College Evaluates Alleged Sex Assault
by Ariella Cohen

In last Wednesday’s pretrial hearing at the Oberlin Municipal Courthouse, junior Djordje Eremic and first-year Bosko Tomasevic were dismissed of sexual assault charges due to what the court deemed insufficient evidence. The College, however, will continue its own investigation of the incidents before allowing the students to re-enroll.
“These students could be charged with infractions of our sexual offense policy other than rape,” Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith said.
Like Ohio Revised Code, Title 29, the College’s sexual offense policy divides sexual offenses into several categories, but unlike the state code, consent forms the backbone of the College’s policy. The College Formal Hearing Board defines sexual assault as “coercion for the purpose of sexual relations; sexual contact to which any party involved does not give full and free consent.” This means that even if force is not proven, respondents can be found in violation of the College code.
In the Ohio code, sexual assault is defined as a situation when “the other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of mental or physical condition or because of advanced age [or as a situation] when the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat of force.”
The consent aspect of the College’s sexual offense policy has dominated campus discussion on the topic for years. Both student activists and the administration acknowledge the conflicts of such a loosely-defined policy. In annual examinations of the policy, the student and faculty composed Sexual Offense Review Committee has noted that the failure to fully define consent weakens the policy’s effectiveness.
Behrad Mahdi, a sophomore RA who testified at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, also felt that a revising of the policy would help clarify issues of sexual assault. “There is no definition of consent in the school’s sexual assault policy and because of that, no generalized understanding of what the policy means. So when an individual seeks consent in a relationship he doesn’t know what it means,” he said.
“It is good that the College policy allows for case-by-case discretion, but it is irresponsible not to include any definition of consent,” senior Jen Katz said.
“I feel a lot of people on campus don’t have a clear idea what the policy is or what rape is and that it isn’t only holding a girl down with a knife to her throat. It also means having sex with a girl too drunk to know she wouldn’t do it if she was sober,” senior Charlie McCulloch said.
While more specific wording directs the Ohio Code, its emphasis on evidenced force makes sexual assault difficult to prove. Critics of the code argue that it has the potential to let rapes go unaccounted for.
“I think that force-based rape laws are simplistic and stupid. Obviously, force is not used in every case of sexual assault,” junior and SAST organizer Brianna Cayo-Cotter said. “You don’t need to prove that someone forced you to give them your purse, you just report it missing and it is pursued. It is funny that when it comes to the theft of people’s bodies (and that is what sexual assault is) we just don’t believe them and make them prove that they were beaten too,” junior and SAST organizer Brianna Cayo-Cotter said.
Another difference between Oberlin’s sexual assault adjudication and a criminal hearing is that unlike Ohio state law, which requires evidence that proves guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Oberlin code states that the Formal Panel is responsible for determining whether a preponderance of evidence supports the allegations against the respondent. The state code does, however, state that, “a victim need not prove physical resistance to the offender in prosecution under this section.”
“The court goes on a whole different standard of evidence, maybe you could never get beyond a shadow of a doubt in that [rape] situation. They are looking at crimes, we are looking at violations of our codes,” Sexual Assault Policy Administrator Camille Hamlin Mitchell said.
Following the trial, Sexual Assault Support Team (SAST) organizers voiced discontent with the judge’s ruling in last week’s preliminary hearing. “I think that this woman deserves an apology from a judge that insinuated that since she was flirting she obviously deserved to be raped and a lawyer that said she lied to get emergency contraceptive,” Brianna Cayo-Cotter said. It is unclear if new testimonies will be presented at the College hearing.
“If the behavior [spoken of] relates to information in question than it is information the panel needs but if it is historical information then we have to think about how it relates to the incident in question. You have to look at how the information is being presented, how it connects to incidents in question because that is what the panel is judging,” Hamlin-Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, this week students received the Student Senate referendum wherein they were asked to give their feelings on the adequacy of the Sexual Assault/Rape policy. This referendum aims to shed light on areas in need of policy change.
“I do not believe we have any intention of changing the policy but the education of the policy,” junior senator Leila Green said.

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