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Derailing Australia’s Campus Rape Panic

As 2019 draws to a close, the manufactured rape crisis on Australian university campuses has suffered an important setback. Last month, a Queensland Supreme Court ruled that universities have no jurisdiction to adjudicate sexual assault. This prompted a major speech by the Federal Education Minister in which he affirmed that “If a student alleges they are the victim of a crime then our criminal justice system is the appropriate authority to deal with it.” This is hugely significant, but the media has been noticeably reluctant to report on this development.

Late last year, new regulations were introduced by a number of universities to establish committees and secretive processes to investigate and adjudicate sexual assault. These reversed the burden of proof, denied the accused normal legal rights, and required only a “balance of probabilities” to secure conviction. Many other universities have apparently made plans to proceed down the same path.

This followed a campaign orchestrated by activists who have spent the last decade successfully convincing the media that young women are unsafe on our campuses. As a result of their lobbying, the Australian Human Rights Commission spent a million dollars on a survey intended to uncover evidence of this alleged rape crisis. However, the survey found that only tiny numbers experienced sexual assault (an average of 0.8 percent over each of the two years studied), even when a broad definition of sexual assault was applied that included touching by a stranger on public transport to campus. The main finding was low-grade sexual harassment (mainly unwanted staring) which the universities then promoted as alarming levels of “sexual violence.”

Despite this setback, the higher education sector continued to toe the feminist line, setting up new measures to respond to the perceived crisis. Our university regulator—the Tertiary Education, Quality, and Standards Agency (TEQSA)—swiftly issued a “guidance note” advising universities to provide evidence of how they respond to sexual assault. This was widely interpreted by universities as a requirement to get involved in the criminal law business.

The kowtowing of key players to activist demands has been extraordinary. Prior to the recent Federal election, lobby groups almost succeeded in establishing a government task-force aimed at further bullying universities in this direction. “We were so close,” lamented Darren Brown, the former higher education officer working for the Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham, before Birmingham’s successor shelved the proposal.

Former barrister, now Queensland Senator, Amanda Stoker used a parliamentary committee to grill TEQSA officials about the impact of that “guidance note.” A video shows bureaucrats squirming as Stoker points out that the resulting university regulations contain barely a word about ensuring proper legal rights for accused young men. The accused, Stoker explained, had no access to evidence against them, there was no effort to ensure the reliability of that evidence, no power to call evidence in their own defence, no legal representation, no presumption of innocence, and no right of appeal.

University Kangaroo Courts

Finally, real action from my campus campaign. I’m just back from meetings with parliamentarians in Canberra, including the outstanding Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker.Yesterday Amanda put on a brilliant display, grilling TEQSA, the university regulator, in Senate Estimates committee about the higher education sector’s abysmal failure to protect the rights of the accused in new rape regulations now in operation in universities across Australia. Watch the bureaucrats squirm when she rightly points out that the regulations contain barely one word about ensuring proper legal rights for accused young men. It is a disgrace that TEQSA has been shown to have cow towed to feminist lobby groups and bullied universities into adjudicating rape on campus, shelving the legal rights of the accused and using lower standards of proof to ensure more convictions. Remember it was Senator Stoker who put pressure on TEQSA over my Sydney University protest last year, which ultimately led to the French Inquiry and universities now reluctantly introducing voluntary free speech codes. Now Amanda is promising to help the regulator ensure they address the appalling bias in their own instructions to universities regarding this issue. I now have a team of serious players on board. We have planned a range of actions to persuade universities to leave the serious crime of sexual assault to be dealt with by our criminal law system, which is designed to offer proper justice to both sides in these cases. Watch this space. [Reposted with correct video – sorry]

Posted by Bettina Arndt on Thursday, October 24, 2019

A secretive, unsupervised committee would determine guilt on the balance of probabilities with power to impose serious penalties including expulsion from the university. As Stoker observed, this means that any student so punished will have wasted money and time invested in their degrees and are likely to be excluded from chosen professions—all penalties absent from the criminal justice code.

