Thursday, May 29, 2014

So, who's the extremist here?

This blog and its predecessor have taken a lot of abuse over the years. I've gotten messages from angry readers saying they hoped I'd be brutally raped. We've been called rape apologists, misogynists, and pretty much every other vile name in the book. They don't like the very topic of this blog, so they try to reduce us to caricature and demonize us by branding us as extremists. This gives them an excuse to avoid responding to the substance of our positions.

We've persevered, if only because we've received notes from young men telling us our blog was important in their decisions not to take their own lives. But the whole "extremist" label is something we need to address.

The overriding theme of this blog is the need for a balanced approach to sexual assault. Every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. I think we've been true to that theme. If that is "extremism," then I am proud of it. I don't think we're extremists, but let's explore that question:


This blog has written more posts about the hostility of American colleges to men accused of rape than any other subject. Feminist bloggers have not treated our posts with respect, to put it charitably. Are our concerns valid? There is overwhelming evidence that they are.

The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) is the leading risk management consulting law firm dedicated to best practices for campus health and safety in higher education. Among other things, it advises colleges on their sexual misconduct policies and practices, and it has more to do with shaping the sexual assault landscape in the academy than any organization outside the Department of Education. Since the year 2000, NCHERM has had in excess of 3,000 college clients. No group has more effectively fought for the rights of sexual assault victims on college campuses, and its feminist credentials are impeccable.

Now, NCHERM's President and CEO Sokolow and NCHERM has written a landmark letter called "An Open Letter to Higher Education About Sexual Violence."  Read it. It says what this blog has been trying to say for years, only better, and in more forceful terms. And, no, I'm not kidding.

First, the letter recounts the sea change that occurred when, in April 2011, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, issued it's "Dear Colleague letter" advising colleges that they must adhere to certain policies designed to protect victims of sexual misconduct. NCHERM applauded that letter. For years, its leader, Brett Sokolow, had campaigned for reforms similar to those announced in the April 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter.

But after the "Dear Colleague" letter was issued, it didn't take long for Mr. Sokolow to see that colleges were reacting to pressure from the Federal government in ways that were unfair to male students. He said that colleges were having a "fear-based reaction" to the Federal government's Title IX policy, and "that a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” Mr. Sokolow said the reaction borders on "hysteria."

Then last month, Mr. Sokolow cautioned colleges that when a man and a woman engage in mutually tipsy sex, the school can't single out the guy for discipline. This was a letter of immense importance that was ignored in the feminist community. It espoused the same position COTWA had recently taken. (It is well to note that this same position had been heavily criticized by feminist pundits just a few weeks earlier when a Wall Street Journal writer had taken it.)

And now, in NCHERM's latest landmark letter, Mr. Sokolow paints a chilling picture about the hostility on American college campuses to the rights of men accused of sexual violence. The letter goes into detail about recent cases NCHERM has investigated that illustrate, beyond any question, what this blog has been saying for years: in the "hook up" culture, the evidence is often too murky to warrant charging and punishing the male accused of sexual misconduct, but that's exactly what too many schools are doing. Among many other things, the letter states that "in a lot of these cases, the campus is holding the male accountable in spite of the evidence – or the lack thereof – because they think they are supposed to, and that doing so is what OCR wants." And that in "case-after-case . . . sincere victims believe something has happened to them that evidence shows absolutely did not . . .." And: "We see complainants who genuinely believe they have been assaulted, despite overwhelming proof that it did not happen."

We appreciate NCHERM's concern for sexual assault victims, and this blog attempts to be sensitive to that critical interest. It is not enough to say that schools must respect the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault. Schools must also respect students who are the victims of sexual assault. While many (including COTWA) believe that colleges have no business adjudicating sexual assault cases because they are uniquely unqualified to do so, that argument has not prevailed. NCHERM's letter is an attempt to strike the balance this blog preaches: to eradicate heinous misconduct by punishing offenders while insuring that the innocent aren't punished with them. It's a tough balance, and it often doesn't make for pithy blog posts that will rally the true believers on either side, but it is the only fair and just approach.

