Smollett Case Reveals the Danger of DOJ’s “Start by Believing” Push

Most people agree on one aspect of the Jussie Smollett farce: The Chicago Police Department did exemplary detective work. What would the investigation have looked like if the police had adhered to the admonition to “always believe the victim”?

“Believe the victim” is a moral mantra with a ferocious backlash against anyone who expresses disbelief. The emotional maelstrom surrounding the demand obscures what should be a focus of debate: What are the legal implications of unconditional belief? One is that police procedure would handle “victim” crimes, like rape or hate attacks, in a remarkably different manner than they do now.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has funded a blueprint for changing police procedure toward “victims,” which is being aggressively advocated in America and beyond. As a woman who did not report her own rape due to fear of a police ordeal, I know law enforcement needs to improve. But this is the wrong direction.

The blueprint comes from End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI)—an organization supported by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.In the last several years, EVAWI has received over 20 grants from the DOJ for millions of dollars. The purpose is to “provide technical assistance on the law enforcement response to sexual assault and VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] forensic compliance.” EVAWI’s “Start by Believing” global campaign seeks to improve “criminal justice responses to sexual assault.”

Although the campaign applies specifically to sexual abuse, lines blur when alleged hate crimes involve slurs of f****t, as Smollett’s alleged attack did. As a practical matter, the police methodology used for one category of victim would become its approach to others. Start by Believing states, “Of course, these issues” of evolved police procedure “are relevant for any type of investigation.”

The police are to view all accusations as true, which removes the presumption of innocence from the accused and neutrality from the police.

The campaign’s Law Enforcement Action kit sketches the proposed restructuring of police ethics and procedure. The core of the kit is the manual “Effective Report Writing: Using the Language of Non-Consensual Sex,” which, like EVAWI’s Online Training Institute, was facilitated by DOJ grants. (Note: EVAWI’s kit speaks of “victims” or “suspects,” and it never uses the word “alleged.”)

The manual is a game-changer. And, as a woman who did not report her own rape due to fear of a police ordeal, I know law enforcement needs to improve. But “Start by Believing” is the wrong direction.

The police are to view all accusations as true, which removes the presumption of innocence from the accused and neutrality from the police.  According to EVAWI, police are to “recreate the reality of the sexual assault from the victim’s perspective.” In doing so, the police report should “not highlight the changing statements made by the suspect.”

This contrasts with the current policy of seeking both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence, including shifts in story, which are made available both to the prosecution and to the defense. As attorney Scott Greenfield of the Simple Justice blog states, “Cops have no business believing or disbelieving. Crimes aren’t a matter of what one believes, but what the facts reveal.”

The victim is to be showcased; the suspect is to be discounted.

With EVAWI, the police investigator is an agent of the prosecutor rather than an independent fact finder. The stated goal is a “successful prosecution,” which means “an effective report must be prepared by the investigator in anticipation of potential defense strategies,” and it must include “the information necessary to undermine them.” The paper identifies the three main defense strategies to be countered: impeachment by omission, impeachment by contradiction, and motions to suppress.

Consider impeachment by contradiction. The kit tells police investigators to refrain from “a detailed, written summary of events” for any victim or witness who provides the particulars elsewhere. If inconsistencies arise between accounts, investigators should highlight those that “corroborate the victim’s statement.” Statements from the suspect should also feature “those that corroborate the victim’s account or provide an implausible or even absurd version of reality.” The victim is to be showcased; the suspect is to be discounted.

Ironically, the pro-prosecution approach may benefit the defense. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explains,

In cases that proceed to trial, defense counsel likely could impugn investigators and claim that alternative versions of the crime were ignored and/or errors were made during the investigation as a result of confirmation bias created by the “belief” element of the Start By Believing campaign.

Nevertheless, EVAWI takes a further plunge into the subjective. “Another strategy for effective report writing is to include details about what the victim was thinking and feeling—before, during, and after the sexual assault” in order “to see why the victim might have acted in ways that seem counter-intuitive.” If a woman appeared enthusiastic about sex, for example, her feeling of peer pressure could explain this behavior. Police work is to credit unverifiable accounts alongside hard evidence.

The possibility of a false allegation is also discounted despite due process being a constitutionally guaranteed right, with the neutral investigation of crime being its hallmark.

