All across the country, sexual assault awareness has increasingly made its way to the forefront of college campus campaigns, social media movements and platforms for student councils and club mission statements. Over the past few years, the issue of sexual assault has become a serious concern for young adults in America. However, in the messy, politicized midst of widely-publicized assault accusations, tedious court trials, devastating consequences and shocking social ramifications, what we occasionally overlook is how these kinds of accusations affect defendants who are ultimately found to be innocent.

In March, Jack Montague, the former basketball captain at Yale University, was expelled from the institution after a panel (Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct) looked into and gathered evidence concerning a sexual misconduct claim against him. Montague had allegedly engaged in a consensual relationship with another student in 2014, but she claimed she had not consented to one of their many sexual encounters.

An informational report on the incident by CNN states: “Both the New Haven and Yale police departments have said there are no complaints or investigations into Montague.” This means Montague was expelled before a proper trial or investigation was conducted by the police.

Sexual misconduct is serious — an attacker is violating another person’s body, dignity and peace of mind. It is not an issue that should be taken lightly, and victims of sexual assault definitely deserve justice.

That said, what we need in these cases is hard evidence, thorough investigations, witness statements and jurors and judges with the genuine desire to deliver a just verdict. Guilty verdicts, if true, can be rewarding for the victims and bring them one step closer to inner peace, as well as potentially preventing their assailant from assaulting others.

If false, however, these accusations can ruin someone’s life. Having the incident recorded on file, even if the accused is proven innocent, can deter grad schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and the like from considering a candidate, even if the rest of their résumé and application are up to snuff. Friends and family members may never be 100 percent certain whether or not the accused is telling the truth, which is a cause for serious social anxiety, self-doubt and internal torment on the part of falsely accused defendants.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that we take more care to cater to the needs of someone being accused or rape or sexual assault. These are serious charges, and correctly identified culprits of sex crimes deserve their just desserts. Nevertheless, I think there is a workable solution to this problem that will satisfy people on both sides of the argument: teach people to stop sexually assaulting each other.

If we mold a society which helps to nurture children with excess aggression, mental illnesses, anger issues, etc. from an early age, we can begin to eradicate the dangerous behaviors that seem to override some people’s respect for the health, well-being and basic sovereignty of others. What we fail to understand is that, while we cannot fully get rid of sexual assault, by catering to the patterns and information that appear generation after generation, we can comprise a curriculum of life moving forward to better suit the needs of mankind.

In the case of Montague, I wish I could clearly articulate my hopes for the situation, but it appears I am at a loss. I hope his statements are true and that he is found innocent. Unfortunately, this would mean the beginning of a long, hard process to clear his name, which can never be fully accomplished.

In a perfect world, the two individuals involved in this incident would have been educated on sexual misconduct and the consequences for both parties at an earlier time in their lives. I wish they had grown up in a world that properly nurtured its children and attended to their mental health. Hopefully, through greater elementary education on sexual misconduct, we will one day live in such a world.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

LEAVE A REPLY!

Please enter your comment!
Reader comments on dailyutahchronicle.com are the opinions of the writer, not the Daily Utah Chronicle or University of Utah Student Media. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned.

Please enter your name here