Departmental Honors Project Title
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
Leondra M. Hanson
Incidents of sexual violence continue to be a serious problem for society. Likewise, acts of sexual violence impose severe consequences for survivors. The consequences initially begin at the onset of the survivor’s journey to psychological recovery following the traumatic sexual assault. The consequences take on a unique set of characteristics when the survivor attempts to use the justice system to confront the perpetrator who committed the offense. These characteristics can transform an adversarial process into an isolated battle for the survivor. In the worst cases, the justice system empowers individuals who wish to silence survivors with free speech restrictions instead of empowering survivors of sexual violence.
When confronting an alleged perpetrator of sexual violence, survivors may have to contend with free speech restrictions that can come from school officials, police officers, and perpetrators. These restrictions can force survivors into situations where they have no choice but to cheer for their perpetrator because of their position as a cheerleader. These restrictions may result in the false imprisonment of survivors if police officers believe they have fabricated the elements of their interaction with the alleged perpetrator. These restrictions may result in alleged perpetrators maliciously using defamation laws to restrict the free speech of survivors. At each level, these restrictions can silence survivors of sexual violence and contribute to the lack of sexual assault reporting.
The legal issues found within these restrictions leads to a discussion that attempts to resolve the malicious and unjustifiable resources that individuals may use to restrict survivors of sexual violence. These resources include constitutional law, criminal law, and civil law. First, the use of free speech restrictions in schools must be inextricably linked to a legitimate pedagogical reason. Next, law enforcement agencies holding the responsibility of investigating acts of sexual violence must employ investigative methods that are conducive to an environment that is supportive of survivors. Lastly, alleged perpetrators attempting to bring a defamation action against a survivor must be held accountable if they attempt to coerce a survivor into mediating a claim by disclosing personal information about them. Above all, free speech restrictions must be clearly justified to subvert its tendency to silence survivors of sexual violence.
Fleming, Kevin M., "When Speech Isn't Free: Legal Barriers and Consequences of Reporting Sexual Violence" (2014). Departmental Honors Projects. 21.
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