Seeking justice and righteousness in campus sexual misconduct policies

Caryn Rivadeneira

Caryn Rivadeneira
October 23, 2014

As we debate campus sexual misconduct policies, Christians should remember we are seekers of both justice and righteousness.

Chris Hunt
October 23, 2014

This is an insightful article into a debate that I have observed for more than 20 years. I first heard about it 22 years ago as a member of student government at my small community college. In an effort to protect women from sexual assault a grassroots movement on campuses initiated a "no means no" approach. But what concerned me out of the gate was that young women were being told by the same people that, in effect, no matter how they dressed or acted they were not responsible in any way for what might happen as a result. I agreed then, as I do now, with the apt way the Caryn put it: "I believe that no matter if a woman walks nude through a brothel, no matter if she 'teases' or seduces or tempts, no matter how she dances or dresses, she never asks for or deserves rape." Amen! A crime is a crime. If I leave my keys in the ignition and someone drives off with my car, that person stole it. Yet, in an effort to promote a "don't blame the victim" standard, young women...too often freshmen in the first weeks of college...got little information about how to avoid becoming a victim. This would and should include the truth about the signals--intended or unintended--that attire and behavior transmit in given situations. And the danger one can be in if intoxicated. I remember one professor writing, "Ladies, you can wear whatever you want..." And that's true. But there was no further exhortation to be wise about behavior, especially involving alcohol. Nothing excuses exploitation by males, but just as I don't leave my keys in the ignition to avoid being victimized by a car thief (although he might be welcome to my present car), a young woman must take care to avoid making herself vulnerable to being targeted as a victim. This whole debate rages on more than 20 years later, largely unchanged, except that perhaps woman are being given a false security with a "yes means yes" policy.

And young men: they should be made wholly aware of the absolute responsibility they possess for their actions at all times and under all circumstances. More than that, starting with parents, and then church leaders, teachers, coaches, and so on, they must learn to value others above themselves.

I have two daughters. My wife and I will teach them to be wise.

I see a bigger issue here that I plan to unpack in a forthcoming TC post. It's essentially this: when society makes provision for sin--in this case casual sexual relationships outside of marriage--it struggles to re-draw the line between what it considers "right" and "wrong." The sexual politics debate that has endured so long supports my contention that society actually cannot re-draw those lines.

October 23, 2014

Thanks for this post, Caryn. It's difficult for people to bring a balanced perspective to issues like this. I often write and speak about how the sin nature in us not only creates crime--no surprise there--but (and this is the part people don't like to believe) it also perverts our ability to carry out justice. The U.S. supposedly enthrones a concept of justice that maintains "innocent until proven guilty." I think most of us living in the world probably know that, in spite of this lofty idea, the fact remains that in our hearts, in the court of public opinion, it's "guilty once accused." As your post so poignantly exposes, once we've rendered judgment in our hearts, we're reluctant--even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary--to renege on our decision, particularly when the crime is something that is especially heinous or the circumstances controversial.

And yet the gospel compels us to recognize that perfect justice would destroy all of us. Which ought to make us want to protect the unjustly accused while simultaneously extending gracious (and exceedingly unnatural) mercy--even, where possible, to the guilty.

Thanks for this post.

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