Saturday, December 21, 2013

Campus Sexual Assault Policies in the US. Whom Do They Favor?

Did you read about the MRAs (Men's Rights Activists) who bombed Occidental College with false rape reports Think Progress:

Occidental College has been flooded with over 400 false rape reports this week as internet trolls have attempted to prove a point about the school’s anonymous reporting system, according to college officials. Now, administrators are being forced to weed through the barrage of reports to determine if any real sexual assaults were reported during that time.
Members of the online communities Reddit and 4Chan, many of whom identify themselves as “men’s right activists,” started spamming Occidental after a user complained that it’s too easy to abuse the college’s anonymous reporting system. “Feminists at Occidental College created an online form to anonymously report rape/sexual assault. You just fill out a form and the person is called into the office on a rape charge. The ‘victim’ never has to prove anything or reveal their identity,” a user in the “Men’s Rights” subreddit wrote, and provided a link to the school’s form.


But the Los Angeles Times reports that the anonymous reporting form in question isn’t actually a result of that recent push to hold Occidental accountable for its sexual assault policies. It was first implemented back in 2009 to encourage more victims to come forward. The allegations are reviewed by campus administrators and primarily used to track patterns, since the individuals who commit sexual assaults in college are typically serial rapists.
“The challenge for the college is not false reports,” a spokesperson for Occidental College explained. “Our experience is those are rare. The challenge for the college is getting the survivors to report, either to the college or police or both. Sexual misconduct is underreported everywhere, and we’re interested in providing as many options as possible.”

Despite the fears fueling “men’s rights” supporters, false rape reports are very rare. Just 2 to 8 percent of reported rapes are based on false claims, and the women who file false claims often receive punishments that are far worse than the consequences for actual rapists. For instance, at Occidental College, some students who have been charged with rape have allegedly received punishments as light as being assigned a five-page book report.

It's pretty common on the MRA sites to read that around half of all rape reports are false.  This is because the data inside the manosphere consists of different studies than the general archives of data. That part of the Internet lives in a bubble, and goddess help the person who tries to introduce any new information there.  Instant banning ensues.  Thus, the data "over there" is very different from the data "over here."

Take the false rape allegation difference:  The MRAs use only one study for their arguments, a 1994 study by Kanin which found that 41% of the 109 sexual assault allegations made during nine years to one midwestern police station were false.  That study has serious problems (pdf):

However, the determination that the charges were false was made solely by the detectives; this evaluation was not reviewed substantively by the researcher or anyone else.
In other words, there is no way to explore whether the classification of these cases as
false was simply made as a result of the detectives’ own perceptions and biases,
without any real investigation being conducted. This concern is compounded by the
fact that the practice of this particular police department was to make a “serious offer to
polygraph” all rape complainants and suspects (Kanin, 1994, p. 82). In fact, this practice “has been rejected and, in many cases,outlawed because of its intimidating impact on victims” (Lisak, 2007, p. 6). The reason is because many victims will recant when faced with apparent skepticism on the part of the investigator and the intimidating prospect of having to take a polygraph examination. Yet such a recantation does not necessarily mean that the original report was false.

The methodologically best studies find much lower rates of false allegations of rape or sexual assault (between two and eight percent of all rape allegations, though note that the majority of rapes probably does not get reported to the police).  For example: a multi-site study of eight U.S. communities involved in the “Making a
Difference” (or “MAD”) Project, data were collected by law enforcement agencies for
all sexual assault reports received in an 18-24 month period. Of the 2,059 cases that
were included in the study, 140 (7%) were classified as false. This is particularly noteworthy because a number of measures were taken to protect the reliability and validity of the research. First, all participating law enforcement agencies were provided training and technical assistance in an ongoing way to ensure that they were applying consistent definitions for a false report. In addition, a random sample of cases was checked for data entry errors.
You can read about several other studies at the linked site.  The point is that the Kanin study, beloved within the manosphere, is the odd one out and has clear methodological problems.  But it is the only study one can quote there. --  Note, also, that a "false allegation" in this context does not necessarily mean explicit malevolence on the part of the person who makes it, simply that the experts concluded the allegation was unfounded.

