Campus Rape Frenzy

In an effort to expand my understanding of campus issues, which can bring into stark relief larger political forces at play in the nation (why political conflict happens so acutely on campuses or as part of student movements is a topic of interest for another time), I picked up this book recommended by a friend.

That books are not fact checked was on my mind a lot while reading this book. Although the pages of this book are chock full of anecdotes and evidence about wrongful accusations and improper sexual assault investigations, a 2nd round of fact checking would have gone a long way in building my confidence about their findings. With that criticism in mind, I did find their in depth discussion of survey methodology and complication of the “1 in 4 women on college campuses are victims of sexual assualt” compelling. Surveys of this nature are difficult to get right but it seems to me that the truth exists somewhere between 1 in 4 at the high end and 1 in 53 at the low end (from a BJS study quoted in the book and elsewhere). I also liked their structured, thoughtful approach to all sides of the issue including media coverage, power relations on campus, the role of the government and social change.

Overall, I found that the authors built a compelling case that the Obama administration (from my understanding, in an effort to bridge the gap between police inaction on sexual assault and victim complaints about their treatment on campus) over-corrected with the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. The extension of OCR oversight over Title IX issues to college sexual assault tribunals has resulted in, according to this book and it seems to be the case, a systematic denial of due process and constitutional rights of the accused. In an ironic twist, I wonder if the solution to this will also come via Title IX, if accusers ask for better treatment on the basis of gender discrimination.

I hear and understand complaints from victims’ rights organizations that police departments around the country are not dealing with college rape with sufficient urgency. But the solution should not be an end-run around the legal system by creating a separate standard for justice for college students (a legal safe-space to use the term du jour). We should try to fix the justice system we have instead of creating a separate justice system.

Lastly, I imagine the authors’ credibility and ability to persuade people would be greatly increased if they spilled as much ink and applied as much expertise on helping victims as the falsely accused. One presumes, and I think it stands to reason, victims exist in much larger numbers than the falsely accused.