The Chicago Police Department “believed” Smollett in exactly the way it should have. His account of the crime was taken seriously, and every lead was followed. Red flags were not ignored, however; Smollett knew the position of a camera that should have captured the attack, for example, and the officers noted this unusual fact. Nevertheless, Smollett was classified as a “victim” until the “47th hour” when the police stopped believing.

What cases like Smollett require is more Chicago and less “always believe.”

This was the last hour of the two-day hold that police had on the Osundairo brothers, who finally claimed they had attacked Smollett at his request. The police then turned their focus to Smollett as the possible perpetrator of a hoax, not because they were anti-victim but because they were pro-fact. The investigation was textbook detective work.

It was also textbook police ethics, according to the Canons of Police Ethicsfrom the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Code of Ethics of the Council of International Investigators. The World Association of Detectives affirms, “We will be faithful and diligent…and to determine the true facts and render honest, unbiased reports in reference thereto.”

What cases like Smollett require is more Chicago and less “always believe.”

Victim-Centered Investigations

PR: ‘We Got Our Man’ Syndrome: Exoneration of Otis Boone Reveals Perils of Victim-Centered Investigations

Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335



‘We Got Our Man’ Syndrome: Exoneration of Otis Boone Reveals Perils of Victim-Centered Investigations

WASHINGTON / March 25, 2019 – Last week Otis Boone was exonerated of his 2011 conviction for two cellphone robberies. After seven years behind bars, he was found “not guilty” at retrial. The wrongful conviction arose from flawed eyewitness identification procedures and use of a faulty “victim-centered” investigative methods.

The Ethics Code of the International Association of Chiefs of Police requires police detectives to “ascertain what constitutes evidence and shall present such evidence impartially and without malice.”

But “victim-centered” investigations instruct investigators to start with an initial presumption of guilt (1). The Start By Believing program openly tells detectives to “corroborate the victim’s account;” “minimize the risk of contradiction” among witness statements; and in the case of sexual assault investigations, make sure the sexual encounter does “not look like a consensual sexual experience.”

Such biased and dishonest practices represent an egregious form of police misconduct, notes the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (2).

According to Boone’s attorneys, the police detective ignored requests to interview witnesses who could have provided exculpatory information on Boone’s whereabouts at the time of the robberies (3). This highlights an unwillingness to conduct an impartial investigation.

Boone’s attorneys also highlighted that the detective failed to review prior interviews and information that cast doubt on the reliability of the identification procedure. This reveals the investigator failed to conduct a careful and thorough interview, reaching a premature conclusion of which suspect to prosecute, which has been dubbed the “We Got Our Man” syndrome.

Over 150 scholars and legal experts have endorsed an Open Letter calling for the abandonment of victim-centered practices (4).  To date, 45 editorials have been published criticizing victim-centered approaches (5).  SAVE recently launched an online petition to Stop Sham ‘Start By Believing’ Investigations (6).

In recent years the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded grants worth millions of dollars to promote Start By Believing methods (6).



Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence and sexual assault:


An Open Letter to Attorney General William Barr


Federal tax dollars are going to fund a “Start By Believing Day” on April 3, 2019. While this may sound laudable, what would you think if you were a victim of a crime and the investigator would “Start By Believing” the suspect?  This is why I wrote this:

I read that the Justice Department supports a campaign entitled, “Start By Believing.” This may be an appropriate notion for a support group, maybe even for a mental health professional, but it has no place in matters of justice. For members in the judiciary system, the byword should be “Start By Listening” – and listen to both sides.

The ancient Romans used to say, “Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.” In legal matters this means the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on the one who denies. In America, we call it the presumption of innocence.

One of the things that makes this country great is the legal principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty.

It is as preposterous for an investigator to start by believing the accuser as it is for one to start by believing the accused. Law enforcement should be equally concerned in the prosecution of the wrong-doer as in the defense of the innocent. Ethical investigators should conduct their research honestly, impartially, and without bias.

Last year, an office in the Department of Justice awarded a $400,000 grant to expand the “Start By Believing” campaign. Almost $9 million, most of it from the Department of Justice, has been donated to “Start By Believing” and related programs. Some of this money will fund a “celebrate” Start By Believing Day on the first Wednesday in April.

