Culture, Science & Faith

Trivializing Sexual Assault

The Left is treading dangerous ground on a subject with real consequences.

Jun. 17, 2014
The wrong message from culture

Sexual assault is reportedly running rampant on America’s college campuses. But the statistics may be as questionable as the craven behavior of college co-eds. (The same is almost surely true in the military.) Just don’t question the sacred status of victims – the risk is a verbal lynching.

Political analyst George Will recently argued that while it’s a very serious issue it’s also not all it’s cracked up to be. “The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college,” he wrote, but “only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous.” Even one assault is too many, he noted, but it’s critical not to trivialize the problem by broadening the definition And the numbers are critical because of interference from the federal government. Funding always comes with a price.

In April, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto wrote of the background, “Title IX is a provision of the Education Amendments of 1972 that stipulates: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’ Under the Obama administration, the Education Department has interpreted this law as requiring colleges and universities to police sexual misconduct involving students, on or off campus, under the broad rubric of ‘sexual harassment … including sexual violence.’”

Will similarly notes, “Department of Education lawyers disregard pesky arithmetic and elementary due process. Threatening to withdraw federal funding, DOE mandates adoption of a minimal ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard when adjudicating sexual assault charges between males and the female ‘survivors’ – note the language of prejudgment. Combine this with capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape. Then comes costly litigation against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.”

In short, schools are invested in discovering and combating sexual assault, even where none exists by any reasonable understanding. Victims abound because definitions can be tricky when “he said” it was an alcohol-induced hook-up and “she said” it was assault. When both parties are drunk, who’s responsible and who’s a “victim”? The answer seems to be obvious when Title IX money is at stake.

Instead of addressing the real problem, many leftist loudmouths called for The Washington Post to fire George Will. A feminist group called UltraViolet ran a petition approaching 100,000 signatures to that end. Will’s specific crime was saying, “[W]hen they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

UltraViolet claims, “From mocking survivors to misleading the public on demands for college sexual assault reform and blaming women for violence against them – the Post has left the realm of honest debate and entered the realm of hate-speech and dog whistles.” Nothing could be further from the truth. UltraViolet’s effort is to silence speech, not answer it. Fortunately, The Washington Post is standing by Will.

Meanwhile, four Democrat senators – Dianne Feinstein (CA), Bob Casey (PA), Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) – wrote a letter to Will, condemning his “ancient beliefs” and accusing him of “treating this crime [of sexual assault] as a socially acceptable phenomenon.” He did nothing of the sort. Their letter merely shows their lack of reading comprehension.

While the anti-free speech zealots have their say, it’s worth noting another truth: Feminism has simultaneously sought to empower women and made them out to be perpetual victims. In their view, women should be able to wear whatever they want and flaunt their bodies however they see fit. If a man responds, he’s a pervert and she’s a victim. Feminism has both belittled and vilified men.

Of course, this is not to say – and Will didn’t say – that there aren’t men who do evil things to women. Such actions should not only be roundly condemned but duly punished. Sexual assault is a real problem, which is why it’s so important not to trivialize it and blur the lines between victim and willing participant. Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that a culture of “sex without consequences” has yielded some very bad fruit.

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