I’ve spent the last year touring Australian university campuses speaking about what’s happening, and Stoker played a pivotal role in our first major achievement. When the riot squad had to be called to remove violent protesters blocking my audience from accessing the venue at which I was speaking at Sydney University, Stoker used a similar Senate Estimate committee to question TEQSA about Sydney University’s failure to protect free speech. This led to the Federal government setting up an inquiry which ultimately led to our universities imposing new free speech codes.

But the major breakthrough came when the Queensland Supreme Court decision in November determined that universities have no jurisdiction to adjudicate sexual assault. This landmark case involved a University of Queensland medical student who was accused of sexual assault by another student. Wendy Mulcahy, the lawyer for the accused student, took the matter to the Supreme Court arguing that UQ did not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate such matters. In her judgement, Justice Ann Lyons concluded that universities are only entitled to make decisions in sexual assault cases which have been proved in criminal court.

Dan Tehan, our Federal Education Minister, used this legal decision to instruct TEQSA that the criminal justice system, not a university disciplinary process, is the right place to deal with alleged crimes that occur on campus or in the student commun­ity. “Universities have a duty of care to their students and that ­includes ensuring processes around the enforcement of any codes of conduct are legal, fair, and transparent,” he told a TEQSA conference in Melbourne later that month.

Earlier this year, a university administrator admitted in private correspondence with a student representative that his university had assumed they might still proceed with a misconduct hearing to determine the guilt of the perpetrator even if the accused had been found not guilty in criminal court. The reason? The university had a lower standard of proof, he said. That’s the point of this whole exercise—to use “victim-centred” justice to ensure more rape convictions. Feminists are angry that juries so rarely convict young men in he-said, she-said date rape situations, and “believe-the-victim” campus investigations make securing a conviction much easier.

That was widely acknowledged as the goal in 2011 when President Obama required all publicly funded universities to establish tribunals to adjudicate rape on campus. This led to over 200 successful lawsuits against universities for failing to protect the due process rights of the accused —rights the Trump administration is now seeking to restore. Given that recent history, it is extraordinary that our higher education sector has allowed itself to be led down the same path. Universities Australia has just commissioned a new survey on sexual assault intended to cook up more impressive rape statistics after the failure of the AHRC to produce the desired results.

It’s a relief to see a few shots finally fired across the bow of this misbegotten enterprise, and hopefully there are more to come. I’m about to launch a campaign to enlist alumni from all Australian universities to send Vice Chancellors a series of questions, drawn up by the legal team assisting me, asking about these institutions’ plans regarding the direction given by the Education Minister.* (Some universities have already written to the Minister stating they are discontinuing investigations.) I’ll be continuing my campus tour to educate male students about the risks presented by this manufactured crisis. I now have a list of cases of young men who have had their lives derailed by these courts and have made YouTube videos featuring two of these students, one in Adelaide and another in Perth.

One other minor development bears mention. In my previous Quillette article I mentioned I’d made a complaint to the university about key organisers of the Sydney protest, providing hours of video evidence and numerous witnesses to show they were breaching the university’s bullying and harassment regulations. After an investigation that lasted over 8 months, the university finally took action, suspending the key organiser, Maddy Ward, for a semester. Ward is a serial troublemaker who already had a strike against her following a notorious protest at which she exposed her breasts to an anti-abortion group. Ward proudly took ownership of the protest against me but was outraged that I had succeeded in “weaponising the university codes of conduct” against her. It was the authoritarian Left that insisted on regulating behaviour on campus, but they do not, it seems, like being held to the standards they impose on others.

 

Bettina Arndt trained as a clinical psychologist before becoming one of Australia’s first sex therapists. She then had a long career as a social commentator on gender issues before devoting herself to advocating for men. A contributor to Jordan Peterson’s thinkspot, Bettina’s latest book is #MenToo. You can follow her on Twitter @thebettinaarndt

*To find out more about this campaign, email bettina@bettinaarndt.com.au

Feature image: Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker speaking at the CIS, March 7, 2019.