This is more than just money wasted. This sort of funding is directly opposed to the principle of fairness. Those tax dollars are going towards an idea that is contradictory to the notion of due process. The concept of “Start By Believing” is completely incompatible to the presumption of innocence.

I ask the Attorney General and all people of logic and reason to suspend funding for the “Start By Believing” campaign.


Virginia Student Accused of Sexual Harassment Says School District Treats Men More Harshly Than Women

8:06 PM 03/18/2019 | EDUCATION
Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter
A lawsuit on behalf of a Virginia student accused of sexual harassment said Fairfax County Public Schools treated male students “disproportionately harsher” than female students in sexual harassment cases. The 18-year-old male student, referred to as “John Doe” in the lawsuit, said the district violated his free speech, due process rights and did not investigate the situation properly. Doe was suspended and sent to a different school, according to the lawsuit given to The Daily Caller News Foundation by attorney Jesse Binnall.
A Robinson Secondary School female accused two male students of sexual harassment after her buttocks were allegedly slapped in December 2018. Surveillance video showed Doe did not hit the female student, according to the lawsuit. Doe befriended the female student who was new to the school.
“Doe and Student A had classes together and would see each other at school outside of class,” the lawsuit said. “Doe flirted with Student A, which included friendly conversations, putting his arm around her and playfully poking her in class. Student A did not reject these overtures. In fact, she would often seek out Doe’s company and return his flirtations.”
The lawsuit claims the female student “colluded” with her friends to make false statements and the assistant principal was allegedly “seeking evidence that was inculpatory and ignored exculpatory evidence.”
Binnall told TheDCNF one of the witnesses changed her story. “If a male student and female student are both engaged in mutual sexual contact or touching on school grounds, it is common for the male student to be punished and for the female student not to be punished, based on gender,” the lawsuit said. Doe’s punishment could affect his college wrestling scholarship and entry to a “prestigious” university unless his record gets cleaned by a judge, The Washington Post reported Sunday. A hearing is expected March 22.
“He was never given a fair shot to make his case to prove that he was innocent in a school district that doesn’t even have a presumption of innocence,” Binnall told TheDCNF. John Torre, a spokesman for FCPS, would not comment on the specifics of the case to WaPo, but said the school district “thoroughly investigates all allegations of Title IX violations and takes action, where appropriate.”
Title IX does not allow sex-based discrimination to education programs receiving federal funding. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed sweeping changes to Title IX to clarify students’ rights and schools’ legal obligations in November 2018. FCPS is dealing with two other federal lawsuits over mishandling of sexual allegation cases, according to WaPo. The district is the 10th largest in the U.S. and serves more than 187,000 students. Robinson Secondary principal Matt Eline could not provide comment on the case. FCPS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
False Allegations Sexual Assault Start By Believing

‘One of the worst days of my life:’ Stop sham ‘Start By Believing’ investigations


In 2014 Matt Rolph, above, was accused of sexually assaulting his long-term girlfriend, “Jane Roe.” His case went to court, and the jury cleared him of all charges.

Even though the jury found Matt innocent, Hobart College in Geneva, NY decided to make an example of him. So Hobart hired an investigator who…
1. Did not record any of the interviews.
2. Failed to review innocence-proving text messages sent by Jane.
3. Failed to get records supporting Jane’s claim of medical problems caused by the incident.
4. Did not resolve inconsistencies among witness statements.

No surprise, based on the investigator’s biased report, the school expelled Matt. He later described it as “One of the worst days of my life.”

So he filed a lawsuit against the College. Several months later, Judge Elizabeth Wolford ruled in favor Matt Rolph’s claims of investigative bias.


Investigators are supposed to conduct investigations that are objective, neutral, and honest. But now, investigators are being told to “Start By Believing” the accuser and use “victim-centered” methods.

“Start By Believing” tells investigators to investigate cases from an “initial presumption” of guilt, to slant their report to “corroborate the victim’s account,” and to even make sure the sexual encounter does “not look like a consensual sexual experience.” (3)

Matt Rolph is just one of the many thousands of Americans who have been victimized by “victim-centered” investigations. Amazingly, the U.S. Department of Justice has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to support “Start By Believing programs” around the country.



Missouri NAACP branch backs changes to Title IX process

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri branch of the NAACP on Friday announced support for legislation that would change how colleges and universities handle sexual assault complaints.

