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Not Alone.
June 10, 2014 8:28 AM   Subscribe

"Not Alone" is the title of the first report of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. This report comes after a number of incidents of sexual assault were under-investigated or ignored at numerous college campus' in the US.

“Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault doesn’t occur on their campuses,” Vice President Biden said as a 20-page report was released Tuesday. “We need to provide survivors with more support and we need to bring perpetrators to more justice and we need colleges and universities to step up.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

●Colleges should learn about what’s happening on campus through systematic surveys.

●Colleges should promote “bystander intervention,” in others words, getting witnesses to step in when misconduct arises. “It’s up to all of us to put an end to sexual assault,” Obama said in a public service announcement. “And that starts with you.”

●Colleges should identify trained victim advocates who can provide emergency and ongoing support. The administration also released a sample reporting and confidentiality protocol, as well as a “checklist” for an effective sexual misconduct policy.

Presidents of both Columbia and Dartmouth have spoken about this issue.

So have the victims.

"a group of activists is taking matters further, pressuring the Princeton Review, the nation’s most influential test prep and college admissions guide, to include the number of reported sexual assaults on campus in its annual ranking of colleges and universities.

'Our members are making phone calls to Princeton Review to demand action,' said Nita Chaudhary, the co-founder of UltraViolet, the group who began the original petition. 'We’ve logged over 700 phone calls, are very active on social media and are planning online advertising to target Princeton Review and from there we’ll see.'

With alarming new research showing that one in five college women will be victims of sexual assault or attempted assault, the White House has released the names of 55 colleges and universities under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints. "

Much attention was also directed at Swarthmore College after 91 complaints of sexual misconduct in a single year that was reported in a longform article in Philadelphia Magazine.

Pressure from President Obama on colleges to address this issue started in January: "Acting a month after he gave the Pentagon a year to show it had cut down on the number of sexual assaults in the military, Mr. Obama summoned cabinet officials and senior advisers to a meeting to review progress more broadly against rape and other sexual attacks throughout society. But the focus was on problems at college campuses."

Like all presidential actions, not everyone supports Obama's measures to curb sexual assault on college campus'. These moves by Obama have attracted commentary and editorials, most notably by conservative commentator, George Will, who claimed that "colleges become the victims of progressivism" and that " victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges". Reaction has been pointed.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (128 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been seeing the ads for this awareness campaign in the movie theaters the last few times I went. It's a welcome change.

As for George Effing Will, who has made a career of being wrong, Charlie Pierce summed him up with the title of his response - The Bowtied Monster.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:36 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


The fundies and other fainting-couch numbskulls on both sides are still freaking out about "hookup culture" as it relates to rape? Are they also talking about the dangers of the "knockout game" too?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:46 AM on June 10


The knockout game is regularly brought up in the comments section of my local newspaper.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


So can Obama do an executive order that would block all or some FAFSA to schools that fail in their Clery Act Reporting?

Impact the bottom line of schools and I think you'd see a massive change in how sexual assault is treated on college campuses.
posted by vuron at 8:49 AM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Hurrah White House! And George Will has reached a new low.

It is past time that the safe haven for rape on campus is closed down. The pattern of getting young women drunk and sexually assaulting them is a trope at this point, as is the completely limp response of college administrators to the reports of the few who make a report.
posted by bearwife at 8:53 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The fundies and other fainting-couch numbskulls on both sides are still freaking out about "hookup culture" as it relates to rape?

In another rape culture-related Twitter controversy recently, I was dumbfounded to see several ostensibly serious leftist organizer types bemoaning the influence of "gangsta rap." In general, it's amazing how much even supposedly serious culture critique relies on total nonsense promulgated by the worst local nightly newscasts and chain emails. Anyhow, "hookup culture" is definitely still an important shibboleth for right-wing sex talk, just like they still really like to complain about "permissiveness."
posted by RogerB at 8:56 AM on June 10


Will's column was astoundingly naive - even for an Inside the Beltway Very Serious Person.

If you needed any proof at all that America is not a meritocracy, George Will's continued presence in newspapers is evidence enough of it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:02 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Many universities have their own police force. For hundreds of years there has been a tradition that universities are their own space with its own laws and law enforcement. Either they have different laws or they choose not to enforce the laws they have. It's like a city deciding not to enforce robbery laws or not even have robbery laws. Why do we allow this? Universities are not a separate sovereignty.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:05 AM on June 10 [12 favorites]


a group of activists is taking matters further, pressuring the Princeton Review, the nation’s most influential test prep and college admissions guide, to include the number of reported sexual assaults on campus in its annual ranking of colleges and universities

On the one hand I think this is a super great idea and, on the other hand, when faced with this kind of pressure, many institutions double down on coverups instead of addressing the actual problem.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:06 AM on June 10 [12 favorites]


Colleges become the victims of progressivism

The alternative being "Women still the victims of casual rapists" I'd think progressivism would be a good thing rather than allusions to nightmares of "GRAR THE ZOMBIE CORPSE OF FDR IS IN OUR COLLEGES MAKING THEM LESS WELCOMING TO VIRILE WHITE MALES".
posted by Talez at 9:07 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]


Have just emailed a letter to the editor of the Washington Post stating the following:
George Will's June 6 column, in which he scoffs at the veracity of cases of rape on college campuses, is one of the most disgustingly blinkered pieces of twaddle I've read in my entire life - and that's saying something, considering I've read portions of Elliot Rodger's manifesto.

Mr. Will may have earned a Pulitzer in the past, but this most recent column is clearly a sign that he is no longer in touch with this country's honest concerns and should most likely be encouraged to retire. The man clearly needs a rest; please give him one.
The email address for the WaPo is on its web site, FYI.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on June 10 [24 favorites]


On the one hand I think this is a super great idea and, on the other hand, when faced with this kind of pressure, many institutions double down on coverups instead of addressing the actual problem.

Society is shifting. It's hard to double down on coverups when the stigma of rape victims is slowly being broken and more people are willing to stand up and not be silent when the institutions begin to whitewash their records.
posted by Talez at 9:18 AM on June 10


I'm almost certain that the "George Will should be..." approach is not the high road to be taken, but damn if it isn't tempting.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:18 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


The colleges are really really scared to have their real numbers reported, especially in the Princeton Review, and understandably so. Young women looking at colleges are definitely going to be more repulsed by a high number of rapes than attracted by a pretty campus.

The obvious thing for colleges to do is to immediately institute strong enforcement/eduction/empowerment measures and get those numbers down, pronto (not just underreport them) but can we trust them to do that?

I'm just hoping the long-term result is that "letting rapists stay on your campus is going to cost you money, assholes" and that will push the change along.
posted by emjaybee at 9:22 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I'm almost certain that the "George Will should be..." approach is not the high road to be taken, but damn if it isn't tempting.

I suspect that mine is probably one of the politer such emails on this same topic which they're receiving.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Didn't see these linked in the FPP, so just for reference: The official 'Not Alone' site is here, official report is here [PDF].

It's pretty powerful to see something like this on a website with a .gov TLD -- basically a one-stop shop for advocates, victims, educators, and allies.

I think this is an especially important finding from the report:
Among the most promising prevention strategies – and one we heard a lot about in our listening sessions – is bystander intervention. Social norms research reveals that men often misperceive what other men think about this issue: they overestimate their peers' acceptance of sexual assault and underestimate other men's willingness to intervene when a woman is in trouble. And when men think their peers don't object to abusive behavior, they are much less likely to step in and help. Programs like Bringing in the Bystander work to change those perspectives – and teach men (and women) to speak out against rape myths (e.g., women who drink at parties are "asking for it") and to intervene if someone is at risk of being assaulted.
So often, I hear people -- the overwhelming majority of whom are already playing on life's lowest difficulty setting -- talking about how they refuse to intervene in sketchy situations because they don't want to risk being accosted themselves, but there's just no other way around it. We can't all just sit on our hands and watch this shit happen in front of our eyes because we feel safer that way. The more often we step up, the more widely it becomes known that awful behavior will not be tolerated, the more widely it becomes understood that sexual assault and abuse are unequivocally unacceptable.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Be vigilant, and if you see something off-color happening, acknowledge it! Yell from across the street! Ask if everything is all right! Call the police, or even just pretend -- make a fuss! Inaction means we are inculcating in our fellow humans a tacit acceptance of the nightmarish status quo. The repercussions of silence and ignorance are the ongoing normalization of assault and abuse and a guarantee that that things will always stay the same. The only way that a truly terrifying percentage of people will ever know that certain behaviors are not OK is if we take it upon ourselves to show and tell them as much.

