NBC Smears AG Barr, Book About Campus Sexual Assault

In an attempt to smear Attorney General William Barr, NBC News framed a story about Barr’s support for due process (which shouldn’t be controversial) as him supporting rapists.

It’s a typical tactic by the media these days. Ever since the Obama administration issued guidelines in 2011 warning schools that they needed to find more male students responsible for sexual assault, due process has gone out the window. In 2017, professor K.C. Johnson and scholar Stuart Taylor wrote a book about the issue. At the time, I wrote a review for RealClear Books — and my previous work on the subject was also referenced multiple times in the book.

The book details how colleges and universities ignore exculpatory evidence and hinder students’ due process rights in order to obtain findings of responsibility to avoid federal investigations that threaten the schools’ federal funding. Johnson and Taylor, using court documents, describe multiple instances where male students have been found responsible even though the evidence suggested they were innocent.

NBC reported that Barr “strongly endorsed a 2017 book accusing colleges and universities of unfairly punishing male students accused of rape.” That is not accurate, as the book accuses schools of unfairly punishing male students dubiously accused of rape. The book does not decry students who are likely guilty receiving too harsh a punishment, as NBC claimed.

“President Obama’s Education Department — promulgating regulations beyond its statutory authority, invoking erroneous data, and fanning the false narrative of a ‘rape culture’ on college campuses — has created a regime of kangaroo justice,” Barr wrote in the blurb.

This is an accurate statement. The Obama administration used false data purporting to show that 20% of women are sexually assaulted in college (surveys that use an overly broad definition of sexual assault in order to get such a high number) to justify eviscerating due process rights in campus tribunals. This same statistic has been used to claim there is a “rape culture” on college campuses, with activists and politicians insisting that drunken hookups are now sexual assault. Further, as I previously stated, the lack of due process and the ignoring of exculpatory evidence create a kangaroo court. Franz Kafka would be appalled.


NBC also distorted a recent story about Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh. NBC wrote: “The New York Times published an excerpt of a new book detailing asexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh while a student at Yale that he had previously denied. The book also includes information about a new allegation.”

This leaves out important details — like how the book does not contain corroborating evidence for the previous claim and the new allegation was denied by the alleged victim.

The most egregious case in the book from Johnson and Stuart involves a male Amherst College student who blacked out, received oral sex from his girlfriend’s roommate, and was accused of sexual assault nearly two years later. In the time between the act and the accusation, the female accuser lost her friendship with the man’s girlfriend and became friends with feminist campus activists. Even though Amherst has a policy explaining that a person could be in a black-out state without appearing to be inebriated and determined the male student was likely blacked out, it still found him responsible and expelled him. After the student hired an attorney, he learned that the woman had lied about what happened after the alleged encounter. She claimed she was distraught and called a friend over. That “friend” was actually another male student with whom she had been flirting previously in the night. She sent text messages to her friend explaining that she had done something “so fu**ig [sic] stupid” with her roommate’s boyfriend and that “it’s pretty [obvious] I wasn’t an innocent bystander.”

She proceeded to text this friend about the man she invited over after the encounter — about how he wasn’t making a move on her. This male student signed an affidavit saying she was not at all distraught that night.

When the male student brought these messages to Amherst, school administrators refused to allow him back in, claiming the process worked. The school eventually settled with the student.

Naturally, NBC didn’t include anything from the actual book in its report.


Mediation is Making an Impact on College Campuses

Mediation is playing an increasingly larger role in helping colleges manage serious campus disputes—particularly in Title IX–related matters. Using “neutrals”—parlance in the legal field for mediators—more often is being propelled by industry choice, not legal mandate.


Higher education finds itself today in a highly regulated and litigious culture—where debate abounds regarding dispute resolution processes for colleges. The culture wars over dispute resolution models in higher education threaten to undermine the autonomy of the field. This situation is also highly dynamic; it is almost impossible to predict what might happen in Title IX regulation. Many institutions are confused about which models of dispute resolution are, and will remain, legally compliant. The U.S. Department of Education has changed course several times on preferred dispute resolution models—and may very well do so again. Several courts around the country have ruled on college discipline systems—with various, and at times inconsistent, decrees on fundamental fairness and due process. However, amidst the confusion, one trend seems clear: Colleges are being mandated to use more formalized adjudicatory processes. College “court,” for better or worse, is emerging. But will a trend toward mandated formal adjudicatory models in higher education propel other models—perhaps ones higher education chooses for itself?

Integrating ADR Into the Process

Our extensive experience with actual court systems leads us to believe the answer will be yes. The legal system itself now depends heavily on alternative dispute resolution (ADR)—which includes mediation. Individuals with serious disputes often want, need and even deserve ADR. ADR gained widespread acceptance a generation ago for the simple reason that not everything can, or should, go to court or be subject to adversarial or overly formal processes.  What happened in the legal system is now happening on campuses: Colleges are relying on alternative forms of dispute resolution of their own devise—educational equivalents of ADR that, as we advocate, will benefit immensely from being integrated with received wisdom regarding ADR from the legal field.

