Roberts: Make America grope again | ParkRecord.com

Roberts: Make America grope again

Red Card Roberts

By Amy Roberts
Park Record columnist 

For eight years I heard one conservative after the next claim that President Obama had done "absolutely nothing." So I find it quite curious there's now a whole bunch of stuff President Trump suddenly has to undo because of his predecessor.

In the past few months, Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and Paris climate accord. He gave the go-ahead to the Keystone XL pipeline, and is markedly determined to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He's also promised to undo a number of environmental regulations, and revoke policies put in place during the recession to keep Wall Street in check. Essentially, if Obama gave it the thumbs up, Trump has given it the middle finger.

Last week was no different when the Trump administration moved to erase an Obama-era guideline designed to make college campuses safer, and force universities to take sexual assault more seriously. Trump's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, rescinded a key part of the Obama policy, and in doing so, has effectively protected the accused more than the victim.

The policy of the last administration mandated a "preponderance of the evidence" and DeVos believes there instead needs to be "clear and convincing evidence" regarding the standard of proof. The difference in the two is far greater than simple semantics.

The "preponderance" rule essentially means it's more than likely a sexual act occurred without consent. While a "clear and convincing" case means it is highly probable the misconduct occurred.

But in a he said/she said case of sexual assault, which is how the majority of cases are reported, the evidence doesn't rise to the level of a police investigation. So the only justice for a victim is seeing the accused student — who more than likely committed sexual assault — expelled by the university. DeVos's increased standard of proof would allow someone who is more than likely a rapist to remain enrolled in the same school as the victim (and other potential victims); unless, of course, someone else happened to witness the sexual assault and is willing to testify.

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Which is kind of like saying, "If no one witnessed the murder, it's the dead victim's word against that of the guy holding the gun. And the dead victim must provide clear and convincing evidence against the accused.

DeVos seems think there is a surplus of women who are thrilled with the idea of sitting through a rape trial, discussing their sexual activity in front of strangers, and being slut shamed by their peers just for the fun of it. And meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of innocent Romeos are being falsely accused. Reality does not support this view.

In fact, the vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities in the first place. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes and 26 percent of sexual assaults are reported. Reasons for not reporting include everything from shame, embarrassment, fear of not being believed and fear of their attacker.

So now, the roughly one third of victims brave enough to report their sexual assault must also hope they got a lock of their rapist's hair to submit for DNA evidence. Otherwise, they'll likely still have to sit next to him in Chemistry 101.

When nominated for her position, DeVos was highly criticized for her lack of experience — neither she, nor her children, have ever attended a public school, much less taught in one. At her confirmation hearing, she dodged basic questions and could not provide any details on how she plans to improve public education. I would argue Kim Jong-un has done more for American education by using words like ‘dotard’ than anything DeVos is ever going to do.

But this policy shift goes well beyond her lack of competence. It spotlights her lack of compassion and common sense. And it needs undoing.

Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.