And George Will can go straight to hell, obvs.
posted by divined by radio at 9:29 AM on June 10 [27 favorites]


The colleges are really really scared to have their real numbers reported, especially in the Princeton Review, and understandably so.

The colleges are really really scared to know their real numbers. They're happier not opening that door.
posted by Etrigan at 9:31 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


"GRAR THE ZOMBIE CORPSE OF FDR IS IN OUR COLLEGES MAKING THEM LESS WELCOMING TO VIRILE WHITE MALES"

Dude man bro, not to harsh your mellow, but there's this old, green-skinned dude with a long-ass cigarette holder that's heading straight for us to eat our brains 'n' shit.
posted by jonp72 at 9:38 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


The email address for the WaPo is on its web site, FYI.

Thanks for this, I sent one too.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:39 AM on June 10


I read the piece about Swarthmore, and looked around at Philadelphia Magazine to see if there was any more. I found this, which referenced it: Rape, Rape-Rape and Sexual Assault at Colleges - "The battle over what constitutes sexual assault on college campuses is reaching new levels of absurdity."

One part really stuck out to me.
After one of my colleagues read the page proofs for the piece, he came into my office. “Did you find that first incident to be a little … ambiguous?” he asked tentatively. I told him I didn’t find it ambiguous at all; it didn’t meet my definition of rape. Another colleague overheard our conversation and joined us. She, too, said what happened to the woman didn’t sound like rape—“Or if it is,” she added, “I’ve been raped in every relationship I’ve ever been in.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I suspect that mine is probably one of the politer such emails on this same topic which they're receiving,

I'm sure, Empress, but the sentence I was thinking of didn't end with "fired" or "forced to retire".
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:44 AM on June 10


I think a lot of this rape-rape talk is a bunch of middle aged dudes trying really hard not to think about what they did in college.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:46 AM on June 10 [45 favorites]


I'm still reading the report, but this is awesome:
That means, at a minimum, that schools should make it clear, up front, who on campus will (or will not) share what information with whom. And a school’s policy should also explain when it may need to override a request for confidentiality (and pursue an alleged perpetrator) in order to provide a safe campus for everyone. The watchword here is clarity: both confidential resources and formal reporting options should be well and widely publicized -- so a victim can make an informed decision about where best to turn.

And in all cases, the school must respond. When a student wants the school to take action against an offender -- or to change dorms or working arrangements – the school must take the allegation seriously, and not dissuade a report or otherwise keep the survivor’s story under wraps. Where a survivor does not seek a full investigation, but just wants help to move on, the school needs to respond there, too. And because a school has a continuing obligation to address sexual violence campus-wide, it should always think about broader remedial action – like increasing education and prevention efforts (including to targeted groups), boosting security and surveillance at places where students have been sexually assaulted, and/or revisiting its policies and practices.
Make sure survivors have the option of whether or not to report, and get off your fuckin' asses and work to fix the problem regardless of whether they report, because that's your job. I love it. It keeps the responsibility for combating assault on the organization rather than the survivor with some sort of bullshit "If you don't report, future crimes will be your fault!" blame-shifting.
posted by jaguar at 9:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The article from George Will was absolutely disgusting. Shocked and appalled. What rock has this cretin been living under that he thinks making such an argument is warranted?

Campaigning to the Princeton Review is great. Higher Ed has become nothing but big business and the only thing that might correct their lax response in dealing with sexual assault is a probable loss in revenue. Lord knows media attention, public condemnation, and pending lawsuits haven't been enough for most of the schools.

And unfortunately, the Swarthmore incident (which the comment by the man who twists and turns refers to) is definitely rape by any reasonable standard, but legally it might not be so. A lot of states require that "force or coercion" must be used in order for an act of sexual assault to legally qualify as such. There was a good article in The Atlantic a few weeks that discussed the issue. (I think this defintion is something that needs to change as well.)
posted by sevenofspades at 9:48 AM on June 10


What rock has this cretin been living under that he thinks making such an argument is warranted?

It's fun to watch people discovering George Will for the first time!
posted by RogerB at 9:53 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I recently attended an in-depth training on Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Guidance that the Department of Education has been recently putting out, including the "Not Alone" site.

One of the things presented was the work of David Lisak, and I'd encourage you to check out some of his stuff.

Lisak has engaged in highly relevant research inquiring into what he's terming the "undetected rapist," where he interviews male college students (and maybe other people) about behaviors they engage in. His subjects in some cases flat out admit facts from which you can infer that they're sexually assaulting people, while they deny being rapists. This might sound sort of self-evident, but I found it very enlightening: there are men out there who think what they are doing is, on some level, totally okay.

He also does work on the Neurobiology of Trauma, which helps account for why reports of sexual assault are not necessarily as unreliable as authorities may believe them to be. Even authorities who are well-meaning and intend to fully and fairly investigate claims are troubled and confused when complainants' versions of events are inconsistent, missing key details, etc. Dr. Lisak's work gives great insight into why different interview techniques might make it less likely that complainants' versions of events are dismissed as unreliable.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:58 AM on June 10 [26 favorites]


Seconding MoonOrb on how eye-opening it is to read Lisak/see his presentations. I'm not kidding about college campuses -- and in particular, many fraternities -- being havens for rapists, particularly those who prey on drunken young women. Lisak's studies clearly show that.
posted by bearwife at 10:03 AM on June 10


I've been trying to find a recreation of an interview Lisak did with a fraternity member (the recreation is the transcript being read as if the interview had been recorded on video, if that makes sense) that is chilling. It describes a systematic approach by the interviewee to identify vulnerable female students, get them drunk, isolate them, overcome their resistance, and have sex with them. It's really disturbing because of how matter of fact the interview is: it has the tone of "yes, this is what we do, here's how we do it," etc. On one hand you can tell by some of the words that the interviewee uses that he knows there is something wrong with this, but what comes across more clearly is that he doesn't really think this is inappropriate.

If anyone knows what I'm talking about (the "Frank" interview) and could link it, it's compelling and topical.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:09 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]




Here's the video MoonOrb referenced. Here's a transcript of it.
posted by SollosQ at 10:13 AM on June 10 [26 favorites]


Good lord.
posted by KathrynT at 10:16 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


If you needed any proof at all that America is not a meritocracy, George Will's continued presence in newspapers is evidence enough of it.

Well, it depends on what you mean when you say "merit." If, by merit, you mean excellence in opinion writing, rooted in a complex and comprehensive analysis of facts, then, no, his craeer is not based on merit.

If, by merit, you mean excellence at being a Fascist Insect That Preys Upon The Blood Of The People, then he is truly meritoius.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


There seems to be some kind of bee-hive-collapse-like virus going around colleges that made them forget that the actual students are the entire reason they exist.

I don't see anything here about teaching people not to rape. Did I just miss it? Otherwise it's a completely wasted effort.
posted by bleep at 10:18 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Stanford Student's Viral Email About Her Sexual Assault Prompts Major Campus Protest

Rape is a criminal action. How the hell is this not just handed off to the police and the DA for prosecution? Why is it handled as an administrative matter?
posted by Talez at 10:19 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Holy fuck @ SollosQ's link. Oh my god.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:21 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I don't see anything here about teaching people not to rape. Did I just miss it? Otherwise it's a completely wasted effort.

I would argue that by reaching out to the people who know this is wrong and encouraging them to stand up and voice that truth, that IS teaching people not to rape. A lot of rapists persist in the belief that their attitudes are commonplace and their actions acceptable because they never get any social pushback; changing the culture so that the 14 out of 15 guys (cf. Lisak's research) who would not have sex with a woman whom they knew didn't want it speak up about it when they see that 15th guy getting predatory would definitely be teaching people not to rape.
posted by KathrynT at 10:22 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]


Jesus. The most disturbing thing about that interview to me is the utter, complete lack of..."shame" isn't quite the right word, but it's obvious that "Frank" doesn't feel like what he's telling the interviewer is something he did that was flat-out wrong. Even if he knows it's technically illegal, he seems to feel raping a girl while choking her into submission is just, you know, one of those things you do, like going a few miles over the speed limit or something.
posted by Hold your seahorses at 10:22 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


he knows there is something wrong with this, but what comes across more clearly is that he doesn't really think this is inappropriate

Yeah, it's this thing where he knows *other* people /handwave say it's wrong, but everyone /handwave knows it's just how things are and it's okay, really.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on June 10


Man, my fraternity must have been a bunch of idiots. All we did to pick up girls was let the women's studies department use our house for class/meeting space while their building was being renovated. I guess that's what happens when you elect a gay guy as your chapter president.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:28 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Part of why that incredibly horrifying video is so horrifying is Frank's tone of voice, or lack of it.
posted by jeather at 10:28 AM on June 10


Rape is a criminal action. How the hell is this not just handed off to the police and the DA for prosecution? Why is it handled as an administrative matter?

