“Even as we must treat accusers with seriousness and dignity, we must hear out the accused fairly and respectfully, and recognize the potential lifetime consequences that such an allegation can bring. If believing the woman is the beginning and the end of a search for the truth, then we have left the realm of justice for religion.”
—-Emily Yoffe in her essay titled, “The Problem With #BelieveSurvivors”
…in a Senate floor speech the day before the hearing, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced that it was unnecessary for her to hear Kavanaugh’s testimony. Gillibrand declared, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford.” Many Democrats, in keeping with #BelieveSurvivors, are taking their certainty about Ford’s account and extrapolating it to all accounts of all accusers. This tendency has campus echoes, too: The Obama administration’s well-intended activism on campus sexual assault resulted in reforms that went too far and failed to protect the rights of the accused.
The impulse to arrive at a predetermined conclusion is familiar to Samantha Harris, a vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Harris says that under Title IX, students who report that they are victims of sexual misconduct must be provided with staffers who advocate on their behalf. These staffers should “hear them out, believe them, and help them navigate the process,” she said, but added, “When the instruction to ‘believe them’ extends to the people who are actually adjudicating guilt or innocence, fundamental fairness is compromised.” Harris says that many Title IX proceedings have this serious flaw. As a result, in recent years, many accused students have filed lawsuits claiming that they were subjected to grossly unjust proceedings; these suits have met with increasingly favorable results in the courts…
…The legitimacy and credibility of our institutions are rapidly eroding. It is a difficult and brave thing for victims of sexual violence to step forward and exercise their rights to seek justice. When they do, we should make sure our system honors justice’s most basic principles.
All true, but here is my question: How did we arrive at a place where any of what Joffe writes needed to be said at all?