Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What campus rape crisis?

I saw this gunpowder via tonight and wonder why it hasn't been picked up more widely by the wire services.

Promiscuity and hype have created a phony epidemic at colleges.

By Heather Mac Donald
LA Times - February 24, 2008

No felony, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20% or 25%, even over many years. If the one-in-four statistic is correct, campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. Such a crime wave - in which millions of young women would graduate having suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience - would require nothing less than a state of emergency

Yet it is a central claim of universities across America including Harvard's Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, New York University, Syracuse University, Penn State and the University of Virginia, among many others.

The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in the U.S., was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants - a rate of 2.4%.

Where do the numbers come from? During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results - very few women said that they had been.

So Ms. magazine commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way to measure the prevalence of rape. Koss asked them if they had ever experienced actions that she then classified as rape. One question, for example, asked, "Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?" - a question that is ambiguous on several fronts, including the woman's degree of incapacitation, the causal relation between being given a drink and having sexual intercourse, and the man's intentions. Koss' method produced the 25% rate, which Ms. then published.

Yet subsequent campus rape studies keep turning up the pesky divergence between the victims' and the researchers' point of view. A 2006 survey of sorority women at the University of Virginia, for example, found that only 23% of the subjects whom the survey characterized as rape victims felt that they had been raped - a result that the university's director of sexual and domestic violence services calls "discouraging." Equally damning was a 2000 campus rape study conducted under the aegis of the Department of Justice. Sixty-five percent of those whom the researchers called "completed rape" victims and three-quarters of "attempted rape" victims said that they did not think that their experiences were "serious enough to report." Believing in the campus rape epidemic, it turns out, requires ignoring women's own interpretations of their experiences.

Nevertheless, none of the weaknesses in the research has had the slightest drag on the campus "anti-rape" movement, because the movement is political, not empirical. In a rape culture, which "condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as a norm," sexual assault will wind up underreported, argued Carole Goldberg, the director of Yale's Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources and Education Center, in a March 2007 newsletter.

Referring to rape hotlines, risk management consultant Brett Sokolow laments: "The problem is, on so many of our campuses, very few people ever call. Some months there are 10 and others, one or two [calls]. And mostly we've resigned ourselves to the underutilization of these resources."

Federal law requires colleges to publish reported crimes affecting their students. The numbers of reported sexual assaults - the law does not require their confirmation - usually run under half a dozen a year on private campuses, and maybe two to three times that at large public universities.

So what reality does lie behind the rape hype? I believe that it's the booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands. This culture has been written about widely. College women - as well as men - reportedly drink heavily before and during parties. It frees the drinker from responsibility and "provides an excuse for engaging in behavior that she ordinarily wouldn't." Nights can include a meaningless sexual encounter with a guy whom the girl may not even know. In all these drunken couplings, there may be some deplorable instances of forced and truly non-consensual sex.

Many students hold on to the view that women usually have the power to determine whether a campus social event ends with intercourse. Quoting a female Rutgers student "When we go out to parties and I see girls and the way they dress and the way they act ... and just the way they are, under the influence and um, then they like accuse them of like, 'Oh yeah, my boyfriend did this to me' or whatever, I honestly always think it's their fault."

But suggest to a rape bureaucrat that female students share responsibility for the outcome of an evening and that greater sexual restraint would prevent campus "rape," and you might as well be saying that women should don the burka. Instead, sexual risk-management consultants travel the country to help colleges craft legal rules for student sexual congress. "If one partner puts a condom on the other, does that signify that they are consenting to intercourse?" asks Alan D. Berkowitz, a campus rape consultant. Berkowitz apparently finds it "inherently ambiguous."

And even as the campus rape industry decries alleged male predation, a parallel campus sex bureaucracy sends the message that students should have recreational sex at every opportunity. New York University offers workshops on orgasms and "Sex Toys for Safer Sex" ("an evening with rubber, silicone and vibrating toys") in residence halls and various student clubs. Brown University's Student Services helps students answer the compelling question: "How can I bring sex toys into my relationship?" Princeton University's "Safer Sex Jeopardy" game for freshmen lists six types of vibrators and eight kinds of penile toys.

Why, exactly, are schools offering workshops on orgasms?

Remarkably, many students emerge from this farrago of mixed messages with common sense intact. A third-year student columnist Katelyn Kiley gave the real scoop on frat parties: They're filled with men hoping to have sex. And rather than calling these men "rapists" she offered this practical wisdom:
"It's probably a good idea to keep your clothes on, and at the end of the night, to go home to your own bed. Interestingly enough, that's how you get [the guys] to keep asking you back."

Of course Blowback was instantaneous and vociferous, but this feminist review presented the traditional rebuttal that seems to revolve around 1) expanding the definition of rape into surreal proportions and 2) regardless of circumstances, anything justifies a very emotional response to such allegations.

I am not convinced the statistical evidence feminists use is credible. However perhaps more disturbing is that they do not consider significant the consequences of such cavalier mis-truths on both women and men. Clearly men are sub-human and do not justify concern.

Similarly, feminists completely rejects there could be confusion by men or women about what constitutes valid consent - and basically leaves it up the the women if she wants to revise her belief about the encounter well after the fact. In fact one Campus Womens Resource Center staff claimed she didn't realize she had been "raped until 3 years later after reading countless feminist blogs". Talk about
repressed memory syndrome!

Is it not possible
such mindsets - apparently well established across American campuses - in some way have contributed the false rape allegations against the Duke University Lacrosse Team? Could it have triggered despair and remorse in young men at University who are seeking relationship, but are receiving confused signals about their gender-role?

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