Colleges are required by law (Title IX) to make their campuses safe for women, and they are required to take action to keep them that way, even for offenses that do not rise to the level of criminal offense.

DAs and police are not required by law to charge and prosecute all crimes, and they are actually spectacularly bad at prosecuting when the sexual assault involves alcohol, which is very common with all sexual assaults and even more common with sexual assaults among college students, because alcohol is a very easy date-rape drug to obtain.

It is actually better for the survivors of sexual assault that colleges be legally required to maintain a safe campus than for them to get dumped into a law-enforcement system in which a grand total of 2% of rapists are ever incarcerated.
posted by jaguar at 10:28 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]



"Many universities have their own police force. For hundreds of years there has been a tradition that universities are their own space with its own laws and law enforcement. Either they have different laws or they choose not to enforce the laws they have. It's like a city deciding not to enforce robbery laws or not even have robbery laws. Why do we allow this? Universities are not a separate sovereignty."

EXACTLY! sort of like Indian Reservation laws..they do not have to follow "outsider" laws.
Colleges squelch reports or downplay them to ensure a nice image of the school and often have cooperation of local newspapers when incidents (not just sexual) take place.
posted by Postroad at 10:34 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Part of why that incredibly horrifying video is so horrifying is Frank's tone of voice, or lack of it.

You understand that this is a re-enactment and not the actual interview, right? There is no way to know if his tone of voice matches the real interview subject. The actual interview subject may have been less horrifying or even more horrifying, but what we're hearing is an actor's portrayal.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:37 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Many universities have their own police force. For hundreds of years there has been a tradition that universities are their own space with its own laws and law enforcement. Either they have different laws or they choose not to enforce the laws they have. It's like a city deciding not to enforce robbery laws or not even have robbery laws. Why do we allow this? Universities are not a separate sovereignty.

No one sends their kid to college so they can be arrested and get a criminal record for being stupid. Theft and minor drug crimes are often softballed on campuses, and I don't think that's such a bad thing. Our legal system is messed up, and it does no one any favors to get tangled up in it for minor transgressions. That kind of privelege is part of the college package.

Rape and sexual assault should not be softballed, but I suspect that most parents prior to a dozen or so years ago certainly lumped those actions in with other minor discrepencies that they expected the college to make consequence-free for their little proto-adults.
posted by jsturgill at 10:37 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


You understand that this is a re-enactment and not the actual interview, right?

Did not realise that, no; I thought that the reason the person's face was being hidden was for privacy. Guess I missed it in the earlier comment.
posted by jeather at 10:40 AM on June 10


You understand that this is a re-enactment and not the actual interview, right? There is no way to know if his tone of voice matches the real interview subject. The actual interview subject may have been less horrifying or even more horrifying, but what we're hearing is an actor's portrayal.

The culture under discussion is horrifying regardless; his actions at that moment are horrifying as well.
posted by jsturgill at 10:40 AM on June 10


In California, there's an interesting Senate bill (SB 967) that would require colleges and universities to adopt new sexual assault policies as a condition of receiving state financial aid funds. One of the key changes is an affirmative consent standard for determining whether consent was given:
"Affirmative consent" is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Consent is informed, freely given, and voluntary. It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the consent of the other person to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
I think it would be a good idea to discuss affirmative and enthusiastic consent during freshman orientations to provide constructive, positive examples of sexual negotiation and communication (or maybe give copies of Yes Means Yes to the entire incoming class).

The California bill's affirmative consent policy has provoked some of the same "unsexy / kills the mood" ridicule that's cropped up when Antioch College adopted a similar policy in the early 90s. Done right, enthusiastic verbal consent can be pretty sexy. Maybe people get hung up on the idea of applying that degree of an explicit standard in longer-term relationships. I think there can be room for a degree of "implied consent" in LTRs, but that's a result of trust/communication that's built up and negotiated over a long period of time, not something that can be assumed with someone new.
posted by Jotnbeo at 10:45 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]




There is afaik no real reason for universities to have separate police forces, apparently they do not in Europe for example. Just a relic of the upper class buying themselves special treatment; hence crap like the Stanford rapist receiving negligible punishment. I'd imagine Stanford would've handled the case quite differently if the rapist had done any actual prison, which acts as an actual deterrent, unlike a non-suspension. And, if not, even a substantial restraining order would've de facto suspended that rapist that Stanford did not suspend.

I'm frequently quite critical of the long duration of jail sentences in the U.S., but jail makes an effective deterrent when used appropriately. In particular, drunk driving has dropped dramatically thanks to stiffer penalties. Those penalties are not ridiculous however : First offenses see only a couple days, with a maximum of a few months, and possible license suspension. Repeated offense see up to a few years.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:51 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Presidents of both Columbia and Dartmouth have spoken about this issue.

I was at Brown in the early 1990s. As late as 20 years ago and unfortunately even now, this was definitely an issue that the Powers That Be at a lot of Ivy League universities were trying to sweep under the rug.
posted by jonp72 at 10:53 AM on June 10


MoonOrb and Sollosq's links are just terrifying. The guy clearly rapes this girl and sees nothing wrong with it. She's actually unconscious during part of the rape, and afterwards he just gets dressed and leaves her there on the bed. Jesus.

What's almost as disturbing is that his fraternity had a whole system set up. They apparently targeted freshmen girls, served punch just loaded with alcohol (but sweetened to make that less obvious) and then had designated bedrooms set up where they wouldn't get disturbed. The whole culture was set up to deliberately incapacitate these young women and lure them back to these rooms.
posted by misha at 11:31 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


What's almost as disturbing is that his fraternity had a whole system set up.

Yes. This is a culture problem. We have a campus culture that enables and normalizes alcohol mediated assault. The colleges want to focus attention on helping victims and identifying and punishing the perpetrators, but without examining the colleges' responsibility in supporting a toxic environment, I'm skeptical anything will make much difference.

We need to burn the fraternity system to the ground.
posted by Wemmick at 11:41 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


"COVETED STATUS?!?" Is that why so many rape victims commit suicide, because the pleasure of achieving their COVETED STATUS is just too much HAPPINESS to handle?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:45 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


MoonOrb and Sollosq's links are just terrifying. The guy clearly rapes this girl and sees nothing wrong with it. She's actually unconscious during part of the rape, and afterwards he just gets dressed and leaves her there on the bed. Jesus.

What's almost as disturbing is that his fraternity had a whole system set up. They apparently targeted freshmen girls, served punch just loaded with alcohol (but sweetened to make that less obvious) and then had designated bedrooms set up where they wouldn't get disturbed. The whole culture was set up to deliberately incapacitate these young women and lure them back to these rooms.


Holy shit. I mean, I know this isn't news in terms of how frats can operate, but to hear about it so starkly put is just depressing.
posted by Kitteh at 11:46 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


So for years I was a parent traumatized by Gene Weingarten's article about babies left in cars. Now that my oldest daughter is in high school and we are thinking about college, I can start to worry about this. Gaaaaah.

Can you homeschool a B.A. in elementary education?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:46 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Colleges are required by law (Title IX) to make their campuses safe for women, and they are required to take action to keep them that way, even for offenses that do not rise to the level of criminal offense.

What does it mean to "make a campus safe for women?" As in, what specifically is a university required to do under Title IX?
posted by fremen at 11:46 AM on June 10


Why do we allow this? Universities are not a separate sovereignty.

I know this is about the United States but I thought I would mention that universities in Canada have the full legal powers of the court and can subpoena and sentence in case any Canucks are wondering. I know because I was subpoenaed to testify in a hearing at a Canadian University and faced charges if I did not and I can be charged for discussing the details of the hearing.
posted by srboisvert at 11:51 AM on June 10


What does it mean to "make a campus safe for women?" As in, what specifically is a university required to do under Title IX?