Why talk about all that?  Because it is a common belief inside the manosphere that university sexual assault always find for the alleged victim, even when there is no evidence, thus frequently resulting in an innocent person being punished for something he (or she) did not do.  This belief probably also has its roots in the bubble aspect of the manosphere.  An opinion piece written by a woman whose son was found guilty of sexual assault by a college board becomes scientific evidence of widespread unfair sentencing of innocent young men.

And of course any system of justice can falsely sentence an innocent person or let a guilty person go.

But let's put that into proper perspective by checking what "the other side" says about the college policies when it comes to campus rape investigations and sentencing:

University of Connecticut Failed To Investigate Sexual Assault Reports or Protect Victims, Complaint Claims:

It seemed to Kylie Angell that some justice had been served when the University of Connecticut expelled a male student after she reported that he raped her in a campus residence hall in July 2010.

Angell reported the assault to the university at the beginning of the fall 2010 semester, and by October a university hearing had found her assailant responsible for possession of drugs, providing alcohol to a minor, sexual misconduct and breaking and entering.
But the situation changed after he appealed and was allowed back on campus two weeks later. The university did not warn Angell that her attacker was coming back, she said, and instead she learned when he approached her in a campus dining hall on his first day back.

"I was really upset -- that's an understatement," said Angell, who graduated in May. On Monday she joined six current students in filing a complaint against UConn with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

Angell said that when she complained to the school, administrators told her they had reviewed the class schedules and decided the two students would be fine "because we wouldn't be in the same building at the same time."
That's when Angell reported her assault for the first time to campus police with the hope that she would have more success removing the student from campus. The campus police said there wasn't enough evidence for them to pursue a case, and Angell said one of the police officers told her "women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep on happening 'til the cows come home."

Yale Uses Probation, Counseling, Written Reprimands And Do-Not-Contact Orders to Punish "Non-Consensual Sex":

Yale’s report comes on the heels of a busy season for federal Title IX investigators. Since January, discrimination complaints have been filed by students at the University of North Carolina, Dartmouth College, Occidental College, Swarthmore College, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California. Last week, Christian institution Cedarville University was revealed to be under review by the DOE for sexual harassment policy. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, twenty-three of the ninety-one Title IX Investigations currently being pursued by the Education Department involve sexual misconduct.
The details of this year’s complaints have inspired empathy for victims who have been ignored or mistreated after reporting sexual misconduct to their colleges. A student at the University of Montana was told “not to expect much” when she reported being harassed. Girls at UNC were blamed and reprimanded for being assaulted, and an Amherst student withdrew from school after being forced into a psychiatric ward by concerned administrators.
More similar stories here and here, and many more could be dug up in just a few moments of Googling.

Note that those stories aren't the kind of evidence we need, either, but they remind us that  despite what the manosphere believes, campus rape investigations and sentencing procedures are not some horrible rubber-stamping process invented by feminazis.  Those procedures are criticized more often and more severely from the survivor or victim angle than from the falsely accused angle.

But if you never leave the manosphere bubble, you know nothing about this!  And so a large number of people like that bombard the Occidental College with false rape allegations, just to stick it up to those horrible feminazis who sentence all the innocent guys without proof or evidence or even a hearing!

What would be the shared area here?  The bit of lawn we could all stand on?  Maybe a story about what is wrong with many college rape policies.  For instance:

Second, universities deny survivors control over their own records in these investigations. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa), most universities disclose, to complainant and defendant, their investigation outcome and not the investigation record. This non-transparency magnifies error and abuse potential. It means complainants are unable to evaluate the facts that determine findings, inhibiting complainants' ability to contest these facts and take further informed actions, such as filing civil suits. It also creates an environment in which survivors experience loss of control all over again – once over their bodies, and then over their reporting choices and narratives. More broadly, typical university interpretation of Ferpa effectively seals complaint records, impairing administrators' and survivors' ability to connect paper trails. Thus university rape investigations also fail to protect society from repeat sex-offenders.

Bolds are mine.  College rape is not an area I have extensively studied, but to me it looks like colleges should let real police forces handle sexual assault cases. The current system doesn't work well and is very vulnerable to the pressures of various conflicts of interest and of putting the interests of the college itself first.  The latter usually means covering up anything which might bring bad publicity.