National Review Uses Rolling Stone Report To Deny Reality Of College Sexual Assault

National Review personalities exploited questions surrounding Rolling Stone's high-profile account of a rape at the University of Virginia (UVA) in order to deny the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and suggested that women should do more to protect themselves, a response in keeping with the outlet's history of denialist, victim-blaming sexual assault coverage.

Rolling Stone Account Of Rape At UVA Called Into Question

Rolling Stone Report On Rape At UVA Challenged By Media. In November, Rolling Stone published an article titled, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” which told the story of a female student who allegedly suffered a horrific gang rape at a fraternity party. As Vox noted, some details of the account have been called into question, and Rolling Stone is now coming under fire for failing to thoroughly fact-check its coverage:

Rolling Stone's high-profile story about sexual assault on campus appears to be falling apart in the wake of serious questions raised about a horrifying alleged gang-rape used as its central example.

It is a depressing certainty that this story will be used for years to come as a defense by those who do not want to believe rape victims' allegations. But that is the wrong lesson to draw. Rather, this story should be a reminder of how difficult it is to accurately report on traumatic events -- and the heightened ethical responsibilities that fall on journalists who do so. [Vox, 12/5/14]

National Review Figures Respond By Denying Problem Of Sexual Assault On Campus And Blaming Women

National Review Editor Rich Lowry: Statistics On Campus Sexual Assault Are “Bogus” Because They Include “Attempted Forced Kissing.” On the December 7 edition of ABC's This Week, National Review editor and National Review Online columnist Rich Lowry claimed that statistics showing that one in five women on college campuses are sexually assaulted are “bogus,” arguing, “That statistic is based on a survey that includes attempted forced kissing as sexual assault.” [ABC, This Week, 12/7/14]

NRO Correspondent John Fund Deemed Campus Sexual Assault Statistics“Inflated,” Justified Putting Onus On Women To Avoid Rape. National Review Online national-affairs correspondent John Fund wrote in a December 7 post for National Review Online that it is “inflated statistics” that show one out of every five women experience sexual assault on college campuses. He compared the response to the Rolling Stone report to the recent firing of Lincoln University president Robert Jennings, who was terminated for advising women to think twice before reporting a rape that may not have occurred “had you not put yourself in that situation.” Fund defended the instruction, calling it “inartful” but “fatherly advice”:

While his attempt at fatherly advice on sex may have been inartful, it hardly justified his critics' charge that he was blaming women for sexual assault. Nonetheless he has seen his career ruined, thanks to the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the issue of sexual assault.


Let's stipulate that sexual assault on campus is a serious issue. That's why it deserves serious treatment and debate. The last thing we need are articles like the one in Rolling Stone that can be used to minimize or cast doubt on the experiences of genuine victims. And we also shouldn't fall prey to mob mentalities like the one that cost Robert Jennings his job simply for making sincere attempts to discuss legitimate, complex issues on college campuses. [National Review Online, 12/7/14]

NRO Editor-At-Large Jonah Goldberg: “Some Drunk Men Will Do Bad Things ... And Women Should Take That Into Account.” On December 6, National Review Online editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg supported his theory that the Rolling Stone report is false by denying the overall existence of a “rape culture,” calling the notion “an elaborate political lie intended to strengthen the hand of activists.” He wrote that it is expected that “some drunk men will do bad things,” and suggested feminists are to blame for sexual assaults because they've adopted “the adolescent male's fantasy of consequence-and-obligation-free sex as an ideal for women,” writing:

What is most remarkable about our problems is that they seem to take people by surprise. For instance, it would be common sense to our grandmothers that some drunk men will do bad things, particularly in a moral vacuum, and that women should take that into account. I constantly hear that instead of lecturing women about their behavior we should teach men not to rape. I totally, completely, 100 percent agree that we should teach men not to rape. The problem is we do that. A lot. Maybe we should do it more.

[T]he problem is that feminists want to expunge any notion that women are gentler and fairer. This requires declaring war on chivalric standards for male conduct, which were once a great bulwark against caddish and rapacious behavior. Take away the notion that men should be protective of women and they will -- surprise! -- be less protective of women. [National Review Online, 12/6/14]

Sexual Assault On College Campuses Is A Serious Issue -- And Vastly Underreported

CDC: 19 Percent Of Undergraduate Women Experienced Sexual Assault While In College. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012, "[i]n a study of undergraduate women, 19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college," and “37.4% of female rape victims were first raped between ages 18-24.” [Center for Disease Control, Sexual Violence Data Sheet, 2012]

National Institute Of Justice: Women At Universities Are At Considerable Risk For Experiencing Sexual Assault. A 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that “one out of five undergraduate women experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during their college years,” and that college women are “at elevated risk for sexual assault,” particularly sexual assault involving alcohol or drug consumption:

One subpopulation that is often believed to be at elevated risk for sexual assault is college students. Although methodological variation renders comparisons difficult to make, some previous studies suggest that university women are at greater risk than women of a comparable age in the general population (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; DeKeseredy & Kelly, 1993; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). This pattern is likely due to the close daily interaction between men and women in a range of social situations experienced in university settings (Fisher, Sloan, Cullen, & Lu, 1988), as well as frequent exposure to alcohol and other drugs.

The risk of sexual assault related to alcohol and/or other drug consumption is particularly high among university women. [The Campus Sexual Assault Study, National Institute of Justice, December 2007]

National Institute Of Justice: More Than 95 Percent Of Rapes On College Campuses May Go Unreported To Police. The National Institute of Justice estimated that “fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials.” The Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network noted that “this is far below the rate of the general population, where about 40 percent of sexual attacks are reported to police.” [Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, accessed 12/8/14]

For more on National Review Online's marked history of denying the existence of sexual assault, click here,here, and here.