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As a sexual assault survivor, I support campus due process protections As a sexual assault survivor, I support campus due process protections By Holly Rehder Mar 11, 2019 A Washington University freshman who declined to give her name reacts to a speaker on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at a campus protest to criticize the university’s handling of sexual assault claims by students. Photo by Christian Gooden,

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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.