There's a PDF chart here that outlines the specific ways in which Title IX and the Clery Act require colleges and universities to prevent, investigate, and report incidents of sexual bias, including harassment and assault.
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I assume Title IX would apply equally to protecting men from sexual bias/harassment/assault.
posted by gyc at 12:01 PM on June 10


It would, but its a much smaller problem.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:04 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


It does:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
posted by rtha at 12:04 PM on June 10


Why Colleges Are On the Hook for Sexual Assault is also a good primer on Title IX legislation and why it's ramped up lately:
Title IX was enacted in 1972 without controversy or even much debate, a "stealth law" aimed at helping women get through the doors of higher education, says Bernice R. Sandler, a longtime activist who is now a senior fellow at the Women’s Research and Education Institute. But the law is now being interpreted to require colleges to investigate and resolve students’ reports of rape, determining whether their classmates are responsible for assault and, if so, what the punishment should be. That is the case whether or not an alleged victim decides to report the incident to the police.

If colleges don’t handle such reports promptly and fairly, they may be blamed for violating the rights of alleged victims and creating a hostile environment for learning, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which is charged with enforcing the law. In April the agency got specific about compliance in a 52-point Q&A, telling colleges how to conduct an investigation, including interviewing witnesses, examining evidence, and taking "interim measures to protect the complainant."
posted by jaguar at 12:07 PM on June 10


It's basically the college equivalent of sexual harassment laws, in my mind, in that workplaces must take action to prevent a hostile work environment whether or not victims of sexual harassment pursue legal action against the harassers, or else the workplace itself is in violation of sexual harassment laws, not just the perpetrator. Colleges similarly need to ensure a non-hostile environment for their students.
posted by jaguar at 12:11 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


This piece in the Atlantic points out that Will is totally misleading readers with the Swarthmore story by leaving out the part where after woman reported the incident NOTHING HAPPENED.
posted by naoko at 12:23 PM on June 10


I know this is about the United States but I thought I would mention that universities in Canada have the full legal powers of the court and can subpoena and sentence in case any Canucks are wondering. I know because I was subpoenaed to testify in a hearing at a Canadian University and faced charges if I did not and I can be charged for discussing the details of the hearing.

Do you have a citation for this?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:26 PM on June 10


Very engaging and accessible reading, and I particularly appreciated the CDC preliminary review (pdf) of effective intervention strategies. My master's thesis is centered on behavioral analysis of rapists under the influence of alcohol, so I feel like I've been drowning in this kind of information for months, and now the government just adds to it. But of course that's great.

Alcohol use is a huge factor in rape perpetration on campuses (and just in general) so I was interested in the CDC's findings with regard to prevention in this area. It seems a lot of people think that the way to prevent sexual assault is to keep the potential victims from drinking alcohol. The CDC's preliminary review indicates that there are two issues with this strategy:

1. The social norms of the surrounding community and the availability of alcohol have a major influence on students and drinking, so that would mean it is the surrounding community that needs to change. Aiming intervention at individuals may not be very effective.

2. "However, in some studies included in the review the relationship between alcohol use and sexual violence changed when the researchers also took into account other factors such as individual attitudes and peer group beliefs." I'd have to see the full review when it comes out later this year to find out what this is about, but it certainly matches everything I've been diving into so far.

There's this prevailing belief that alcohol causes rape due to miscommunication between the victim and the rapist, so if the victims (and people are usually talking about women here) would just sober up then they could communicate their "no" more effectively and prevent some poor dude from going too far. But there isn't any evidence to back this up at all. Rather, there is a lot of evidence that intoxicated victims are preyed upon, specifically selected because they are less able to defend themselves.

The "individual attitudes and peer group beliefs" that encourage and provide cover for sexual predators are what makes them think rape is okay, not the victim's supposed insufficient defense of their body. So, for example, college-aged men who perpetrate sexual assault have much more hostile attitudes towards women and retrograde views of sex than those who don't. Then their peers, the vast majority of whom will not commit sexual violence even when intoxicated, provide cover for them or fail to recognize that these guys aren't like them. So maybe the coaching programs the CDC found effective could truly change the attitudes of predators. And bystander intervention can work, but I think a core part of getting it to work is getting the bystanders, the peers, to recognize predatory behavior when they see it. Rape is not a "boys will be boys" situation; most boys don't and wouldn't.

Then there is the response of the surrounding community. Unfortunately rapists take advantage of this. I just finished reading a comprehensive UK report (pdf) on rape attrition rates in the justice system there and found this sobering quote from Andrew Vachss (writer and advocate for children who suffer sexual abuse):
"Rapists see two different forms of weakness: (1) she's drunk and (2) she's drunk. Meaning, she's physically impaired because of the alcohol, but also no one is going to believe her because they disapprove of her drinking."
There's some of that community-level change that needs to happen.
posted by Danila at 12:29 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


Title IX was enacted in 1972 without controversy or even much debate, a "stealth law" aimed at helping women get through the doors of higher education, says Bernice R. Sandler, a longtime activist who is now a senior fellow at the Women’s Research and Education Institute. But the law is now being interpreted to require colleges to investigate and resolve students’ reports of rape, determining whether their classmates are responsible for assault and, if so, what the punishment should be. That is the case whether or not an alleged victim decides to report the incident to the police.

This is one of the things that is so fascinating about this, and also one of the reasons this has been a real challenge for higher education institutions: Title IX was never about protecting students from sexual harassment and sexual assault, but the complete and utter absence of any other means to do this has made Title IX the primary vehicle to accomplish this.

And believe me, I'm quite sympathetic to how difficult it is for universities to come to grips with the full extent of their responsibility under Title IX--no one really knows what the full reach of Title IX is until the OCR puts out yet another Dear Colleague letter expanding that reach--but I see this as just the natural consequence of higher education institutions, for decades, simply not appropriately addressing the fact that their campuses are practically incubators for sexual assault. And if the institutions didn't address this effectively themselves, then, well...here we are.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:31 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I did want to point out that some colleges are getting this right and making it clear to the young men coming in on day one (because, believe it or not, some parents don't discuss this stuff with their sons or daughters) that sex with a drunk woman is never okay. Doesn't matter if you have both been drinking, either. You can't give consent if you are incapacitated.

My sons feel that it should be, "Sex with a drunk person is not okay," because men can be raped, too, and sex--consensual or otherwise-- is not just between opposite sex partners, either. Which I think is a valid point.

As far as the young women coming in, it's a tough situation, because most rape victims are women and we don't want to imply that rape is in any way the victim's fault. Which is, I think, why the focus tends to be on what to do after a rape--how to report it, etc.

Still, I talk with my son's girlfriends, who are like daughters to me, and when they talk to me about "creepers" that make them feel uncomfortable, I encourage them to trust their instincts and stay away from those guys. If asked, I would discourage them from drinking around strangers. I will very likely show them those disturbing links. I think that even as we are working towards abolishing rape culture, we have to be pragmatic that we haven't got there yet, and women have to be wary. It sucks, but it's true.
posted by misha at 12:33 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Why is it "rapist" and not "raper"?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:39 PM on June 10


cellist, psychologist, typist.... -ist is a common suffix in English.
posted by jaguar at 12:43 PM on June 10


it's obvious that "Frank" doesn't feel like what he's telling the interviewer is something he did that was flat-out wrong

There's this book, Understanding Sexual Violence, where a researcher presents her findings after years of in-depth interviews with incarcerated rapists. This attitude that what they're doing is not only common, but not the slightest bit wrong, is very prevalent. And these are mostly the "stranger rapists", the stereotypical "rape rapists". They don't see themselves that way. I'm talking about a guy who uses a bayonet to rob a convenience store clerk and then rapes her. He felt like he'd "found a new friend" and the presence of the freaking bayonet did not at all indicate to him that this could be wrong. Story after story like that.

