The Growing Sexual-Assault Investigations Industry

In response to questions from the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow, a spokesperson for Iowa senator Charles Grassley made a telling admission that has received insufficient attention. “The university,” the spokesperson noted, “will be responsible for any new requirements in the bill and be responsible to find the funds within its budget, whether that be from an endowment, trimming administration costs, tuition, or any other area.” The spokesperson did not indicate how many new faculty lines should be sacrificed or how much of a tuition increase students should bear so that colleges can construct a parallel criminal investigations system, albeit one with many fewer due process protections for accused students and a much lower threshold of guilt.

It turns out that the financial pressure is starting on colleges even before the McCaskill-Grassley bill has cleared Congress. Inside Higher Ed recently reported that “a cottage industry is growing around campus sexual assault.” Some of these developments are benign or even helpful, such as a fingernail polish designed to detect date rape drugs, a product designed by UNC students (and oddly attacked by some ideologues as contributing to “rape culture”).

Consider some others, however. The NCHERM group, for instance, now offers a veritable catalog of services. (This is the group whose president wildly charged that FIRE “is sticking up for penises everywhere” when FIRE criticized the OCR mandate that colleges brand students rapists on the basis of a preponderance of evidence.) For a $5000 flat fee (a sale price expiring on September 5th) to cover all sexual assault cases during an academic year, schools can pay NCHERM “to be sure” the college’s process “got it right.” Will the group interview witnesses or conduct discovery? No—that costs more money. Instead, “an NCHERM Group partner will review your decision by phone and/or email, and let you know how they see it.” Due process in action!

NCHERM offers four other services for colleges—though the organization doesn’t reveal the prices for any of these. (Given that a handful of phone calls costs $5000, it seems likely none of these other options are cheap.) The group offers to help schools dispose of OCR complaints by coming “in to do a thorough investigation of the allegations, and help to process the complaint through [the school’s] own internal due process or other resolution proceedings.” The data then can be turned over to OCR—which, after all, “is swimming in a sea of complaints these days.” The group sells schools hope for a price: “Perhaps they’ll be willing to clear your [school’s] off their desks if the matter has already been addressed in compliance with the law.”

Another NCHERM service suggests allowing the group itself to conduct the school’s inquiry—that is, if the school would “just feel better using external, fully objective, highly-skilled investigators.” The group says it can send as many as 20 investigators to the school, all in pursuit of “the unvarnished truth.”

It’s worth pointing out that Sokolow has recently come under attack from anti-due process activists, in part because he suggested that colleges are responding to pressure from OCR by finding innocent students guilty, usually in cases involving alcohol. The organization, therefore, might be seen as what passes for moderate among the “cottage industry” of sexual assault investigating companies.

A final point. NCHERM’s sales pitch includes the following passage: “Simply, we have more collective expertise and experience investigating campus sexual misconduct and civil rights complaints than anyone else.” This statement—made by an organization that’s 13 years old—appears to take a very broad view of what constitutes “investigating campus sexual misconduct”: would the $5000 phone consult count as an “investigation”? But if true, it’s a sad statement. How could a private, for-profit company, not accountable to the public, have more “experience” investigating a serious crime than the nation’s police forces?


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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4 thoughts on “The Growing Sexual-Assault Investigations Industry

  1. So what is the good professor’s take on the freshly passed “yes means yes” law in California?

    (1) An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

  2. American law enforcement for over 25 years now….have been using “protocol perversions and semantics games” to manufacture false rape statistics that are not even close to reality.
    Are these law enforcement manufactured statistics ( that are using state and federal dollars to fund them) even constitutional???? ……..because it amounts to using state and federal dollars to Inflame a prejudice against the innocent.

  3. For hundreds of years American law enforcement made the false rape accuser pay the costs of the investigation if it was proven she lied about it.
    But around 25 years ago the feds changed the law, so that the federal government now pays the costs of investigating false rape accusations…and this seems to be causing some problems.
    Some are even suggesting that American law enforcements are “Farming the federal dollars”….by de-facto fostering and enabling false rape accusers……so they can charge by the hour to investigate.
    I was on the receiving end of a false rape accusation…..and have a personal interest in a full investigation here to ask…Are American law enforcement now violating constitutional laws, are they systematically stripping guys basic due process rights…just so they can “Farm the porK” …… to speak!!

  4. I seriously doubt that NCHERM actually “investigates” anything themselves. This little “menu” of theirs positively reeks of rent-seeking. Basically, they are asking to be paid for their own worthless opinions and ineffectual blessings. They would literally be getting paid without making any contribution to the school.

    Basically, it’s a protection racket, much like that Al Sharpton organisation that always threatens corporations with boycott campaigns, but offers to go away in exchange for a “contribution.”

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