certainty is all that is required to find you guilty. Would any Stanford administrator volunteer to be tried for sexual assault in a real court under the same conditions that they have imposed on their students?"

Stanford's definition of consent to sex imposes a concept that is foreign to most people's idea of adult consent and inconsistent with California state law. Stanford policy states that sexual assault occurs "when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent ... if intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol." In other words, any sexual activity while intoxicated to any degree constitutes sexual assault. This is true even if the activity was explicitly agreed to by a person capable of making rational, reasoned decisions, and even if the partners are in an ongoing relationship or marriage. Further, under a policy like Stanford's, if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other.

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