National Review's Kevin Williamson declared that the epidemic of campus sexual assault “is a fiction” and compared efforts to curb the crime to “mass hysteria” during the Salem Witch Trials.
Rolling Stone recently retracted its controversial article on sexual assault at the University of Virginia, following a review by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) which determined the report to be a “journalistic failure.”
National Review correspondent Kevin Williamson responded by issuing a blanket denial of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country. “There is no epidemic of rapes on American college campuses,” Williamson wrote. “The campus-rape epidemic is a fiction.” He likened outrage over campus sexual assaults to “mass hysteria” during the Salem Witch Trials and “the Satanic-cult hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s.”
But sexual assault on college campuses is a serious issue -- and one that experts say is vastly underreported. Experts have estimated that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college, and the problem may be even more serious than statistics on the crime reveal. According to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, sexual assault is “one of the most under reported crimes,” with nearly 70 percent of crimes going unreported to police.
National Review's response to the CJR report on Rolling Stone takes the very position CJR explicitly warned against. In its review, CJR cautioned that the Rolling Stone case should not be used to discredit the larger movement to address campus sexual assault, writing, “It would be unfortunate if Rolling Stone's failure were to deter journalists from taking on high-risk investigations of rape in which powerful individuals or institutions may wish to avoid scrutiny but where the facts may be underdeveloped.”
Moreover, Williamson's attempts to deny the seriousness of campus sexual assault are in line with National Review's history of repudiating the existence of rape. The outlet has repeatedly dismissed efforts to curb sexual violence, even going so far as to blame victims for crimes perpetrated against them.