We’ve been told repeatedly by Barack Obama and others in his truth-challenged administration that one in five college women across the nation will be the victim of sexual assault. One in five. Congress is working on legislation to address the issue. Magazine articles and books are written with the narrative as background. But is the story true?
Earlier this week we told you about all the trouble caused by a phony Rolling Stone rape exposé. Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely interviewed a woman named Jackie, who, as it turns out, falsely accused members of a University of Virginia fraternity of gang-raping her at a party. While the magazine has backtracked on most of the account, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan did not relent on a suspension of all fraternity activities for the remainder of the semester and winter break. Sullivan still considers sexual violence among the “most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today.”
This Rolling Stone hit piece came hot on the heels of HBO celebrity Lena Dunham’s autobiographical claim that she was raped by a “mustachioed campus Republican named Barry” during her days at Oberlin College. Her book publisher later walked back the story when the alleged perpetrator cried foul and lawyered up.
So one has to ask why these stories fall into the “fake but accurate” school of journalism. We think it’s because they fit so neatly into the prevailing progressive narrative of women as sexual victims. As the tale is told, predatory males (for example, of the Duke lacrosse team) go to college to drink, party and prey upon college women. Therefore, to question (read: to seriously investigate) any allegation is to be, in the parlance of feminists, a “rape apologist.”
Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and too often women don’t report it. But the Obama administration’s now-engrained statistic is bogus, and it does damage not only to the fight against real sexual assault on campus but also to the perception we have of college men in general.
This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics – part of Eric Holder’s Justice Department – released anew survey that scrutinized nearly two decades’ worth of crime statistics and revealed that the oft-repeated one-in-five tale grossly overstated the true statistical likelihood of such an occurrence. Instead of 20%, the actual figure came out to be 0.61%. So the narrative that college is unsafe for women simply falls apart under the light of investigation. In fact, the college campus is actually slightly safer than the “outside world” off-campus, where the figure was 0.76%.
These statistics don’t settle the debate, however. Some women never report their assault, and some guilty men get away with it. Yet to point out that the narrative is false is to become a pariah. Just ask political analyst George Will about his experience in questioning the one-in-five stat earlier this year. The ironclad narrative defense has also led to the loss of due process for male students, as federal rules are encouraging colleges to adopt a lower standard – simple “preponderance of the evidence” – to adjudicate on-campus sexual assault allegations.
As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes: “Because campuses provide victims with a lower standard of proof, utilize definitions of consent that effectively flip the burden of proof onto the accused, and prohibit cross examinations, complainants are predictably steered away from the criminal justice system until it is often too late to initiate an effective law enforcement response.”
Again, just because the narrative is incorrect doesn’t mean we should do less for those who are victims. But the evidence clearly shows that males on a college campus, even those in fraternities, should not automatically be looked upon with suspicion as potential rapists. Leftists hurt their own cause when they fail to remember the tale of the girl who cried wolf.
Schools: University of Virginia