That's why David Lisak argues that the only difference between "undetected" rapists and the "obvious beasts" who get locked up is who they target (acquaintances vs. strangers) and how (alcohol). But in most other respects they are the same, including these delusional views about rape. The level of violence is the same (or even higher in acquaintance cases), the serial nature of their crime is the same, and their likelihood to commit other gross acts of interpersonal violence (child molestation, domestic abuse, aggravated assaults) is the same.
posted by Danila at 12:52 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Don't think this only happens at schools with men's housing and/or social units (frats, dorms, athletic and academic teams, singing societies). When I was at a women's college in the 80s, the frats were so dangerous at the local former men's college, they were closed my sophomore year, although the state university in the same town kept theirs. My school had our own on-campus rape response team, complete with 24/7 radio contact and double/triple staffing on major party weekends. Assaults would happen in the women's own dorm rooms and bathrooms, not to mention the labs, greenhouses and arboretum. Sadly, at least once a weekend we'd have to deal with a same-sex assault as well - with about 2000 resident students plus perhaps 500 guests, this seemed high to me then and low to me now.
posted by Dreidl at 1:27 PM on June 10


Do you have a citation for this?

I was a bit overbroad. It is the case for Ontario and the authority is from the Statutory Powers Procedures Act. I know nothing about the rest of the country.
posted by srboisvert at 1:33 PM on June 10


And just today, the Washington Post ran the article titled "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married."

subhead "The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies."

Fuck you, Wapo.
posted by emjaybee at 1:48 PM on June 10 [18 favorites]


It is the case for Ontario and the authority is from the Statutory Powers Procedures Act.

That law governs how tribunals operate, but it doesn't confer authority to universities to operate their own court systems.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:51 PM on June 10


There is afaik no real reason for universities to have separate police forces, apparently they do not in Europe for example.

Small independent police forces for each jurisdiction is a US peculiarity; pretty much every other country has national or state/province police forces.

I'm glad this issue is continuing to get traction. The awareness and conversation around this are already miles better than when I was a student, and schools seem to be getting the message that more of the same is not a viable path.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:45 PM on June 10


And just today, the Washington Post ran the article titled "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married."

TPM calls it a "Gross and Deliberate Misrepresenting of the Data".

W T F Wapo ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:55 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I'm torn between thinking that the WaPo is just trolling us and that George Will's editor hates him and wanted to make him look like a fool. Why else would they publish that article?
posted by orrnyereg at 3:57 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I'm probably not very inclined to agree with anything George Will writes about, but can anyone point me to a time that he advanced cogent arguments in support of anything he wrote about?

Has it been since the 1990s? 1980s maybe?

When I read anything he writes it's not so much "That's a dumb argument and I disagree and my argument is better," it's more like "What the fuck are you even talking about you fucking idiot."
posted by MoonOrb at 4:09 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Has WaPo changed atall since Jeff Bezos took over? I know they're hiring a bunch of new people, one of whom is Adam Kushner, who is taking a lot of flak over this.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:25 PM on June 10


But the law is now being interpreted to require colleges to investigate and resolve students’ reports of rape, determining whether their classmates are responsible for assault and, if so, what the punishment should be. That is the case whether or not an alleged victim decides to report the incident to the police.

So how is this not a violation of a constitutional right to due process? Anyone accused of a crime is guaranteed a right to a trial by a jury of their peers and an attorney.

Basically, this has set up a separate (government backed) legal system through university codes of conduct. But the problem is that university codes of conduct aren't really designed for prosecuting high crimes. They're just not very good at dealing with things beyond cheating, roommate disputes, research fraud, etc. You know, basic university life stuff.

To look at this another way, we would never prosecute a murder through a university code of conduct. Let's even put this in Title IX terms: a jilted lover murders his ex-girlfriend. Prosecutors would never let a university handle this internally.

So why do we allow it when the jilted lover rapes his ex-girlfriend? Why do we think universities' investigations will produce a fair and just result for everyone involved?

My take away from this discussion is that universities have no business prosecuting on campus rape. Education - yes. Teaching men (and women) the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex - absolutely! Tracking on campus crime so that students, faculty, and prospective students are informed - most definitely!

But when it comes to due process for high crimes, universities are terrible at it. They don't know how to investigate the crime, support the victim, or fairly judge the defendant's innocence or guilt. It seems to me that everyone would be better off if universities adopted a policy of referring all rape accusations to the police and then expelling those found guilty of crimes.
posted by fremen at 5:24 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


So how is this not a violation of a constitutional right to due process? Anyone accused of a crime is guaranteed a right to a trial by a jury of their peers and an attorney.

Because the college isn't imprisoning someone, just expelling them (ideally). Not all sexual assault cases are going to be prosecuted, and you don't need the same standard of evidence to expel someone from school that you do to put them in prison. If I'm working with a guy who hauls off and decks me, that might not be prosecutable as assault, but it can sure as hell get the guy fired.
posted by KathrynT at 5:29 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Because the college isn't imprisoning someone, just expelling them (ideally).

But in a criminal prosecution setting, the standards for any punishment are the same. That's true for anything from fines to imprisonment.

Perhaps I'm making a logical leap - expelling someone because of a government requirement is a kind of fine for a crime. Maybe that's a step too far given present legal theory, and if so then I'm on shaky ground. However, it would seem that this requires some kind of due process.

I will grant an alternative - if a university (particularly a private university) wants to have a policy that those accused of a rape are expelled independent of Title IX, then fine. To me, that sounds like a civil matter though, and the civil courts can figure that one out.

But one thing that does rankle me a bit is this statement:

Not all sexual assault cases are going to be prosecuted

As a society, we have established a means of prosecuting crimes and we have appointed certain people to handle the prosecution. They're incentivized to punish criminals. If that pathway does not choose to prosecute the crime because they don't think they can get a punishment, is it just to set up an alternate pathway? In what other circumstance would we prosecute a crime through a second channel?

To look at this another way, if a woman is raped outside of a college environment, and a prosecutor chooses to not take the case to trial, would it be just to set up a second town tribunal to exact some kind of punishment from the accused? When does our society ever allow this? It sounds barbaric!

This makes me wonder if universities aren't just a red herring for a real problem of prosecutors and police who don't sufficiently investigate and prosecute rape. Maybe we shouldn't be so accepting of the fact that "not all sexual assault cases are going to be prosecuted." Perhaps this is the real problem?

Lastly, please don't take my arguments as being anything but a question of the placement of due process and punishment. Non-consensual sex is never acceptable and I believe it deserves investigation and punishment.
posted by fremen at 5:45 PM on June 10


EXACTLY! sort of like Indian Reservation laws..they do not have to follow "outsider" laws.


No, no, no. "Indian Reservations" are actually *sovereign* Native American Nations (get with the 21st century!). They have their own police forces and laws because they are effectively countries unto themselves (for most crimes, the issue is a testy one with the feds and many local governments as well). Where the distinction gets murky and politically troublesome is with violent crimes. In fact, this is one reason "Indian Reservations" are hotbeds of rape (much committed by outsiders), since it is often unclear who has jurisdiction and most rural police forces, including those on reservations, are both understaffed for and culturally inept at (if not purposely avoidant of) the prosecution of sexual assault.

But there is no analogy to university or college "police forces." Those forces do not have any state-granted power of arrest, right to use deadly force, or other privileges of legitimate law enforcement, in most cases. (Some college police forces are armed, which creates a very ambiguous situation indeed. In some cases they contain deputized officers. But in general they are security guards, privately employed, and if armed governed by the same rules governing Brinks Truck guards etc.)

Let's not be casually ignorant about Native America while we fight Rape Culture. Native America is a fucking hotbed of Rape Culture, for all kinds of historical reasons that also make Native America a hotbed of other kinds of violence and criminality: poverty, alienation, rural location, legacies of colonial genocide, off-the-charts addiction rates, broken social structures, etc. Nonetheless, while these are American problems, Native Americans have some specific and treaty-granted rights to decree and enforce many kinds of laws (with the broad exception of violent assaults, in most cases).

A Native American tribal police officer (who may or may not be Native American, actually) is an agent of the state -- her/his Nation. In some places and cases s/he may also be an agent of the actual US state in which the reservation (or in Alaska, village) is located. Actually, in Alaska, there are no sovereign tribal governments (look up ANCSA for why it's different from the lower 48) and Native village-employed or borough-employed officers are in fact agents of the state directly.

Just thought I'd clarify that. The subject is way more complex, and the source of a good deal of friction on all sides. And whatever way you see it, one thing the current structure really does not do well at all is protect Native women from rape. Read the statistics; they make the average frat house look like a safe haven.
posted by spitbull at 5:48 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


But in a criminal prosecution setting, the standards for any punishment are the same. That's true for anything from fines to imprisonment.

