By Matt Lemas at RYOT
Over the last few months, college campuses around the country have been in the national spotlight for mishandling cases of sexual assault.
Just last May, the Education Department announced that 55 colleges were under investigation for their treatment of rape allegations, including prominent universities such as Harvard and Dartmouth.
In light of this, many stories are coming out about the countless women whose voices weren’t properly heard.
But as colleges heighten efforts to combat cases of sexual assault, the men being accused claim that their constitutional rights are being violated.
The Case of Daniel Kopin
This April, Brown University Student Daniel Kopin was publicly accused of sexually assaulting fellow classmate, Lena Sclove.
The incident occurred on a summer night in August of last year. Both Kopin and Sclove were previously in a consensual sexual relationship, but stopped hooking up nearly three weeks before the alleged rape.
That night, however, the two of them attended the same party and began flirting with each other again. As the evening progressed, they eventually left for Kopin’s apartment with the intention of having sex.
On the way, Sclove asserts that Kopin pushed her up against a telephone pole while they were kissing and began choking her. Once at Kopin’s residence, Sclove said she was raped.
“He then got me back to his apartment, saying that he would just get me some water and walk me home,” Sclove told Democracy Now. “Instead, he proceeded to undress me and rape me, and choke and strangle me during the rape again, a second time.”
Sclove filed a formal complaint with the school’s disciplinary board, and in October of 2013, Brown University charged Kopin with four violations of the student conduct code. He was suspended until the start of the 2014 school year, and was told he would have to reapply for admission.
Sclove appealed this decision to the university, saying she’d fear for her life if she were forced to attend the same school as her offender. After her appeal was denied this April, the case turned into a media frenzy.
Sclove hosted a press conference at the gates of the university, and sparked a national uproar over the perceived “slap-on-the-wrist” for an accused sex offender.
By the end of the month, a student campaign was started and Kopin was outed by name in the Brown Daily Herald. As one of the school officials told his parents: his life would never be the same.
“Our Activities That Night Were…Consensual”
After the night of August 2, Kopin went on normally with his life — he believed nothing had gone wrong.
But a week after the alleged attack, Kopin received an email from Sclove with the startling accusation, “Dan, you raped me.”
“I was in shock — total disbelief,” Kopin said in an interview with the Daily Beast. “I couldn’t — I mean, I called my mom. Being accused — something must be wrong, something must be off. That was my initial thought. But it became clear, as I looked over my facts, the text messages I had — as I racked my memory — it became clear that this was not true. What she was saying was not true.”
Kopin recounted his own version of the events which match up with Sclove’s to a certain point — they were definitely flirting and consensually left the party together.
Then on the way back, he noted that while they were kissing he put his hands arounds her neck in a “caressing manner. He admit she reacted negatively to.
Once she calmed down, Kopin said they went back to his apartment where she told him she didn’t want to have sex.
From this point on, Kopin’s and Sclove’s accounts of the night differ greatly.
Sclove says Kopin forced her into his lap after numerous verbal protests, and had sex with her while she was too weak and inebriated to resist. She also says that Kopin, at some point during the rape, choked her again.
Kopin, however, claims that after offering to walk her home, Sclove refused to leave, and instead, initiated sex with him. During sex, he says she began crying.
“Kopin wrote that he noticed Sclove was crying and asked if she was all right and if she wanted to stop — to which she responded by kissing him again and continuing to move “energetically” on top of him” – Daily Beast.
From here, the two stories converge again — both agreeing that Kopin’s three housemates arrived and knocked on the door. Sclove quickly got dressed and left the residence.
In a statement released in May, Kopin stressed that “our activities that night were… consensual” and he “never acted forcefully in any way towards Lena.”
“He is also adamant that, despite these moments of hesitation, she clearly demonstrated her consent with no coercion or pressure on his part—and indeed initiated much of the sexual activity. A couple of times during our conversation, he admits that having sex under those circumstances was probably not a good idea: “I’m responsible for that.” -Daily Beast
Now, Kopin is arguing that his disciplinary hearing was mishandled, and that he wasn’t allowed to appeal on grounds of innocence.
“Brown’s three-member Student Conduct Board, applying a “more likely than not” standard, decided I was responsible for “sexual misconduct” as defined by Brown’s disciplinary code,” his statement read. “I disagreed with the decision and would have challenged it if I could.”
A National Issue
Much like Kopin, other men across the country are asserting that their right to due process has been violated by their universities. One New York attorneytold the L.A. Times he receives three or four calls a week relating to the issue.
“The common thread is really egregious due process violations,” he said.
In one instance at Xavier University, the school settled with student Dezmine Wells after he sued for sex discrimination and negligence. Xavier had found him guilty of sexual assault, but the girl later recanted her charges.
As more men are coming forward, there seems to be a growing concern about the legal rights for those who are accused. Are school administrators acting too swiftly, pressured by increased scrutiny?
“I think there has been a significant amount of pressure on universities to treat all of those accused of sexual misconduct with a presumption of guilt,” said Robert Shibley, Senior Vice President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to the L.A. Times.
Additionally, to say that this is the norm —men being falsely accused of rape — would be entirely untrue. Though statistics vary, most studies show that under 10 percent of rape allegations are false.
These instances, however, do happen and men’s lives can be ruined by them.
Efforts to reduce sexual assault on college campuses are ramping up, and that’s a good thing. But universities should make sure that in the process, the rights of the accused aren’t being violated.