This post and its links discuss sexual violence.
A new Georgia law limits schools’ abilities to investigate sexual violence on their own campuses. Directly opposed to Title IX regulations, the law will make it even harder to report, prosecute, and prevent campus sexual assault.
Under Title IX, schools aren’t required to include law enforcement in any sexual assault investigations, which is a good thing: survivors can choose their response, especially when fewer than 3% of rapists ever see a day in prison. The new law, though, not only mandates police involvement but requires police approval for any disciplinary action. Given law enforcement’s low conviction rate and bias against rape survivors, cops are the wrong choice to make these decisions.
And then there’s the standard of proof. The Department of Education currently calls for “a preponderance of evidence” to punish students for sexual assault. It’s a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” and it’s much more appropriate for cases of sexual violence where consent shouldn’t be assumed to begin with. But the law’s vague promises of “due process protections” are ominous. That could easily mean that Georgia schools will have to prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt to even suspend their students.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, argues that these roadblocks to conviction will protect innocent students. He even made a tone-deaf allusion to The Scarlet Letter when addressing the Georgia House, suggesting that rape accusations ruin students’ lives. This line of thinking has never been very compelling, but with Trump winning a presidential election within weeks of a scandal over the sexual assault he admitted to, I’m even less convinced.
There is a sort of horrible irony to that: Trump’s presidency shows what a misguided bill this is, but it’s also what enables its enforcement. After all, this law is in open opposition to Title IX, but Ehrhart seems to think the current federal government won’t really care about that. I am terrified that he’s right.