A few readers offer their perspective on the awful situation at the University of Virginia:
I’m a former federal prosecutor and an alum of UVA. I think those who advocate for the criminal justice system being used instead of having colleges investigate sexual assault are asking too much of the criminal justice system. While the gang rape at the center of the Rolling Stone article would be a good case for full prosecutorial investigation, most sexual assaults occurring on most campuses would not. Most “date rape” scenarios would never be prosecuted. Without third-party witnesses or evidence of a “roofie” in the girl’s blood, prosecutors would generally not find enough evidence to indict. The beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard is simply too high in those kinds of cases, and if we left them for the criminal justice system to handle, it would likely end up being an excuse for inaction.
Another goes out on a limb:
As a 2005 UVA grad and fraternity member, I am having a lot of trouble formulating any sort of reaction to this situation without coming off as some sort of rape-supporting monster, but I am very uncomfortable with the rush to judgement and the urge to punish the “bad guys” as quickly and severely as possible.
The Rolling Stone story made me feel sick to my stomach with anger when I started to read it. However, by the end of the article, I was surprised that they even agreed to publish it, considering the explosive implications of the allegations and the lack of proof or corroboration that the story was true. The victim deserves to be believed by her friends, support network, and any counselors or professionals whose job involves helping rape survivors, but a journalist is not supposed to be a credulous scribe for any allegation.
There are some people who will literally wish my violent death for saying this, but there is a chance that the accuser made it up or exaggerated. It happens. That doesn’t mean that we refuse to listen to the allegations and say terrible things about her, but it does mean that we as a society should still ask for proof. The fraternity in question has been essentially destroyed as an institution because of this story, and if it’s true, they totally deserve it. But I would have been much more comfortable if the accuser had at least tried to press charges with the police or the university.
I also see many calls for collective punishment for all fraternities, regardless of their actual record of behavior. This is simply unfair. There are 30 frats at UVA, representing about 30% of the males in the student body. It is absurd to claim that 30% of UVA men are rapists, rape supporters, or otherwise implicated in a “rape culture”.
If anyone had that sort of attitude about women, they wouldn’t even be invited back to a rush event at my house or many others. We voluntarily worked with One in Four on educating every single pledge who came into our organization about consent, preventing assaults, and monitoring each other’s behavior to prevent bad situations. We had multiple sober party monitors at every event with alcohol to go from room to room and make sure nothing bad was happening. That included telling brothers not to bring stumbling drunk girls to their rooms. It included helping find people at the party when their friends were looking for them. It even included calling 911 to get an ambulance to our own doorstep to help a girl who was either drugged or drastically over-served at another house and then wandered to our house looking to drink more.