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Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: No reintegration for campus rapists

By
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To the Editor:

I was heartened to read about the number of resources the University has made available for victims of sexual assault in the April 12 article “Brown weighs reintegration options for sexual assaulters.” However, I was just as alarmed to read about the concept of “restorative justice” and rehabilitation — rather than punitive sanctions — for perpetrators of sexual assault.

Study after study has found that most rapists are repeat offenders. And even if recidivism isn’t as common as the evidence suggests, harsh punishments would discourage other students from committing sexual assault. Though restorative justice is not currently under active consideration for cases related to sexual assault or misconduct, restorative justice programs send an implicit message that sexual assault will be tolerated. If Brown is serious about preventing sexual assault, the University will keep past offenders away from campus.

This is not to say that the University should not respond to accusations of sexual assault with due process. But if a student is found guilty of sexual assault, what place do they have on this campus? Sexual assault is a felony in Rhode Island and a grave violation of the standards we should hold for ourselves as a community. Let’s start treating sexual assault like the serious crime it is.

The article mentions that sanctions may discourage victims from reporting sexual assault, stating that “23 percent of female Brown students surveyed who had experienced nonconsensual penetration by force said they did not report the incidents because they did not want the perpetrators to get in trouble.” While I can appreciate this problem, I do not understand why the Task Force on Sexual Assault would allow the concerns of a minority of victims to steer its policy recommendations.

This article also brings to light the inherent conflict of interest that arises when sexual assault takes place in a university setting. Mediation between the victim and the assailant seems like another way to conceal any accusations that could make the University look bad. Before we think about reintegration for rapists, let’s work on creating a safe and supportive campus for the students who truly deserve to be here.

Carin Papendorp ’17

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  1. Man with Axe says:

    I appreciate your sentiment here, but I have this concern. Universities are not equipped to provide genuine due process for persons accused of crimes, and for the most part they do not. So a male student “convicted” of a serious felony, as you put it, is not really convicted as he would be in a court of law, where such cases should be heard.

    The sort of punishment you seem to recommend, which I understand to be permanent expulsion, is life-changing enough to warrant a full-blown trial in a real court, so as to protect the rights of the accused, and not the kangaroo court that too often prevails on college campuses.

  2. > While I can appreciate this problem, I do not understand why the Task Force on Sexual Assault would allow the concerns of a minority of victims to steer its policy recommendations.

    You’re drawing a conclusion that isn’t supported by the data. More than one-in-five victims do not report *at all* because they do not want the offenders to get in any trouble. These are victims of “nonconsensual penetration by force”, but there are all sorts of nonconsensual experiences that don’t involve penetration by force. I stagger to think that even more of these other victims might not be reporting, too.

    Everyone should feel comfortable to seek help. Taking the concerns of these victims into account is crucial to “creating a safe and supportive campus for the students who truly deserve to be here”.

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