Monday, July 14, 2014

Liberal pundit is branded a 'rape denier' for daring to question the one-in-five stat

Eleanor Clift, who has never been accused of being a conservative or a "men's rights advocate" (see here), has questioned the one-in-five campus sexual assault statistic in an analysis that is, by any measure, thoughtful. Clift makes clear that she recognizes rape is a serious problem. She writes that "any argument that appears to minimize the problem will get slapped down by those who know better, and rightly so."

Clift's temerity for even questioning the one-in-five stat has been met with the de rigueur demonization that some feminists resort to when a media figure doesn't march lockstep in their orthodoxy. Prof. Caroline Heldman has declared that "Eleanor Cliff [has joined] a small host of backlash rape deniers . . . ."

Heldman's comment is puerile, outlandish, and chilling all at once. Not only is it unjust to Clift, it does no favors for rape survivors to alienate an important ally with childish name-calling. Readers of this blog might remember Prof. Heldman. Last month, she made incendiary comments angrily dismissing the the validity of lawsuits filed by young men who claim their schools denied them due process rights after they were accused of campus sexual assault. There is no indication that Heldman has any special information about the cases, but that didn't stop her from prejudging them en masse and convicting the young men in the court of last resort, the radical feminist blogosphere. Among other things, Heldman clucked: "These lawsuits are an incredible display of entitlement, the same entitlement that drove them to rape."  Here is what we wrote about Heldman at the time:
Heldman's pronouncements sweep over the rights of the presumptively innocent like a high-speed rail, and she doesn't for an instant consider even the possibility that some of their claims might have validity. It is one thing to assert that rape is too common and that too many rapists get away with it. All persons of good will should agree with that. It is quite another to suggest, as Heldman does, that the young men who've filed suit are guilty as a class merely because too many rapists in general get away with it. Most unsettling is her dismissive tone that paints all of the young plaintiffs with the same broad brush, reduces them to vile caricature, and treats their cases as fungible, the facts be damned. I know nothing about Heldman aside from the quotes on the internet sites I've referenced, but it is unfathomable that a professor of politics at an American college could be so terribly unschooled in, or so terribly hostile to, notions of fairness that are foundational to our traditions of justice. Just as all persons of good will should be outraged when anyone is raped, Heldman's morally grotesque rush to judgment should be widely censured.
Heldman's latest comment about Eleanor Clift is the same type of angry, anti-intellectual blather she hurled at the young men who filed suit. It is similar to the hysterical overreaction we see from time to time when someone cautions to keep an open mind about a specific rape claim. That sort of counsel is branded "rape apology" and "victim blaming."

Hurling epithets like "rape denier," "rape apologist," and "victim blamer" where they are not appropriate is the bow wow of extremists whose aim is not only to silence but to crush voices they don't agree with.

But, of course, voices like Clift's are essential so long as shrill activists can't resist the urge to use the one-in-five stat to roll back the due process rights of presumptively innocent college men accused of sexual assault. It is well to note that there are plenty of serious reasons to question the one-in-five stat. See here. Not even the Washington Post is buying it. Imagine the reaction if prominent voices advocated diminishing the due process rights of any other group of our citizens on the basis of a dubious stat. But, for some reason, college men accused of rape are fair game. They have become our culture's favorite piñatas, due process be damned.

There is a critical balance that is at the heart of sexual assault public policy: 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. It is a difficult balance, one that requires serious, reasonable thinkers. With her shrill rhetoric, Heldman has exiled herself from the adult table on this very serious topic. Only people interested in the aforementioned critical balance need apply for a spot, not gender warriors spouting the tired clichés of 1970s gender get-evenism.