Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fear-mongering about rape has some college women disturbed

Carleton University alumna Camille Baello and student Jaclyn Ng said they were crossing the picket line of striking campus security workers earlier this month when one of the strikers yelled out to them: "Hey I wouldn't go onto campus if I were you," one of them said, "there's a large chance you may get sexually assaulted."

Baello said they were disturbed by how casually the comments were made and how nobody came to their defense. They added they've heard from other female students who said they'd experienced something similar while crossing the picket line.

If the women are reporting what occurred accurately, the comments were inappropriate. Fear-mongering about rape should never be used as a political weapon.

But the discomfort of the women is curious given the statistics that are frequently and casually cited that purportedly show one-in-four or one-in-five college women will be sexually assault while in college. If those statistics are accurate, isn't it correct that "there's a large chance you may get sexually assaulted"? And why aren't college women in general disturbed by this threat?

Imagine if colleges were required by law to put wording on the literature they disseminate warning women that one in five of them will be sexually assaulted. It is our guess that college women, and their parents, would feel mightily disturbed by that. We suspect that any such legal requirement would prompt colleges to insist on more rigorous research about the prevalence of sexual violence on campus.

A few years ago, Heather MacDonald famously discussed what would happen if one-in-four college women were actually victims of sexual violence:
If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency—Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course—because the crisis doesn’t exist.
Read the rest here:

As for fear-mongering about rape, when it is used by the right people, it seems to be acceptable. Back in 2011, U.S. Vice President Biden engaged in a little good old fashioned fear-mongering when he said that if the GOP refused to pass President Obama's economic stimulus plan that would pump lots of money into police forces, Flint Michigan's rape rate would rise. When a reporter questioned Biden about the propriety of fear-mongering about rape to pass the economic stimulus plan, the Vice President bristled: "Let's get it straight, guy, don't screw around with me. Listen to me. I said rape was up three times in Flint, they're the numbers. Go look at the numbers. Murder's up, rape is up, burglaries are up. That's exactly what I said."