PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Teri Stoddard

Email: tstoddard@saveservices.org

Leahy Bill Would Turn Every College Male into a Rape Suspect, Group Warns

Washington, DC/October 27, 2011 – Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposed Violence Against Women Act reauthorization would trample upon the due process rights of college students, according to Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE). The bill would make into law the Department of Education’s recently issued guidelines that reduce the standard of proof in sexual assault cases to the controversial “preponderance of evidence” level.

That unusually low standard requires only that 50.01 percent of the evidence be in favor of an assault having happened. SAVE previously requested the Department of Education to rescind its guidelines, which were issued without prior notice or opportunity for public comment: http://www.saveservices.org/wp-content/uploads/OCRLetter.pdf.

Earlier this month, Caleb Warner was allowed to return to the University of North Dakota after being victimized by the university’s unconstitutionally low standard of evidence. The accuser had filed claims of sexual assault with both the University and the municipal police department. Two investigations resulted — the university’s according to the preponderance standard, and the police’s according to the usual “clear and convincing” standard — and they could not have turned out more differently.

Warner was found guilty by his university and banned from campus after a swift investigation. Meanwhile local police reviewed the very same evidence, determined that Warner’s accuser was lying, and charged her with filing a false report: http://www.saveservices.org/2011/10/victory-student-punished-for-alleged-sexual-assault-cleared-by-u-of-nd/

Section 304 of the proposed VAWA law would make the preponderance of evidence standard the legally required one, and sets up UND’s shoddy treatment of Caleb Warner as the desired institutional response.

“If Senator Leahy’s version of VAWA is passed, we can expect travesties of justice at every college in the nation,” warns SAVE spokesman Philip W. Cook. “The frequency with which false allegations of sexual assault are made — as many as half of all claims — makes it absolutely essential that students’ Constitutional due process rights are protected.”

SAVE has documented the harm done by false sexual assault allegations: http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/False-Allegations-Harm-Families-and-Children. SAVE urges Senator Leahy to reject the Education Department’s unjust “preponderance of evidence” standard, and adopt the proper “clear and convincing” standard instead.

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to partner violence: www.saveservices.org.