Hey gals, gather around for some Real Talk: did you know that America's college rape epidemic is all in our jungle juice-addled slutty imaginations? At least, according to a column posted by US News & World Report, it is.
In a column called "The Rape Epidemic Doesn't Actually Exist," (a real title for a real post on the decomposing website corpse of what used to be a major American magazine), Caroline Kitchens argues that "rape culture" is nothing but flawed statistics and angry bitches who hate men. Seriously.
Since last spring, an expansive network of student activists has emerged to fight "rape culture" and change the way universities respond to cases of sexual misconduct. However, as universities reexamine their sexual assault policies, administrators should be wary of the demands of these "rape culture" activists. Not only is their movement built on a foundation of dubious statistics and a distorted view of masculinity, but it has already led to policies that have proved devastating to those who have been falsely accused.
First of all — it's just adorable that Kitchens believes that the anti-rape culture movement on American college campuses started LAST SPRING. Apparently she's unfamiliar with Take Back the Night, or Susan Brownmiller, or the uproar over what happened to Lizzy Seeberg, or the entire history of the women's movement in the US prior to the spring of 2012. But getting caught up on Kitchens' laughable lack of understanding of what we mean when we say "rape culture" distracts from the worst part of her shitpile argument: that rape culture isn't real. Why? Because the statistics prove it's not!
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' "Violent Victimization of College Students" report tells a different and more plausible story about campus culture. During the years surveyed, 1995-2002, the DOJ found that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year. Across the nation's four million female college students, that comes to about one victim in forty students. Other DOJ statistics show that the overall rape rate is in sharp decline: since 1995, the estimated rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations has decreased by about 60 percent.
So, from a survey of "violent" victimization, Kitchens extrapolated that the "one-in-five college women will be raped" statistic is false. Check out these statistics that say statistics are crap, guys.
I don't even know where to begin with this. My eyeballs hurt.
First, Kitchens demonstrates with this column that she doesn't know what rape is. Like Todd Akin and Whoopi Goldberg, the crime she describes is the eye rollingly cliched image of a woman walking down the street and being violently dragged into an alley by some guy with a dastardly mustache. But that's not an accurate picture of rape. According to RAINN, more than 2/3 of rapes are perpetrated by an offender known to the victim. Most take place within a mile of the victim's home. And in many cases of collegiate rape, the victim isn't overpowered by physical force or violence, but by alcohol. And, legally speaking, having sex with a person who is too intoxicated to consent constitutes "rape." Hell, of all the women I know who were raped in college, I can't think of one who has described it to me as "violent."
Kitchens goes on to ring alarm bells about the SILENT VICTIMS of the college rape epidemic— men who are falsely accused of rape. Apparently this is happening in large numbers, even though Kitchens, a statistician, doesn't seem to have any solid numbers to back her gut feeling up.
Across the country, students accused of sexual assault are regularly tried before inadequate and unjust campus judiciaries. At most schools, cases of sexual misconduct are decided by a committee of as few as three students, faculty members or administrators. At Swarthmore College, volunteers are now being solicited via email to serve on the Sexual Assault and Harassment Hearing Panel. Such a panel is far more likely to yield gender violence activists than impartial fact finders. In a court of law, we rely on procedural safeguards to ensure unbiased jury selection and due process. But on the college campus, these safeguards have vanished.
Where are the stats backing up Kitchens' claim that ACROSS THE COUNTRY, poor men are being kicked out of college in droves? Beyond the few anecdotes she drops, who knows! But here's an actual statistic: according to the US Department of Justice, out of every 100 rapes, only 3 of them result in the rapist going to prison. Only 9 even lead to a trial.
I agree with Kitchens that false rape accusations are devastating to the people affected. But there's no evidence to suggest that this is a problem so big that it demands we add an additional layer of scrutiny to women who report rapes, especially on college campuses. Just because men are sometimes falsely accused of rape doesn't mean that a significant number of rape accusations are false, or that campus rape doesn't exist. To attempt use anecdotes of false rape reporting to show that actual rape stats are wrong is offensively stupid.
Caroline Kitchens' narrow understanding of rape, combined with an overall distrust for women and sanctimony about alcohol consumption highlights exactly the problem with rape culture on American college campuses — men and boys aren't taught that having sex with an incapacitated person is rape. Authorities don't understand that predatory men use alcohol as a weapon against women they wish to victimize, and they focus too much on the "women avoid rape!" message and not enough on the "men, don't rape!" message. Women who have internalized harmful ideas about sex, drinking, blaming the victim in sexual assaults even when they are the victim.
[Aside: What if other crimes were normalized as acceptable outcomes for the person victimized getting drunk? Every once in awhile, I'll put away a few glasses (fine, a bottle) of wine and pass out on my couch while watching Daria on Hulu, but if someone broke into my apartment and stole my laptop, no one would be like, well what did you expect you drunk laptop-waving skank? If I was mildly intoxicated on the train ride home, and I got mugged, no one would try to tie my right to control my debit card to my ability to responsibly imbibe.]
Decades of research and millions of women would disagree with Kitchens, who when she's not works for the American Enterprise Institute, the same right wing think tank that once employed Lynne Cheney.
Kitchens work was well-received by one group on USNews' commenting section: confirmation bias-addled men who are really worried that The Feminists have Taken Over and are in a grand conspiracy to send them to jail for rape.
See? Writing awful shit about rape will make the boys like you! Roiphe'd!