Vice President Joe Biden was in Illinois today talking about campus sexual assault. I agreed with almost everything he said. Why? Because he was discussing things that no one except the worst among us could disagree with.
Having sex with a woman who is passed out is rape. Of course. Beating a woman is wrong. Of course. Rapists should go to jail. Of course.
What Biden didn't discuss was that the issue of campus sexual assault isn't as simple as he makes it seem. The black and white examples he gave are not the norm on college campuses. There is no "discussion," as Biden claimed, about whether it's rape when a woman is passed out.
Where the discussion lies is in he said/she said situations where there's evidence and witnesses that say she was not passed out or incapacitated, and where the accuser appeared to be a willing participant until months after the encounter...
Biden also said that campus rapists shouldn't just be facing expulsion, but "should go to jail." Absolutely. The problem is that if expulsion and jail are possibilities, as they are with crimes, then both accusers and accused should have due process rights. But that might cut down on the number of students suspended or expelled, as evidence and the presumption of innocence are less valued in disciplinary hearings than accusations are.
The legal process goes both ways:
The Columbia University student being called a rapist by members of the media and a woman who has been carrying her mattress around for performance art is suing.
Paul Nungesser was accused by fellow Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz of brutally beating and raping her during a sexual encounter he insists was consensual. Despite a police investigation that failed to charge Nungesser and the university finding him "not responsible," Sulkowicz and her enablers — including Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have continued to harass Nungesser by calling him a "rapist."
Now, Nungesser is suing his university, its president and trustees and the visual arts professor that allowed the mattress project to go forward.
Nungesser and his attorneys, Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, allege that the university was complicit in allowing the harassment to commence, which "significantly damaged, if not effectively destroyed Paul Nungesser's college experience, his reputation, his emotional well-being and his future career prospects."
We'll see how the legal process works on this side of the equation, but I certainly hope he wins.