Why we need to stop the student convicted of sexual assault coming back to Brown

The judge has not made his final decision – there’s still time to change

As you’ve probably heard by now, a Brown student suspended for sexual assault could resume classes this year.

The university found John Doe – as he is known in court documents – responsible for assaulting a female student in a storage room, and suspended him for two years. But Rhode Island District Court Judge William Smith has lifted the suspension, saying the student “will suffer irreparable harm if his suspension remains in place and he is unable to start the fall semester.” He has issued a temporary restraining order for John Doe against Brown, allowing him back with full privileges at least until the final decision is issued, if not indefinitely. The student he assaulted is still on campus.

That’s why I’m asking for your help today, with five minutes of your time.

Judge Smith agreed with the argument that since Brown’s definition of consent now explicitly includes freedom from coercion and manipulation, and that the sexual assault occurred prior to this change, the assailant could not have his contract with the university violated and be responsible for misconduct. Essentially, by arguing that the assailant’s harm outweighs Brown’s harm, the judge is arguing that coercion and manipulation in sexual encounters is not comparatively as damaging as a two-year suspension from the university. The judge agrees that this clarified definition of consent cannot be extrapolated from the prior-defined policy of consent – despite the fact that freedom from coercion and manipulation is the universally understood definition both within the Brown community and beyond.

Please let Judge Smith know that Brown’s community standards on consent are universally known and understood, and that coercion and manipulation is a blatant violation of the policy.

Judge Smith has said Brown has violated its contract with the assailant in issuing a two-year suspension (until the survivor may graduate), in that the assailant “will suffer irreparable harm if his suspension remains in place and he is unable to start the fall semester,” as well as that the assailant’s “interest in resuming classes outweighs Brown’s interest in keeping him off campus while the outcome of the case is finalized.”

This “irreparable harm” to the assailant includes the financial losses that the assailant would incur for investing in his tuition without finishing the final year, as well as the developmental setbacks he would have from having to take two years off from school.

Please, I am begging you to send an email to Judge Smith (there’s a template you can copy and paste at the end of this post). Stress to him that not only does the irreparable harm that has been inflicted upon the survivor (emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially) obviously outweigh any consequence to the assailant, but that they are also outweighed by Brown’s interests. Female Brown students cannot be safe with someone who believes that sexual coercion and manipulation can reasonably be used on young women. Please tell him that this is not only morally unjust to the survivor, but that it is a public safety hazard.

He has not made his final decision – there is still time to make Brown safe.

I implore you to take five minutes to send an email to the judge and the Clerk’s Office. Share this post, and write the email. There is power and solidarity in numbers.

I cannot thank you enough in your help in seeking justice for this mistreated and violated member of our community. I understand judicial independence, but this is a concrete manifestation of rape culture and the patriarchy being perpetuated in our legal system.

Read Judge Smith’s logic here. For context on the case, here’s an article in TIME, and one in the New York Daily News.


Template to copy and paste

Subject: John Doe v. Brown University Decision

Dear Judge Smith,

I implore to review your interpretation of John Doe v. Brown University.

The survivor was sexually assaulted, and has been abused, violated, and tortured every single day from the assault onward not only by John Doe, but by the legal system which renders her helpless and displays a complete disregard for the wellbeing of our citizenry.

I implore you to understand that the “irreparable harm” supposedly inflicted to John Doe is laughably meager in comparison to not only the harm inflicted on the survivor (as I know that is not what you are addressing in a case of due process), but in comparison to the harm it will inflict on Brown University.

Brown University has an uncompromising, compelling interest to ensure the safety of its community members.

I understand the dynamic of sexual assault. I know the legitimate public safety threat that sexual offenders can pose to females on this campus. I know that many women do not report the atrocities that are committed upon them, not because the assailant cannot be caught (which your calculus solidifies), but because the assailant often does not understand that they are inflicting real, irreparable harm on the community. He is a public safety threat, and I need to stress to you that Brown’s interest in suspending him far outweighs the incredibly narrowly tailored, minuscule, and little-encompassing interests that he holds.

I hope you will carefully weigh this into your conclusion of law. I want you to know that the sullen, tear-drained eyes of the sexual assault survivor — a strong, brave woman struggling with a weight and a harm infinitely more complicated and heavy than you can comprehend — her family, myself, the Brown community, and the country will be watching you.

Thank you.

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