St. Louis County NAACP President John Gaskin III in a statement praised a House bill that supporters say is aimed at making procedures for handling Title IX complaints more fair for the accused. Title IX is a federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and rape.

“The denial of due process at Missouri’s colleges disproportionately impacts African American men,” Gaskin said, “And that’s why we call for immediate due process reforms.”

Universities and victims-rights advocates have criticized the legislation, saying it could dissuade victims from coming forward.

Republican Rep. Dean Dohrman’s bill would guarantee those involved in complaints the right to an attorney at their own expense and the right to cross-examine witnesses. If the measure becomes law, the university decision maker could be questioned and kicked off the case if they are biased or have a conflict of interest.

The bill also would require that colleges “refrain from using the term ‘survivor’ or any other term that presumes guilt” before a final decision is reached.

Cases could be appealed to the state Administrative Hearing Commission, where two of three sitting members have ties to supporters of the bill.

Gaskin also on Friday defended David Steward, a wealthy St. Louis businessman who is financially supporting a nonprofit that’s pushing the legislation.

Steward, who is black, previously served as a University of Missouri curator and now is a Washington University trustee.

Gaskin said opponents are trying to hurt Steward’s reputation “simply because he had the courage to stand up for civil rights on our college campuses.”

Sexual Assault

PR: New Tools Aim to Assist Defense Attorneys in Combating ‘Start By Believing’ Bias

Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


New Tools Aim to Assist Defense Attorneys in Combating ‘Start By Believing’ Bias 

WASHINGTON / March 15, 2019 – In response to a pledge taken by law enforcement officers and prosecutors across the country to “Start By Believing,”i Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) announces the release of a series of model cross-examination questions and jury voir dire questions. Developed with the input of veteran defense attorneys, these questions are intended to aid attorneys in exposing the biased results of investigations based on Start By Believing or other “victim-centered” methods. ii

Every defense attorney knows the frustration of losing a case where the defendant was clearly innocent, but the police detective failed to perform a thorough and unbiased investigation. A recent study confirms that “[a]n investigator’s belief that a person is guilty may be the reason innocent people get convicted.”iii Defense attorneys should be aware that utilization of Start by Believing techniques is widespread and must be probed at trial.

For example, SBB-trained investigators conduct investigations that:

  • Begin with the premise that the complaining witness is telling the truth,
  • De-emphasize inconsistent complainant statements in order to “minimize the risk of contradiction,” and
  • Emphasize feelings over facts to sway the judge and jury in favor of complainantsiv

These types of investigations must be aggressively examined and exposed by asking such questions as:

  • You’ve seen investigations resulting from false allegations? If you “Start By Believing,” you might never discover those false allegations?;
  • You took steps to corroborate the complaining witness’ report, but you didn’t take steps to refute his/her statements?; and
  • You will agree that when you start your investigation by believing the complaining witness, that necessarily means that you’ve made a pre-judgment about the guilt of the accused?

SAVE has also developed several proposed voir dire questions to aid in vetting potential jurors. Defense attorneys should recognize that members of the general public have been exposed to Start By Believing concepts via the mass media, or school or workplace trainingv.

Prosecutors may move forward with cases that have been improperly investigated. The City of Charleston, SC, recently settled with a college student wrongfully charged with “We don’t give up, even when an investigation is subpar,” the prosecutor admitted.vii In accordance with Start By Believing philosophy, the prosecutor accepted the poorly investigated claims of the purported victim at face value, at the expense of the rights of the accused.  The student was later acquitted by a jury after only a few minutes’ deliberation.

It is only a matter of time before similar trials are conducted across the country, and defense attorneys should be prepared.

The full list of cross-examination and voir dire questions is available here:  See more about SAVE’s national campaign to warn criminal defense attorneys, lawmakers, and others about the perils of Start By Believing:







Violence Against Women Act

Plenty of Fireworks at Yesterday’s VAWA Hearing

The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization is churning ahead in Congress. Here’s the link to the House bill that was introduced last Thursday:–Final%20Text%20%28004%29_0.pdf

The bill resembles more of a utopian wish-list than a sensible approach to domestic violence. For starters, the bill defines “verbal, emotional, economic, or technological abuse” as domestic violence crimes. “Verbal” and “emotional” abuse are not defined, so essentially every American would become a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence, or both!

