Sexual assault is a sensitive and serious topic, particularly on college campuses. It involves forcing unwanted sexual activity on others by using threats or taking advantage of people who cannot give consent, such as those under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Should colleges handle sexual assault cases that occur on their property, or should courts handle them? I argue that due to a general lack of sufficient resources, conflicting interests, decreased ability to protect the rights of the accused, and inadequate means to bring justice to victims by holding the guilty accountable, college campuses are not equipped to manage sexual assault investigations.
It’s clear that courts can handle sexual assault cases more efficiently than colleges due to the sheer amount of resources and technologies that they have access to that universities do not. Colleges cannot serve justice to the victim or the accused due to a lack of resources, such as rape kits. The criminal justice system is designed to deal with these situations thoroughly and justly. Universities are meant for knowledge-seeking and sharing, not for passing judgment on behalf of the law. When campuses handle sexual assault cases, they may allow the accused to prosper because they will not be criminally convicted. Universities have numerous day-to-day responsibilities, and adding serious and sensitive crimes such as sexual assault makes it difficult for them to deal with these cases effectively. Universities can potentially handle less serious sexual assault cases, such as groping, but when it becomes an issue of rape, those in the criminal justice system should take over. Courts bring justice to the victim and make them feel safe and secure, while universities often let criminals go free with no punishment. These criminals are then able to roam freely, potentially harming more innocent people who will then become victims.
When universities deal with these issues, they are often more concerned with bad publicity, defunding that follows sexual assault allegations, and keeping the offender anonymous to maintain their reputation. It’s difficult to deal with thousands of students at one time. Universities have no interest in one single student but would rather focus on the institution as a whole. This is unfair for the victim when all the university cares about is its reputation. With courts, the victim is the main and only priority. The justice system does not have to worry about thousands of other people or protecting funding from private sources. The victim’s well-being and security is the main focus of the criminal justice system, as it should be when handling delicate cases such as sexual assault or rape.
Apart from reputation and resource issues, universities are not equipped to handle the rights of the accused in sexual assault cases. Campus regulations against sexual assault are too broad, leaving room for offenders to escape punishment and for the innocent to be unfairly penalized. A student accused of sexual assault on campus must prove that 100% of the encounter was consensual beyond a reasonable doubt, while the person making the claim only has to prove 51% of the evidence for someone to be proven guilty. This imbalance raises questions about equity and fairness in the process. Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale professor, argued that affirmative consent policies are unenforceable, overly broad, and categorically redefine all drunk sex as rape. Additionally, in situations where both parties are incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, it may be difficult to determine what actually happened, making it unfair for one person to be accused without proof.
Courts have the ability to investigate and resolve sexual assault cases more effectively than universities due to their resources, tools, and expertise. Courts use due process, which guarantees the right to an equal and fair trial for both the victim and the accused. When universities handle cases on their own, the accused can often face punishment before being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Minor sexual assault cases, such as groping, can be handled by the university through disciplinary action. However, more serious cases like rape should be left for the courts to decide.
One example of the courts handling a situation more effectively than a university is the 2007 Duke lacrosse team case. When allegations of gang rape emerged, the university started firing coaches and suspending and expelling players over the accusations. However, when the courts investigated the case, they found out that the woman had not been gang-raped and was falsely accusing innocent people for publicity. Without the intervention of the courts, the innocent players would have had their lives ruined due to false allegations.
While universities have a responsibility to address sexual assault on their campuses, they are not equipped to handle sexual assault cases effectively. The criminal justice system is better equipped to investigate and resolve these cases, and it ensures the right to a fair trial for both the victim and the accused. Universities should focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual assault, providing resources and support, and working in partnership with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault.
Sexual assault cases often fail to provide relief for the victim or respect the rights of the accused when handled by college campuses. The accused student can continue to live on campus and even target other innocent people, while the victim is usually only offered a change in schedule or location to avoid their attacker. If the university does take action, the only punishment they can provide is expulsion, which could allow the abuser to enroll in another school and continue their behavior. A tragic example of this is the case of V. Silva, who sexually assaulted six women at three different universities due to poor communication between the schools. If the case was handled by the courts, authorities could easily communicate through jurisdictions and prevent the offender from reoffending, making the victim feel safe and secure.
Allowing the courts to handle sexual assault cases not only protects the victim, but also the general public from potential future attacks. The courts can truly punish the offender and bring justice to the victim, while also protecting those who may have been falsely accused. It is necessary to prevent people like Silva from being able to freely walk around in public and harm others. The safety of innocent people and the future generations depends on keeping communities free from abusers.
The United States has always been guided by the moral value of freedom, with a premise of “innocent until proven guilty.” Universities that handle sexual assault cases ultimately fail both the accused and the victim, as well as the public. The criminal justice system has been functioning for over 200 years with the purpose of bringing justice to the victims, making it crucial for the system to take control of sexual assault cases in order to ensure the safety of college campuses and the general public.