Six Vanderbilt students have filed a suit claiming that their allegations of sexual assault were not taken seriously. Students at Amherst, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Yale and dozens of other colleges have filed similar complaints.
Some of the statistics circulating about campus sexual assaults -- such as the much-touted 20 percent figure -- are clearly exaggerated and are based on an overly broad interpretation of the word rape. As Cathy Young of Minding the Campus explained, "Three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped."
It's always wise to take statistics, particularly those offered by advocacy groups, with a large grain of salt, but that doesn't mean the problem is illusory.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, has just released the results of a study she commissioned about how universities are handling sexual assault allegations. Among her more headline-grabbing findings was that 22 percent of a national sample of universities permit their athletic departments to oversee cases involving alleged misconduct by athletes. One in five provide no sexual assault response training to faculty and staff.
The feminist interpretation of these facts is well-known: This is part of the "rape culture" that devalues women. The American Association of University Women seems to endorse this interpretation and offers "10 Ways to Fight Against Sexual Assault on Campus." It begins by suggesting contacting "campus resources like counseling centers, advocacy offices, or the police," but among the other suggestions are "Write an op-ed"; "Use social media ... to spread awareness"; "Start a conversation on victim blaming"; and "Get involved in national campaigns ... like the Clothesline Project."
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