Rape

Lessons of Rolling Stone's UVA Catastrophe: We Can't Prevent Rape If We're Deluded About It

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UVA
Karen Blaha / Wikimedia Commons

Suppose Jackie's story was not so incredible. Suppose that premeditated, ritualistic gang rape was a plausible occurrence at the average college. Suppose that one in every five—or four, or three—female students found themselves in serious danger of assault the moment they set foot outside their dorm rooms. Suppose that America's campuses really did rival Somalia in terms of the violence faced by young women.

Would it be enough to merely place a moratorium on Greek activity, form a task force, and defend the actions of administrators who failed to report rape to the police, as University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan has done (arguably in violation of the Constitution)?

Of course not.

On the other hand, suppose the details of Jackie's story were exaggerated, or in doubt. Suppose that premeditated, ritualistic gang rape was highly implausible. Suppose that cherry-picked statistics from a few unrepresentative studies were clearly masking an extraordinary decline in rape rates nationwide over the past few decades. Suppose the best available evidence suggested that campuses were, on the whole, safer for women than other environments. Suppose that campus sexual assaults were largely the work of a few sociopaths and nearly always the result of alcohol-induced incapacitation.

Wouldn't the supposed solution to the campus rape crisis look markedly different?

In a major magazine story that succeeds on all the levels Rolling Stone's failed, Slate's Emily Yoffe argues persuasively that we live in the latter world. Confusion about the prevalence of rape and its proximate causes—confusion that Rolling Stone has only worsened—has driven governments and universities to greatly mishandle sexual assault by mandating solutions that wrongly evaluate the scope of the problem while needlessly violating civil liberties, from due process to freedom of association.

Yoffe quickly cuts through the hyperbole about surging assault rates and discovers that college campuses aren't nearly as dangerous as we have let ourselves believe:

Being young does make people more vulnerable to serious violent crime, including sexual assault; according to government statistics those aged 18 to 24 have the highest rates of such victimization. But most studies don't compare the victimization rates of students to nonstudents of the same age. One recent paper that does make that comparison, "Violence Against College Women" by Callie Marie Rennison and Lynn Addington, compares the crime experienced by college students and their peers who are not in college, using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. What the researchers found was the opposite of what Gillibrand says about the dangers of campuses: "Non-student females are victims of violence at rates 1.7 times greater than are college females," the authors wrote, and this greater victimization holds true for sex crimes: "Even if the definition of violence were limited to sexual assaults, these crimes are more pervasive for young adult women who are not in college."

Rennison, an associate professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, recognized in an interview that her study goes against a lot of received wisdom. "Maybe that's not a really popular thing to say," she said, adding, "I hate the notion that people think sending kids off to college is sending them to be victimized."

We see this fear manifest itself all the time. After reading Yoffe's story, I instantly thought of Reason's Lenore Skenazy, who warns that many parents—as well as the state—have become myopic about the relative dangers their kids face. Skenazy has covered cases where police arrested parents for letting their children play outside by themselves, or wait in the car while mom grabbed groceries. Unrealistic fears about predators waiting around every corner to snatch and abuse kids have prompted the enactment of paranoid laws; these are bad for society and minimize child and parental autonomy, but do little to make children safer.

Consider Skenazy's video for Reason TV. She discovered that concerns about sex offenders abusing kids on Halloween are entirely misplaced, and laws that force registered sex offenders to turn off their lights or report to a facility during Halloween hours are cruel and needless. In most respects, kids are no less safe on Halloween. In fact, the one great danger to trick-and-treaters is being hit by a car. Skenazy's research suggests that taking the cops off sex offender patrol and putting them on crossing guard duty would be a far more effective use of police resources.

It's not that children face no danger; rather, certain dangers are exaggerated in people's minds (predators) and others minimized (car accidents). And so the policy designed to make children safer ends up focusing on the wrong thing.

It's the same with rape. Culture does not cause rape. Tasteless jokes do not cause rape. Fraternities are not universal rape factories. Rape is not occurring more frequently. Whatever happened to Jackie, it wasn't a Silence of the Lambs sort of ordeal as reported by Rolling Stone.