Struggling to maintain autonomy in the face of external regulation and find sustainable solutions, colleges need help.

Consider as a prime example the recent evolution of Title IX compliance work. Individuals impacted by sex discrimination often actively seek to avoid formalized adjudicatory processes; they instead desire (even demand) outcomes and interventions that colleges sometimes struggle to offer—meaningful long-term resolutions, truth (not posturing in a hearing), healing, social justice, apologies, creative remedies and, yes, learningEvery Title IX coordinator has interviewed students who do not wish to attend hearings or invoke sanctions. To some students, being forced into a formal, adversarial hearing seems like a sanction in and of itself. Moreover, the use of no-contact arrangements is now ubiquitous in Title IX work—often dominating the time and energy of Title IX administrators. Consider also that many well-trained and dedicated dispute resolution specialists on campuses—members of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, Title IX investigators, etc.—are lamenting that the educational function of student discipline is now floundering in a tide of adversarial, legalistic formalisms. Litigation is replacing education—law over learning.

Struggling to maintain autonomy in the face of external regulation and find sustainable solutions, colleges need help. We recommend self-help for higher education—combining existing and functional dispute resolution practices on campus with proven mediation techniques and experienced neutral mediators.

The Need for Experienced Neutrals

The spread of mediation in higher education will be facilitated by the cadre of trained and experienced neutrals available to integrate with the higher education industry. College mediation practices can have access to lawyers and retired judges with extensive experience—some in sexual violence matters in other contexts, such as criminal justice or in the business world. The point is not to replicate other systems or simply parachute neutrals into higher education. Colleges and universities will not want to replicate the criminal justice system, which serves different goals and itself is undergoing deep and fundamental change (and has struggled with issues of social justice, including dealing with acquaintance sexual violence). Mediation, by its very nature, is not uniform and must adapt to and serve the environment in which it operates. Experience in business or criminal court mediation provides useful training for mediators; much of what mediators learn in one context is transferrable to other situations. Uniquely, mediation in the higher education context must be driven by learning and educational outcomes.  A proposed model developed with academia at its forefront could involve internal school resources, e.g., counselors, advisors, etc., serving as the first step to work with the parties involved, and the second step could introduce external professionally trained mediators who understand the nuances of school campuses and the reported policy violations that occur there. Experienced neutrals will be population sensitive, recognizing, for example, that traditional-aged college students are at a critical stage of development.

Many institutions are confused about which models of dispute resolution are, and will remain, legally compliant.

The resources to integrate mediation into higher education are already available. Entities experienced in dispute resolution system design, such as JAMS, are available to work with higher education in developing sustainable and facilitative dispute resolution models for the colleges of the future. Colleges have the opportunity to enlist retired judges, for example, whose expertise has been developed by tax dollars. A pioneer in the field of ADR, the late Harvard professor Roger Fisher, might have implored us to “get to yes” with experienced mediators, as opposed to “getting to no” with adversarial processes.

Modern Solutions to Historical Problems

The rise of mediation in higher education will not herald the arrival of an exogenous force. Higher education neutrals must connect their knowledge and experience with dispute resolution trends from within higher education. College administrators have recently made significant strides to make historical college discipline codes more responsive to the modern demands of social justice and more respectful of students in conflict with others or with the institution itself. Institutional efforts at implementing restorative justice models and using educational conferences, however, have struggled to gain legal traction in court and with regulators. Yet restorative justice techniques have great potential for higher education institutions—working with individuals’ lived experiences, healing and focusing upon community building and reclamation.

Restorative justice techniques were borrowed from the legal system, where they have shown promise in difficult-to-resolve matters—for example, those involving sexual misconduct among acquaintances. Combining college restorative justice practices with mediation and trained higher education neutrals offers the potential for even more promising outcomes. (Some prosecutors in criminal justice systems use a form of restorative justice, but there is a coercive aspect to implementation in this context. Prosecutors can use restorative justice as leverage over criminal defendants—i.e., participate or go to jail. Colleges, however, are at liberty to divorce restorative justice practices from a prosecutorial or adversarial function—and instead connect such practices with educational functions.)

Many colleges also use educational conferences as a point of contact with students in conflict with the institution or others, but as valuable as they may be, proponents of highly legalistic and adversarial systems of dispute resolution are inclined to view these conferences as defective hearings—not valuable educational interventions where trained educators in the role of facilitators explore how students may learn to make better decisions or resolve conflicts as active agents in the resolution process. Restorative justice practices and educational conferences capture many, if not all, of the significant features of modern mediation. On its own, higher education has been charting a path toward what we see as an evolving form of  mediation. It’s time to take the next step and integrate good work on campus with skills and skilled professionals in the ADR field.

