Campus ‘Rape-Culture’ Crusade: Fueled by Emotion and Myth
Wellesley College in Massachusetts has become embroiled in controversy over a statue – an artistic rendition of a sleep-walking man clad in his underwear (shown on the right). Hundreds of frightened students have signed a petition demanding removal of the sculpture because they say it conjures up fears of sexual assault.
Needless to say, the Wellesley protest has attracted ridicule and satire:
- Charlotte Hays: “The women of Wellesley are getting the vapors over a nearly nude sculpture of a man.”
- Lenore Skenazy: “Grab the smelling salts, ladies. This is not a prowler, it’s a piece of art.”
- Christina Hoff Sommers: The controversy over this statue shows how feminism is “inducing fragility, fear, and the very opposite of power…weakness and hysteria.”
The Wellesley incident is one of many across the nation where accusations of “rape culture” are having the effect of polarizing the debate and stripping due process protections from the accused. One Dartmouth administrator went so far as to ask, “Why could we not expel a student based [solely] on an allegation?”
That’s because many of these “rape” victims were subjected to “attempted,” not “completed” rapes. Of greater concern, nearly half of the “rape” victims were involved in what the report terms “alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.” By that definition, persons who engage in sex after a lively New Year’s Eve celebration or consummate their wedding vows after a round of champagne toasts are rapists and rape victims.
And the report does not account for the problem of false allegations of sexual assault. Nor does the White House paper express concern for men who are forced to have sexual intercourse, even though a recent government survey (NISVS, Tables 2.1 and 2.2) found equal numbers of men and women who are victims of sexual violence each year.
The number of rapes has fallen dramatically since 1979, according to the Department of Justice – see graph on right. Still, sexual assault remains a problem on our campuses.
But inflating the numbers, inducing a state of near-panic, and ignoring the problem of false allegations only serves to waste scarce criminal justice resources and harm the credibility of real victims of sexual assault.
COLUMNISTS CRITICIZE THE ‘ONE-IN-FOUR’ RAPE STATISTIC
Several columnists have refuted the claim that “One in four college women has been a victim of sexual assault:”
- “If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years.” (Heather MacDonald: The Campus Rape Myth)
- “Three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped.” (Cathy Young: The White House Overreaches on Campus Rape)
- “Even if we grant the 90%-are-unreported figure, women’s chances of being sexually assaulted while attending those universities in 2009 were not 1-in-4″ but 1-in-370 at the University of Pittsburgh; 1-in-65 at Carenegie Mellon, and 1-in-190 at Duquesne University. (Chad Hermann: One-in-One-Thousand-Eight-Hundred-Seventy-Seven)