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Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault

Issues ››› Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault
  • Wash. Post's George Will: Sexual Assault Victim Is Now A "Coveted Status"

    Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist George Will derided efforts on college campuses to combat the sexual assault epidemic as a ploy to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege." 

    In a June 7 syndicated op-ed which appeared in The Washington Post and the New York Post, Will dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" arguing that the definition of sexual assault was too broad because it could include "nonconsensual touching" and disputing the evidence that shows 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault on campuses in the U.S., implying that individuals were pretending to be victims because colleges have made victimhood a "coveted status" (emphasis added): 

    Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. 

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

    [...]

    Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of "sexual assault" victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today's prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.

    The administration's crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12% of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12% reporting rate is correct, the 20% assault rate is preposterous. 

    [...]

    Education Department lawyers disregard pesky arithmetic and elementary due process. Threatening to withdraw federal funding, the department mandates adoption of a minimal "preponderance of the evidence" standard when adjudicating sexual assault charges between males and the female "survivors" -- note the language of prejudgment.Combine this with capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape. Then comes costly litigation against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.

    Will also criticized colleges and universities for attempting "to create victim-free campuses -- by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimization."

    Despite Will's dismissal of the statistics, a report on sexual violence by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that "in a study of undergraduate women, 19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college." Moreover, the dangerous stigmatization of sexual assault victims has kept many from reporting these crimes -- particularly because victims who do report can become the targets of vicious attacks. According to the FBI, people falsely report sexual assault only 3 percent of the time

  • Glenn Beck's The Blaze Mocks Sexual Assault With "RAPE!" Skits

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD

    Glenn Beck's The BlazeTV acted out sexual propositions and labeled each skit "RAPE!" in an attempt to mock the prevalence of reported sexual assault.

    In response to reports that the 22-year-old who went on a deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara was inspired by a hatred towards women who had refused his sexual advances, The Glenn Beck Program attempted to debunk the statistic that one in five women have reported experiencing a sexual assault. The May 27 edition of Beck's program dismissed the number -- cited by the Obama administration during the announcement of a new initiative to protect college students from sexual violence -- as a "completely untrue statistic."

    As evidence, Beck presented a pre-recorded segment by The Blaze's Stu Burguiere, which featured skit performances of sexual assault scenarios in which network radio host Jeff Fisher propositioned another man in a blonde wig and skirt.

    The skits purported to reenact questions from two studies on sexual assault -- the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Report and 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey -- ostensibly to show how the number of sexual assault victims is "massively" inflated:

  • 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth

    ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & LUKE BRINKER

    Experts in 12 states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have debunked the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender non-discrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms, calling the myth baseless and "beyond specious."

  • WSJ Editor: Intoxicated Sexual Assault Victims Are Just As Guilty As Their Attackers

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    James Taranto

    Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto claimed that cases of "'sexual assault' on campus" that involve alcohol are really victimless crimes in which both parties are equally guilty. 

    In his February 10 WSJ column, Taranto baselessly argued that men are often unfairly accused in sexual assault cases on college campuses, particularly when both men and women involved in the case were drinking (emphasis added):

    What is called the problem of "sexual assault" on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike. 

    [...]

    If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.

    As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, at some campuses the accuser's having had one drink is sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt ... In theory that means, as FIRE notes, that "if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other." In practice it means that women, but not men, are absolved of responsibility by virtue of having consumed alcohol.

    While it is true that reckless alcohol consumption can play a role in encouraging damaging behavior, and that male and female college students (particularly underage students) could probably benefit from learning to moderate their drinking for a variety of reasons, Taranto's accusation that women who drink -- and then are forced to have sex against their will -- are not only equally at fault for their assault but are guilty of an equivalent crime takes victim blaming to a new and dangerous low.

    Taranto's victim-blaming approach furthers his attempts to disingenuously redefine the problem of sexual assault as a problem of alcohol. The problem of sexual assault on college campuses, as elsewhere, is entirely a problem of sexual assault, in which a victim does not consent to sexual relations with the aggressor. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption doesn't cause sexual assault, nor does it serve as a defense. According to a literature review from the National Institutes of Health:

    The fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault. 

    [...]

    [M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman's alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man's behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs. 

  • WSJ's Taranto Dismisses Military Sexual Assault Epidemic, Cries "War On Men"

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality." 

    In May, the Department of Defense released its James Taranto "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.

    In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.

    Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*

    Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.

    But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.

    The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.

    Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.

    While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.

    UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.

    *Taranto also responded to Media Matters by noting Sen. McCaskill stated that she made her hold on Gen. Helms' promotion permanent on June 6. Media Matters regrets the error.

  • Fox's Allen West Uses Military Sexual Assault Epidemic To Attack Democrats And Decry Women In Combat Units

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox News contributor Allen West agreed with radio host Michael Savage's assertion that "Khmer Rouge feminists" are attempting a "coup" against the military by proposing to change the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. West also used the sexual assault issue to criticize liberals for wanting to "put women into combat arms units" "so that they can meet some socially engineering goal or egalitarian goal."  

    Savage, who hosts Cumulus Media Networks' Savage Nation, began the June 4 segment by playing audio of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talking about changing the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. After saying Gillibrand "sounds like a college chick at a dorm," Savage told guest West: "When I watch these Khmer Rouge feminists try to take over the military, this looked like an attempted coup to me, Colonel West."

    West replied: "Nah, you're absolutely right and that's a big concern that I have because when you start to get -- you know, I understand civilian oversight of the military. We all understand that as all officers who served in uniform. But when you start to have this interjection of, you know, political, you know, will against, you know, the military, good order and discipline, where you start to try to usurp the commanders' authority and I guess replace it with some type of political, legal officers, and things of that nature. Then the next thing you know, it goes from just dealing with this, you know, sexual assault thing to, you know, making decisions on the battlefield."

    Savage and West went on to discuss whether sexual assaults in the military are actually a problem. When West said that "there may be a problem, without a doubt, with sexual assault," Savage interrupted by claiming that sexual assault claims can include men asking women out for "a beer." He then asked West, "how many of them are fraudulent claims? We don't know, do we?"

    "No we don't," West answered. "And furthermore, Dr. Savage, we don't know how many of them are female against male, you know, sexual assaults, or same-sex sexual assaults. So we don't have those numbers either."

    The Department of Defense recently released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" and found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault. The Army Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program has stated that "[s]exual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent."

    Savage proceeded to launch into a screed about how military sexual assaults are "such trivial nonsense" and wondered why the U.S. Senate is having a hearing on "this rubbish."

    West responded by claiming that it's because Democrats control the U.S. Senate, while Republicans control the "House Armed Services Committee, where you would have more poignant questions. You know, you have the hearings about Benghazi."