The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift, a veteran Washington journalist with an impeccably liberal point of view, has just come out with an article that asks: Is the campus rape crisis overblown.
I highly recommend that everyone read Clift’s article—and not just because she quotes from IWF’s recent panel on the campus rape culture and the Obama administration’s promotion of what we assert is a phony statistic: that one-in-five women on campus is the victim of sexual assault.
The IWF panel, which featured Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, legal writer Stuart Taylor, maverick libertarian Cathy Young, former George Bush representative on women’s issues Andi Bottner and moderator Sabrina Schaeffer of the IWF, stirred up a lot of discussion.
As we anticipated, we took some heat for daring to raise questions and host a measured discussion. The New Republic, for example, covered our panel with a story headlined, “Conservatives Are Obsessed with Debunking the One-in-Five Rape Statistic. They’re Wrong, too.” The panel was billed as “a report from the Independent Women’s Forum, where facts are stupid things.”
Far from thinking facts are stupid, we really wanted to explore what the real statistics are and what are the ramifications of getting these statistics wrong.
Clift quoted extensively from Hoff Sommers, who has performed the herculean task of tracking down the sources of these numbers (one source is a web-based survey that gave participants $10 gift certificates to Amazon!). Cliff also realizes how much the statistics matter when it comes to setting policy:
Since the White House report, titled “Not Alone,” was released in late April, lawmakers have looked for ways to curb what appears to be the soaring number of sexual assaults on college campuses. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a former prosecutor of sex crimes, will introduce bipartisan legislation in the next few weeks that Sommers and other critics worry will further confuse and blur the lines around what might once have been dismissed as a sexual misunderstanding, with the burden of proof shifting significantly from the woman to the accused.
The details of what McCaskill will propose are not yet fully known, but the expectation is that the legislation will call for consent every step of the way in a sexual encounter. The consent doesn’t have to be verbal. It can be implicit and it can be body language, but it must be clear and unambiguous.
Stuart Taylor Jr., a lawyer and a journalist, joined Sommers on a recent panel at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum to decry what he called “the pressure to treat all drunken sex as rape.” He said that Department of Education rules have changed during the Obama administration from convincing evidence to preponderance of evidence in assessing guilt.
“Preponderance means 51 percent sure and 49 percent not, you find him guilty,” he said, calling it “a degrading of due process for males who may have been wrongly accused.”
Kudos to Eleanor Clift for taking facts seriously enough to do a story that is fair to both sides in this important debate.
IWF will be putting together an online booklet about the debate soon. Watch this space.