Summary: Another round of hysteria in America, this time about the “rape culture” causing a “rape epidemic” on campuses. The flagship of this campaign, the lurid gang rape reported in Rolling Stone, has sunk. But the program rolls on, disconnected from the truth of this or any other aspect of the activists’ case. This is how change comes to America, and why meaningful reform remains difficult while our society slowly decays. As any society will when it’s ability to self-repair breaks down. We can do better.
- How Did We Get Here?
- How Change Comes to America
- What About All Those Rapes?
- For More Information
(1) How did we get here?
The story showing the “rape culture” at the University of Virginia continues to unravel, with stories in the media such as “Key Player in UVA Rape Story: Rolling Stone Never Talked to Me“, Hanna Rosin, Slate, 6 December 2014. However we’re dealing with agitprop, not just news. Activists manufacture these stories to justify social and political change. Their underlying truth is irrelevant to these stories ability to motivate Americans. That’s possible because people have found that we don’t object to lies. That’s a discovery of kind that changes the course of nations.
The initial project, pushed for decades by feminists, was re-definition of “rape” from crime by force to the more ambiguous crime due to lack of consent, then to the in the eye of the beholder crime due to lack of “explicit consent”. This greatly increased the numbers so that rape could be declared a major social problem (although a large fraction of sexual assaults or even rapes under the new definitions are not considered rape or assault by the victim — not just at occurrence, but even years later during the survey).
That required blurring the lines between rape by force (assault or battery) — which often leaves behind forensic evidence that provides a strong base for prosecution — to “he said, she said” accounts that would stump Solomon (this also distorts surveys, as they probably have very different rates of under-reporting). For details of the early stages of this project see “A matter of force: The redefinition of rape“, Timothy W Murphy, Air Force Law Review, 1996. For an example of this advocacy in the press see “The Misguided Definition of Rape as ‘Force’“, Mary Adkins, The Atlantic, 21 May 2014 — “Sometimes, saying no is as brave as a person can be. Isn’t that brave enough?” She conflates woman sleeping with their boyfriends, with sex despite no affirmative consent (but no resistance), with violent stranger rape:
“Another close friend of mine, at age 27, was raped and murdered by an intruder in her sleep. She survived in the hospital for several days before passing away, having been beaten so badly. Her hands were broken from fighting back. Another local woman was also raped by the same intruder, but she didn’t fight back. She lived.”
Once people believe we face an emergency, hastily drafted legislation gets passed and the law enforcement system swings into action to force the desired changes in our behavior. The Left believes in social engineering. It’s one of their defining characteristics, despite their repeated failures from busing children to other schools (instead of fixing all schools) to wrecking our inner cities.
Outrage at the stories of forcible rape serves to build a criminal enforcement mechanism against the broad difficult to define sexual assaults. That’s the background for the U-VA case. An unambiguous case of stranger rape, with violence and blood. Evil-doers just as they do in movies.
“‘Grab its motherf***ing leg,’ she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.”
Resonating with claims that one in five “women reported experiencing … rape at some point in their lives” (from the CDC) and one in five suffer sexual assault at college (from the White House) — this incident justified initiating massive and intrusive policy changes at U – VA. Protecting women is a hot button in western culture, and so often becomes a theme for activists. Sometimes in a good cause, but sometimes not.
(2) How Change Comes to America
This is how change comes to America: propaganda, appeals to our emotions, fabricated or exaggerated claims, and the use of powerful institutions by activists to force adoption of policies they’ve long sought. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, greater government control of the economy (This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate), the Ebola epidemic, relations between the sexes — the causes differ, the activists differ, but the process is the same. It works because we have become sheep, easily herded and with poor memories (so we seldom learn).
So what happens at U-VA as the lurid story painted by a feminist activist at Rolling Stone disintegrates under examination? Apologies to the members of Phi Kappa Psi, with their reputations stained and their social life disrupted (not to mention the legal bills)? Apologies to the other fraternities for their canceled social activities? Apologies and compensation to the men accused by Rolling Stone’s thinly veiled, highly specific accusations? Did Rolling Stone’s senior management promise to do better in the future, appointing a panel to review their procedures?
Only a foreigner would expect such rational responses. This is America so we read “U-Va. remains resolved to address sexual violence as Rolling Stone account unravels“, Washington Post, 6 December:
A chorus of student activists, politicians, faculty and administrators were mobilizing Friday and Saturday to sustain that momentum despite the emergence of doubts about key elements of the shocking narrative of an alleged gang rape of a freshman in 2012. … Herring has named an independent counsel to review sexual violence issues at the university raised by the Rolling Stone article. The lawyers include Walter Dellinger, a former acting U.S. solicitor general.
On Nov. 22, as furor grew over the allegations that seven fraternity men had raped a student and that the university’s response to such attacks was lackluster, U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan announced a suspension of Greek activities until the beginning of January. There was no sign Saturday that her decision will be revisited.
