Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted that "every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported." Of course we had to assume that she wasn't referring to the many women who accused her husband Bill of violating them.
At a campaign event in New Hampshire on Thursday, a woman in the audience asked Hillary if believing all "survivors" meant believing Bill's accusers as well, including Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones. Hillary's response: "I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence."
This raises some interesting questions, namely about whether this means Hillary adheres to a "guilty until proven innocent" approach to sexual assault accusations. Hillary, a former lawyer, should know how much that sentiment flies in the face of our judicial system.
The other question, posited by history professor K.C. Johnson (who co-wrote the book on the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax), involves whether Hillary believes that those who are accused of sexual assault deserve due process protections.
I would like to take Hillary's response as a "trust but verify" approach. But given her past statement and the current climate surrounding campus sexual assault, I feel that is not her sentiment.
Currently, many who are accused of sexual assault are instantly vilified, and even if it's proven that they did not commit the crime, their lives can be forever tarnished by the accusation. Further, if someone is accused on a college campus, he is not offered the due process protections to properly defend himself from the accusation. He is not allowed to cross-examine his accuser (sometimes he is completely blocked from seeing his accuser), he is not allowed legal representation, he cannot compel evidence and testimony is not given under oath.
And often, when accused students do present evidence that would cast doubt on an accuser's story, that evidence is twisted as evidence of the trauma the accuser is allegedly suffering.
Hillary has already walked back her claim that all accusers should be believed. But there are many more questions about her views on how sexual assaults are handled that need to be asked, and answered.