The influence of the “trigger warnings” movement is now so pervasive that many law professors can’t even teach a class on a delicate subject without facing an onslaught of requests from students for feelings accommodation.
Harvard Law School Professor Jeannie Suk sheds light on the difficulty of teaching students about rape law when the forecast for campus is always persistent offendedness:
Students seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor. Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.
Suk—who is one of the signatories on this statement of opposition to Harvard’s illiberal sexual assault policy—goes on to note that the very real, terrible consequence of not teaching rape law will be the proliferation of lawyers ill-equipped to deal with such matters. Victims of sexual assault deserve competent legal representation; the legal system needs prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges who have vigorously studied the nuances of rape adjudication. Social progress on all these fronts will be rolled back if law professors stop educating students about rape. That would be a travesty of justice.