This Campaign Against Sexual Violence Strongly Favors Female Victims, Strips Men Of Due Process

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Wendy McElroy Research fellow, Independent Institute
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One of the reasons people believe in the Deep State — government bureaucracies that are said to wield power from the shadows — is because there is little transparency in so many agencies.

With a constant flooding of agencies and programs that implement their policies, even seasoned political observers find it difficult to keep track of what is really going on. The program Start by Believing is an example. Few people have heard of it.

Launched in 2011, Start by Believing describes itself as a “global campaign” with the mission of “transforming the way we respond to sexual assault.” Its focus is in the U.S.

The program is an offspring of End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI), which is supported by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW); EVAWI has reportedly received 20 grants from the DOJ, totaling $7,502,332.00, which is “supplemented with other sources of income.”

EVAWI’s grants reveal that, from early days, the organization’s main goal has been to influence law enforcement. A 2006 grant from Horizons Foundation, for example, is entitled “Online Training Institute: Continuing Education for Law Enforcement.”

Material issued by Start by Believing — EVAWI’s implementation arm — reveals a marked bias in favor of “victims,” who are overwhelmingly viewed as female. Meanwhile, the National Crime Victimization Survey (2014) found that 38 percent of sexual violence is committed against men, and that figure does not include the prison population.

Start by Believing dismisses men in another manner. It strips them of a constitutional right and foundational protection of justice: due process.

The name of the program, “Start by Believing,” is a rewording of the demand to “Always Believe the Victim,” which automatically grants every accuser the status of true victim.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the claim obviates the need for honest investigations and fair trials because guilt is authenticated by the accusation itself. But cutting law enforcement and the judiciary out of the loop is a practical and political impossibility.

Instead, agencies such as OVW work to dilute the due-process rights of an accused and to bias procedures, hearings and trials in favor of an accuser.

What does severe bias look like? EVAWI’s manual, “Effective Report Writing,” aims at guiding the conduct of sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. Their goal, EVAWI claims, is to prosecute successfully — that is, to achieve a guilty verdict.

The manual focuses on methods by which a suspect’s defenses may be undermined. It suggests “making sure” the incident does “not look like a consensual sexual experience,” by making the complainant “appear more innocent.”

The manual’s instructions include:

  1. The investigator is an agent of the prosecutor, not an independent fact-finder.
  2. All allegations are assumed to be true, and the complainant should be regarded as a victim.
  3. The investigator should discount the possibility of a false allegation and focus on witness statements “that corroborate the victim’s account.”
  4. Inconsistencies in an accuser’s account are not evidence of a false claim.
  5. Exculpatory statements from the accused have little bearing on the investigative report.

Another publication targets law enforcement: the “Law Enforcement Action Kit,” which presumes the guilt of an accused in several ways.

For example, the first page proposes the proper attitude of law enforcement. It reads, “I am a criminal investigator … When someone tells me they were raped or sexually assaulted, I Start by Believing.” The necessary corollary is belief in the accused’s guilt.

The Start by Believing approach is spreading to law enforcement professionals throughout America through publications such as “Start by Believing to Improve Responses to Sexual Assault and Prevent Gender Bias,” which is funded by a DOJ grant.

By contrast, the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) insists that law enforcement should be evidence-driven and unbiased. Equal respect should be extended to accusers and to the accused.

Start by Believing’s championing of bias led the non-profit CPI to file a complaint, dated February 1, with the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG). The DOJ’s funding of Start by Believing, CPI states, is an “abusive use of federal grant monies.” It is on at least two levels.

First, Start by Believing seeks to violate the Constitutionally-protected due process rights of those accused of sexual violence. The U.S. Code stipulates that “an individual … elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service” must swear to uphold the Constitution. Funding a campaign against due process breaches this duty.  

Second, the funding violates the DOJ’s own mission statement, which includes a pledge “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” Males are Americans, too.

A letter to CPI from the DOJ OIG, dated May 18, illustrates how the Deep State uses bureaucracy to deflect challenges. It states, “We have determined that the matters that you raised are more appropriate for review by another office within the DOJ. Therefore, we have forwarded your correspondence to: … [the] Office on Violence Against Women.”

That’s the same OVW that supports the EVAWI that funds Start by Believing. The bureaucratic layers in which the Deep State wraps itself can seem impenetrable.

Wendy McElroy is a research fellow at the Independent Institute.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.