Campus rape studies may lead to lack of due process

Studies show many women are raped during their first year of college. Stronger prevention policies may result in the accused being denied due process.

The definition of what constitutes a sexual offense has received a lot of media attention as more women are coming forward with claims of unwanted physical contact, particularly on college campuses in Florida and around the country. Now, new studies are being conducted, often with more specific descriptions of the nature of the offenses identified as rape, to determine the prevalence of the issues and what measures can be taken to lower the statistics.

Female college freshmen survey

CNN reported the results of one such study, which involved surveys of college freshman females. The women, who were between the ages of 18 and 21, were recruited at the beginning of the year, and the first survey included questions involving the following:

  • Sexual behavior
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Consumption of alcohol

The survey continued throughout the first year of college. Questions of sexual assault involved incapacitation, threats or force that prevented a woman from providing consent or resisting the advances.

Unwanted sexual activities that were attempted or completed with force or after incapacitation were reported by 37 percent. This included incidents that may have occurred after the age of 13, but before the sophomore year of college.

Rights of the accused

While the outcomes of studies such as these are intended to ensure that victims receive justice, the victim may not always be the accuser. If either of the people involved are not given a chance to provide evidence of their innocence or guilt, due process may be violated.

Due process is outlined in the U.S. Constitution, and it provides for the rights of a person who has been accused of a crime, according to Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute. That person must be allowed a fair trial before being punished for the alleged offense.

According to NPR, as universities have begun to address the issue of rapes occurring on campus, they have enacted some policies that have led to the opposite extreme. Many young men are claiming that they have been unable to present proof of their innocence before being found guilty and consequently being expelled from school.

Every claim of rape should be investigated thoroughly for the protection of the accuser and the accused. A male student at a Florida university who is accused of rape should be allowed to provide evidence of innocence, whether from witnesses, surveillance videos, phone call or text records, social media transcripts or other means.

Anyone who is facing criminal charges without due process should contact a Florida criminal defense attorney who can ensure that all legal rights are preserved.