EMILY YOFFE: The Bad Science Behind Campus Response to Sexual Assault: Assertions about how trauma physiologically impedes the ability to resist or coherently remember assault have greatly undermined defense against assault allegations. But science offers little support for these claims.
As of 2014, Harvard Law’s Title IX training for its disciplinary board included Campbell’s PowerPoint slides. Janet Halley, a professor at Harvard Law School, wrote of the intended effect of the training on recipients: “It is 100% aimed to convince them to believe complainants, precisely when they seem unreliable and incoherent.”
It’s Malleus Malificarum all over again. Plus:
The spread of an inaccurate science of trauma is an object lesson in how good intentions can overtake critical thinking, to potentially harmful effect. Many rapes go unreported because the process of reporting them and seeking justice can be miserable for the victim. That the desire to lessen this misery has guided many reforms to campus adjudication is understandable and appropriate—to a point. Campbell’s 2012 lecture sought to persuade police investigators to give victims, in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, some space to collect themselves, and to conduct a first interview in a way that’s neutral rather than hostile—laudable, common-sense goals. But common-sense goals, when dressed up by policy makers and victims’ advocates in the inaccurate science now widespread on campus, can be (and have been) easily expanded to serve the idea that virtually every action and behavior that might cast legitimate doubt on an assault should be routinely discounted—and that no matter what precedes or follows an accusation of assault, the accused is always guilty.
The result is not only a system in which some men are wrongly accused and wrongly punished. It is a system vulnerable to substantial backlash. University professors and administrators should understand this. And they, of all people, should identify and call out junk science.
I reject the notion that this proceeds from anyone’s “good intentions.” It is the product of the stereotyping that institutionalized hate breeds.