The New York Times reported on Saturday June 17th that The Department of Education is going to scale back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation’s public schools and universities, easing off mandates imposed by the Obama Administration that the new leadership says have “bogged down the agency”. Regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.
Civil rights enforcement was bolstered while President Obama was in office, and these efforts sent complaints soaring and the civil rights office found itself understaffed. Instead of increasing staff to address these concerns, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has decided to just ignore the complaints and cut back on staff positions for the office of civil rights. Well, I guess that’s one way to get reports of crime to go down: ignore them. That’s justice being served!
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again, sexual harassment and sexual assault are not taken seriously or treated as crimes in this country, and the accused, especially if they are famous or wealthy, are never punished and often rewarded for their behavior (ie Roger Ailles and his $40M severance package; Donald Trump and the Presidency).
Bill Cosby’s recent sexual assault trial ended in a mistrial. This is a man who was accused by dozens of women of drugging them and sexually assaulting them. The testimony of only one other woman was allowed during the trial, but the two women both described Cosby’s actions, showing a pattern of drugging women in order to sexually assault them. Cosby himself admitted earlier that he had acquired drugs to give to women he sought for sex. And still this wasn’t enough for the Jury. They did not believe Andrea Constand, the accuser, was credible, as often happens in rape cases. Jurors would somehow rather believe that women have sex with men and then regret it and claim they were raped, wanting to go through the pain and humiliation and expense of a trial, knowing the odds of securing justice are slim to none. Right- that’s likely.
In fact, the vast majority of sexual assault cases go unreported, and cases where a woman falsely accuses a man are extremely rare. It is very common for victims of sexual assault to delay reporting of the attack and have inconsistencies in how they relate events because of trauma, fear, embarrassment, and other issues, but juries still tend to hold such inconsistencies against them.
The defense attorney questioned why an assault victim would have continued contact with her assailant. Ms. Constand worked at the same institution as Cosby. The vast majority of women who are victims of sexual assault are in intimate relationships or at work with the perpetrators, and often find themselves in the horrendous situation of having to continue to interact with their husband /boyfriend /employer /coworker /teacher /classmate. The defense finds this odd?
Women do not own their own bodies in this country. Men often feel entitled to use them as they see fit. Within this framework, consent has no meaning anyway; rape is not treated as a crime, and the victims are rarely believed or taken seriously. And we continue to ignore the problem.