Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is Senator Bob Casey scaring women about rape for political gain?

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, like his father, the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, is that rare Democratic politician on the national stage who identifies as pro-life.

Beyond that, Bob Casey was one of just three Democrats in the Senate who supported Sen. Roy Blunt’s recent failed attempt to give employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraception on the basis of conscience. 

The senator seems cognizant of his tenuous-at-best relationship with an important block of female voters, and sometimes, he seems to pander to women in prominent ways. Last year, he procured hundreds of thousands of dollars for little Gannon University to reduce violence against women on the university's campus even though the director of Gannon University's office of campus police and safety said there is no evidence that the university has a problem with sexual violence.  We did not hear any taxpayers complain.

Casey also introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act), which, among other things, would do legislatively what the Department of Education has already improperly done by executive branch fiat: mandate that colleges use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof for sexual assault cases. In other words, if your son is accused of sexual assault at college, Senator Casey thinks its fine to expel him even if the hearing tribunal believes there is a 49.9999% chance he didn't do it.

Casey is at it again. He recently took to the editorial pages of the Delaware County Pennsylvania Daily Times to warn women that one-in-five of them will be raped.  His source was a survey released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

That survey is problematic because, among other things, it counts “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration” as a sexual violation even though such penetration often is legally, and factually, consensual.  In addition: "Participants [of the survey] were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by 'telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?' All affirmative answers were counted as 'sexual violence.' Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by 'repeatedly asking' or 'showing they were unhappy' was similarly classified as a victim of violence. The CDC effectively set a stage where each step of physical intimacy required a notarized testament of sober consent." http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cdc-study-on-sexual-violence-in-the-us-overstates-the-problem/2012/01/25/gIQAHRKPWQ_story.html

The fatal legal infirmities of punishing for "sexual coercion" are many. See here. The fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies sexual coercion as sexual violence is disturbing; the fact that a United States Senator uses that terribly flawed survey to fear-monger and to play group identity politics should be unacceptable.

The newspaper where Casey wrote the op-ed thinks so, too. It has written an editorial called "Rape has no place in political arena" that astutely points out that a terrible byproduct of rape hysteria is wrongful convictions. Among other things, the editorial criticizes the Obama administration's fiat requiring colleges to lower the standard of proof  for sexual misconduct. "This should be troubling to any parent who sends a son to college," the editorial notes, "for the vast majority of those accused are young men. More than a few have had their lives forever changed by an accusation later recanted or shown to have been false." The editorial also bemoans the "prevailing campus orthodoxy . . . that when accused of any sort of sexual misconduct men are basically guilty until proved innocent."

The editorial concludes with this:
By unquestioningly citing statistics, such as the ones developed by the survey, Casey is allowing himself to be used by partisan ideologues who are more interested in seeing women as potential victims, especially of sexual assault, than the empowered and self-determining people that they are.

They do, after all, today make up almost 60 percent of the college-going population. No matter how much equality in the classroom or workplace that any identity group achieves, there will always be those who will pander to individuals of that group and their sense of vulnerability and/or grievance.

Generally speaking, such pandering efforts should be revealed for what they are and resisted, corrected and even, mocked. Derision is sometimes the best disinfectant against such divisive tactics.

Rape is too serious and awful a crime to be used in such an obvious political manner. Bob Casey is a decent man and he should know better.