Vague standards set forth by Title IX, false accusations of sexual assault, and overreaches from the #MeToo movement could “destroy male college athletes,” according to an op-ed in The Hill.
Armstrong Williams, a political commentator and former advisor and spokesman for Dr. Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, begins by discussing an example of false accusations made at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Nikki Yovino, a freshman female student at the time, accused two male football players of sexually assaulting her at an off-campus party.
“Had the investigating officers not been experienced enough to notice the inconsistencies in her story, freshman student and football player Malik St. Hilaire could have been charged and falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for life,” Williams points out.
“St. Hilaire lived for months under a cloud of suspicion and had to put his college degree on hold for more than two years, while the drama played out.”
Yovino was eventually sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to making false accusations. The second football player, who chose to remain anonymous, described experiencing “fear, anger, sadness, embarrassment, depression, anxiety,” and more in a victim’s impact statement at Yovino’s sentencing.
“She accused me of what I believe to be a horrendous, horrific crime out of her own selfish concerns. I lost my scholarship, my dream of continuing to play football, and now I am in debt $30,000 and I’m simply trying to get ahead as best as I can,” the statement continued.
Williams discusses changing societal attitudes towards sexual harassment, particularly among people ages 18-24. “Some see this change in attitudes as a welcome sign of progress for our culture,” he writes. “But there are also losers in this scenario — namely, falsely accused young men. The attitudes about assault are becoming so rigid that the mere leveling of the accusation is enough to severely damage or destroy the lives of the accused, without proving guilt.”
Williams then points to the Obama administration’s expansion of Title IX guidelines that greatly broadened “the scope of a law originally intended to assure gender equality in college sports:”
The new rules forbade almost all types of sexual behavior between students, including “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” This is a vague standard, to say the least, and colleges, to avoid any legal liability, began forbidding flirting, sexual jokes, and even dating involving college athletes. They put in place rules known as “affirmative consent,” which required explicit permission, rather than a lack of explicit refusal, between sexual partners. These rules meant to curb campus sexual assaults have become state law in California and New York.
“But the most pernicious effect of the Obama-era rules has been taking the accusers’ version of events as an article faith,” Williams argues. He points to congressman Jared Polis (D., Co.), who once said, “If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty. We’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.”
“If only transferring to another university were the only inconvenience. Many of these college athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds and need their athletic scholarships to rise out the ranks of poverty,” Williams writes.
“This is truly a tragedy for the concept of ‘proof’,” he concludes. “We now need a law such that if someone falsely accuses someone else of a sex crime, the false accusation itself is a crime and punishable by the same sentence the innocent person would have endured based on the false accusation.”
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