A recent court decision on due process extolled the virtue of cross-examination as a tool to find the truth; in the educational context, the greatest tool to uncover the truth may be building trust. There are unusual matters where hope for trust and learning are gone. There will be times when formal adjudicative processes will be necessary and appropriate, when individuals have so transgressed our educational community norms that educational opportunities have ceased and there is nothing to mediate. But the majority of conflict on campuses occupies other spaces where learning and healing opportunities are often present.

Stepping Along the Right Path Forward

Our colleges deserve dispute resolution processes suited to our industry, ones that we have created. Mediation offers a path forward, building on the very instincts of educators to create facilitative, not adversarial, learning environments. Enter experienced third-party neutrals, those unaffiliated with the school, whom would be able to not only foster trust among the parties, but also between the parties and the school by virtue of the very fact that they aren’t a member of administration.  Seasoned external and skillful mediators brought to campus for their dispute resolution expertise alleviates perceptions of bias and provides safeguards against potential overburdening of faculty and staff. It is time for a common sense idea to enter the cultural dialogue in higher education. We can often work things out with a little help from others, but when we can’t, there is always the court system to fall back on.

Hon. Jane Cutler Greenspan (Ret.)

 Hon. Jane Cutler Greenspan (Ret.) is a JAMS neutral, based in Philadelphia. She routinely serves as an arbitrator and mediator in complex commercial, labor, financial and business disputes, as well as an adjudicator in a number of higher education Title IX cases. 

Peter F. Lake

 Peter F. Lake is a law professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law. He is also a senior higher education consulting attorney with Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Military Trauma Informed

Ignoring Due Process, DOD Climbs on to the Trauma-Informed Bandwagon

The Department of Defense (DoD) is collaborating with colleges and universities to promote an ideology that threatens citizens’ fundamental constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence and due process. Trauma-informed or “start by believing” practices infer credibility on complainants while compromising the rights of the accused. Over the past decade, this prioritization of belief over truth has resulted in investigators being increasingly encouraged to “reassure the victim that he or she will not be judged and that the complaint will be taken seriously” so they will not “suffer additional trauma” or be discouraged from reporting. Trauma-informed procedures represent an attempt to recast the neutral role of the investigator into that of an advocate and thereby systematically bias the criminal justice system.

Ethical codes, at the core of assuring our due process rights, mandate diligence, integrity, and impartiality in the conduct of criminal investigations. “This system of truth seeking and the imposition of appropriate sanctions rest on the discovery and production of evidence that is accurate, relevant, adequate and unbiased.”i Former Secretary of Defense Mattis declared that “the DoD must be the epitome of American values and ethics” and “doing what is right at all times.” Current Secretary of Defense Martin Esper recently renewed this commitment, requesting all military personnel and DoD employees to take “a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Contrary to these pledges, the DoD is coordinating with colleges and universities to promote the use of a ‘Start By Believing’ or trauma-informed approach to sexual assault/sexual harassment as “best practice” in military criminal investigations and on college campuses.

On September 5, the Department of the Navy, in conjunction with the State University of New York (SUNY), hosted a regional discussion entitled “Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment.” The conference is a continued discussion from the National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities, and Service Academies held at the United States Naval Academy in April 2019.

Speakers included Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer and Ms. Melissa Cohen, Director, Department of Navy, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), among others.ii

Cohen explained, “By holding these regional discussions, we can learn from each other and work together to eliminate these criminal and destructive behaviors from the military and in society.” For many years, the DoD has used trauma-informed, victim-centered approach in criminal investigations, similar to those utilized in college Title IX investigations. However, the DoD appears to be even more aggressive in their attempt to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment so they can “rid our institutions of these crimes.”

Earlier this year, the military assembled a joint task force to study sexual assault accountability and investigation. In April, the task force issued a report, stating, “The military justice system is… quite unique in that it treats behaviors counter to good order and discipline as crimes, while providing comprehensive support to victims throughout the process.” This report’s highest priority recommendation is “establishing a specific criminal offense for sexual harassment as a stand alone crime. The over-broad definition of sexual harassment as “conduct that-involves unwelcome, unwanted or uninvited advances” means even a first time request for something could be considered unwelcome.

The task force concluded that making sexual harassment a crime would “more firmly reinforce the Department’s view that such conduct is immoral and unacceptable” and that “adding a specific criminal offense of sexual harassment” will “make a strong military-wide statement about the seriousness of these behaviors and the military’s zero tolerance for them.” The task force recommendation? Sexual harassment” is an offense subject to court-martial!