This isn't a criminal prosecution setting. This isn't to decide if the guy is guilty of the crime of rape; it's to decide if the guy has behaved in a manner that is inconsistent with him being allowed to continue to exercise the privilege of attending the college. It's not some weird Star Chamber thing any more than a person getting fired for petty theft is.
posted by KathrynT at 5:52 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


To clarify, when I said "culturally inept" above, I meant "the culture of rural law enforcement agencies," not of Native Americans in general or any specific tribe.
posted by spitbull at 5:56 PM on June 10


People get expelled for cheating on tests or just not doing well in class. Neither of which are illegal and are consequences that take place without criminal proceedings.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:57 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Yes, I have always believed sexual assault should be part of any university's "honor code." You agree that if you violate it you are going to be expelled as a condition for accepting the admission offer.

And what's more dishonorable than rape?
posted by spitbull at 6:02 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Covering it up.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:04 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


KathrynT, I think you're arguing from a point of principle and I'm trying to wrap my head around the legal aspect. I don't necessarily disagree with you on principle, but I'm trying to understand the deeper justice implications behind this.

Let's look at this differently? Say someone is accused of a rape and the crime is not prosecuted. Should the university expel the student? Why? Why not?

Let's say it is prosecuted and the student is found not guilty. Then what?

Maybe I should just roll with Pogo_Fuzzybutt's and spitbull's line of reasoning (which I also agree with in principle). If we're just talking about a matter of university policy (or honor code), then it's a different thing in my mind. Universities free to do whatever they want, and if someone has a problem with it then they can take it to a civil court.

But what does it mean when that policy becomes a government mandate? i.e. a university doesn't get federal funding unless it has that policy?
posted by fremen at 6:05 PM on June 10


And what's more dishonorable than rape?


I agree. But short of being a a murderer or a convicted child molester, being a rapist is probably one of the most serious thing that a person can be convicted of, and far more serious than, say cheating on your exams. I'm not comfortable of any justice system that do not afford the accused the same due process rights as our criminal justice system being able to convict somebody of such a serious act.
posted by gyc at 6:08 PM on June 10


But what does it mean when that policy becomes a government mandate? i.e. a university doesn't get federal funding unless it has that policy?

Straight up? It means that women will maybe have a chance of getting sexual assault prevention taken seriously. That's the "deeper justice implication" that I care about.
posted by KathrynT at 6:08 PM on June 10


I'm not comfortable of any justice system that do not afford the accused the same due process rights as our criminal justice system being able to convict somebody of such a serious act.

FWIW, they don't convict someone of the crime of rape. They find that someone was responsible for unwanted or non-consensual sexual activity or contact. If you're going to get down into legal details, make sure you have your terminology right.
posted by KathrynT at 6:10 PM on June 10


My point would leave aside the question of how guilt is determined, simply solve the problem of the institutional penalty (irrespective of any criminal charges, which may or may not apply or be forthcoming). There should be a reasonable burden of evidence required. But if you are found responsible for not respecting another's non-consent to any sort of sexual contact, you are treated like any serious plagiarist or cheater and kicked out. (Too many of them are not kicked out these days either, actually. It used to be pretty cut and dried, and it should be again. /grumpyoldprofessor). Put it in the honor code explicitly. No one can say they didn't know.
posted by spitbull at 6:21 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Covering it up.
posted by MoonOrb


Fair enough; I include that under the definition of rape, since lack of justice for the victim is part of the overall violation of her/his person.
posted by spitbull at 6:22 PM on June 10


If you're going to get down into legal details, make sure you have your terminology right.

Rape is what the person I was replying to called sexual assault in a university context, so obviously people are going to considered being convicted of unwanted sexual contact the same as being a rapist.
posted by gyc at 6:55 PM on June 10


It's definitely not justified to set up an alternative justice system just for special offenses, fremen, the tax courts and assent forfeiture being problematic examples. As I hinted at upthread, there is an issue here, at least in some jurisdictions, that "ambiguous consent" cannot reduce sexual assault from a felony to a misdemeanor, which results in charges being pressed less frequently and leading to fewer convictions. Would you send the first guy from Hingston's column to jail for say 8 years?

These universities use their position as enforcers both to protect their reputation and to provide middle ground punishment. In practice, they set the punishments excessively low to avoid publicity, but avoiding publicity also avoids creating a deterrent, which negates the effectiveness of the punishment. Ideally, we should process all sexual assaults through the court system, but the universities have police forces by choice, which makes it their problem, and the "ambiguous rapists" need reasonable punishments. We're talking about upping the existing university punishments from "designed to protect the university's reputations" to "designed to create some deterrent".
posted by jeffburdges at 6:57 PM on June 10


To look at this another way, if a woman is raped outside of a college environment, and a prosecutor chooses to not take the case to trial, would it be just to set up a second town tribunal to exact some kind of punishment from the accused? When does our society ever allow this? It sounds barbaric!

1. We're not talking about punishing the accused, we're talking about keeping women safe and making sure they can exercise their rights to a non-hostile learning environment. Taking action against the accused in a school setting is not a punishment of the accused, it's an action to keep the victim (and other victims, real or potential) safe.

2. "Not guilty" in a court of law, "not prosecuted by the DA", and even "not arrested by the police" do not in any way mean "innocent." The generally accepted figure for false rape accusation is 2%, about the same as for all other crimes. If a student were accused of stealing property, would you be ok with the university taking action to investigate and stop the situation, even if that student were not prosecuted and found guilty?

3. We do in fact have a system in place where victims of sexual assault who are not on college campuses can pursue action to keep themselves safe. They can request a restraining order, which would keep their perpetrator (convicted or not) away from their home and workplace, and they could share that information with their landlord and workplace to ask for their help in enforcing it. In the college setting, the college is the landlord and the workplace, and in many cases sexual assault survivors simply want their landlords and workplaces to help shield them from their rapists.

I suspect the legality of all of this will make more sense to you if you shift your thinking away from defending the rights of the accused (which is a perfectly just stance for criminal proceedings, but we are not talking about criminal proceedings) and more toward the goal of creating college campuses in which students are not targeted for abuse. When keeping campuses safe becomes the goal (which, under Title IX, it legally is), more of this make sense.
posted by jaguar at 7:08 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


I'm not comfortable of any justice system that do not afford the accused the same due process rights as our criminal justice system being able to convict somebody of such a serious act.

Most or all of our employers (in the US) are well within their rights to fire someone who people complain is harassing them, no criminal court-type due process or jury trial required. Universities are not in the least unusual in this respect.
posted by rtha at 7:40 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


gyc, no one is being convicted of anything here. The model used to determine that a sexual assault has occurred will in most cases be nothing like an adjudicative process that resembles a trial in any way: the OCR guidance expresses a clear preference that higher education institutions move away from this type of model to a single investigator model (which is the type of model used to determine whether misconduct has occurred in most non-criminal investigation scenarios). The investigator's finding is done, in accordance with Title IX, on a more probable than not basis. If you're concerned that the subject of the investigation will be drummed out of school on the mere allegation that he has assaulted someone, take comfort in knowing that it is still goddamn near impossible to conclude that a sexual assault happened when an investigator is examining a situation that will rarely have physical evidence and will frequently involve the scattered and conflicting statements of two drunk people. And in those situations where the evidence is clear, there's nothing for you to worry about anyway.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:46 PM on June 10


The generally accepted figure for false rape accusation is 2%, about the same as for all other crimes

I just read something about this, and while the percentage of false rape accusations is very low, in the interest of accuracy, the most accurate estimates are actually closer to to 8-10%. The 2% figure has been deprecated because the sources for that estimate were lacking and/or dodgy in their methodology, while some absurdly high estimates were also categorically debunked.
posted by misha at 12:15 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


No, the estimated number of false accusations is still considered to be around 2%. It's reports, i.e. those with an unnamed and/or vaguely-described perpetrator that is around 8%. That's a huge distinction, and one that a lot of people like George Will try to use to paint rape victims as untrustworthy schemers, especially when the accused are considered to be largely above reproach.

What's also frustrating is that with 2% false accusations, we still discuss them as A Very Serious Problem in 100% of conversations.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:36 AM on June 11 [8 favorites]


Does anyone know if a statement made by a defendant in a university's tribunal proceedings would be admissible in court? I think it might be a statement against penal interest, which is an exception to the general rule against hearsay. If that's the case, these campus tribunals are compelling someone, unrepresented, to make statements that may incriminate them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:58 AM on June 11


It appears that around 2% of rape allegations are actionably false (Victoria Police, 2006), meaning enough evidence exists to charge the accuser with a crime. Ain't any easier to prosecute false rape accusations than rape itself though, so the actual number should be higher.

