Evaluates Alleged Sex Assault
by Ariella Cohen
last Wednesdays pretrial hearing at the Oberlin Municipal
Courthouse, junior Djordje Eremic and first-year Bosko Tomasevic
were dismissed of sexual assault charges due to what the court deemed
insufficient evidence. The College, however, will continue its own
investigation of the incidents before allowing the students to re-enroll.
These students could be charged with infractions of our sexual
offense policy other than rape, Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith
Like Ohio Revised Code, Title 29, the Colleges sexual offense
policy divides sexual offenses into several categories, but unlike
the state code, consent forms the backbone of the Colleges
policy. The College Formal Hearing Board defines sexual assault
as coercion for the purpose of sexual relations; sexual contact
to which any party involved does not give full and free consent.
This means that even if force is not proven, respondents can be
found in violation of the College code.
In the Ohio code, sexual assault is defined as a situation when
the other persons ability to resist or consent is substantially
impaired because of mental or physical condition or because of advanced
age [or as a situation] when the offender purposely compels the
other person to submit by force or threat of force.
The consent aspect of the Colleges sexual offense policy has
dominated campus discussion on the topic for years. Both student
activists and the administration acknowledge the conflicts of such
a loosely-defined policy. In annual examinations of the policy,
the student and faculty composed Sexual Offense Review Committee
has noted that the failure to fully define consent weakens the policys
Behrad Mahdi, a sophomore RA who testified at Wednesdays preliminary
hearing, also felt that a revising of the policy would help clarify
issues of sexual assault. There is no definition of consent
in the schools sexual assault policy and because of that,
no generalized understanding of what the policy means. So when an
individual seeks consent in a relationship he doesnt know
what it means, he said.
It is good that the College policy allows for case-by-case
discretion, but it is irresponsible not to include any definition
of consent, senior Jen Katz said.
I feel a lot of people on campus dont have a clear idea
what the policy is or what rape is and that it isnt only holding
a girl down with a knife to her throat. It also means having sex
with a girl too drunk to know she wouldnt do it if she was
sober, senior Charlie McCulloch said.
While more specific wording directs the Ohio Code, its emphasis
on evidenced force makes sexual assault difficult to prove. Critics
of the code argue that it has the potential to let rapes go unaccounted
I think that force-based rape laws are simplistic and stupid.
Obviously, force is not used in every case of sexual assault,
junior and SAST organizer Brianna Cayo-Cotter said. You dont
need to prove that someone forced you to give them your purse, you
just report it missing and it is pursued. It is funny that when
it comes to the theft of peoples bodies (and that is what
sexual assault is) we just dont believe them and make them
prove that they were beaten too, junior and SAST organizer
Brianna Cayo-Cotter said.
Another difference between Oberlins sexual assault adjudication
and a criminal hearing is that unlike Ohio state law, which requires
evidence that proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,
the Oberlin code states that the Formal Panel is responsible for
determining whether a preponderance of evidence supports the allegations
against the respondent. The state code does, however, state that,
a victim need not prove physical resistance to the offender
in prosecution under this section.
The court goes on a whole different standard of evidence,
maybe you could never get beyond a shadow of a doubt in that [rape]
situation. They are looking at crimes, we are looking at violations
of our codes, Sexual Assault Policy Administrator Camille
Hamlin Mitchell said.
Following the trial, Sexual Assault Support Team (SAST) organizers
voiced discontent with the judges ruling in last weeks
preliminary hearing. I think that this woman deserves an apology
from a judge that insinuated that since she was flirting she obviously
deserved to be raped and a lawyer that said she lied to get emergency
contraceptive, Brianna Cayo-Cotter said. It is unclear if
new testimonies will be presented at the College hearing.
If the behavior [spoken of] relates to information in question
than it is information the panel needs but if it is historical information
then we have to think about how it relates to the incident in question.
You have to look at how the information is being presented, how
it connects to incidents in question because that is what the panel
is judging, Hamlin-Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, this week students received the Student Senate referendum
wherein they were asked to give their feelings on the adequacy of
the Sexual Assault/Rape policy. This referendum aims to shed light
on areas in need of policy change.
I do not believe we have any intention of changing the policy
but the education of the policy, junior senator Leila Green