The DoD has also worked hard to push the concepts of ‘believe the victim’ and trauma-informed training in the military. There are many strong arguments as to why our military should not be teaming up with our colleges and universities to push the agenda of these guilt presuming, trauma informed approach’s to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

  • Serious questions and problems that have been identified with a “Start By Believing approach. “Assertions about how trauma physiologically impedes the ability to resist or coherently remember assault have greatly undermined defense against assault allegations. Science offers little support for a ‘Start By Believing’ approach.The US Air Force (USAF) rejected the use of Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview, (FETI) techniques, stating “Given the lack of empirical evidence on FETI’s effectiveness, and the large number of investigative, professional and scientific concerns regarding FETI and FETI training, the Air Force does not consider FETI as a viable option for investigative interviewing. We believe it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to discontinue the use of a robust, well-studied, effective, and empirically-validated interviewing method that is supported by the latest scientific research (the Cognitive Interview), in favor of an interviewing method that is loosely constricted, is based on flawed science, makes unfounded claims about its effectiveness, and has never once been tested, studied, researched or validated.” Military officers are being trained by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). NOVA serves as a national forum for victim advocacy in support of victim oriented legislation and public policy.In the USAF rejection of FETI techniques, Officers of Special Investigations, Linda S. Estes and Jeane M. Lambrecht report that trauma-informed “reasoning became endemic in the therapeutic community decades ago as part of the “recovered memory” movement, which led to many false accusations of abuse.” Estes and Lambrecht question whether it is “prudent to present sensory details and emotion as “evidence” of an allegation” and shared concern “that using this terminology could lead our investigators to be discredited in court.”

Two independent reports issued in the past month refute Trauma-Informed theories as scientifically flawed and incompatible with constitutionally rooted notions of due process and fundamental fairness.

  • In early September the Center for Prosecutor Integrity issued a Special Report that analyzes and refutes many claims of Trauma-Informed proponents. Written by behavioral neuroscientists Sujeeta Bhatt, PhD and Susan Brandon, PhD, the report concludes:
    “Examination of studies across these domains did not reveal any evidence to support the notion that victims of potentially traumatic events require interview methods that are different from those that have been shown to be most effective for accounts of events that are presumably not traumatic.”

    In August the Association of Title IX Administrators – ATIXA – issued a Position Statement on “Trauma-Informed Training and the Neurobiology of Trauma.” The strongly worded report concludes,

    “we need to resist biased and biasing trainings and the temptation to allow evidence to be influenced by conclusions about the neurobiology of trauma that are not empirically supported.”

Trauma-informed approaches do not allow for the presumption of innocence, a neutral civil liberty, and our constitutional right. The concern to provide justice for “victims” seems to have trumped concern for avoiding wrongful convictions and the seeking of truth and facts! Our young men in the military deserve a fair process that honors our constitution and the military’s ethical codes. The DoD should not be waging war against its members who are fighting for our freedoms, but against unsound policies that seek to destroy what America is about.



