GOP Lawmaker Wants to Make Campus Rape Rules More Lenient

The majority of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported to the police. Rape convictions are notoriously diffcult to achieve, and often involve months of rehashing traumatic events for the survivor. Even after being convicted, rapists sometimes walk free (as in the case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner). Despite all of this, North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, incoming Freedom Caucus chairman, apparently thinks college campuses are too hard on potential rapists. He recommended this week that the Trump administration dismantle 2011 campus sexual assault guidelines that he believes “deny the often-innocent accused basic due process rights.”

Rape and sexual assault are global epidemics, as the World Health Organization declared in 2013 after its study showed 1 in 3 women experiences sexual violence worldwide. On college campuses in the U.S., the statistics are not much better. Last year, the Association of American Universities published the results of a vast study of campus sexual assault that surveyed 150,000 students at 27 institutions of higher education. In the survey, 23.1 percent of female undergraduate participants reported "sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation since enrolling in the college.”

Congressman Mark Meadows is working to make it even less likely that a woman who is raped or assaulted in college will have a viable route to justice. His recommendation for rolling back college sexual assault guidelines was part of a report he issued this month on 230 rules that should be targeted for repeal or change in the first 100 days of the Trump administration. He published an updated version last week, adding 70 more rules to the list.

Meadows claims the current guideline for how universities should handle sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints, which is based on an April 2011 document from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, “has pressured colleges to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and to create vast campus bureaucracies…the incidence of which may be overstated.”

Meanwhile, the evidence points to the contrary, with rape vastly underreported and the vast majority of rapists never facing time behind bars.  

As Sofie Karasek, director of education at End Rape on Campus, told USA Today, “There is a huge amount of evidence that campus sexual assault is a problem. The number of false rape accusations is between 2% and 8% — on par with the rate of false accusations for other crimes.”

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