Which is not to say that nothing happened to Jackie, or that rape never happens, or that it has no cause or cultural enablers, or that all frats behave perfectly all the time. Of course rape happens, and it's a serious matter deserving of everyone's attention. The police should vigorously investigate accusations and prosecute offenders. Policies can and should be changed to diminish it. But this can only be done if people have a good sense of the scope of the actual problem.

And at the end of the day, obliterating that scope is perhaps the most costly consequence of Rolling Stone's disastrous abandonment of journalistic principles. The article's defenders cling—wrongly—to the notion that the world is brimming with Drews, and as such, all Jackies should automatically be believed without question. But some of the article's critics, who are right about its significant flaws, will nevertheless draw the incorrect conclusion that all accusers are liars. Neither outcome is good for addressing actual sexual assault.

The ubiquity of misleading statistics about rape and absurd policies designed to deter it—including, most notably, affirmative consent policies that make neo-Victorian requirements of students who want to have sex—betray a great deal of societal confusion on this issue. Rolling Stone has worsened the matter, and it's going to take lot more articles like Yoffe's to undo the damage.

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  1. What if Soave was under the impression that progressive feminists actually gave a shit about sexual assault of women? That their agenda includes stopping violence of all kinds against women?

    I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as he keeps exposing their mendacity.

    1. What if Soave was under the impression that progressive feminists actually gave a shit about sexual assault of women?

      Innocence of assumption? Maybe Soave is a decent enough person that it wouldn’t occur to him that people might use one of the worst crimes imaginable as an excuse to push an agenda.

      1. That seems likely. If he keeps scrapping with the likes of them I hope his heretofore honesty and integrity is bulletproof.

    2. “progressive feminists” is an oxymoron. There is nothing “progressive” about them. They are regressive, and if you think I am wrong, tell me in what way.

  2. Whenever I hear about the latest lawmaking craze — bullying, rape culture, assault weapons bans, revenge porn, etc. — I’m reminded of the people (i.e. Cass Sunstein) who insist that we need government regulations because individuals don’t actually rationally all the time. These people never seem to consider how government amplifies individual irrationality and inflicts it on everyone else.

    1. “These people never seem to consider how government amplifies individual irrationality and inflicts it on everyone else.”

      I think that is their prime consideration.

      1. “Its not irrational if I believe it!”

  3. This whole thing reminds me of the sex offender registry. At one point it seemed like a good idea to let parents know if a child molester lived in their neighborhood. But now the registry includes teenagers having sex with their slightly younger girlfriends, or kids sending naked pictures to each other. There are so many ways to get on the list, it’s become diluted to the point of being completely useless. When some people think that everything a man does to a woman is rape, and when unsubstantiated claims are always believed, no matter what, it takes away from the seriousness of actual sexual assault. Which to me is a giant step backward.

    1. America is turning into a giant plush toy, boo.

      1. I LIKE plush toys. However, I don’t want my nation to emulate one.

        1. Almanian is a plushie!

        2. My house would like the A!. It is filled with fucking plushies. The hot wife and I birthed two miniature avid collectors of plush toys. Rivers of plushies ran across the floors of this place until I was literally forced to build a floor-to-ceiling plush storage unit with mesh sides, of course. Plush toys should never be stored where they cannot be seen as any lover of the plush fully realizes.

          1. a floor-to-ceiling plush storage unit with mesh sides

            Sort of a plushie penitentiary?

            1. Clever, but highly sacrilegious to the plushiverse, sir.

            2. They employ hard and embittered Teddy Bears as the guards.

  4. But some of the article’s critics, who are right about its significant flaws, will nevertheless draw the incorrect conclusion that all accusers are liars.

    While I can’t speak for all of the article’s critics, I don’t buy this. I think honest people of goodwill understand that there are rapists out there. But, I think it’s honest revulsion toward rape that makes me so critical of articles like the Rolling Stone piece. It was patently obvious from day one that they were making something up to advance an agenda. Taking one of the worse things that can happen to someone and lying about it to impose rules on people or gain power for themselves makes the the SJWs implicit accomplices of the rapists in my book.

