Friday, December 9, 2011

Gray area 'he said/she said' college drunken sex should not be ignored, even though we don't know if it was rape

It took a mostly female jury just one hour to acquit a 21-year-old college man of charges that he raped a 20-year-old female classmate at a fraternity party. He burst into tears and trembled after his ordeal had ended.

From the limited information available to us, the case sounds like a classic "he said/she said" college rape claim that never should have seen the inside of a courtroom. The accuser claimed she was high on alcohol and marijuana, and that she blacked out at a frat party only to awaken with the accused on top of her. She said she tried to push him off but that he held her down by one arm while her other arm "got caught underneath him."

The accused, on the other hand, told an investigator that the woman had attacked him by pushing him down on the couch and telling him he was going to have sex with her. Three witnesses testified under oath that they peeked behind the curtain and saw the accused and the accuser, but they said they saw nothing that pointed to a struggle. One man said he glimpsed a woman on top of the accused. "They seemed to be engaged in sexual contact," he said.  Story here: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2011/dec/09/tdmet01-student-at-ur-is-acquitted-of-rape-ar-1531381/

We do not have all the evidence and don't know what prompted the district attorney to press charges, but from the news story, it sounds as if the district attorney might have just rolled the dice with a young man's life, hoping he or she would "get lucky" and send him away for five years. That, of course, is a gross abuse of prosecutorial discretion. The jury seemed to have little difficulty in disposing of the case, and perhaps that will serve as a warning to the D.A. not to waste judicial resources and put possibly innocent men at risk of unjust incarceration.
 
The sexual grievance industry will wrongly classify this claim as a "rape" because it can't be definitively ruled a false claim. Actually, it should be put into a different category--the vast gray area of claims where we really don't know what happened. The irrefutable truth is that if you took a group of rape claims and objectively analyzed the evidence on both sides for each claim, you'd be able to say that a certain relatively small percentage reasonably appear to be rape; a certain relatively small percentage reasonably appear to be false or mischaracterized claims; but the vast majority are too unclear to call. The sexual grievance industry wants to include all the claims in the vast gray area as "rape" -- it does this by insisting that "only" 5.9 or 8 or 10 percent of all rape claims are false. What they fail to mention is that "only" a similarly small percentage of claims can also be definitively called rape. The rest--we just don't know. Studies that suggest otherwise are dishonest in the extreme.
 
How to Address Claims of Unsatisfactory Sexual Encounters
 
The case cited above had an understandable and, based on the news report, proper outcome. But that should not be the end of it. 
 
A claim that falls in that vast gray area, and that arose via a hook-up, should not be ignored. It should be a concern for everyone -- even though we don't know whether it was technically a rape or a false or mischaracterized rape claim. Almost all of the claims in this area are the product of unsatisfactory sexual encounters that were avoidable. It is long past time that we addressed unsatisfactory sexual encounters without assuming they were either rapes or false rape claims, and without subjecting presumptively innocent young men to the terrible ordeal of a trial that might send them to prison for years.
 
So how do we address unsatisfactory encounters? With a call for sexual maturity, something gravely lacking on our college campuses. Too many children with adult genitalia are hooking up without considering the consequences. We can help instill sexual maturity with education.
 
For starters, college students need to be taught that men and women view casual sex differently, and that women feel remorse more than men following one-night stands. A study shows how common remorse is for women following one-night stands: "Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s [about one-night stand casual sex]. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. . . . . The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been 'used'. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships."
 
In a recent edition of Ohio State University's student newspaper The Lantern, Amy Bonomi, a professor of human sexuality at OSU specializing in domestic violence and assault, said: "Women tend to feel bad after having a "random hook up," she said. Typically men are not upset by these occurrences." Bonomi attributed this situation to society's "gender double standard" that men are expected to be more sexually forward than women.
 
In addition, it is well to note that one of the common motives cited by experts for false rape claims is "remorse after an impulsive sexual fling . . . ." Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, S. Taylor, K.C. Johnson at 375 (2007).
 
Knowledge of the prevalence of remorse might provide some incentive for both young women and men to more carefully consider whether they should engage in sex; at the very least, an understanding that remorse is a natural byproduct of one-night stands for women would help young women understand the source of their post-intercourse anger and, perhaps, keep them from misdirecting that anger at their sex partner.

Beyond that, there is the elephant in the room: alcohol. "Let's put it this way: the hook up does not happen without alcohol," Professor Amy Bonomi said.  In fact, the literature is fairly unanimous on this point. We need to demand more from our college administrators in cracking down on alcohol abuse, and we need to hit the students on the side of the head with the information that alcohol and sex play are especially dangerous for people of college age.

Rape, which used to be just a crime, has been politicized to the point that people spend way too much arguing over the prevalence of rape and false rape claims. Both sides of that issue would benefit by joining hands and focusing on the gray claims--the unsatisfactory sexual encounters--where we just don't know what happened. Focusing on the gray area by instilling sexual maturity in our young people will help protect both our daughters and our sons.