Title IX professionals warn colleges to be wary of ‘trauma-informed’ ideology

Title IX professionals warn colleges to be wary of ‘trauma-informed’ ideology
‘Several cases on our desk were catalysts to release a statement’
An organization that represents Title IX officials has a surprising recommendation for its members: Stop relying on unproven scientific claims.
The Association of Title IX Administrators issued a position statement last month on “Trauma-Informed Training and the Neurobiology of Trauma,” warning that training for the field is going in an “unhealthy direction.”
Many ATIXA members are involved in sexual-misconduct proceedings on college campuses, and their training materials may direct them to show bias in favor of accusers, the statement explains.
It cited a common statement in training at schools across the country:
Trauma leaves tracks on its victims. It is very difficult to fake or “act” the sorts of symptoms [of trauma]. When someone displays these symptoms, this alone is evidence that they have been victimized.
Using such materials in training can endanger the integrity of proceedings, prompting ATIXA’s position statement, the group wrote. “To assert that trauma cannot be faked is as flagrantly false a claim as asserting that trauma is proof of assault.”
Pushing back against trauma-informed training will be an uphill battle. An influential nonprofit that pioneered the training re-released a 2016 bulletin on the neurobiology of trauma in July, prompting a lengthy rebuttal by a due-process group this month.
ATIXA supplies trainings to “thousands of administrators each year” and then watches to see how the training is implemented, President Brett Sokolow told The College Fix in an email last week.
“In this case, our trainings were not producing the desired effect, as other trainings were counter-manding the content we were offering,” the veteran Title IX consultant said. “Several cases on our desk, plus the Syracuse case ruling on the motion to dismiss, were catalysts to release a statement.”
Sokolow was referring to a May court ruling that allowed a Title IX lawsuit against Syracuse University to continue. The Syracuse conduct board received trauma-informed training that led it to see an accuser’s inconsistent and contradictory statements as evidence of a “traumatic event” like she described.
The court said this training, which is mandated by New York law, is plausible evidence of gender bias. The parties settled a week after ATIXA released its statement.
Some are ‘politically motivated to extrapolate well beyond’ the science
Sokolow admitted that “due process was not a top ‘radar screen’” for ATIXA when the organization started in 2011, the same year the Obama administration released its “Dear Colleague” letter on campus sexual-misconduct investigations.
ATIXA believed that due process was important but “we assumed members were getting solid due process training content elsewhere,” he said.
“We were focused on building Title IX know-how because we sensed that was what was lacking in the field, and we only had so much time to cover that content in trainings,” Sokolow said.
The group would remind members to get due process training elsewhere, but decided in 2013 to start providing more of that content in its own trainings. The due process trainings are not popular, Sokolow said, but they are “important” so ATIXA will continue to offer them.
While noting its statement could be “controversial,” ATIXA gives credit to journalist Emily Yoffe for sounding the alarm about trauma-informed training in The Atlantic two years ago.
She said popular theories about the “neurobiology of trauma” were “junk science,” and while ATIXA doesn’t completely agree with Yoffe, “her points needed to be made.”
Practitioners in the Title IX field, including coordinators, investigators, and administrators, have “gotten way ahead of the actual science,” according to the Aug. 16 statement by ATIXA’s board of advisors.
Some have been incorrectly applying the science that is out there, and are “politically motivated to extrapolate well beyond any reasonable empirical conclusions currently supported by the science.”
Don’t put ‘non-empirical, biased training on your resume’
Although ATIXA thinks the research could support trauma-informed theories one day, right now “much of what people think they now know about trauma is far more conjectural than empirical.” People in the field need to “take a collective step back” and not cite some of the training sources as “gospel,” according to the statement.
To avoid bias, the group recommends that administrators get their trainings from a “balanced source” or a program funded by a federal grant. “You need to assess whether you can afford to have a non-empirical, biased training on your resume in this age of litigation,” the statement warns.
Trauma can not be used to replace evidence, ATIXA said, urging members to find “reputable trauma-informed investigation and interviewing practices and techniques.” They need to resist “the temptation to allow evidence to be influenced by conclusions about the neurobiology of trauma that are not empirically-supported.”
Sokolow told The Fix many members are concerned that trauma-informed theories are endangering Title IX investigations “both in their professional practices, and with respect to court challenge.”
Despite “various articles and publications” decrying some aspects of trauma-informed theory, many in the field seem “overly influenced by the trauma-informed freight train,” he said, explaining the “strongly-worded caution” from ATIXA.
ATIXA offers trauma-informed tracks that focus “on both the neurobiology and the trauma-informed interview practice,” but they should “not be taken as evidence in investigations,” according to Sokolow.
“[W]e’re not perfect, but we’ve tried early on to recognize trends and issues in the field as they emerge, and to adjust our current trainings and develop new trainings as the field evolves,” he concluded.
‘The impacts of trauma on memories and recall are widely variable’
When End Violence Against Women International, known for its Start by Believing campaign, re-released its document on neurobiology of trauma and interviewing techniques, a group that promotes due process in criminal justice was ready to take it apart.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity published a rebuttal written by two behavioral neuroscientists, Sujeeta Bhatt of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and Susan Brandon, formerly of Yale University’s psychology department.
“The impacts of trauma on memories and recall are widely variable,” the rebuttal reads: It is possible for trauma to cause vivid memories, no memories, distorted memories, or incorrect memories.
This counters the claim of trauma-informed advocates that people who are unable to recall events, or who have inconsistencies in their story, should be evidence that the incident occurred, according to the press release by the center.
“We do not assert that a victim should be treated as if he or she is lying,” but rather, the accuser and accused should be approached in “an unbiased manner,” the rebuttal says.
Bhatt and Brandon found that victims of sexual assault “may be traumatized in ways similar to victims of other kinds of potentially traumatic events,” like domestic abuse:
Examination of studies across these domains did not reveal any evidence to support the notion that victims of potentially traumatic events require interview methods that are different from those that have been shown to be most effective for accounts of events that are presumably not traumatic.
The best way to get an accurate account of the event from a person, Bhatt and Brandon write, “is to create a situation where the individual can best tell their own story, in their own words, and at their own pace.”
Brandon, one of the authors of the rebuttal, told The Fix that ATIXA’s position statement was “quite good” and she agrees “with much” of it.
ATIXA’s warning to not substitute the neurobiology of trauma for evidence “was quite apt,” the consultant on investigative interview techniques wrote in an email.
“I would add that we should avoid the use of information on the neurobiology of trauma also to substitute for showing empathy,” Brandon said.
When neurobiology is used to explain inconsistencies and make “victims look more plausible,” she said, it creates another risk of bias: that investigators will expect “victims to exhibit certain symptoms and behaviors.”