So, tell me again, who's the extremist?


It is no secret that this blog and its predecessor have been staunch critics of the OCR's "Dear Colleague letter" because we feared the very thing that NCHERM says has now occurred. We were heavily criticized for it. A far-left organization went so far as to unfairly put us on a hate list, noting that we "featured stories about allegedly false rape accusations and 'feminist'-crafted 'anti-male' legislation."

In point of fact, the sole legal mandate we criticized with any frequency was -- you guessed it -- the "Dear Colleague" letter, which is not "legislation" but a federal agency's interpretation of existing law. As for our criticisms being "hate" speech, this claim rings hollow given that NCHERM has just exposed the excesses spawned by the "Dear Colleague" letter far more persuasively, and in far scarier language, than we ever could. If our blog is "hate" speech, we shudder to think what that makes NCHERM.

Oh, I almost forgot: to "prove" that our blog is a hate site, that far-left organization cited just one specific post of ours -- read it for yourself and tell me if there is even a shred of "hate" in this post: (Our detractors probably wish I had doctored that post to eliminate some imaginary misogyny. I didn't, because our site does not trade in misogyny. See it from the Internet Archive -- I believe the link was captured about two months after the post was written, and prior to the time the far left organization published its hate list: see here.) The far left organization obviously made assumptions about us that were wholly unwarranted without bothering to read our blog. Neither a representative of that organization, nor the writer of the piece on the hate list, have ever apologized to us for this, nor have they issued a retraction.  By any measure, our inclusion on this list wasn't just a disgrace, it was actionable libel.

So tell me, honestly, who's the extremist here?


A woman who teaches gender course(s) at Harvard, and who was recently denied tenure, injected herself into an on-line debate under an student newspaper article about rape. She was quoted in the article itself as saying that "the rates of false accusation pale — indeed, pale to the point of transparency! — when compared to the rates of rape and other forms of sexual violence that do take place."

I posted comments under the story and, among other things, I asked this professor "if it is proper to trivialize the victimization of one group just because the victimization of another group might be 'more statistically significant'?" I can't see that she ever answered my question, but someone using her name made this comment under the story: "The COTWA website is very similar to some of the white supremacist websites on the internet."

We will allow our readers, and we challenge our detractors, to find even one post that bears any resemblance to a "white supremacist" site. Even one. Our two most prominent posts on this site actually highlight the problems faced by minority young men when they are falsely accused of rape. See here and here. For our post on Brian Banks, we received this comment from a staff attorney with the California Innocence Project that cleared Brian of the charges: "Thank you for the amazing write-up on Brian's story. Your write-up is far more comprehensive than any I've seen on the web."

Again, who's the extremist here?


RAINN, the nation's leading anti-rape organization, has also recently taken a position COTWA has long advocated. RAINN debunked the "rape culture" meme: "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime."  This is what we've been preaching here for years. RAINN decried the "inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape." It cites the work of Dr. David Lisak, just as this blog has done, in explaining that the notion of "rape culture" is inaccurate.

The "rape culture" meme has always struck us as unnecessarily, and purposefully, gender-divisive, not to mention incorrect. RAINN seems to appreciate that insisting rape is spawned by cultural norms where it is accepted that men abuse women isn't just factually unsupportable, it turns off potential allies in an important fight. RAINN deserves our support.

On the "rape culture" meme: a few years ago, I wrote a piece after a University of Vermont fraternity was suspended over a "survey" that asked members who they would like to rape. I called it indefensible and noted: "We have long held the view on this blog that trivializing the word 'rape' is no laughing matter . . . ." We dared to suggest that it is not fair to consider this "rape survey" -- which, apparently, was the work not of a dreaded, misogynistic fraternity, but rather of a lone frat brother -- as some sort of evidence that we live in a "rape culture." I noted: "A 'rape culture,' of course, not only would tolerate but would condone such a puerile survey. Our society does neither."