Ain't so easy to estimate the actual false allegation rate, but one should probably restrict attention to studies carried out by police departments : The Finish Police have estimated 20% false, but that includes many "wrong person" accounts. Apparently Fins are frequently being raped by an immigrant who they cannot then identify correctly due to race. The British Home Office estimated 8%, but their methods were problematic, possibly lowering the rate as low at 3%. FBI estimates 8% too, but they use really shitty data. We know jack shit about the actual rate in other words, but 2% appears too low.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:31 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Ain't so easy to estimate the actual false allegation rate, but one should probably restrict attention to studies carried out by police departments : The Finish Police have estimated 20% false, but that includes many "wrong person" accounts. Apparently Fins are frequently being raped by an immigrant who they cannot then identify correctly due to race. The British Home Office estimated 8%, but their methods were problematic, possibly lowering the rate as low at 3%. FBI estimates 8% too, but they use really shitty data. We know jack shit about the actual rate in other words, but 2% appears too low.

So we should restrict attention to studies by police departments, but we should throw out all of those studies but the extreme statistical outlier because of "shitty data" or "problematic methods"? Never mind that this largely seems to be conflating the same accusation vs. report discrepancy that I outlined above, the dismissal of bunched data in favor of an outlier because the others appear too low or should be higher for no given reason is just awful logic.

Every study that has been conducted using rigorous methodology (for example, not depending on investigators' gut feelings or bias against victims due to status or condition) and similar/identical metrics has shown a false report rate of between 2% to 8%, both inside the US and worldwide. The rate of false accusations is almost always estimated to be lower than that. Both are further complicated by definitions of rape that have excluded the victim failing to actively resist, be under the influence of alcohol or other narcotics, or other factors considered by law enforcement to be a mitigating circumstance in "forcible" rape. In many of these studies, the conclusions by researchers point out that the limits of the data for those reasons mean that the estimates for both false accusations and false reports are likely to be higher than the actual occurence.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:33 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: I have a partial answer for you, which is that statements made during tribunals/ investigations by non- public universities are certainly admissible in later court proceedings. Whether the statements made in the course of public university proceedings are later admissible is a more interesting question (and I am speaking here from an American perspective only, as Title IX is American).

Regarding the hearsay issue, the statements would come into court later against the accused/defendant simply as admissions (anything out of court statement by a party is admissible on this basis); if the person is a non-party witness at a later trial then the statement would likely be an exception to hearsay as an admission against interest.

However, there is also a constitutional gloss, which would not apply in the case of private, non-governmental institutions who conduct sexual assault investigations. The constitutional prohibition against self incrimination does not apply to non governmental actors.

In the case of a state higher ed institution compelling a student's statement, it would presumably not later be admissible, on Fifth Amendment grounds. However it should be admissible to impeach the student should his earlier statement to the institution contradict his later testimony. And the general question of admissibility in the case in chief against him would depend on the extent his statement was truly compelled in the institutional proceedings.

Finally, I can't remember at this time if statements obtained in violation of the Fifth Amsndment (ie without Miranda warnings) are admissible in later civil proceedings, even if they are inadmissible in criminal proceedings.

There are a few other wrinkles I've left out, too.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:37 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I've quoted it before, I'll quote it again: "When someone enters a conversation about rape, and the only thing they want to talk about is the possibility that the victim is lying, they don't want you to be talking about rape. They want to talk about how women are liars."

We know jack shit about the actual rate in other words, but 2% appears too low.

OK, so you've decided that a 2% false accusation rate is too low. You think it's 8% or 10% or 20% or 95% or whatever percentage helps you sleep at night. We should all be duly chastened by the insistence that people who report having been sexually assaulted or raped should be assumed to be lying significantly more often than they are already. Why is that relevant to this conversation? Why is it relevant to every single conversation about sexual assault, ever?

Surely you're aware that most people who are sexually assaulted already don't report it, right? I know dozens of people who have been sexually assaulted, many of them multiple times, myself included, and not a single one of us has reported it. Why? This is why. We know we're going to be treated like liars no matter what, and for a lot of us, it's just too painful to consider the prospect of being re-victimized by having our good names dragged through the mud for daring to report.

Everyone who insists upon yammering on about how we're supposed to cast a jaundiced eye at sexual assault reporting percentages -- Because False Accusations!!! -- is contributing to the proliferation of an atmosphere of victim-silencing by repeatedly re-focusing conversations about sexual assault on the possibility that the victim is lying. It's inhumane, it's intellectually dishonest, and it's disgusting.
posted by divined by radio at 6:48 AM on June 11 [17 favorites]


But short of being a a murderer or a convicted child molester, being a rapist is probably one of the most serious thing that a person can be convicted of

I keep hearing this claim, but I simply don't believe it.

How often do unconvicted people voluntarily recount their stories of molesting children to authorities to have them recorded, like in the Lisak 'Frank' interview? Men raping women is socially sanctioned. Sure, jumping out of bushes to rape a jogger isn't socially sanctioned, but getting women drunk in order to take advantage of them, as Frank recounted, is many groups of men's idea of a good time.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:51 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


That was a great answer, MoonOrb. I think it means that campus tribunals for any potential offence are a bad idea.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:04 AM on June 11


Sure, jumping out of bushes to rape a jogger isn't socially sanctioned, but getting women drunk in order to take advantage of them, as Frank recounted, is many groups of men's idea of a good time.

That distinction where "real rape" is defined so narrowly as to exclude all kinds of everyday rapeyness is really common, in my experience. The endless repetition of the false accusation thing is part of that, as is the whole wanting to make the bar for (at worst) getting kicked out of school for a year as high as a criminal trial -- that's another way to focus on the impact on the perpetrator and avoid the basic steps towards lowering the actual rate of assault.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:06 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Yes, but once someone has actually been convicted the behavior loses whatever social approval it has, because the act of conviction has demonstrated that the actions are not in fact acceptable. So while a guy might somewhat openly admit that he got a girl drunk and had sex with her when she was passed out, if this same act results in a conviction the only way he's going to mention this is if he's trying to explain away or minimize the conviction. And the stigma of a rape conviction is sufficient enough that he's not likely to be raising the issue on his own to people who don't know about it. There is enormous stigma associated with sex offender status, and a conviction means you've crossed the line into having that status.

But continued use of the word "conviction" in the context of Title IX proceedings is muddling the issues in this thread, and while there would certainly be substantial stigma associated with being forced to leave school after being found more likely than not to have committed sexual assault, the stigma is not nearly as great as if actually convicted of rape.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:06 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Considering the absolute hell on earth your life becomes the instant you report sexual abuse or assault, I just CANNOT wrap my head around the idea that anyone would believe for a second that there's a high level of false reports. The level of masochism you would have to have to voluntarily put yourself through that could only be present in a small minority.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:40 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Bear in mind that this is largely coming from the same metaphorical place as the belief that LGBT people choose to be that way and can un-choose it, but they just love being ostracized too much.
posted by Etrigan at 7:58 AM on June 11


I just CANNOT wrap my head around the idea that anyone would believe for a second that there's a high level of false reports.

Even the highest estimate puts it at 10%, which means 90% are not false.

That's better than the percentages for, say, the death penalty.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:03 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


> ... we should throw out all of those studies but the extreme statistical outlier because of "shitty data" or "problematic methods"?

> OK, so you've decided that a 2% false accusation rate is too low. You think it's 8% or 10% or 20% or 95% or whatever percentage helps you sleep at night.

These are blatant misrepresentations of jeffburdges' comment. He specifically said the "outlier", a 20% figure from Finland, should be discounted because it includes cases where the police arrested the wrong person based on the victims description (which obviously doesn't mean the initial report was false). He also expressed skepticism about studies that got figures as high as 8%, though he thinks it's probably higher than 2%.

How the hell do you get from "the British Home Office estimated 8%, but their methods were problematic, possibly lowering the rate as low at 3%" (an actual quote from the comment) to "95% or whatever percentage helps you sleep at night"?
posted by nangar at 9:08 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


"95% or whatever percentage helps you sleep at night" isn't an attribution, it's frustrated handwaving born from reading the apparently earnest statement, "We know jack shit about the actual rate in other words, but 2% appears too low." Like, OK, you've acknowledged that "we know jack shit about the actual rate." But then it's still important for you to point out that "2% appears too low," and this appearance is based on... what, exactly? An assortment of numbers gleaned from a single Wikipedia article, with no acknowledgment whatsoever that rape and sexual assault are the most underreported violent crimes in the world, accompanied by a gut feeling?

