Bernie Sanders sullied his reputation with the Left Monday night thanks to comments that sexual assaults are serious crimes and investigations should be left to police.
During a forum for Democratic presidential candidates Monday (which ran opposite the college football national championship), Bernie Sanders was asked about the topic of sexual assault on college campuses.
Most of Sanders’ responses conformed to common liberal beliefs. Sanders said the concept of “affirmative consent,” or “only yes mean yes,” should be taught to students, and he agreed that sexual assault is an “epidemic” on college campuses.
But Sanders is under fire for another part of his comments, where he said colleges should not be involved in investigating and punishing sexual assaults:
Rape and assault is rape and assault,” Sanders said. “Whether it takes place on campus or on a dark street. And if a student rapes a fellow student, that has got to be understood to be a very serious crime. It has got to get outside of the school and have a police investigation. And that has to take place. Too many schools are seeing this as ‘well it’s a student issue, let’s deal with it.’ I disagree with that. It is a crime and it has to be treated as a serious crime.
Sanders’ remark is actually advocating a position that has been increasingly popular among conservatives. Multiple colleges have been hit with lawsuits claiming students were wrongfully branded as rapists and expelled by kangaroo courts. This has spurred many conservatives and civil liberties advocates to say the best remedy is to push sexual assault cases into the legal system rather than relying on campus tribunals that have lower standards of evidence, less professionalism and fewer rights guaranteed to the accused.
A proposed House bill, the Safe Campus Act sponsored by Republicans Matt Salmon, Pete Sessions, and Kay Granger, would bar colleges from investigating sexual assaults unless a police report is made.
In contrast, many liberals and sexual assault activists oppose the emphasis on police and the legal system. Rape victims, they say, need the alternative of college adjudication because not all victims want to go through a criminal investigation, and such tribunals usually offer an easier route to punishing an alleged perpetrator.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the anti-rape activist group UltraViolet, sent a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation criticizing Sanders.
“Police and prosecutors routinely fail survivors of sexual assault,” Thomas said. “We have seen time and time again that the criminal justice system falls short when it comes to investigating and prosecuting rape–in fact, just two of every 100 perpetrators of sexual violence ever see a day behind bars. Bernie Sanders’ position fails to address the epidemic of campus rape, and would hurt rather than help survivors. Sexual assault isn’t just a crime–it’s a civil rights violation–and schools are required by law to address it. The decision about whether or not to report an assault to law enforcement should be entirely up to the survivor.”
“Bernie Sanders thinks police should investigate campus rape. That’s not enough,” Nelson’s headline says. She notes that convictions in criminal court can be hard to obtain in cases of acquaintance rape, where physical evidence is rare and a case may simply come down to one person’s word against another’s.
“Colleges can use a lower standard of proof than criminal courts,” she says. “A student can be found guilty if it’s more likely than not that he committed the assault. He doesn’t need to be considered guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” That’s a lesson Sanders still has to learn, Nelson suggests.
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