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held its mark-up session. Plenty of fireworks:

  • Ranking Member Doug Collins criticized Democrats for their efforts to “politicize and weaponize” the domestic violence issue, and described the VAWA bill as a “missed opportunity.”
  • Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin observed, “We are straying further and further from [VAWA’s] original purpose.”

In the end, the Judiciary Committee voted 22-11 to approve the VAWA bill:

Politics is not a spectator sport. Call your Representative to share your concerns: 202-224- 3121


Worst university in America for due process asks judge to hide accused student’s lawsuit

Otherwise will ‘intimidate’ everyone in other sexual misconduct investigations


Washington University in St. Louis has twice earned the lowest ranking in America for sexual misconduct policies in the annual due-process report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

These aren’t outliers for WUSTL, best known for being mentioned in an episode of The Office, since FIRE has only issued its report twice. It earned a score of zero on the 2017 report and one on the 2018 report. The scale is 20.

The private university does not offer “timely and adequate” written notice to accused students, time to prepare with evidence, impartial fact-finders, “meaningful” hearing process, the right to present to fact-finders or meaningful cross-examination, active participation of an advisor, or meaningful right to appeal.

It neither uses the “clear and convincing” evidence standard, the next step above the coin-flip “preponderance” standard, nor requires unanimity from adjudicators in decisions. Its sole improvement in 2018 was less-than-total presumption of guilt.

If you didn’t think WUSTL could get any worse, look at its moves in court.

Following an ambiguous order from a federal judge in a due-process lawsuit by a student accused of sexual misconduct, WUSTL wants the lawsuit sealed. Completely. Including FIRE’s due-process report that names and shames the university.

In an opposition filing Monday, the university said the “excessive detail in the Complaint and the sensitive nature of the subject matter” should render it unavailable to the public in any form.

The anonymous student admitted to an error identified by the university: that “identifying information of the parties as well as nonparty witnesses” was incorrectly included in the exhibits when the suit was filed Feb. 22. He asked the court for permission to file the exhibits under seal.

That wasn’t enough for WUSTL. It claims the complaint itself and docket entries, which were posted online, can also identify parties and witnesses.

The judge ordered the student to refile the complaint and attached exhibits under seal and use “the initials of nonparties” in exhibit names. He asked the judge for permission to unseal several exhibits, including one that includes the name and photo of a member of the adjudication panel who showed “bias.”

“Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, coupled with these early difficulties in
maintaining appropriate confidentiality, there is good cause” to seal the lawsuit entirely, WUSTL argues in the Monday filing:

It would infringe upon the privacy rights of the complainant [accuser], the respondent [accused], and the non-party witnesses to that investigation [including WUSTL staff] if their identifying information were to be disclosed to the public. Such disclosure would also serve to intimidate parties, witnesses and panel members in other sexual assault investigations and deter them from participating in the process out of fear that their identities could be later revealed in the public record.

Washington University in St. Louis tries to hide accused student’s due-process lawsuit from the public by The College Fix on Scribd

MOREWUSTL gets a zero on FIRE’s first due-process report

The university claims that the 88-page lawsuit – since redacted by the plaintiff – is “unnecessarily detailed and graphic” to the point that the very “context of the narrative” could identify individuals.

This context? “References” to the student organization where the accuser and accused met; her ex-boyfriend’s initials; a description of the accused student’s “alleged sexual incident” with his ex-girlfriend; “other incidents of excessive alcohol consumption and the taking of psychiatric medications.”

The university also cites “references” to a student protest where the accuser allegedly spoke about the accused. “It would not take much effort to connect the dots and determine the identities of those involved,” particularly because the lawsuit uses “real initials.”

The College Fix has covered due-process lawsuits by accused students for several years, and none of these purported violations of confidentiality is unusual. They are standard operating procedure, to the point where the summaries issued by judges include the same details.

One particularly notable incident: A California appeals court included the name of the potentially hallucinatory medication the accuser was taking – hidden by the university – when she accused another student of sexual assault.

WUSTL wants the entire record hidden from the public “at least until” the judge rules on whether the accused student can seek relief.

The filing was flagged by Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, who chronicles Title IX litigation. He noted that FIRE’s 2017 report – where WUSTL received a zero – was among the exhibits the university wants to hide.

