Tag Archives: rape

Duke Goes After a Critic in the Lacrosse Case

Six years ago, Duke University suffered a high-profile humiliation from which it is still struggling to recover. Students on Duke’s lacrosse team were accused of a brutal sexual assault on a local stripper who had been hired to perform at a party.

The charges were false. But in the interval between the initial headlines and the students’ eventual vindication, credulous faculty and others in the university community applied a presumption of guilt, denouncing the students as rapists.

A university steeped in traditions of free speech and the pursuit of truth was exposed as blinded by its own dogma, unwilling to acknowledge inconvenient facts that undercut the credibility of the students’ accuser, and indifferent to the students’ civil liberties.

Given this sordid history, one would expect Duke to be taking steps to demonstrate its renewed commitment to due process and first amendment principles. On the contrary, the university, which has been sued by the former lacrosse team players and their parents, recently served a subpoena on Robert “KC” Johnson, an outspoken critic of Duke’s handling of the (non-)rape scandal and co-author of the leading book on the subject.

Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, is co-author (with journalist and legal scholar Stuart Taylor) of “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.” (Disclosure: Taylor is a friend of mine). Duke’s subpoena demands Johnson’s disclosure of confidential information he received from sources for the book, including the former Duke students and their lawyers.

Duke’s subpoena, which is being contested in federal district court in Maine, is an offense to journalistic independence and academic freedom. Historians and journalists can’t perform their truth-telling function if their sources have reason to fear that their role, and the information they agree to provide, will later be exposed and scrutinized in court.

This is obviously true if the sources’ identity or information are confidential. This is also true in the fairly common situation in which a source, although named in a book as a source for one statement or fact, provides additional information to the authors, on a confidential basis, for still other statements or facts that are published unattributed. The process of conducting original research for a journalistic or historical work is crippled if lawyers are free to depose authors about these matters.

The legal privilege protecting the work of historians and journalists is not absolute, to be sure. The university’s claim to the subpoenaed information would be more convincing if Duke had exhausted all alternative sources and the information were truly essential to its ability to defend itself in litigation. But Duke hasn’t come close to meeting these standards.

Duke’s leaders should think hard about how much the school is willing to lose. If they insist on enforcing their subpoena, what will they say the next time a Duke professor receives an intrusive court order to turn over confidential research or communications?


Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in California. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Coalitions Board of Directors.

A Rape Accusation At Brown

Brown University is being sued by a former student, William McCormick III, over its handling of a charge of rape on campus. Because of McCormick’s allegations, the case is bound to attract major publicity. In court papers, he argues that the female student was reluctant to name him, and that Brown officials yelled at her, pressing her to escalate her initial complaint (that he was following her) into a rape complaint, written by her with the help of her resident coordinator. The court papers also argue that the father of the alleged victim, a Brown alumnus and donor, made phone calls to top university officials, which led to a private settlement: if he withdrew from Brown, she would not file criminal charges.

Neither the accuser nor the university reported the alleged crime to Providence police or campus police. McCormick, who later rejected the deal with the university, says Brown failed to follow its own disciplinary policies. The lawsuit claims that Brown interfered with his access to potential witnesses and refused to provide documents that might exonerate him.

Colleges are often reluctant to hold due-process hearings on sexual complaints, partly because vigorous cross examination opens them to charges of abusing the victim.

Feminist theory holds that there is no need to hear from the accused, because rape victims do not lie and because confrontation with the accused or his lawyer or even any close analysis of what happened can amount to a “second rape.” As a result, on some campuses, the “he-said she-said” in cases of alleged rape tends to be reduced to a simple “she said.”

The Columbia University sexual misconduct policy does not allow the accused to confront his accuser, have a lawyer present, or even to sit silently at the hearing, unless the accuser agrees. Nor can the accused line up witnesses or investigate the charges himself. Nat Hentoff called it the most repressive sexual misconduct policy he had ever seen.

Duke University recently introduced a bizarre misconduct policy. Under it, a great many males who could have sworn they were having consensual sex were actually committing rape in the eyes of their university. The policy contains a broad definition of coercion, and warns that “real or perceived power differentials…may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” So a sexually active varsity athlete at Duke might be accused of rape because his status as a campus star is inherently coercive to women he dates.

Columnist Cathy Young, writing about the new Duke policy, recalled an example of a counselor advising a student to consider an apparently harmless act of intercourse as rape:

“About 15 years ago, as an undergraduate, a friend of mine was talked into a one-night stand in a situation some would call coercive: the man was a graduate student, and she felt somewhat intimidated by his intellectual brilliance. She went to a campus counselor hoping for advice on developing her assertiveness skills—only to be told that she had been assaulted and should not blame herself. My friend was frustrated and angry: in her view, the counselor was not only being unhelpful but telling her how to interpret her own experience. Imagine how much more betrayed she would have felt if the counselor had been compelled to initiate proceedings on her behalf.”

