- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity on Wednesday launched an initiative to combat false reports of sexual assault and the overcriminalization of sexual conduct.

The Wrongful Convictions of Sexual Assault Program aims to protect the due process rights of the accused, which are on shaky footing nationwide.

The program aggregates research on the rate of false accusations of sexual assault, noting that it is the second-most-common crime of which people are wrongfully convicted. The National Registry of Exonerations found that more than 270 people were exonerated last year after being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault.

CPI says efforts to decrease the due process protections of the accused, such as establishing “affirmative” standards of consent which shift the burden of proof onto the accused, will only exacerbate the problem of wrongful convictions. Several states and numerous universities have adopted this standard when adjudicating reports of sexual assault.

E. Everett Bartlett, director of CPI, said a laudable effort to bring rapists to justice has resulted in an overcorrection, which now runs the risk of punishing innocent men.

“Forty years ago, a woman who had been raped encountered numerous obstacles to justice,” Mr. Bartlett said in a statement. “Now, the situation is reversed. A man accused of rape may find it difficult, or even impossible to prove his innocence.”

The program places particular emphasis on the state of due process protections for those who are accused of sexual assault on college campuses or in the military, lamenting the advent of “victim-centered” investigations at both institutions, in which complainants dictate how an investigation is carried out.

A study on the site also notes that the number of people listed on sex-offender registries has increased by roughly 25 percent since 2005, now totaling more than 750,000 nationwide.

That swell has disproportionately affected African-American males, the study notes, and those who are improperly included on such registries often have little legal recourse to get their names removed.

A high school football player who was dared last month to expose himself in the team’s yearbook photo, for instance, now faces a lifetime on the sex-offender registry after he was charged with multiple counts of indecent exposure.

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