On Oct. 22, The New York Times published a story titled, “‘I Was Willing to Do Everything:’ Mothers Defend Sons Accused of Sexual Assault.” The article presents a different perspective on sexual assault cases: the perspective of the mothers of the accused. The mothers are fighting to ensure that students are not punished in on-campus sexual assault cases where there is some doubt surrounding the accusations. However, the doubt these women are referring to is their own antiquated belief systems about what constitutes sexual assault. While I understand that it is difficult to make fair decisions against the words of your own son, what these mothers are calling for is absolutely ridiculous.
All of this comes in the wake of Betsy DeVos’ reversal of Former President Barack Obama’s College Sexual Assault Guidelines, which now state that a student can not be deemed guilty of sexual assault without clear and concise evidence. The argument presented in favor for this new change is that, most of the time, society views sexual assault cases as guilty until proven innocent, which is the opposite of what our judicial system was founded upon. However, this model is necessary for the safety and protection of students on campuses. Among undergraduate students, one in every five women and one in every 20 men experience rape or sexual assault. With statistics like this, why do we continue to doubt the words of the victim? Only 20 percent of female victims report their assaults. While I do not believe in consequence without trial, I do think that a victim’s words should bear a heavier weight.
The mothers do not care if their sons are guilty, which is unacceptable. The article stated, “Their sons may not have been falsely accused, the mothers said, but they had been wrongly accused. They made a distinction.” What is the difference between being falsely accused and wrongly accused? If the accusation is true, then the accusation is right. The distinction they are trying to make is that, to the mothers, these cases do not seem like sexual assault.
One of the lines that frustrated me the most came from a mother named Judith, whose son was expelled after a woman accused him of having sex with her when she was too intoxicated to give consent. Judith said, “In my generation, what these girls are going through was never considered assault. It was considered, ‘I was stupid and got embarrassed.’” These mothers need to understand that this is not their generation. We now have the understanding that if a woman does not give verbal consent in a sober state without any form of abuse or coercion, then it is sexual assault.
A mother’s duty is to protect her children. However, this is also the duty of the mothers of victims of sexual assault. When the mothers finally see their children in the real world by themselves, they hear that their daughters’ and sons’ bodies have been robbed. While sexual assault has an immense emotional and physical toll on the victims, it also harms the parents. These parents blame themselves for not being able to protect their children and keep them safe. Imagine knowing your child has been assaulted, but not being able to keep the assaulter away or make sure it does not happen to somebody else’s child. That is the world we will see if we allow these women to continue to halt progress.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, Oct. 30 print edition. Email Tyler Crews at [email protected]