In the wake of several high-profile cases involving sexual assaults on college campuses, much of the nation has become entangled in a heated debate over how colleges should handle sexual assault cases. As you may be well aware, both sides have weighed in on the issue, presenting cases for what they think is the right solution.
On one side of the issue we have victims’ rights advocates who say campuses across the nation need to do more to protect victims and provide justice after instances of rape or sexual assault. Those who fall in this group typically believe in changes to legislation that would give campus administrators the authority to take actions against an accused student in order to protect the rights of the victim.
One such piece of legislation currently in the hands of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, or Senate Bill 590. This piece of legislation would give victims the option of involving law enforcement in sexual assault investigations or not. It’s believed by some that victims who are fearful of involving the authorities may be less likely to report abuse. By giving victims the option of letting college administrators handle the case, some believe more victims are likely to come forward with accusations.
But legislation such as this is exactly what the opposition is fighting against. As some of our Florida readers probably realize, SB 590 effectively takes away the presumption of law that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. By taking law enforcement out of the equation, campus administrators are under no obligation to push for the preponderance of evidence standard, meaning evidence would not be required to meet the burden of proof necessary in the criminal justice system.
It’s possible too that by not involving law enforcement, an accused person’s civil rights may be left unprotected, causing damage to their reputation that is oftentimes difficult or impossible to fix. It may also open doors to false accusations or malicious allegations that may go unnoticed if the criminal justice system were not involved in investigations.