A Nightmare Proposal

Sunday’s Washington Post featured a lengthy op-ed by Jaclyn Friedman, a self-described “writer, performer and activist” who is “a dynamic and powerful performer who performs and agitates with Big Moves, a national size-diverse performance troupe.” The column advanced a startling thesis: that “University campuses could easily become labs that innovate effective ways to prevent and prosecute [emphasis added] rape.”
Campus judicial proceedings almost always deny to students accused of sexual assault what most people would consider basic procedural protections: legal representation; access to a university equivalent of open-file discovery; or the opportunity to confront his or her accuser. And that’s just at a typical university. Consider more extreme versions: Duke opened the 2009-2010 academic year by revising its internal procedures to give all sexual misconduct accusers rights denied to the accused student. Each of these special rights tilts the process in the accuser’s favor: to be treated with “sensitivity,” to make opening and closing statements before a hearing panel, and to receive all written information, other than material protected by FERPA, regarding their case.
Given this procedural background, only someone eager to create a system transparently tilted toward convictions would envision universities as laboratories to “prosecute rape.” It seems, alas, that Friedman falls into this category. She claims that, as a Wesleyan undergraduate, she was sexually assaulted, but that she “never considered going to the police,” since no evidence existed to back up her charge. So instead she filed charges “through the on-campus judicial system,” after which, she writes, her alleged assailant “agreed to plead no contest” and was suspended from school for a year. This outcome proved insufficient when her alleged assailant’s suspension was reduced to one semester; Friedman informed Post readers that her final months on campus were “a haze of fear, hiding and post-traumatic stress.”

Continue reading A Nightmare Proposal

Is the Campus 45 Times as Dangerous as Detroit?

It’s back: the “campus rape crisis.” The latest all-hands-on-deck alarm comes from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit foundation based in Washington and specializing in what it describes as “investigative journalism about issues of public interest,” which teamed up with the investigative unit of National Public Radio (NPR) to issue a report in late February pointing out—yet again–that “roughly one in five women who attend college” can expect to be a victim of rape or attempted rape by the time she graduates.
This extraordinarily high number, which translates into about 240,000 out of the 6 million or so women enrolled in four-year colleges during any given year, has been knocking around since 1987 (as Heather Mac Donald pointed out in a 2008 article for City Journal), when a University of Arizona Health professor, Mary Koss, first published a version of the statistic that was picked up in a Department of Justice study filed during the waning months of the Clinton administration. In other words, as KC Johnson pointed out in a post for Minding the Campus this past December, the average college campus is supposedly 45 times as dangerous for women as the city of Detroit, the highest-crime city in America, where the rape rate is only .06 percent.
Another problem with the CPI-NPR numbers: No police department or local prosecutor’s office has reported a two-decade-long epidemic of rapes or attempted rapes on nearby college campuses. The rape-crisis people’s explanation for this is simple: The vast majority of rapes and attempted rapes at colleges are never reported even to campus authorities, much less law enforcement—because the victims themselves are unaware that what happened to them was rape. The Justice Department’s 2000 report maintained that 65 percent of college women who suffered sexual assault remain silent, a figure that the CPI inflated to “more than 95 percent” in its report. The CPI—and NPR—attributed the low reporting rates to the “failure” (as NPR writer Joseph Shapiro wrote) of schools and the U.S. Education Department to take significant steps to prevent, ferret out, or punish campus rape.

Continue reading Is the Campus 45 Times as Dangerous as Detroit?

College Rape Stats—Cutting-Edge Modern Fiction

The Center for Public Integrity has launched a major new investigative series on the dangers of unpunished sexual assault on the nation’s college and university campuses. The basic thesis of the series: “One national study funded by the Justice Department found that one in five women who attend college will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates. But students reporting sexual assault routinely say they face a host of institutional barriers in pursuing the on-campus remedies meant to keep colleges and universities safe, according to a nine-month investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. The result, say experts, is a widespread feeling that justice isn’t being served, and may not even be worth pursuing.”
This isn’t investigative reporting: it’s advocacy journalism at its most blatant. The series uncritically accepts the finding of the (unnamed) “national study funded by the Justice Department” (of which the CPI website does not provide a copy) claiming that one in five women are victims of a violent crime (either rape or attempted rape) during their four years on campus.
To provide some perspective on the dubious nature of this figure: as of 2005, 57% of all college students were women. If 20% of them are victims of violent crime by the time they graduate, that means over a four-year period, around 11.5 percent of all students on the typical college campus will be victims of rape or attempted rape. On an annual basis, the figure would be around 2.7% of students.

Continue reading College Rape Stats—Cutting-Edge Modern Fiction