Recently, a former University of Kansas student Albert Wilson was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being charged with rape.
Wilson was also sentenced to a lifetime of probation and a mandatory sex offender title for the events that transpired in September 2016.
It has been reported that Wilson and the woman participated in “other sex acts,” but never had sexual intercourse, and the evidence — or lack thereof —against Wilson has supporters creating a website detailing some questionable aspects of the incident.
This particular case has sparked a considerable amount of controversy online, particularly on Twitter, because Wilson is a black man convicted based off of a young white woman’s word.
This is not a new story, especially in states that formerly followed Jim Crow laws. Systematically, black men would be lynched and black women faced relentless sexual violence, regardless of circumstance.
This systematic oppression, no matter how it is framed by those wishing to hide it, still exists today.
It’s especially prevalent in the criminal justice system, through the disproportionate and often unfair sentencing of black men and women compared to that of white men and women with similar charges.
I was obviously not present in the Lawrence College bar where the assault allegedly took place, and so I do not have any ability to pass judgement on what did or did not happen. It is an unfortunate outcome, no matter who one chooses to believe based on the evidence available.
What I can pass judgment on is that it is relevant to many of the larger problems that the United States experiences as a whole, especially when considering sexual assault laws and regulations on college campuses.
Sexual assault on college campuses has been a pervasive legal issue in society since the sexual revolution of the mid-20th century.
The frequency of sexual assault, which is widely accepted to occur to roughly one in five collegiate women before graduation, is perpetuated by the ambiguous institutions and language that are put in place by both the legal system of the United States and the offices of the university.
Title IX and the Clery Act have failed to clearly define rape or establish effective bureaucracies, both within and outside of the realm of higher education, so much so that the crime of rape itself has been de-legitimized and difficult to prosecute.
The result of this imprecision often leads to those who allegedly committed the sexual being unjustly treated through non-standardized legal practices and the victims not being legitimized as a result.
This can be seen in this particular case – regardless of the verdict.
The alleged rape will make those who believe in Wilson’s innocence delegitimize other, more conclusive rape cases, which causes low reporting and legitimate conviction.
Those who believe he’s guilty will continue to condone the often unfair discrimination present in our justice system.
After all, Brock Turner, a white college-aged man now known by many, was only sentenced to three months in jail after raping an unconscious 22-year-old behind a dumpster.
The difference in sentencing is seemingly incomprehensible, though not uncommon given the implicit biases of this country.
Guiltiness aside, Wilson has been given an unfair sentence compared to other similar cases, and we cannot ignore that.
The lack of efficiency and effectiveness with regards to these policies is just as prevalent as the systematic injustice that exists in the United States.
For example, it is also reasonable to assume that the Clery Act has motivated campus officials to deter complaints of sexual assault because of bad press, civil suits against the university from the accused and difficulty verifying the crime.
The case of Wilson encompasses a rather large breadth of socio-political issues, many of which are difficult to comment on and even more challenging to attempt to fix.
What can be commented on, however, is the broken system in place when it comes to sexual assault, especially on college campuses, and the systematic racism that has terrifyingly become commonplace in our judicial system.