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Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf

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To Deal with Campus Rapes, Should They Sing Kumbaya?, Quips Professor John Banzhaf

Some Women’s Rights Advocates Are Promoting "Restorative Justice" as the Latest Panacea for Complaints About Rapes on College Campuses.

Washington, DC, June 05, 2015 --( After complaining about using the criminal justice system to deal with allegations of rape on campus, and then also faulting the way colleges handle such claims, some women's rights advocates are now touting systems of restorative justice, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

The process they are advocating - to deal with what many articles have called the "rape crisis," and what feminist Laura Kipnis termed "sexual paranoia" in the Chronicle of Higher Education. - has been described by the Boston Globe as a kind of "touchy-feely New Age kumbaya."

But that new approach likewise has many critics, says Prof. Banzhaf, who has written extensively on the problem, and has suggested - in the U.S. News, Washington Examiner, National Public Radio, New York Times, and elsewhere - using regional consortia rather than the criminal justice system or campus disciplinary processes to deal with such situations.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, an Arizona outfit known as RESTORE (Responsibility and Equity for Sexual Transgressions Offering a Restorative Experience) seeks to use restorative justice to adjudicate allegations of acquaintance rape.

The same article reports that women who said they were victims of sexual assault and then participated in a restorative justice conference reportedly experienced a "really big turning point," at least according to researchers in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, the prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education recently touted the concept in two different articles: "With Restorative Justice, Students Learn How to Make Amends," and "Alternative Idea for Resolving Sexual-Assault Cases Emphasizes Closure."

Likewise, the Washington Post featured it in a piece entitled "Does 'Restorative Justice' in Campus Sexual Assault Cases Make Sense?"

Basically, the concept - according to these and other articles - involves bringing the accused and the accuser together to talk about what happened, and to seek some kind of resolution which can be agreed to by both parties.

The goal, advocates say, is not punishment nor vindication, but rather healing, at least according to Kaaren M. Williamsen, Title IX coordinator at Swarthmore College.

She says that restorative justice provides the answer to the question "If healing were the goal, what would the process look like?"; it supposedly gives accusers an opportunity to tell their stories, to see the remorse of the accused, and to have some role in shaping a resolution of the conflict, she wrote.

But, as cited in the same articles, using restorative justice to deal with sexual assaults has many critics, from feminists who claim that it traumatizes the accusers, to others who object that the accused are forced to admit guilt.

The many different approaches, and the many different objections to each approach, is strong evidence that those in charge still have no idea what they are doing, says Banzhaf.

We don't know if we have a rape crisis or simply rape paranoia on our hands, whether and to what extent the traditional criminal justice system - which victims not currently in college are still forced to rely upon - is effective, whether punishment or treatment or education or encouraging intervention is most effective, whether "no means no" or "yes means yes," how to handle intoxication by the male as well as by the female, or even what percentage of college women are raped each year, notes Banzhaf.
Contact Information
George Washington University Law School
Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
202 994-7229 // 703 527-8418

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