Comments

  1. Great article, thanks to the author!

    It’s amazing to hear that the woke side doesn’t always win :slight_smile:

  2. Why let social ‘justice’ stop at the university level? Why not allow star chambers to adjudicate in all organizations - corporations, churches, sports associations, NGOs, knitting circles (oh, sorry, they already do?) Judge, jury, warden, and executioner all under one and every roof.This would conveniently obviate any need for the archaic government imposed legal systems we crank along with today. I cannot see anything going wrong with that solution.

  3. It is certainly good, in the case of the medical student, that the reduced standard for “conviction” was not adhered to.

    NONETHELESS, I wonder what the impact of the accusation will be on his career. That is the real problem. It was, until 10 or so years ago, that dating was a situation in which boundaries were tested. Now, apparently, we are in a situation where women cannot under any circumstances feel the slightest threat.

    Does this mean that all dating situations will require chaperones? Should all encounters between young persons not married be supervised so that the young snowflake women should never, ever, ever, never feel the slightest hint of a questionable situation arising?

    What do women want? If they want the freedom to experiment sexually, inevitably things will get out of hand occasionally. If they want safety all the time, this means that we will need to go back to a complete supervision paradigm.

  4. Under the 2 in 10 condemns all standard, how many congresspersons would be expelled for sexual misconduct?

  5. While there is a seed of truth in this, using the term “threat” is misplaced. No person should ever feel sexually threatened even in the slightest.

    It is true that at the extreme radical feminists and weak-willed universities have conspired to create a situation in which the sometimes awkward and limit testing nature of human sexual interaction can be construed as rape; eroding the sexual agency of adult women and due process rights of the accused.
    This has leaked out of elite coddled collegiate environments into greater society, unfortunately…

    We need to re-balance and make sure rape is properly adjudicated, accusers are treated with dignity, and the accused fairly. More than that we need to stop using this issue as a political cudgel on all sides.

    I know I am speaking to the converted but be sure to be nuanced…

    In my own case, I do not care much about actual/ factual rapists (other than they get a fair trial) but am concerned with only the falsely accused and the likely large number of accusers who are in fact victims of bona fiede assault. As there are three true sets of “victims” here, rape survivors, the falsely accused, and all people of good faith trying to have a life, sexual and otherwise. None of these three groups are the enemy. We must be careful not to through any of these three groups away when struggling with the politicization of this contentious but critical issue…

  6. "no access to evidence against them, there was no effort to ensure the reliability of that evidence, no power to call evidence in their own defence, no legal representation, no presumption of innocence, and no right of appeal."
    How did we get to this point?

    The answer lies within the power dynamics of activist groups.

    Activism coalesces around issues that elicit strong emotional responses. Therefore, those who are in possession of the shrillest, most intransigent voices inevitably rise to the top and those who prefer reasonable solutions are quickly drowned out - and leave in disgust.

    We see this among global warming activists too. No one who admits the mundane scientific fact that sea level increases by 1/8 inch per year can hope to assume leadership, but if one were to scream “we only have 12 more years”… Well then.

  7. Good observation - I’d carry it a step further. The whole Woke Progressive Agenda consists of turning the whole world into a college campus. The agenda of an elite college campus is our modern day “City of God” - the embodiment of a vision of justice populated by the righteous and overseen by a beneficent priesthood. To be “woke” is to be “saved”.

  8. Any romantic encounter in the dating phase involves uncertainty. No one should be subjected to violence. But they can, will, and should be involved in unexpected situations. Because dating is an uncertain situation, and cannot be reduced to certainty, unless of course, we wish to force young women to be accompanied by chaperones.

  9. When a person wants to misunderstand something, there’s no way to un-misunderstand things. So, continue your misunderstanding. It’s particularly clear that you are deliberately misunderstanding. I am not able to shed light into places that have decided to be confused.