Chippewa Falls woman arrested in murder-for-hire scheme

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A Chippewa Falls woman who was arrested in an alleged murder-for-hire

scheme will remain in jail on a $250,000 cash bond.

Melanie S. Schrader, 47, 438 Olive St., appeared for a bond hearing Friday morning on a possible

charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

“Ms. Schrader and Derek Gerke are involved in a child custody matter,” Chippewa County District

Attorney Wade Newell explained at the hearing. “She reached out to a friend who she thought knew

bikers who could take care of Mr. Gerke.”

The friend initially ignored Schrader’s comments. But when she asked a second time, the friend

alerted law enforcement, Newell said.

An agent with the Department of Criminal Investigation posed as a hit man, he said.

“They had a telephone conversation set up, with details of the hit,” Newell said. “She went to make a

down payment of the hit, and she went and gave him a picture of the person.”

Newell requested the $250,000 cash bond, calling it a serious matter.

“The state has concerns about the safety of Mr. Gerke as well as his family, and the child in the

middle of the child custody issue,” Newell said. “The concern is if Ms. Schrader gets out of

custody, that she will flee with the child and we’ll never see her again. Obviously, something has

made her think this is the best way to deal with a child custody matter.”

Defense attorney Francesco Balistrieri pointed out that Schrader is a life-long area resident and has

no criminal record. Balisteri said he doesn’t consider her a flight risk. He requested she be released

on a signature bond.

However, Judge Steve Cray followed Newell’s recommendation and ordered the $250,000 cash bond,

with the requirement she have no contact with Gerke or his family if she is released. Cray set a return

date for Tuesday.

Schrader was taken into custody at 11 a.m. Thursday. She appeared in court via video from the jail,

looked down, never raising her head, throughout the hearing.

The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation is assisting the Chippewa County Sheriff’s

Department and the Chippewa Falls Police Department in investigating the case.


Domestic Violence Violence Against Women Act

Stop Treating Domestic Violence Differently From Other Crimes

All of a sudden, it seems like criminal justice reform is on everyone’s policy agenda. Politicians across the political spectrum in the United States are finally thinking about policies to reverse the decades-long expansion of the criminal system, and the mass incarceration that has resulted.

But legislators have been doubling down on the system when it comes to domestic violence. Concerns about intimate partner violence threatened the campaign for pretrial bail and discovery reform in New York State. Iowa abandoned some mandatory minimum sentences in 2016, but created new ones for intimate partner violence. Various federal reform proposals would have decreased mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes, but increased them for crimes of domestic violence.

The implication is obvious: Crimes of violence, and particularly domestic violence, should be exempt from criminal justice reform — and may even merit harsher treatment than they’re currently subject to.

These efforts are misguided. The effectiveness of the criminal legal response to domestic violence is a sensitive subject. Questioning it is a harder sell politically than reconsidering our responses to drug or property crimes. But intimate partner violence should be included in criminal justice reforms. This is not an argument for treating incidents of domestic violence differently than other crimes; rather, it’s an argument to stop treating them differently.

Assaults and threats of physical violence against intimate partners have been illegal for centuries. The Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed wife abuse in 1641; by the late 1800s, a number of states had criminalized violence against a spouse. But by the second half of the 20th century, those laws were rarely enforced. Police made few arrests; prosecutors rarely brought charges. To be clear: This was a bad state of affairs.

But in 1984, three things happened. First, Attorney General William French Smith’s task force on family violence declared that intimate partner violence was a criminal justice problem that required a criminal justice solution — the first time that the federal government had taken that position.

Second, a woman from Connecticut named Tracey Thurman won a multimillion dollar judgment against the city of Torrington. Ms. Thurman sued after the police failed on numerous occasions to arrest her husband, despite her reports of violence; he eventually left her partly paralyzed. Jurisdictions around the country took notice, concerned that they too could be held liable for police inaction.

Finally, state and local governments latched on to research published in 1984 by the sociologists Lawrence Sherman and Richard Berk suggesting that arrest deterred intimate partner violence. Cities and states responded by putting in place mandatory arrest laws for such cases (laws that don’t apply in the case of non-domestic violence related assaults); Not surprisingly, arrest rates skyrocketed.

The push for more vigorous law enforcement gained additional momentum with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. The act dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars each year to funding courts, prosecutors and police and community-based agencies. As of 2013, about 85 percent of its funding was dedicated to law enforcement efforts.

Prioritizing criminal justice responses to intimate partner violence would make sense if there was reason to believe that it was working. But that’s not what the evidence shows.