Well, this particular post got into the crosshairs of a prominent radical feminist named David Futrelle who writes a blog intended to mock "men's rights" sites. Read about it here. David Futrelle had a conniption because I dared to suggest that this act of a single person in promulgating a "rape survey" is scarcely evidence that ours is a "rape culture." (Mr. Futrelle must have been seized with apoplexy when RAINN itself chided the purveyors of the "rape culture" meme.)

Now I was in trouble, because this radical feminist blogger, Futrelle, decided he was going to teach me a lesson. Among other things, he proceeded to criticize me for not advocating against . . . prison rape. It must have escaped David Futrelle's notice that my blog's focus is not on prison rape, but on the wrongly accused. (I don't write about leukemia, either, but that doesn't mean I approve of it.)

David Futrelle proceeded to mock our site in a way that was jarringly childish. At the time, we linked to sites that listed the statutes of limitations for rape charges (I believe one of the sites we linked to was RAINN's).  David Futrelle proceeded to zero in on this, and said we link to the statutes of limitations about rape "in case anyone reading is worried about getting caught [then he crossed off "getting caught"] being falsely accused for something they did [he crossed off "did"] didn’t do a long time ago." Get it? David Futrelle jokingly suggested that our goal is to help rapists beat the rap. Defamation has never been so knee-slappingly funny.

The singularly misguided Mr. Futrelle is, of course, unschooled in the issues we write about. The havoc to the innocent when statutes of limitations for sexual assault are enlarged is not some extremist "men's rights" concern (I frankly wonder, has any "men's rights" site ever written about it?). It's a due process concern shared by a defense attorneys, the ACLU, and many others interested in civil liberties. But, hey, why let the truth get in the way of a radical feminist's attempts to mock the wrongly accused?

Futrelle's mean-spirited fusillade on our site was not just a misfire, it was wholly unjust, and it diminishes whatever credibility he might have outside his circle of like-minded ideologues. The fact that David Futrelle doesn't share our worldview on "rape culture" is no excuse for him to unleash a torrent of vitriol that accuses us of trying to help rapists.

As it turns out, the leading anti-rape organization in the United States does not share Futrelle's view, either. So again I ask, who's the extremist here?


We get offended over the absence of due process protections on campus.

Our detractors are the kind of people who get offended over use of the word "seminal" since it's "blatantly sexist" and "perpetuate[s] inequalities or marginalization." They have conniptions over a sleepwalking man statue and can find oppression in snow penisesThey are happy to accuse people of "rape apology" when they want to keep an open mind in rape cases. Hell, earlier this year, an administrator at a prominent college openly wondered why the school can't expel on the basis of a sex accusation!

Seriously, who's the extremist? And why is it even necessary to have to write this?

Ladies and gentlemen, in the past several months, NCHERM and RAINN have made the principal arguments this blog has been trying to make for years, and they've done it better than we ever could. Both understand that the victims of sexual assault are not served by trampling on the rights of the presumptively innocent.

This blog is read by many in the men's rights community who are largely sympathetic to its message since the victims of wrongful accusations are overwhelmingly (but not entirely) male. We urge the men's rights community to respect the important balance we always speak about. It is not enough to insist on respect for the rights of the accused.

To our friends in the feminist community, we urge you to not assume guilt in a given case based on the fact that sexual assault occurs too often. Too many feminist writers spend too much time rushing to judgment and criticizing those who urge caution as rape apologists. This probably plays well in their circle, but it's not gaining them any friends elsewhere. They would do well to take note that few people, including few women, identify as feminist.

COTWA does not have a monopoly on the truth, but our overriding message -- about the need for vigilance to protect the rights of the accused and the need to appreciate that rights of accusers and victims -- is the right message, the fair and just message.

We are not extremists; the people who try to silence our message are.