    1. Indeed, even the most hardcore misogynistic PUA dudebro would admit that rape occurs.

      What they will likely conclude is that all women who wait weeks to months to years and claim to be too traumatized to go to the police are lying. while even this is an overreaction it is not an entirely unsupportable position

    2. some of the article’s critics, who are right about its significant flaws, will nevertheless draw the incorrect conclusion that all accusers are liars.

      Actually, I bet not one single person believes that every single accuser is a liar.

      1. Actually the Radfems claim it is 2 – 4% based on an FBI study of they investigated where only 2 – 4% were determined to be groundless claims.

        Some feminists will use a larger claim of 4 – 8% but I’ve not seen any source for that info.

        My guess is that completely knowingly fabricated claims of rape are somewhere in the 5 – 8% of all women who claim to have been raped but a very small percentage of them try to press charges resulting in the FBI’s 2 – 4% range. The percentage of simple false rape claims (where the woman believes she was raped but wasn’t) is likely somewhere north of 25% of all rape claims.

    3. no one will conclude this. However, people will conclude that skepticism of these claims is the way to go. Make a rape claim and be prepared to back it up.

      Sure, the emotional support professionals and friends and family should probably be there just for support and not investigation, but others need to be objective, particularly those in power like Deans and police, should figure out whether a crime actually occurred and take action based on facts not emotional reactions to what may be an ambiguous event.

  5. Weed out the fucking liars and you drop campus rape/sex assault statistics overnight. Shit, I forgot… not possible. Women don’t lie or exaggerate do they?

    I love women like the next person but what the fuck is up with this deification of the modern woman like she is some sort of super-duperhuman or something? I view women as equals and nothing more. Some are fat, skinny, stupid, smart, idiotic, lying, ugly, pretty, assholes, morons, brilliant, and so on and in any number of combinations given the week or circumstance.

    1. Perpetual victim status, not deification.

      1. Fine, but being untouchable for perpetuity exhibits shadows of similarity with deification does it not?

        1. +1 Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite

    2. The problem is most fake rape claims don’t come from women who are liars. They come from ridiculously diluted definitions of rape combined with a culture that worships victimhood, and usually with some alcohol thrown in to partially obscure the actual events.

      The women making the false rape claims honestly and truly believe they have been raped even though any honest and impartial assessment of the events which actually occurred would conclude that what happened was not rape.

      False accusers like Jackie are very rare (although not as rare as the radfems like to claim) and in general they like Jackie rarely go to the police with said claims because they can get the social result they want/crave without risking being exposed by an actual investigation of their claims but the real problem with false rape claims are the ones where women are convinced weeks to months after the fact that they were raped and then proceed to act as if it actually happened.

      More importantly they not only act as if they had been raped, they expect society to act as if they had. Like their “lived experience” determines objective reality.

      1. Re: Rasilio,

        The problem is most fake rape claims don’t come from women who are liars. They come from ridiculously diluted definitions of rape combined with a culture that worships victimhood

        Indeed, the grievance culture from which many a charlatan draws income has done more to make matters worse than better for real victims of crime or injustice. It turns people of different backgrounds, creeds and sex suspicious of each other. It turns people into savages that attempt to gain power over others, instead of making them civilized and reasonable humans who tolerate each other and peacefully trade with each other.

        All this stems from Cultural Marxism, which is nothing more than institutionalized irrationality.

      2. False accusers like Jackie are very rare

        My understanding is that this isn’t necessarily so. Even the radfems’ claims put the number at about one in ten.

        1. Actually the Radfems claim it is 2 – 4% based on an FBI study of they investigated where only 2 – 4% were determined to be groundless claims.

          Some feminists will use a larger claim of 4 – 8% but I’ve not seen any source for that info.

          My guess is that completely knowingly fabricated claims of rape are somewhere in the 5 – 8% of all women who claim to have been raped but a very small percentage of them try to press charges resulting in the FBI’s 2 – 4% range. The percentage of simple false rape claims (where the woman believes she was raped but wasn’t) is likely somewhere north of 25% of all rape claims.

