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Opinion

Kelly Ayotte's spokeswoman answers questions about campus sexual assault bill

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Ashe Schow,Kelly Ayotte,Higher Education,Due Process,Campus Sexual Assault

A spokeswoman for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., responded to the Washington Examiner 's questions regarding the senator’s recently introduced campus sexual assault bill.

Liz Johnson, Ayotte’s press secretary, did not provide a question-by-question answer, as did spokespeople for Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, but I will still post her comments verbatim, as I did with the others.

In response to my six questions about the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, Johnson sent the following via e-mail:

Those who are accused in a court of law will retain their constitutional rights. No one can be convicted of sexual assault in a court of law now, or as a result of this bill, unless the case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As in any criminal court case, if the accused can't afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for him or her. To begin with, no criminal prosecution can be brought without probable cause and in the case of a felony charge, a grand jury indictment.

With statistics showing one in five women is the victim of campus sexual assault, the status quo is clearly unacceptable. Campus sexual assault is a serious and disturbing crime, and it’s clear that survivors aren’t getting the support they need and deserve. This bipartisan bill will bring accountability to this very serious problem — and it will ensure that only those who are properly trained are investigating these crimes, benefiting both the victim and the accused. Colleges can’t be allowed to hide criminal activity, and with greater transparency, students and parents will have the data they need to make informed decisions.

This legislation includes provisions to help smaller schools afford the cost of carrying out the bill’s accountability standards, including grants to help institutions ensure only those who are properly trained handle sexual assault cases.

A few problems with this response: First, Johnson’s response doesn’t address my question about providing due process for men in campus hearings, since the outcome of those hearings have the potential to ruin lives.

Second, Johnson uses the oft-repeated “one-in-five” statistic, which has been debunked numerous times before (and by me on Wednesday). Johnson also completely ignores the fact that the accused aren’t getting the support they need and deserve.

I sent my follow-up questions back to Johnson on Monday, but still have not heard back.

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