Friday, January 23, 2015

The Invaluable Christina H. Sommers On Exaggerated Campus Rape

The terrible headline notwithstanding (no, "rape culture" isn't a real thing, unless you live in Somalia, etc.), the underlying Daily Beast piece by Christina Hoff Sommers is, as always, entirely worth your time. Deconstructing what appears to be a politically-biased hit job from NPR that galvanized political action — including Russlyn Ali and her infamous "Dear Colleague" letter. Excerpt:
On the evening of April 4, 2004, according to the NPR/CPI [Center for Public Integrity] version of events, [Laura] Dunn, then a freshman and member of the crew team at the University of Wisconsin, consumed so many raspberry vodkas at a crew party that the student-bartenders refused her more drinks. She left with two young men she trusted from her team. They planned to go to another party, but decided to make a quick stop at one of the men’s apartment. According to Dunn, once they arrived, her teammates raped her as she fell in and out of consciousness. For many months, she tried to dismiss the evening as a “just a mistake.” Still, she couldn’t sleep, she lost weight, she dropped out of crew.

Fifteen months later, Dunn attended a philosophy class where the professor was discussing how rape is a weapon of war. The professor suddenly stopped the lecture, turned to the students, and told them she knew many of her students had been raped, and she assured them they could do something about it. A tearful Laura Dunn told NPR’s Joseph Shapiro what happened next. “The moment that lecture let out,” she said, “I walked across to the dean of students’ office and I reported that day.” She also reported the alleged rape to the campus police.

The investigation did not go well for Dunn. Because she reported the assault nearly a year-and-a-half after the event, one of the men had already graduated. The other insisted the encounter had been consensual, and since there were no witnesses or evidence, both the police and the university dropped the case.
Yet, independent investigation into the claims discovered that
When Dunn first spoke to the dean (15 months after the alleged rape), she said that “a portion of the sexual encounter was consensual.” (p.5) A few days later when she spoke to a campus police detective, Dunn said twice that she did not remember being raped by one of the men (the one still on campus). She found out about it only when the men told her what happened the next day (p.6). She also told the detective that in the months after the alleged rape that she went—twice—to one of the men’s residence, where they engaged in consensual “physical contact.”
 None of this, of course, made it into the NPR/CPI account. Sommers also takes up a widely-cited study by David Lisak claiming that 1-in-16 engaged in acts that amounted to the legal definition of rape. Moreover, "[m]ore than half of this group admitted to raping more than once and also confessed to crimes such as choking an intimate partner, deliberately burning a child, or forcing a child to perform oral sex." The resulting moral panic cascaded unto the present day. Backlash was almost immediate, and well-expressed in the "Dear OCR" open letter she cites. It is, simply put, required reading.
Sexual assault is indeed a difficult and ubiquitous problem in our work. Drunk students are vulnerable to becoming victims. Drunk students are emboldened to become assailants. And I have a lot of drunk students. We all do. Despite our best efforts to provide alcohol-free activities, alcohol education and significant sanctions for alcohol-fueled behavioral problems, there is still no activity on our campuses that can compete with drinking for students' interest and affection. I work for a selective institution whose students are academically pretty strong. It's not as bad on my campus as it seems to be on others. But it's bad, and I have the incident reports to prove it.
Let me say this respectfully and with as much clarity as I can: you do not know my work. You do not know what I face every day in responding to a student culture of alcohol-infused hook-ups, where regrettable sex is a daily occurrence. The law has defined sexual misconduct as any activity that takes place with a person who is incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs. That makes sense, until you have to determine what "incapacitation" entails.
Justice, in any meaningful sense of the word, is nowhere to be found in such an environment.

Earlier:  Another Rape "Victim" Recants Her Story, Confesses She Made It Up

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