… University spokesman McGregor McCance declined to say whether the suspension would be lifted. “President Sullivan’s message to the university community remains our focus at this time,” he wrote in an e-mail Saturday. “Our foremost concern is the care and support of all students, and especially, any survivor of sexual assault. U-Va. will continue to focus on our practices, policies and procedures, and remains committed to taking action as necessary to bring about meaningful cultural change.”
Edward D. Miller, a member of the university’s governing Board of Visitors, said doubts raised about the Rolling Stone article did not change his view of what needs to be done.
… Ashley Brown, 23, a senior who heads a sexual violence prevention group called One Less, said U-Va. must remain resolved to address the problem. Brown said she and others met with Sullivan on Friday morning to discuss ideas about how to set reforms in motion. One proposal is to use written agreements between the university and social organizations, including fraternities. “Change is on the horizon,” Brown said, “with or without the details of the story that are being contested.”
Activists use agitprop in America because it so often works. They ignore facts because we don’t force them to. The common elements in these public policy campaigns is us — and that they usually fail. For good reason. It’s no way to run a great nation. When we decide to do better only then will reforms become possible in America. Until them our problems will accumulate, and deepen.
(3) What About All Those Rapes?
There were 27 reports of forcible rapes at the U-VA campus last year (per the Clery Act), among ~40 thousand-plus people (21 thousand students, 3 thousand faculty, 9 thousand full-time academic staff, and thousands of non-academic staff). While certainly under-reported, reducing the number of rapes is a commendable goal. But realistically how much lower can the rate go, and how does campus rape compare with our other problems? I can’t find rape rates for our inner cities (and the different demographics make comparisons difficult). But I suspect they’re higher than at U-Va, and the under-counting in places like Watts is probably far higher than at U-VA. Update: the latest peer-reviewed research study shows that “Non-student females are victims of violence at rates 1.7 times greater than are college females” (source here).
Also, prison rape has become an accepted part of our culture (frequently, casually, humorously mentioned on TV). But as with police shootings of unarmed Black men, we don’t worry about rape of inner city minority women and prisoners (of either sex; details here). The horrific plight of women in other nations is likewise invisible (especially when we make it worse, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya).
There is no reliable evidence that the rate of rape has increased; still less that there is a “rape epidemic” or “rape culture”. The long-term data suggests the rate of rape has decreased by ~one-third since its peak in the 1990s (see recent numbers for colleges). Prosecution of rape has certainly been handled poorly in many areas, no surprise given our dysfunctional criminal justice system (why expect rape to be handled better?). Only deep structural reform will fix its problems.
- Wikipedia has a balanced article about the history and numbers
- About those rape rates: “One-in-One-Thousand-Eight-Hundred-Seventy-Seven“, Chad Hermann, Community Voices, 28 February 2011 — The numbers don’t add up.
- “The Campus Rape Myth“, Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Heather Mac Donald, Winter 2008 — “The reality: bogus statistics, feminist victimology, and university-approved sex toys”
- “One in five women in college sexually assaulted: the source of this statistic“, Washington Post, 1 May 2014 — “this oft-cited statistic comes from a Web-based survey of two large universities, making it problematic to suggest that it is representative of the experience of all college women.”
- “Using White House claim of under-reporting, only 1 in 39 women at Univ. of Texas are sexually assaulted, not 1 in 5“, Mark Perry (Prof Economics, U MI-Flint), American Enterprise Institute, 9 May 2014 — Also see the links provided.
- “Here Are 8 Campus Rape Hoaxes Eerily Like The UVA Rape Story“, Daily Caller, 14 December 2014 — Some of these involve innocent men deliberately accused for political gain.
(4) For More Information
Update: the best reporting to date on this issue:
- “The College Rape Overcorrection“, Emily Yoffe, Slate, 7 December 2014 — Deeply and meticulously researched. “Sexual assault on campus is a serious problem. But efforts to protect women from a putative epidemic of violence have led to misguided policies that infringe on the civil rights of men.”
(b) Examples of feminist propaganda at The Atlantic:
- “Beyond Akin: Current U.S. Law Is Failing Sexual Assault Victims“, James Warren, 12 November 2012 — “The failed Missouri candidate isn’t the only one with a twisted conception of rape. Our laws about force and consent need a major revamp.”
- “The Misguided Definition of Rape as ‘Force’“, Mary Adkins, The Atlantic, 21 May 2014
- “All She Said Was No“, James Hamblin, 10 June 2014 — “A dangerous misunderstanding of sexual assault”
(c) Post about the U-Va rape story:
- It’s time to forcibly re-shape America to fight the campus rape epidemic! Even if it’s fake., 3 December 2014
- The University of Virginia “rape culture” story crashes and burns. Will this become a story of failed agitprop? Or a win for the Left?, 5 December 2014
(d) Other posts about rape in America:
- Being a third world nation is a state of mind, as we will learn (about prison rape), 19 March 2011
- The shame of Alaska: vast wealth, but little spent to protect its people, 15 September 2014 — Especially rape of its indigenous people