Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Enough rape denial

  • Print

The Obama administration has made combating sexual assault on college campuses a priority. The move is predicated on a belief, supported by survey data, campus sexual assault is a pervasive problem. Several pundits, including Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post columnist George F. Will, aren't buying it.

Colleges are learning, Will wrote, "that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous ('micro-aggressions,' often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

Related Items

A White House task force noted although one in five female college students says she has been assaulted, only about 13 per cent of rape survivors report attacks to police. Citing data from a single campus -- Ohio State University -- among the nation's more than 7,000 colleges and universities, Will concluded the nearly one-in-five statistic is "preposterous" and even a back-of-the-envelope estimate of 2.9 per cent, based, again, on Ohio State, is "too high."

Will is not alone in questioning the White House data on assaults. But even assuming the estimate is inflated, data based on survey reports of actual young women on actual college campuses seem likely to be more accurate than the guess of a pundit in Washington.Will also objects to the Obama administration's "capacious" definition of sexual violence, taking issue with the inclusion of "non-consensual touching" alongside forcible sexual penetration in a list of offenses. Like trigger warnings and micro-aggressions, an aversion to non-consensual touching apparently reflects a desire by "privileged" millennials to wallow in victimology.

If psychoanalyzing people we don't know is fair game, it's hard to avoid the conclusion Will himself might be a victim. Indeed, he appears to have succumbed to what in many college curriculums is known as the "just-world fallacy," by which one assumes real-world consequences, including tragedy, are solely a product of just deserts. In fairness to Will, we all do it. We prefer to believe we live in a fair world, one where bad things only happen to bad people who deserve them. When tragedy strikes someone, we reassure ourselves by thinking, "That could never happen to me or anyone I care about." The colloquial term for this magical thinking is "blame the victim."

Sexual assault isn't about President Barack Obama or trigger warnings or millennials. The sooner we accept it happens to innocent people, the sooner we can stop accusing victims of causing their own pain, and the sooner we can stop underqualified college administrators from treating sexual assault like some kind of campus hijinx. That's not to say there are no false accusations or muddled, often alcohol-fuelled encounters in which the truth is far from clear. But sexual assaults happen. We first have to acknowledge that before we can start deterring, and prosecuting, campus rapists, with all the due process they deserve, whether or not they are star football players.

That may not seem like progress to some pundits. But I suspect college women are willing to suffer their disapproval.

 

Maria LaMagna is the web producer for Bloomberg View. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2013, where she was the editor-in-chief of the Daily Northwestern.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2014 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Theresa Oswald announces bid for NDP leadership

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press
  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google