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