Students attending Carleton University this fall, women and men, will likely find themselves subject to propaganda aimed at convincing them the campus is rife with sexual predators.
Over the last few months a cadre of academics, outreach workers, student and union association members, and sexual assault survivors has been insisting that the university administration admit the campus is pervaded by a “rape culture.” They want that label included in policies the university is preparing as it tries to conform to the Ontario Liberal government’s diktats on sexual violence.
The province requires that, by the end of the year, Ontario universities and colleges establish policies to comply with Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Workplace Harassment Action Plan. The intent, supposedly, is to end sexual violence and harassment in educational institutions.
The concept, which has it roots in 1970s feminist ideology, was deployed by the government in a report on sexual violence entitled “It’s Never OK” that called for an end to “rape culture on campuses.” Rape culture was defined as one in which “dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing male sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse.”
Nobody can deny the widespread sexual exploitation of women in our society. Think of all the magazine ads, Internet sites and TV shows that display women as objects for male pleasure. Nor is there a lack of examples where the justice system has failed women by effectively tolerating or excusing male sexual violence.
But is it reasonable – and responsible – to claim the “culture” at Carleton University is dominated by ideas, practices, imagery and institutional arrangements that condone sexual assault, trivialize sexual violence or blame the victim?
I have no special purchase on how women on campus perceive their circumstances. Some may well feel themselves under constant threat. But individual feelings, or even individual experience, don’t necessarily reflect collective reality.
Carleton’s safety department received 58 sexual assault reports in the nine years between 2007 and 2015. With three exceptions, they all fit the Criminal Code definition of level one sexual assaults; that is, assaults where the “sexual integrity” of the victim is violated whether through bodily contact or unwanted words or gestures of a sexual nature.
There were only two reports – one in 2010 and one in 2012 – of level two sexual assaults, in which the threat of bodily harm was involved.
The single reported level three sexual assault – aggravated sexual assault – involved a 23-year-old woman who suffered a broken jaw and a dislocated shoulder when she was beaten unconscious and raped in a science lab in 2007.
Of course, many sexual assaults go unreported – as many as two-thirds, by some estimates. In 2015, there were nine “reported” sexual assaults. But if all the unreported incidents had also been counted, that means there may have been as many as 27 sexual assaults on a campus with 30,000 students, more than half of whom are women.
Obviously, even a single sexual assault is one too many. Nor can there be any excuse – alcohol, drugs, cultural attitudes, misinterpreted signals – for sexual violence. But in light of the numbers, reported and estimated, it is an exercise in ideological extremism to suggest Carleton University condones rape culture, tacitly or otherwise.
Nevertheless, the ideologues denounce administrators for being in denial about the “problem with campus rape,” as one pundit recently put it. The charge is intellectually fraudulent and tantamount to moral blackmail. If the administration denies the “rape culture” label, it will be accused of putting the university’s reputation ahead of student safety. If it includes the label in its sexual violence policy, well, what parent would send a child to a school that effectively admits students aren’t safe?
The “rape culture” canard insults not only every man – students, teachers and staff – with its implicit message that they are to be regarded as potential sexual predators, but also every woman who has a father, husband, brother or son on campus.
Robert Sibley, a veteran Ottawa journalist, holds a PhD in political science from Carleton University, where he occasionally lectures on political philosophy.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
'Do we really think our universities are full of sexual attackers?'
Great article--original found here: http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/sibley-do-we-really-think-our-universities-are-full-of-sexual-attackers
Posted by Archivist at Thursday, September 08, 2016