It’s true that rates of domestic violence have been dropping in the United States for years. But so has the overall violent crime rate. From 1994 through 2000, those rates fell about the same amount — a 47 percent decline for violent crime generally, a 48 percent decline for intimate partner violence. For the decade following, however, total violent crime decreased much more than rates of intimate partner violence, which stayed essentially the same — even though during this period, the Violence Against Women Act continued to devote hundreds of millions of dollars to criminal justice responses. Domestic violence homicides actually increased 19 percent between 2014 and 2017; and gun-related domestic violence homicides were up 26 percent between 2010 and 2017.

In 1984, Drs. Sherman and Berk warned that their influential study should be replicated before the police followed its suggestions. That warning was prescient: Replication studies have shown that arrests have modest effects on deterrence in some places, no effect in others, and can actually spur violence. One study found that the likelihood of reoffending was entirely attributable to other factors — like a criminal history — rather than arrest. The impact of prosecution is similarly inconclusive: A conviction may have some effect on recidivism, but its deterrence largely disappears without continuous monitoring, such as intensive probation.

What we do know is that relying primarily on arrest and prosecution exacerbates conditions associated with intimate partner violence, which strongly correlates with poverty. Low-income women are more likely to be victims; under- and unemployed men are much more likely to be batterers. Having a conviction makes it much more difficult to find and keep employment — and employed former prisoners earn 40 percent less than people who have never been incarcerated.

Trauma also contributes. Childhood experiences like abuse, neglect or witnessing violence suggest whether a person will bring violence into his or her home. And incarceration is traumatic. We punish people for violence by putting them in places where they are likely to witness or experience violence, and then send them back into their communities and relationships.

Encouraging a larger role for law enforcement also had the unintended consequence of punishing victims. In the aftermath of the Sherman and Berk study, cities and states rushed to adopt mandatory arrest policies. But the largest increases were in arrests of women. In California, for example, arrests of women increased 156 percent; arrests of men increased by 21 percent. Mandatory arrest policies tend to lead to an increase in arrests of women particularly in “situationally ambiguous” cases, where police officers may be unclear about what exactly occurred before their arrival.

Even if victims avoid arrest, prosecutors, in their zeal to win convictions, sometimes confront them with a horrible choice: Testify against your partner or go to jail. Victims can be held for days or weeks until they testify. This can lead to absurd outcomes: In 2015, at the request of the Orleans Parish prosecutors, Renata Singleton was held in jail for five days to compel her testimony. The boyfriend she was called to testify against pleaded guilty, and served no jail time at all.

We have other options. Rather than continuing to rely primarily on the criminal legal system, we could provide economic support to low-income men and women. We could intervene to prevent the childhood traumas that lead to violence in adulthood. We could address the attitudes and beliefs among adolescents that drive intimate partner violence. We could use community accountability and restorative justice programs to meet the needs of victims who will never willingly turn to state systems. We could focus our efforts and resources on stopping violence before it starts, rather than intervening ineffectually after the fact.

Intimate partner violence has many of the same characteristics that have driven criminal justice reform across other areas. Increased reliance on the criminal justice system hasn’t lowered rates of domestic violence, and has worsened conditions that spur on that violence. In some cases, it harms some of the people it was meant to benefit.

But violence, and particularly intimate partner violence, has beenthe third rail of criminal justice reform. Violent crimes feel viscerally different from other forms of crime; the desire for retribution may be stronger. And in the case of intimate partner violence, concern that we will return to the bad old days when the police and prosecutors ignored it prevents policymakers from considering alternatives.

But the criminal justice system isn’t stopping intimate partner violence. And it might even be making it worse.

Leigh Goodmark is a professor of law at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the author of “Decriminalizing Domestic Violence: A Balanced Policy Approach to Intimate Partner Violence.”


Title IX Equity Project

OCR Has Now Reached Favorable Resolutions in 10 Cases

The Office for Civil Rights publishes a listing of all resolutions issued since October 1, 2013. The OCR has concluded Title IX investigations affirming complaints by male students at the following institutions, which are listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Clemson University,  Clemson, SC (2019) (sex-specific programs)
  2. Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, KY (2015) (disparate treatment)
  3. Jonesboro Community Consolidated School District 43, Jonesboro, IL (2015) (sexual harassment)
  4. Pasco County District School Board, Land O’Lakes, FL (2017) (disparate treatment)
  5. Seattle University, Seattle, WA (2015) (sex-specific programs)
  6. Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV (2014)
  7. Temple University, PA (2014) (athletics)
  8. Tulane University, New Orleans, LA (2018) (sex-specific programs)
  9. Wesley College, Dover, DE (due process)
  10. Yonkers Public Schools, Yonkers, NY (2016) (harassment)



Universities should not reward gender

Editors Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Tropolitan or its staff members. Address responses and critiques to

Last week, the L.A. Times reported that the U.S. Department of Education opened more than two dozen different investigations around gender discrimination in universities such as Rice and Yale. The basis of these investigations comes from studies that show gender inequality in scholarship offers. One such survey was recently released by the nonprofit organization Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE). The survey points out that most single gender scholarships are granted to women. 

