Feminist professors and activists are having a conniption because 45 percent of all colleges with over 1,000 students -- a staggering number of colleges -- reported zero rape claims for an entire year.
According to some feminists, this report is not something to be applauded, and it does not tend to prove that these schools, or even some of these schools, might just be doing an effective job in battling sexual assault.
Just the opposite: the schools with the higher numbers of reported rapes are the safer schools, the ones dealing with rape more effectively, they tell us, because those are the schools where rape victims come forward. In contrast, at the schools with low numbers, "the administration is discouraging them from reporting or collecting misleading data, or . . . sexual assault survivors are afraid to speak out." As one feminist professor put it: "If you have really low reporting, then you know there's a problem at that institution." The best schools of all? The ones under Title IX investigation, of course. The feminists have even created a "Schools of Shame Map" that shows how many sexual assaults they claim really occur on American college campuses, versus reported numbers.
Can they be serious? No school, out of thousands of institutions of higher learning, is doing an effective job at keeping sexual assault to a minimum? If a school has no reported rapes, that means the school is doing a poor job? The mind reels at the sheer audacity of the argument.
But this inanity does no favors for rape victims. By sweeping schools that seem to be effectively dealing with sexual assault into the same pile as schools where it is a serious problem, these feminists give the poor performers a free pass while demonizing schools that, it seems, ought to be imitated. Worse, they insist our daughters are safest at schools where rape is most prevalent, and at greatest risk on the safest campuses. This is topsy turvy worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan.
I always thought the goal was to eradicate rape, not to see which school can report the most rapes. Shows you what I know.
Feminists who insist American college campuses are little more than rape pits premise this conclusion on the survey touted by the White House that showed one-in-five college women are sexually assaulted. This Web-based, self-selecting survey of anonymous women purported to gauge the experiences of senior women at just two unnamed universities. Regardless of the validity of the survey, it can't be generalized to all American campuses as these feminists suggest. The Washington-Post explained: "As the researchers acknowledged, these results clearly can be generalized to those two large four-year universities, but not necessarily elsewhere." Yet, "information that is localized to the seniors at two colleges has now been extrapolated by politicians to the universe of college experience."
The Washington Post, which is scarcely an anti-feminist publication, says there is not enough information to accept the claim that one-in-five college women are sexually assaulted.
In fact, there are sound reasons for rejecting any reliance on this survey. For one, the definition of sexual assault was engorged to include attempted sexual assault and even “sexual touching,” including rubbing up against someone in a "sexual" way over clothing.
More problematic, every sexual assault allegation reported in the survey was uncritically accepted as an actual sexual assault and none were tested against competing claims or evidence of innocence. It is indisputable that an uncritical acceptance of every allegation as sexual assault is improper and erroneous. When rape claims are reported to police or campus authorities, and the evidence about the incident is actually examined, the majority of claims simply cannot be classified as sexual assaults or non-sexual assaults, founded or unfounded, true or false. The research of Dr. David Lisak, well respected in the feminist community, supports this conclusion. Since most sexual assault claims that are actually subjected to scrutiny can't be definitively classified as rape, it is wholly irrational to assume that every unscrutinized assertion of sexual assault posited in an anonymous, self-selecting survey should be regarded as an actual sexual assault. An accusation does not mean that a rape occurred, either when the accusation is made to police or on a computer from a dorm.
And let's be clear, we're not suggesting that women are lying on surveys. Even the National Institute of Justice said that when it comes to these murky hook-ups, "Men and women may have different perceptions of the same incident." That has nothing to do with lying. Brett Sokolow recently detailed cases NCHERM has investigated that illustrate women are reporting, and schools are punishing men for, sexual assault claims that are not actually sexual assault. Mr. Sokolow said 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." The problem isn't that women lie, it's that the facts don't add up to sexual assault. Every single sincere claim Sokolow referenced would be counted as a sexual assault on the one-in-five survey, even though it wasn't.
Besides, in a self-selecting survey about sexual assault with a relatively low rate of participation, a far greater percentage of victims likely would choose to participate than the general population, skewing the results. Where is it easier to say you were raped regardless of how clear the facts were -- on an anonymous survey, or to police? The answer is self-evident. Reporting to police can be traumatic; reporting on an anonymous web survey in exchange for an Amazon gift card, far less so.
Moreover, there is reason to suspect that some women do shade the truth on surveys. A recent scientific study shows that some women lie on surveys when they think they can get away with it to minimize their consensual sexual encounters, likely because of societal double-standards that find it acceptable for men, but not women, to engage in sexual activity. These lies are designed to bring women in sync with their expected gender role. This is scarcely anything revolutionary: Amanda Marcotte once wrote that "the idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." Marcotte noted that "women who aren't ashamed of having sexual adventures . . . don't use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It's the women who are afraid they'll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories." Likewise, Amanda Hess has explained that given women's adherence to their expected gender role when it comes to sex, it is "inevitable," among other things, that a woman who "had desired the sex all along . . . must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex." This recent survey reveals that women bend the truth on surveys when they can get away with it to "defend their femininity."
The "Schools of Shame Map," but the latest attempt to demonize schools with low reporting rates, is nothing more than feminist activism gussied up with PhDs.
Rape is a real problem, so is underreporting, but that's not the point. The point is that these activists can't resist the urge to use a stat that even the Washington Post isn't sure about to roll back the due process rights of presumptively innocent college men accused of sexual assault. That, my friends, is a pretty damn serious thing, and that's why I write about this. If our friends in the feminist community insist on diminishing the rights of college men (virtually all college sex charges are brought against men) by using statistics, they had damn well better back up their claims with evidence more substantial than a self-righteous ipse dixit. This doesn't pass the smirk test.
If they would refrain from using these stats to demonize and take away the rights of the presumptively innocent, they could make up numbers all day long for all I care.
The bottom line is this: if they have evidence that schools with no reported rapes are lying, or have erected barriers that prevent women from reporting, they need to present it for scrutiny. It not, their attempt to "prove" that rape is an epidemic by pointing to schools where there are no rapes should be rejected out of hand, and these activists should be banished from the adult table on this very serious discussion.