Wednesday, December 18, 2013

COTWA can't get excited about Occidental College's anonymous rape reporting form

Occidental College has instituted an anonymous rape reporting system. The school encourages members of the Occidental College community who have experienced or have been witness to sexual violence (sexual assault, rape or sexual battery) to use the form.

The form is not being used to punish alleged perpetrators. Here is what the school's website about the form says:
"If a perpetrator is named, a member of the Dean of Students Office will meet with that person to share that the person was named in an anonymous report, review the Sexual Misconduct Policy, and inform the person that if the allegations are true, the behavior needs to cease immediately. Information shared in this form alone will not result in anyone going through the grievance process."
With respect to justice for the accused, the form does not suggest that the school automatically believes the accuser, and it will not result in any negative repercussions for the persons named.

It is well to note that anonymous reporting under the Clery Act is a widespread and accepted practice on college campuses. Ironically, it became news at Occidental College only because it was discovered that the school was not counting anonymous reports in its Clery Act statistics. Anonymous reporting for Clery Act purposes has been going on for some time now, and it is somewhat amusing to us that it is now being treated by some in the men's rights community as a problem unique to Occidental College.

The problem with anonymous reporting is that, for purposes of determining the extent of the sexual assault problem on campus, every anonymous report of a sexual assault is accepted as a sexual assault. We know that when sexual assault is actually reported and tested against competing claims of innocence -- that is, when the evidence surrounding the incident is actually examined -- a significant percentage of claims are deemed to be unfounded (not -- underscore "not" -- necessarily falsehoods) even using a preponderance of the evidence standard. So anonymous reporting inflates the rape problem on campus, and that, in itself, is a problem for a host of reasons.

But it is well to note that even with anonymous reporting, rape is not an epidemic on campus, regardless of what the gender alarmists insist.

Why allow anonymous reporting? The problem is that sexual assault is under-reported, and actual reports (where the accuser isn't anonymous) alone don't tell the whole story. Some women don't report that they've been raped for the same reason some women lie about rape: because they are reluctant to admit having put themselves in situations where sexual activity without emotional intimacy often occurs. For example, many college woman are loathe to publicize, and thus be forced to admit to a parent, boyfriend, or friend, that they were in some random guy's apartment after a party at 2 a.m. -- even if the sexual encounter that occurred between them really wasn't consensual. Women both under-report rape, and they lie to say they were raped when they weren't, to "defend their femininity," because there is a stigma about women engaging in random hook-ups.  This is due to a phenomenon we talk about a lot: the "regret asymmetry."

So anonymous reporting may be a necessary evil to learn what's really happening on campus. Of course, to really learn what's happening on campus, the evidence surrounding every incident anonymously reported would need to be carefully examined instead of just accepting as true every claim of sexual assault. But that would necessarily destroy the anonymity of the report.

These aren't simple questions, but from the perspective of this blog, innocent young men are not being punished on the basis of anonymous reports, and anonymous reporting is not a major concern. We aren't aware of widespread problems where young men are being harassed based on anonymous reports that they are rapists -- if there were reports of such problems, we'd be among the first to jump on them.

Perhaps the real problem that needs to be addressed is that we aren't adequately educating our daughters and our sons about the "regret asymmetry" that divides the sexes.