The media, after often dismissing the claims of rape victims, was finally more sympathetic, covering accounts of sexual violence from the University of Virginia to Yale and Harvard. It was as if women, especially young women, had to speak especially loudly and especially often to finally be heard—a not unfamiliar concept.
This kind of sustained attention was precisely what was needed to come to grips with the problem. The problem was that the issues surrounding campus sexual assault were more complicated than the public debate reflected.
Genuine ambivalence and ambiguous signals seem almost inherent in courtship and sexuality, especially in first encounters. Further, how were colleges and universities to balance the interests of the complainant with those of the accused?
Just as the complainants must be treated with dignity and their rights to a fair resolution of their charges be respected, so too must those accused of sexual misconduct.
I worked for changes to the retrograde definition of rape in statutes around the country and their disrespectful treatment of rape victims, laws that were a throwback to medieval conceptions about women.You don’t have to believe that there are large numbers of false accusation of sexual assault—I do not—to insist that the process of investigating and adjudicating these claims be fair.In fact, feminists should be especially concerned, not just about creating enforcement proceedings, but about their fairness.I am an unrepentant feminist, a longtime litigator on behalf of women’s rights, as my memoir, No one should have been surprised that I supported stronger enforcement of Title IX, more training for investigators, more services for complainants, systematic assessments of the state of enforcement on college campuses, and other tough remedies.What surprised many, however, was that I was one of 28 Harvard professors who signed a letter opposing Harvard University’s new sexual harassment and sexual assault policies, policies introduced ostensibly in response to pressures from the Department of Education.