Upcoming Fox News Special On Campus Sexual Assault Highlights Years Of Minimizing Rape Victims

Upcoming Fox News Special On Campus Sexual Assault Highlights Years Of Minimizing Rape Victims


Fox News is promoting an upcoming special on college sexual assault titled "Fox News Reporting: The Truth About Sex & College." In segments promoting the special and a related blog post, Fox News repeated misinformation about the frequency of false accusations of sexual assault as well as victim-blaming myths. Looking towards the premiere of this special, here are the types of misinformation to be aware of.

Fox News Promotes Special Report On Campus Sexual Assault

Fox News Special On Campus Sexual Violence To Air December 12. On December 12, America's Newsroom co-host, Martha MacCallum will host a special report on campus sexual assault: "Fox News Reporting: The Truth About Sex & College." In an article promoting the special, Fox promised it would use focus on "a handful of cases that demonstrate how the system works" by requiring "the lowest standard of proof to find the accused responsible." [FoxNews.com, 12/10/15]

Fox Claims False Accusations Of Sexual Assault Are Widespread

Fox's MacCallum Claimed False Accusations Are "Not That Unusual," And Constitute The "Untold Story Of Campus Sexual Assault." In two promotional previews for the Fox special, MacCallum claimed that in cases of campus sexual assault, "the victim is not always clear," implying that sometimes the true victim is the accused rather than the accuser. In a December 11 preview, MacCallum emphasized that "wrongly accused students ... can have their own lives ruined," and claimed that false accusations of sexual assault were "not that unusual." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/10/1512/11/15]

MacCallum: "Studies Contradict" That One In Five Women Are Assaulted, And "No One Really Knows For Sure." In a December 2 op-ed promoting the special, MacCallum argued that although "we've heard that one in five young women are assaulted during their college years... but other studies contradict this finding and claim the real number is far lower." She concluded that "no one knows for sure":

We've all heard about the "rape crisis" on our college campuses. We've heard that one in five young women are assaulted during their college years. It's a staggering number, one that hits home for parents of college-age kids. I was about to send a daughter off to school when I heard that statistic. I was horrified.

But other studies contradict that finding and claim the real number is far lower. No one really knows for sure.  Another study claims that young women who do not attend college are more likely to be raped than those who do. [FoxNews.com, 12/2/15]

Fox Suggests Some Rape Accusations Aren't Legitimate, Claiming Accusers "Wish They Could Change The Choices They Made"

MacCallum: Accuser "Became A Celebrity," While The Accused Man "Received Death Threats." In a December 11 preview of the report, MacCallum described Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz's public accusation of classmate Paul Nungesser as an ongoing attempt to "call attention to her claim that she was raped even though the investigation and the college said" that Nungesser "was not responsible for any such thing." MacCallum argued that in spite of this finding, Sulkowicz "ended up becoming a celebrity," while Nungesser "received death threats." [Fox News, America's Newsroom12/11/15]

MacCallum: Some Women Have "Legitimate Grievances," But Some Just "Wish They Could Change The Choices They Made." In her December 2 op-edMacCallum claimed that sexual assault investigation put colleges in an ugly political and economic bind" and creates "many" victims.  In describing these victims, MacCallum juxtaposed women with so-called "legitimate grievances," against those who just "wish they could change the choices they made." She further noted that many cases are the fault of "two young people" who were too drunk to consent:

The government has put colleges in an ugly political and economic bind, one that schools are ill equipped to manage. And the victims are many: Some are young women with legitimate grievances; some are young women who wish they could change the choices they made; some are young men who did nothing wrong. Many are two young people who were so drunk they don't know what happened. [FoxNews.com, 12/2/15]

But Sexual Assault Is Both Common And Underreported

National Sexual Violence Resource Center: Vast Majority Of Sexual Assaults Are Unreported, False Reports Account For Between "2% And 10%" Of Cases.  According to a factsheet from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), "more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault." This factsheet also found that "the prevalence of false reporting [of sexual assault] is between 2% and 10%" nationwide":

More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.


The prevalence of false reporting is between 2% and 10%. For example, a study of eight U.S. communities, which included 2,059 cases of sexual assault, found a 7.1% rate of false reports. A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found a 5.9% rate of false reports. Researchers studies 812 reports of sexual assault from 200-03 and found a 2.1% rate of false reports. [National Sexual Violence Resource Center, accessed 12/11/15]

CDC: 20 Percent Of Undergraduate Women Experienced Sexual Assault While In College. According to a 2014 fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "an estimated 20% to 25% of college women in the United States were victims of attempted or completed rape during their college career," and "5.2% in the past year." [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 12/11/15]

White House: One In Five Women Are Sexually Assaulted While In College. On April 29, 2014, the White House released a comprehensive report detailing the Obama administration's strategy to combat sexual assault on college campuses, noting that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college:

One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college.  Most often, it happens her freshman or sophomore year.  In the great majority of cases, it's by someone she knows - and also most often, she does not report what happened.  And though fewer, men, too, are victimized. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 4/29/14]

Fox Has A History Of Minimizing Rape Reports Made By Women

Fox Guest Suggests "Many Women" Falsify Rape Accusations Because They "Have What's Known As Regret Sex." On the August 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest Keith Sullivan argued that a New Hampshire student accused of sexual assault didn't "look like a rapist." He continued that "many women" falsify accusations because they "have what's known as regret sex." [Media Matters8/19/15]

Fox's Brit Hume: "I, Myself, Totally Dispute" Campus Sexual Assault Statistics. On the April 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Brit Hume stated that coverage of sexual assault demonstrated the "tyranny of this narrative ... that women on campuses are a vulnerable group," and that "college campuses are especially dangerous places." He concluded: "I, myself, totally dispute the notion that you've got a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted on a campus today." [Media Matters4/7/15]

Fox's Andrea Tantaros Suggested Feminism Encouraged Statutory Rape Of Student. On the January 22, 2014 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros blamed feminism for encouraging the statutory rape of a high school student, claiming "There's something about feminism that lets them know that 'I can do everything a man does, I can even go after that young boy.'" [Fox News, The Five1/22/14]

Fox's Tucker Carlson: Reporting Statutory Rape Is "Whiny." On the June 5, 2014 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Tucker Carlson criticized a student for reporting a statutory rape as "whiny," diminishing the victim's report, saying, "He went and tattled to the police." [Fox News, Outnumbered6/5/14]

Fox Host Dana Perino's Advice To Women Who Are Victims Of Violence: "Make Better Decisions." On the December 5, 2012 edition of The Five, co-host Dana Perino stated that "women are victims of violence all the time." When co-host Greg Gutfeld responded that "[t]hey should have guns," Perino replied, "Well, maybe. Or make better decisions." [Fox News, The Five12/5/12]

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