  10. It’s distressing to see men not only allowing this to happen to their sons and the sons of their friends, but collaborating with it as well.

  11. With one difference: Christians understood themselves to be sinners, thus slips could be forgiven. But the woke tolerate no mistakes, thus one sin, and one is damned forever. It is a religion with many sins, but no redemption.

  12. All puritanisms fail eventually don’t they? It is darkest just before dawn. We’d not want to make light of the wreckage caused, but neither should we forget that, as you suggest, this too will pass. Dunno, I can imagine it blowing up overnight. Say it became the new face of cool to become unwoke? Someone is twittermobbed and instead of kowtowing they make a joke of the whole thing. A few folks dare to laugh, … Every young person I know thinks that SJ was yesterday. Is laughter the best medicine?

  13. Here in Oregon our largest employer, Nike, a big purveyor of wokeness, is being sued for $1.1million because coworkers misgendered a transmasculine. (what ever the hell that is) While I am rooting that Nike and good sense eventually prevails, I won’t weep if they suffer a costly judicial battle in the process. I can’t think of a more ironic development than a woke company bearing the financial burden to restore sanity via the courts.

  14. Bettina - you are one of Australia’s national treasures.
    Bravely in pursuit of scientific facts/ truth in the public domain where opinion now overwhelms fact.

    Bravo

    Heike - Thank you for your insight into the populist thinking of the day.

    From your quote it’s interesting to reiterate why Rep.Polis thinking is flawed.

    The legal history of 17th, 18th, 19th centuries of condemning people without a fair trial meant thousands of innocent people were condemned to prisons that were setup for savage punishment. Not much rehabilitation in those days.

    The brave judge at the time stood up against the hypocrisy of his learned brother judges and created the concept of due process, fairness and reasonableness in the immortal words :

    “Better that 1,000 guilty people are set free than 1 innocent person is falsely condemned”.

    The indifference to the suffering caused was legend (Le Miserables, Charles Dickens, Poor Houses)
    Truth, justice and fairness were so out of favour previously that misery and suffering of innocent people by the privileged,morally superior, sanctimonious, rich elites was creating civil unrest.

    No-one really cares of course until they themselves are falsely accused - and then they want a fair system to protect them.

    Centuries later (possibly well intentioned) progressives seem to fail to understand the necessary compromises we have made to ensure reasonable freedoms for all.
    We knew centuries ago that some guilty people should have gone to jail and didn’t - but that was the price paid in ensuring that (on the whole) innocent people were not wrongly condemned.

    “Innocent until proven guilty” was an outcome of many years of a corrupted legal system.
    It was understood at the time that the system was still not fair and that some victims didn’t get justice.

    Condemning 80% of innocently accused people is a foolish proposition.
    As usual with a one dimensional approach to a problem it would become instantly obvious that innocent people needed protection and the shrill cry of the same crowd would want the system changed back to the way it had been.

    The heart of Bettina’s article is the inherent unfairness of the system on innocent people that are not allowed to defend themselves.

    It is probably why it was made clear that Universities have no legal power in criminal matters.
    There are very good reasons why criminal judges are in charge and not a bunch of ideologically driven academics, bureaucrats and business appointees.

    That people are raped is not ignored but it is pointed out that it is not unique on Universities and is a problem throughout the whole community.
    The recent Royal Commission into institutionalised abuse of children showed that a huge number of victims were male as well as female.

    Thank you Heike.

    Thank you Bettina.
    Your ongoing courage in continuing to put fact based truth on issues is much appreciated.
    Even when you must know the haters will respond.

  15. I’m actually glad of those. In themselves they’re daft, but really they’re a good sign. Our society is overall so safe that words are the greatest form of violence most people will ever experience.

    I grew up in rural Australia in the 1970s. Later I joined the army. I’ve been homeless. Things could get rough. I’m glad that most people haven’t had these experiences, and the only aggression they’ve ever seen is a microaggression. This is a great accomplishment for our society.

    I still laugh at them babbling about it, but overall I’m glad.

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