New York Creates Special Victim's Unit for Campus Sexual Assault

A step in the right direction?



It's not every day the civil-liberties minded among us cheer for more police involvement in … well, anything. But one facet of a semi-misguided campus sexual assault law in New York could bring better results for student rape victims and students accused of rape by creating a specialized police unit that will train both college administrators and local police departments on best practices in handling sexual assault cases, as well as assist with those cases when appropriate. The initiative is part of a package of efforts to address sexual assault on college campuses that was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July.

Here at Reason, we've long been advocating for campus sexual assault cases to be handled by regular law enforcement, rather than school administrators. The system of schools arbitrating sexual assault allegations tends to wind up bad for everyone involved. And while victims' advocates often protest that police have historically been terrible at handling rape cases—"Students do not trust state police to respond effectively to reports of gender-based violence," Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, campaign director for sexual-assault advocacy org Carry That Weight, told Reuters—that's a reason to reform police procedures and attitudes, not set up a shadow legal system for those privileged (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) enough to skip traditional legal avenues. 

"There is no question that, historically, issues of sexually-based violence and domestic abuse have not been handled well by law enforcement anywhere in the country," said Christine Quinn, a special adviser to Gov. Cuomo. But that's what the new state unit aims to change. Whether it will be successful is another story, but that seems a lame reason not to at least aim for improvement. 

Whether schools should have to report student sexual assault reports to law enforcement is a matter "at the heart of" our national conversation about campus rape and efforts to address it, notes Reuters. A bill in the U.S. Senate, known as the Safe Campus Act, would require colleges to pass on sexual assault allegations to local police. "Under the bill, a student alleging a campus sexual assault may choose to keep the accusation from law enforcement professionals," points out Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), in The Hill. "But if he or she does so, then institutions may not initiate disciplinary hearings against the accused or provide accommodations like changes in class schedules and dormitory assignments."

Cohn thinks the Safe Campus Act should be changed "to allow non-punitive accommodations to remain available to students who decide not to report accusations to authorities." But he supports the bill more generally, arguing not just that it protects the rights of the accused but also potential future victims of violent students who should be subject to full criminal sanctions. Critics' argument that criminal conviction rates for rape charges are low (so why bother?) "ignores the fact that exactly none of the allegations withheld from police result in jail time," writes Cohn. "It also discounts the possibility that conviction rates would improve by getting accusations to police in a timely manner."


In addition to encouraging more police-campus cooperation in rape investigations, the new New York bill also requires colleges report student sexual assault numbers to the state Education Department, which seems fairly uncontroversial. And it will require "first responders" on campus to notify victims of their right to contact outside police.

Other aspects of New York's "Enough is Enough" law, however, aren't nearly so laudable or harmless. Under the law, all state and private colleges must adopt an affirmative consent standard as official school policy, among other procedures and guidelines regarding campus sexual conduct.  The legislation defines "affirmative consent" as "a clear, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity."

A policy that's spread from California colleges across the country in a year or so's time, affirmative consent is supposed to be a better basis for ensuring mutual agreement in sexual encounters—and maybe it is. But as a legal standard, it sucks.

In a recent case involving a student expelled from the University of Tennessee (UTC) at Chattanooga, Tennessee Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled that requiring the accused to prove affirmative consent, rather than placing the burden of proof on schools to prove the charges against the accused, is a "flawed and untenable" standard. "Mere denial of the accusation is insufficient," she pointed out. "The accused must prove the converse of what is taken as true and credible, i.e., the complainant's statement that no consent was given," even though there are seldom witnesses and the school does no investigating to corroborate allegations (as a police department would do before bringing charges).

"Absent the tape recording of a verbal consent or other independent means to demonstrate that consent was given, the ability of an accused to prove the complaining party's consent strains credulity and is illusory," McCoy continued. "The UTC Chancellor did not make a finding that (the female student bringing the charges) did not consent. Instead, he found (she) recalled very little from the evening. … As noted by the UTC Chancellor, her silence does not constitute 'yes.' By the same reasoning, it does not constitute 'no.'" 

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  1. A step in the right direction?


    1. Right. Given that Cuomo is pushing Accusations are Guilt, sometimes called Affirmative Consent, what are the chances this unit isn’t a secondary effort to support these principles? Since the unit is an effort to satisfy rape hysterics the directors and staff will be people who support that initiative.

    2. Fuck no.

      There’s no real need for it, other than posturing.

      And this is a reward for the toxic SJWs.

      You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

    1. Purgatory no.

      1. Paradise yes

  2. Well, it’s the lesser of two evils. At least the police are (theoretically) bound by certain Constitutional constraints. And those found guilty will face jail time rather than being expelled and free to prey on other victims.

  3. It’s not a step in the right direction, because this is all hysteria. By all available, non-ginned-up numbers, there is no “rape epidemic” on campuses. Whatsoever. And whenever you have rushed, politically based “solutions” to something that doesn’t exist in the first place, you get shit.

    1. Indeed. The headline would have been better like this:

      New York Creates Special State Police Unit to Address “Campus Sexual Assault”

    2. Yeah. It’s not like the special police unit is going to try to expand their funding by creating more demand for their services.

  4. In the criminal justice system, unregistered college sex is considered especially worthy of hysterics. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these possible crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Everyone’s A Victim Unit. These are their stories.