The study examined more than 200 colleges across the United States and found that the total number of single gender scholarships vastly favored women over men. In our state of Alabama alone, there are 87 women-only scholarships compared to only three for men. Here at Troy, there are five scholarships only for women and one scholarship only for men. Auburn University has one of the most egregious gender scholarship gaps in the entire country. There, women are offered 67 scholarships compared to a measly one for men. 

Title IX, a federal law that applies to any school that receives federal money, makes discrimination based on sex in education programs illegal. Single gender scholarships are permitted under this rule if the “overall effect” of scholarships is equitable. In other words, the scholarships are legal if the opportunities offered to one gender are equal to the other. This recent study from SAVE shows that the overall effect of these gender-specific scholarships is not equitable. Therefore, the universities offering these scholarships in such lopsided proportions should be investigated, as they are quite possibly violating title IX rules. 

The reason for these possible violations isn’t the fact that universities offer only women or only men scholarships. Each individual scholarship on its own is and should be respected and uncontested. The problem is when the disproportionate numbers offered to women over men is taken into account. At Troy for instance, if the university offered five scholarships that were only to women and five that were only to men, that would have an overall equitable effect since both genders would be given the same number of exclusive opportunities. Instead, women are given a larger amount more than men, and thus the effect is not equitable. 

Now, if there are more men receiving gender neutral scholarships, that might change the balance enough for the existence of such a gender specific scholarship gap. However, I was unable to find specific numbers of distribution of general scholarships based on gender. I did find that more women attend and graduate college compared to their male counterparts. Women make up roughly 57% of college students and earn more bachelors and doctoral degrees annually than men. 

I think that men should have at least an equal amount of gender specific scholarships. 

Title IX Equity Project

Discriminating against men hasn’t solved gender disparities in STEM

Famed historian Carl Sandburg once remarked, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” Taking this aphorism to heart, the recent Baltimore Sun editorial railed against the SAVE study that found disturbing disparities in sex-specific scholarships in Maryland and across the country (“Women in STEM: The pendulum hasn’t swung nearly far enough,” Sept. 3).
If the Sun editorial had opted to argue the facts, it would have highlighted that Johns Hopkins University now offers zero scholarships designated for men, compared to five scholarships for women. At the Community College at Baltimore County, the shortfall is even worse — two scholarship programs for male students and 16 for female students. In Maryland, our study documented a stunning 16-1 disparity that disadvantages male students who now represent only 40% of the total U.S. college population.

Or if The Sun had decided to argue the law, it would have reported on the Title IX law that bans sex discriminatory programs. The law does allow for STEM scholarship programs exclusive to women, but only if the university provides off-setting scholarships for male students.

But lacking any plausible argument based on facts or on the law, the Sun editorial resorted to one-sided sarcasm and ridicule. The Sun readership surely expects better.

Everett Bartlett, Rockville


Investigations Trauma Informed

‘Trauma-Informed’ Bulletin Is Replete with Misrepresentations and Mistakes: CPI Report

‘Trauma-Informed’ Bulletin Is Replete with Misrepresentations and Mistakes: CPI Report

WASHINGTON / September 3, 2019 – A new Center for Prosecutor Integrity report documents factual errors and faulty conclusions contained in a 2019 bulletin published by End Violence Against Women International. Titled, “Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma and Implications for Interviewing Victims,” the EVAWI bulletin purports to summarize the research on the neurobiology of trauma and provide recommendations for law enforcement personnel who investigate allegations of sexual assault.

The new CPI report was researched and written by behavioral neuroscientists Sujeeta Bhatt, PhD and Susan Brandon, PhD.

“Trauma-informed” proponents claim that persons who experience sexual assault are unable to accurately recall the incident, and that inconsistencies in their accounts should be taken as proof that the assault occurred. But citing numerous studies, Bhatt and Brandon reject this theory, concluding, “The impacts of trauma on memories and recall are widely variable. The stress accompanying and resulting from trauma may produce strong memories, impair memories, have no effect on memories, or increase the possibility of false memories.”

Bhatt and Brandon argue that criminal investigators do not need to use special interview methods with purported trauma victims: “Examination of studies across these domains did not reveal any evidence to support the notion that victims of potentially traumatic events require interview methods that are different from those that have been shown to be most effective for accounts of events that are presumably not traumatic.”

Their critique is more fundamental, saying an “undue emphasis on brain science increases the likelihood of hindering an investigation” because it can promote confirmation bias and undue stereotypes. The new CPI report is available online (1).

Separately, the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) recently published a Position Paper on “Trauma-Informed Training and Neurobiology of Trauma” that sharply criticizes the assumptions, precepts, and methods of trauma-informed advocates (2).



Press release is posted here: