The greatest bureaucratic power grab in Australian history will occur over coming months with the release of the Strengthening Australian University Responses to Sexual Assault and Harassment Project report.
The Australian Human Rights Commission will recommend that universities establish extra-judicial mechanisms for receiving, investigating and adjudicating complaints of sexual harassment and assault. Universities will comply, knowing that noncompliance would result in accusations of failure to ensure the safety of female students. The tribunals will function as AHRC surrogates, subject to its oversight, with universities footing the bill.
The End Rape On Campus submission to the project recommends that universities investigate alleged sex crimes because existing mechanisms – police and courts – too often produce unacceptable patriarchal results:
Conviction rates for sexual assault are very low in Australia, and have further declined in recent years. For example, of reported sexual assaults in 1990-2005, only 11.5% received a conviction. In addition, criminal trials are notoriously re-traumatising for survivors, particularly the process of cross-examination. It often takes significant periods of time for such matters to come to trial, meaning that criminal justice proceedings are not well placed to deal with survivors’ immediate needs for safety on campus and their desire to protect other students. Writing about similar endemic problems in the criminal justice system in the United States, associate attorney Amy Chmielewski has stated that “often, the educational community provides the last meaningful chance to recognize a victim’s injury, censure an offender’s conduct, and communicate disapproval of sexual assault in general, with the possible result of deterring similar future conduct”.
To ensure convictions, EROC recommends that tribunals apply a “civil standard of proof”, that is, guilt based “on the balance of probabilities”, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applicable in criminal matters.
EROC recommends a procedure allowing tribunals to ignore due process through the awarding of sanctions prior to guilt being established:
A procedure by which the university can take interim action to exclude an alleged perpetrator from premises prior to the outcome of a formal complaint/disciplinary process. This procedure should be available after a report is made and should be designed to protect the survivor and others from physical and psychological harm that may result from proximity with the alleged perpetrator. It should give relevant staff members the power to temporarily exclude alleged perpetrators from classes that the survivor attends, residences that the survivor lives at (regardless of whether the perpetrator also lives at the residence), and from the university altogether. The procedure should not require a formal decision-making process or a high standard of proof, but should be exercised when it appears likely that exclusion is necessary to ensure the survivor can continue their education and life at the university without re-traumatisation, or to otherwise protect the survivor or others from harm. The procedure should clearly state how a survivor can request that such action be taken, and should require that staff members who receive a disclosure or report explain this procedure to the survivor.
Tribunals should have jurisdiction not only for events occurring on-campus and at university functions but to all alleged student-on-student misconduct everywhere:
Most rapes which have been reported by students to EROC Australia occurred off campus, often in a domestic setting such as a share-house or apartment, a friend’s home, their own home, at a house party, lounge rooms, bedrooms, student villages etc. Off campus sexual assaults also took place in a range of other locations; cars, hotels, parks, cabins, etc.
While some universities restrict their attention to rapes which physically occur on campus, EROC Australia cautions against this approach and stresses that rapes which occur off campus often result from social connections that are created at universities. In such cases, it is artificial for universities to ignore their role in fostering the social relations in which sexual assault has occurred, regardless of its geographic location.
Similarly, in such situations, survivors frequently state that the assault then impacts their sense of safety on campus and their ability to attend class and complete their studies. It would be artificial for universities to claim that because the assault happened in an off-campus location it is not relevant to the student’s university experience.
The initiation of university sexual harassment and assault tribunals will create parallel systems – judicial and extra-judicial – for prosecuting alleged sexual offenders. Even in instances where there is insufficient cause to officially charge an alleged offender, a tribunal might well find him guilty, attaching the label “sex offender” to him forever.
There is no doubting that social justice warriors are taking the opportunity of the project to secure and exert power over those within the university system whom they accuse of perpetuating patriarchal “rape culture” – seven mentions in the EROC submission – on campus. That would be males.
So social justice warriors propose disregarding constitutional guarantees and hundreds of years of common law tradition to instal female dominated kangaroo courts that will render totally predictable, socially progressive outcomes. It’s a whole new front in the war on males and maleness.