This is ostensibly a discussion about a U.S. government program designed to effectively and efficiently reduce the occurrence of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, so what any one of us thinks about the frequency of false rape accusations is beyond irrelevant. The precise percentage of rape accusations that any of us personally believes are false does not matter at all. It doesn't matter if you think it's 3% or 8% or 175%. It doesn't matter what sort of data you have personally agreed to take at face value, whether it comes from police departments or the British Home Office or the sky -- although again, most rapes and sexual assaults are never reported in the first place, so your percentages are going to be inaccurate no matter what. But "what about false accusations?!" still gets brought up in every conversation about rape and sexual assault that happens in any remotely public-facing forum.

Stating outright that "one should probably restrict attention to studies carried out by police departments" is an equally harmful falsehood -- why should one restrict one's attention to studies carried out by police departments, exactly? If you're operating under the assumption that police departments are supposed to be uniquely trustworthy and reliable when it comes to collecting and issuing accurate statistics on the veracity of reports of rape and sexual assaults, I'm afraid you're mistaken. Many, many, many, many other statistics would suggest they are most certainly not.

Most people already think most victims of rape and sexual assault are lying. They already accuse us of exaggerating, clumsily attempting to pull a CYA after a drunken lapse in judgment, and constructing our victimization from whole cloth. Our families, friends, lovers, and elected officials do it every day. And the people who are officially tasked with criminalizing and prosecuting rape and sexual assault do it, too. Untold thousands of people are made to feel too ashamed and terrified to speak out about their experiences as victims of rape and sexual assault because they live in a society that is comfortable believing victims of these particular crimes deserve what they get or are just making shit up for kicks. You just don't have that kind of fear instilled in you when it comes to being a victim of any other sort of crime.

If someone grabs your iPhone out of your hand while you're walking down the street, you aren't too scared to mention it to your friends because you've been led to believe that they're going to accuse you of lying. When your car gets broken into, you aren't afraid to tell the police; you know you won't be revictimized in your recounting of what happened. When it comes to being the victim of any crime EXCEPT rape or sexual assault, you can generally rest assured that people are going to take you at your word, and that you probably won't be told that you brought it upon yourself. When you're a victim of any other sort of crime, the instinct of most people will be to comfort and support you. This cushion of empathy and support vanishes outright if you are raped or sexually assaulted once you dare to speak up about it. And the constant rejoinders of "but what about the percentage of accusations that are false?!" are why.

But hey, if you want to talk statistics, here's one we might do well to focus on: Only between 3% and 6% [PDF] of rapists will ever spend a day imprisoned for their crimes. Funny how all the dudes who get riled up about pinpointing the precise percentage of false rape accusations (while remaining absolutely certain that it is higher than what is commonly cited and reported) don't tend to be quite so outraged by that vanishingly small number.
posted by divined by radio at 1:30 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


Frustration at the generic, national discourse can sometimes be unhelpful when introduced into a smaller, non-stereotypical conversation that's going in a different direction, between people who aren't, by and large, acting like huge assholes.
posted by jsturgill at 2:56 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


There is no "what about false rape accusations" in this thread, divined by radio. Actually, jaguar originally brought up false rape accusations with the claim that "The generally accepted figure for false rape accusation is 2%, about the same as for all other crimes", which appears false and misha called out, but zombieflanders defended. I then criticized zombieflanders for misrepresenting the 2% number, which comes from the Victoria Police study :

"A study of 812 rape accusations made to police in Victoria Australia between 2000 and 2003 found that 2.1% were ultimately classified by police as false, with the complainants then charged or threatened with charges for filing a false police report."

Is anyone ever wrongly charged for filing a false police report? Yes absolutely, mostly when they report police misconduct or similar, but not soo often otherwise. It follows that 2% provides a reasonable lower bound, but not all false accusations are prosecutable. We have no similarly firm upper bound but imho the rate should be below the 8% that cops claim by making haphazard judgement calls.

I've never heard about a CYA false rape accusation, that sounds like apocryphal lol xian stuff. Actual false rape accusations more resemble domestic violence and/or revenge, certainly the ones I've heard about did. And domestic violence is more premeditated than abusers claim, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:19 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Divined by radio, I am also a survivor of rape, and I made the first comment questioning the 2% statistic for false accusations.

I did so--while pointing out that yes, it is indeed very low--because I think accuracy is especially important in this issue, pretty much for the exact reason you appear to think it doesn't matter.

Many already scoff at the notion that so many women are sexually assaulted or raped. Far too many decide that number can't possibly be as high as it is, and decide that this is because women are just in the habit of falsely accusing men of rape. Which is, of course, utter nonsense.

The problem is that the 2% statistic that gets thrown around so often is based on, honestly, nothing. Brownmuller, who is credited with being the first to use the number, gave no data to back it up.

The last thing I, as a woman, feminist and rape survivor want to do is give the rape apologists ammunition to discredit rape activists. Putting out data that can't be supported factually and in fact can even be shown to be unsupportable in at least one clear case (Brownmuller's), makes it easier for them to argue that feminists are just making this stuff up. We have to be sure of our facts because we have the greater struggle; we are already fighting against existing prejudices here.

So I think it is important that we don't just rattle off some number because lower sounds better or whatever. There is no need minimize when the figures speak for themselves. 8% is a statistic that I can defend. I can find multiple studies suggesting it is the best estimate we have at the moment.

I also think it is important that we don't double down and start bringing strawmen into arguments when we are backed into a corner and our facts are getting questioned, which is what I feel you are doing in this thread. No one in this thread "wants to talk about how women are liars"! I haven't seen anyone denying that rape happens, nor that it is under-reported, and the general consensus in the thread is clearly that false accusations, even when they do occur, are no higher for rape than they are for other unrelated crimes.
posted by misha at 5:25 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Even if in 2% of rapes the complainants were threatened with charges of filing a false police report, it doesn't actually mean that those complaints were false. Unless we are arguing that the police never threaten people or that they can never be mistaken, neither of which are reasonable to believe. Especially since police departments are part of the world where every single rape report gets nitpicked into How She Might Be Wrong Or Have Asked For It.
posted by jeather at 6:00 PM on June 11


I'm late to this thread but just read the transcript at SollosQ's link.

Now please excuse me while I go throw up forever. That guy should be in jail.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


False accusations in the context of campus rapes are really only relevant if sexual assault on campus is treated differently than sexual assault elsewhere. I can't see why it should be: this isn't a mostly-victimless thing like underage drinking, or something that can be excused on the basis of youthful high spirits; it's a "crime crime", as it were.

I recognise that this is a campus issue to some extent, in that it happens on and around their property, and between people who are associated with the institution. That's a good reason for universities to work on the safety of their physical and social environment. It isn't a good reason to divert complainants into an artificial mock-court which lacks both the authority and the ability to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 PM on June 11


I brought up the false allegation numbers as an argument against the idea that taking action to keep victims safe is "barbaric." The overall point is that very very few people lie about being raped and yet very very very few rapists are ever punished, so any worry that taking actions to protect a student will be unfair unless the perpetrator has been charged with and convicted of sexual assault is a seriously misplaced worry.
posted by jaguar at 6:57 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


My (still vague and inchoate) thoughts on "taking action to keep victims safe" are:
1) A lot of stuff needs to be done as a preventative measure: safer surroundings, better lighting, no tolerance of harassment.
2) If an alleged perpetrator's behavior is skeevy the campus is totally justified in cracking down on it. That's not punishment; that's policing.
3) The campus should encourage and assist victims to come forward and prosecute offenders, but they can't be in the job of punishment.
4) If someone feels unsafe then it's worth pulling the alleged perpetrator in for a chat and a redefinition of what "skeevy behaviour" means in this context.
5) I have no idea how to deal with a hypothetical situation where someone feels unsafe when someone else is on campus, even if the alleged perpetrator doesn't interact in any way or do anything else that could be grounds for disciplinary action. But I don't know if this happens or how big a problem it would be.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:17 PM on June 11


divined by radio, if ever I was tempted to register a hundred sockpuppets to favorite one comment, this would have been that time.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:26 PM on June 11








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