We Can’t Forget Due Process:
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are hot topics today, both on college campuses and across the nation.
I’m a police officer. I’ve dealt with these type of cases–everything from unwanted solicitations all the way to forcible rape, including one case that involved juveniles. I want nothing more than to see justice served through the combined efforts of my investigation and through the court system.
To address the prompt directly–should PLNU publicly condemn individuals for sexual harassment before evidence has been brought to the table?
Frankly, I think it is absolutely ridiculous this is even up for discussion. There exists a concept in this country called due process. In the court system, the accused is seen as innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” may not apply to PLNU being it is a private organization and any sexual harassment–very different than sexual assaults, mind you–would most likely be handled administratively, but the concept of innocent until proven guilty still stands.
In recent years, I’ve seen an unfortunate trend of false claims of sexual harassment or assault on the rise. I’ve seen officers in neighboring departments accused of indecent comments and actions toward arrestees only to be entirely exonerated by body camera footage. However more and more, we are seeing falsely accused individuals turning around and successfully suing for defamation. A false accusation of misconduct is reputation-destroying and career-ending, and the growing number of false accusations is taking concern away from actual victims of sexual harassment and assault.
At the end of the day, I’d like to think PLNU students are smart enough not to start the rumor mill and publicly condemn an individual before evidence has been brought to bear. If it is a non-criminal matter, let your school administration handle it. If it is a criminal matter, let us conduct our investigation and do the jobs we were sworn to do.
Michael Denigan is a recent graduate from PLNU with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Sexual Harassment: To Be Managed Carefully:
If you’ve turned on the news or any social media recently, you’ve seen the array of popular men being convicted of sexual harassment–Weinstein, Spacey, and Louis C.K., just to name a few. The misconduct mixed with public condemnation have caused a rapid downfall of their lives–not only have their names become sour tastes in many people’s mouths, but they’ve also been stripped of their careers.
These recent events have sparked conversation: Is this public condemnation okay? Is stripping an individual of his or her career with just an allegation reasonable?
How should sexual harassment be addressed?
Typically, any type of sexual misconduct has less to do with sex and more about superiority. And according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, more than half of the people convicted of sexual violence have already been convicted at least once before. With that kind of statistic, it’s important that sexual harassment is taken very seriously in any setting.
Now, public condemnation before a person is convicted can be extremely harmful to the individual facing allegations, especially if they are proven innocent. Often, the damage is irreversible. When a case of sexual harassment is reported, it should be investigated immediately, but should remain confidential until a conclusion is reached.
However, to protect the safety of the victim and others, the individual accused should be removed from the position of where the harassment took place. Imagine if someone was convicted of a robbery or a battery. Would you feel safe to work alongside this person, or sit next to him or her in class? In reality, several of us would not. Removing the individual is an attempt to protect the victim–sexual harassment can trigger an increase in depression, a decrease in performance in work or at school, decrease in appetite, and inability to sleep–and other individuals.
On a campus like PLNU where sexual harassment seems rare, it’s important to remember that sexual harassment is still a relevant issue. Even at a private university where we feel like we know everyone, it can still happen. According to RAINN, only 20% of female college students report sexual assault, which means it can be happening under the radar. It is our job as a community to make our campus a safe space where individuals who are sexually harassed can feel comfortable enough to come forward.
Author of Divine Duality: The Power of Reconciliation Between Women and Men William Keepin said, “In all societies, both women and men are powerfully conditioned to repress the daily realities of sexual harassment… and to collude with the rest of society in keeping these dimensions of shared experiences hidden.” With that in mind, sexual harassment has not only been ingrained in our society, but we have been trained to shove it under the rug. It’s up to society as a whole to address it seriously, protect our victims, and create a safe environment for those who are afraid to speak up.
Julia Farney is a senior majoring in psychology.