Bret Stephens, the Times’ evil conservative columnist stolen from the more evil Wall Street Journal, engages in a thought experiment.
It’s in our moral and constitutional DNA that we take extraordinary pains to safeguard the rights of the accused, even when it means letting the guilty go free. But we also believe in justice, and the fact is that sexual assault is a brutal reality of modern campus life, abetted in too many instances by a culture of binge drinking. How best to change this without compounding one injustice with another, or intruding too far into private life, or violating fundamental rights is a matter of debate. That it has to change isn’t, or shouldn’t be.
Long on sentiment, short on detail, this Gertruding is the preface to Bret Stephens posting a letter he received from a “friend” about her rape on campus.
After the column’s publication, a young friend wrote me a personal note to share her experience of being raped in college. Her letter is so detailed, devastating, honest and thoughtful that I thought the best thing to do was give her the full stage of an Op-Ed column in The Times.
While one instance of rape does not an epidemic make, and at least in this instance, it was very much a rape of a young woman passed out, completely incapacitated, the fact remains that rape (as traditionally and legally understood) happens and is a horrific crime. His “young friend” writes:
If the sexual assault crisis on college campuses shouldn’t, and can’t, be addressed by the Department of Education or by changing Title IX, then who can change it and how? I suspect many of the solutions to this crisis are cultural and moral rather than legal, and perhaps there isn’t a clear policy solution. You’re a columnist, and you care about the culture, and it’s well within your purview to examine the moral questions of our time.
It seems to me that conservatives and mainstream liberals have abdicated concern about sexual assault to the far left. It’s an astounding moral blind spot, and frankly it breaks my heart.
Buried in these words is a gross misapprehension, which unfortunately is perpetuated by the radical shift in the handling of campus rape and sexual assault. Where once “rape” was understood to be a crime, a most serious crime, it has been turned into a meaningless word, not by the heartless conservatives or the rape apologists, but by the unduly passionate who were more concerned with turning every sexual encounter into a putative rape scenario, and providing a rape-lite path for women who wanted “justice,” but only on terms that suited their feelings.
That the scheme developed by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is ultra vires and unconstitutional has been argued here at length, and its anticipated partial dismantling under De Vos is welcomed by those for whom due process matters. Others, not so much.
But arguing against an unlawful and unconstitutional system is hardly the same as not being against the offense or the offenders. This is too obvious to require mention, yet the primary attack on anyone defending the Constitution. You get used to this, by the way. If it wasn’t for irrational arguments, most people would be reduced to screaming, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re a poopyhead!!!”
Notably, Stephens’ correspondent includes this explanation.
I hate having to use my own life as an example. But honestly, so many of the conservative men in my life won’t listen to me on this argument until I tell them my story. So here I am. I was raped. He got away with it, because I didn’t know enough to do everything right and because I was a “bad victim.” I had been drinking. I had no witnesses. There was nothing the law could do for me.
Did she try? Did she go to the police and tell them she was raped? It would appear not, and so she rationalizes her excuse: “I didn’t know enough to do everything right” and “there was nothing the law could do for me.” Does it take a genius to figure out that the thing to do when you’re the victim of a crime is to go to the police? Today, however, the feminist message everywhere is that you shouldn’t have to. If you’re beaten up on the street, you go to the police. If you’re raped, you go to a Title IX administrator.
The facile response is that the police are insensitive to rape victims, that it’s just “she said/he said” and they will tell you to get lost after treating you poorly. That there is nothing they can do, so why bother? This, in a nutshell, is the justification for the creation of the Title IX machinery, geared toward the quirks of rape “litigants” at the expense of due process.
The mechanism by which society has chosen to vindicate justice for victims of crime, the police, the prosecution, the legal system, has never worked as well for anyone as we like to pretend it does. Yet, it remains the system that puts people in prison for life plus cancer, even if they’re innocent, and treats the victims of crime poorly when the evidence doesn’t make for an easy conviction. Whether there was nothing the law could do for Stephens’ correspondent is speculative, since she didn’t try, but it is not speculative that it fails victims, not to mention defendants and the public, regularly.
But the solution to a system that sucks isn’t the creation of a secondary system that sucks as well. The solution is to fix the system society has chosen to create to provide “justice” to crime victims and due process to the accused. Condemning the false god of Title IX campus sex adjudications has absolutely nothing to do with approving of rape or rapists. If anything, a coldly serious consideration of this ill-conceived scheme makes clear that it’s done egregious harm to eradicating the crime of rape by having undermined its seriousness, and addressing the flaws is the most effective means to end it.