The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Imagine that you’re sitting in the basement of Warfield Hall, two months after you’ve initially reported your sexual assault, waiting for your Title IX hearing to be held.
Two months of investigation, of speaking to old men about being sexually assaulted. Your friends have had to talk about it, the accused has had to talk about it, their friends have talked about it. Your story has been told over and over again. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), you’re more anxious and more depressed. You may even show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Even looking at the person you’ve accused makes you nauseous — you’re triggered by the mere sight of them. By Miami rules, you haven’t been able to speak to this person, not that you’d even want to.
Lawyers are expensive, and Title IX doesn’t guarantee you one, so your representative is a family friend helping you out, that is if you’re lucky enough to have one.
They can’t talk to you during the hearing, so you pass notes back and forth.
You don’t want to be there. The person you accused doesn’t want to be there.
But now you have to cross-examine each other and you wish you’d never even reported it in the first place.
These changes are due to a ruling by the Sixth Circuit federal court on a University of Michigan case, which has changed the Title IX policy in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee to allow the accused and accusers in TItle IX cases to cross-examine each other.
The purpose of this is to allow a fairer process throughout the hearings and give the accused the chance to defend themselves.
However, it also opens the doors to increased trauma in a pseudo-courtroom where tensions are already running high.
The accuser has subjected themselves to intense questioning. They have been forced to relive one of the worst possible moments of their lives and opened themselves up to potential ridicule and backlash from the community.
Now, the accused is in the position to question them in order to prove their innocence and save their reputation.
Both sides are angry. Neither have any kind of legal expertise.
An average college student doesn’t know what questions to ask or how to answer questions in a way that is helpful to their cause.
Even as we discussed this topic amongst ourselves, we found that there was a lot of confusion and misinformation around the entire process after you report a sexual assault.
The idea of the accused student questioning their accuser is intimidating and dangerous, because neither has the experience to properly handle this situation.
This is why the two sides speak through a third party in a court of law.
If the entire Title IX process is going to move closer to the standards of criminal trials, it can’t be in half measures.
The idea of being able to defend yourself is great. It protects those who have been falsely accused. If the new policy is going to try to ensure this protection, it also needs to ensure other protections that come with criminal trials, such as the right to a lawyer.
The percentages of accusations that are fake, though, is about two to 10 percent, according to a 2010 study. So the percentage of people being protected is small.
However, this isn’t a criminal trial. These cases take place at the university level, and many universities don’t have the resources to assign lawyers to students.
While this policy change presents itself as making the entire process more just, what it really does is increase the potential for trauma and decrease the potential for the reporting of sexual assault.
No one is going to be encouraged to report their assault if they know they will be questioned by their alleged assaulter.
Miami University says it stands with its victims. President Crawford said this in his email last week. But if Miami truly stands with its victims, then it will stand up against this policy change.
The University of Michigan has appealed the decision.
Miami’s General Counsel’s Office may not have the finances to do that and it might not be effective at all even if we did. However, Miami standing against something that will most likely put victims through even more trauma than they’ve already been through goes a long way in proving they stand with victims.