    1. “Clean up on aisle busted.”

      1. We can’t both do the zinger.

        1. Pop pop!

    2. “Wait a minute. You telling me these college guys have sex with women without getting enthusiastic consent? That’s messed up.” – Ice-T, probably

      1. You mean, “enthusiastic, ongoing, confirmed, and witnessed consent, at every stage of the “sexual”* encounter.”

        *Unless you have some really weird kink thang going on, by the time you meet the consent requirements, its not going to really be sexual anymore.

  5. Stop and Frisk at a university campus might be more fun, so this could be a way to reward our Top Performers.

    /police union rep

  6. Next up, U.S. Govt. establishes UFO task force to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life.

  7. From the linked yahoo article:

    “Students do not trust state police to respond effectively to reports of gender-based violence,” said Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a Columbia University graduate and campaign director for Carry That Weight, an advocacy group for people who have suffered sexual assault and domestic violence.

    The group took its name from a performance art piece by former Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz, who vowed to carry a mattress around campus for the year leading up to her May graduation unless her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, was expelled

    1. Also this:

      Meghan Racklin, a New York University student, said some survivors prefer to have an avenue to report an assault other than the criminal justice system.

      “They’re asking for their right to education in a place that is safe and fair, and that’s not the same as a criminal proceeding,” she said.

      The issue of police involvement is at the heart of national efforts to improve responses to campus sexual assault.

      These statements are the reason why this is not a step in the right direction, because nothing will satisfy these people.

      1. Its also increasingly clear that they don’t want “justice”, they want power to control campus life.

        They could give a shit about ‘crimes’. they just want to wield the ability to threaten people with Procedural Penalties to give them a feeling of power.

        1. It’s a cult, they want what ever cult wants.

          1. *every

    2. Students do not trust state police to respond effectively to reports of gender-based violence,

      Check your hetero privilege, Zoe. What’s same-sex violence, chopped liver?

  8. I see a market for an app!

    1. Of course, the Apple Store might object to my naming it “WannaFuck?”

  9. a specialized police unit that will train both college administrators and local police departments on best practices in handling sexual assault cases

    So, if there is an alleged rape, someone goes to the wrong house and shoots a dog?

  10. I presume ghe schos reprting srxual assault statistics will have to do so under the affirmative consent standard which makes the nimbers reported controversial ad it will include circumstances that should not reasonably be cslled assault.

    1. Are you using Google Translator?

      1. No, just an inability to type on my phone.

  11. If it comes from NY goobermint, it is automatically suspect and likely just more oppression. Resist it. The Vampire State sucks. No one should look to the most regulated and over taxed state for real solutions. It should only serve as an example of how not to govern. Its clock is so broken that it’s not even right two times a day.

  12. So . . . SVU: NYU? Ugh. We will never have true equality as long as more than half the population is considered “special victims.” Refer these cases to the authorities and be done with them. College campuses should have no more role in investigating assaults (of any kind) than apartment complexes do.

  13. Christine Quinn has been at the center of at least a dozen initiatives which Reason has noted over the years as being the Apex of anti-liberty, meddling statist intervention into every aspect of human life.

    Anything she touches is shit.

    She’s not even a crazy-liberal NYC scumbag – she’s a statist powermongering freak who will use whatever leverage she has to fuck people over if she thinks makes for a good press conference.

    She’s the person who ensured the NYC cops got a Billion-dollar budget raise… after the Eric Garner killing. Because that’s how slick she is = use ‘angst’ to justify MORE police budgets. Because it will help “community relations”.

    She’s the salt-banning, soda-size limiting, enemy of vaping & flavored tobacco, threatened media outlets that criticized her with loss of licenses….queen of the scumbag NY city council, possibly the slimiest body in US municipal government

    No, this is not a good thing. Because I can assure you, it has nothing to do with addressing “campus rape”. No Emma Sulkowitz’s will be ameliorated by NYPD’s special team. its just a ploy to justify handing out more taxpayer money, as almost everything she does is designed to do.

  14. “There is no question that, historically, issues of sexually-based violence and domestic abuse have not been handled well by law enforcement anywhere in the country,”

    No. Question. So, yeah. When someone squirts out a big, hot, steamy pile like that it is safe to avoid anything else they might excrete.

    1. OK, sure, 100 years ago maybe we didn’t do so great prosecuting rape cases.

      What does that have to do with today?

      1. 100 years ago we used to lynch rapists.

  15. So, is this “Special” victim’s unit the same kind of special as “special education”?

    Will they roll up on their crime scenes in a short bus, wearing helmets?

    1. Special Snowflake Unit was too obvious.

    2. No, the victims are special, not the cops. People who have people imprisoned on a whim without any meaningful due process are certainly special.

  16. I think cops on campus that focus on rape should focus on goddamn rape and leave the gray areas alone like all law should. I have seen a couple of decades of gray areas happen in hotel rooms, party rooms, strip clubs, woods behind festivals, camps in festivals, basements filled with group sex, backyards in the rurals with lines of lovers and even this weekend I witnessed a fucked-up female member of my party essentially rape an enthusiastic young man who pulled his dick after his carnival ride and blow a hugely satisfyingly raped load on her tummy. The gray areas are gray for a reason.

  17. this sounds like a solution that won’t work to a problem that doesnt exist. at best.

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