.@WUSTL–two-time last-place finisher in @TheFIREorg survey of top 50 universities’ policies on fairness in adjudications–urges court to keep secret not merely sensitive material but entire (redacted) complaint by acc’d student.

View image on Twitter

Ironically, one of the exhibits that @WUSTLnews wants to keep secret is…@TheFIREorg survey ranking it 53rd out of 53 schools (0 out of 20 in terms of rights provided) in terms of fairness in adjudications. Here’s a link to the survey:

View image on Twitter
See KC Johnson’s other Tweets

Johnson provided The Fix a list of the exhibits from the docket and said the accused student “wanted exhibits from the investigation sealed but not the others.”

The exhibit names only identify the accuser as “Jane” or “Jane Doe,” use honorifics and last names for those who appear to be witnesses (“Exhibit Panel Interview”), and identify individuals in text conversations by their initials.

The only person named in the docket list is Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White. She shows up in a letter expelling the plaintiff and a “2019 Letter.”

Judging by the exhibit names, the list includes other public documents besides the FIRE report. They include a 2017 “Dear Colleague” letter (probably this one), “Improving WashU’s Response” (a likely candidate) and “University Under Investigation” (a student newspaper report).

Exhibit list from John Doe v. Washington University, Case No.: 4:19-cv-00300-JMB by The College Fix on Scribd

Read the filing and exhibit list.


As a sexual assault survivor, I support campus due process protections

I also knew an important part was being left out of the discussion: sexual abuse of children. I was assaulted at age 11. I come from a family that knows this evil well. My sister was about this same age when she was first sexually abused, and my mother was much younger. My daughter was also sexually assaulted as a young teenager. We filed charges and pushed for a conviction.

It is because of these personal experiences that I have become a vocal proponent for campus due-process reform in Missouri. Under current campus policies, students accused of sexual assault are brought into Title IX investigations, supposedly designed to determine the truth in such highly sensitive matters. With that being said, the process is woefully lacking, dangerously biased and, quite simply, unconstitutional.

These investigations fail to preserve due process protections for students. In these hearings, the accused do not have a right to know what they have been accused of or to see evidence against them. Let that sink in a moment. They also are not allowed to have a lawyer advocate for them or to cross-examine witnesses testifying against them. To me, this is just unbelievable. These fundamental, Constitutional rights that we are all afforded as Americans are being ignored by Missouri’s colleges.

As a victim, I recognize our colleges’ interest in believing women, protecting victims and keeping our campuses safe. But a process that fails to preserve justice and due process is unfair to both the accused and the accuser. As a Missouri lawmaker, I am deeply concerned about the cost taxpayers will incur when students begin successfully suing our institutions for infringing on their rights, just like what has happened in states with similar laws and campus policies since these were enacted by the Obama administration.

Finally, as a mother of a son in one of our state’s colleges, I fear what this process could do to the life of an innocent student. I have now read several cases of lost semesters, scholarships being revoked, escalating legal fees incurred by the family of the accused, and many other negative outcomes — even when the student is cleared of wrongdoing.

I understand the victim’s perspective and want people prosecuted when they have harmed someone. Sexual assault should be dealt with through our judicial system, not through a partial process that only seeks to find if the accused is seemingly guilty. We do not live in a perfect world and I’ve known both men and women who have lied. I truly understand the gravity of sexual assault. I truly understand the strength that it takes to speak up. Even when you are young. But, I simply cannot agree that we need to remove the constitutional rights of one student to give more protections to another.

The #MeToo movement has been tremendously important. New norms have been created. Women are now speaking out and refusing to be silent when they have been treated inappropriately or assaulted.

Are we where we need to be? No, we are not. But we are leaps and bounds further than we were just two years ago. I know this movement will continue to grow and empower women and men to no longer be silent.

I thank the many brave women who came forward to expose the entertainment industry. Silence is what holds this great evil and allows it to grow. The many victims lit the room with their honesty and strength. When the norm becomes speaking up, we will see fewer and fewer assaults. I am confident we can seek justice without removing someone else’s rights in the process.

We must preserve the rights of all Missourians. It’s time to preserve due process on our campuses.

State Rep. Holly Rehder is a Republican who represents Sikeston and surrounding areas in the Missouri Legislature.