    3. I love women like the next person but what the fuck is up with this deification of the modern woman like she is some sort of super-duperhuman or something?

      History, as always, has the answer. The original feminist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was split into two factions. One is the familiar “total equality” feminism of the 20’s-60’s. The other was the “pure and moral” feminism of the 1880’s-1910’s.

      Modern feminists had run out the slack of “total equality” by the mid 70’s and needed somewhere to go. The original context of “pure and moral” feminism had gone out the window before the Depression, but there were still concepts of women being the superior gender that could be appropriated (out of context, of course) and used to continue the upward trend of women… beyond equality.

      That’s where this comes from. Women, in modern feminists’ views, are above reproach, more moral than men, and of pure intention at all times. The phrase “neo-Victorian” is more correct that Soave knows. The “pure and moral” feminism is a relic of the Victorian era, resurrected into modern times. The responsibilities placed on women in the Victorian era have been stripped away, but the feminists are trying to bring the privileges back.

    4. Inflated statistics are a money-maker for some.

  6. Take a page out of FDR’s book and lock all us frat guys up in camps around the nation. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. I would think just housing them all in one place on campus, so we can keep an eye on them, would be sufficient.

      1. There’s a lot of them, though, so one house wouldn’t be enough. We would need some sort of “row” of houses. I suppose we should let them self-sort into each house in the row to keep disputes to a minimum.

        1. Also, we don’t want them getting too comfortable. Give them long particle board tables and cheap beer in plastic cups.

      2. Maybe if the women were all kept somewhere safe?

    2. I wouldn’t mind going to Frat Camp for a week or so…

  7. If the “rape crisis” bs statistics were even close to accurate, there wouldn’t a co-ed college in the country.

    1. What woman in her right mind would go to a college while believing she had a 1 in 4 chance of being raped? This alone shows that the vast majority of young women know this statistic is entirely made up, regardless of what they say when on camera or being polled. It is literally doublethink.

  8. Some of the article’s critics…will nevertheless draw the incorrect conclusion that all accusers are liars.

    I reject this idea, and believe the number of people who will believe “no” accusations are real will approach – if not equal – zero.

    Otherwise, well done and spot on.

  9. Suppose the best available evidence suggested that campuses were, on the whole, safer for women than other environments.

    Pernicious nonsense. Those women could be abducted, raped, and tortured at any moment. And if they could be, that’s exactly the same as will be.

    WHY DO YOU WANT THOSE POOR, DEFENSELESS LITTLE BABY GIRLS TO BE RAPED AND TORTURED?

  10. What’s really sad about this is that it makes it less likely that women will come forward when they really were raped…

    Which, the way some people spin it, sounds like another way of saying that Rolling Stone’s ineptitude has given us all a free pass to beat on our chests, blame the victims, and slut shame, slut shame, slut shame.

    The way to make the victims of rape feel comfortable coming forward was never to lower the standards of proof. The whole rape culture system was set up for failure. If MRAs had stayed up all night trying to think up new ways to discredit feminism, they could have hardly come up with anything better than rape culture, kangaroo courts at college.

    1. I should say that I think we’ve moved forward a bit in some ways.

      Speaking of slut shaming, not that long ago, one of the first things people would be blaming this on is…sluts in the media.

      They’d be blaming the Mylie Cyruses of the world for sexualizing our culture. Janet Jackson’s Superbowl tit was on the FBI’s public enemies list not that long ago. Maybe we’ve moved on from that?

  11. college campuses aren’t nearly as dangerous as we have let ourselves believe…

    Who’s “we” ? Personally I never believed the “1 in 4” statistic. It supported the narrative too neatly, similar to women earn 78 cents to a man’s dollar, or a gun in the house is 42 times more dangerous. Unfortunately, debunking hasn’t stopped the latter factoids, so I assume we’ll be hearing the “1 in 4” cited regardless.

    1. This here. I don’t uncritically accept every little factoid spewed by SJWs.

      Neither should anyone else. Don’t accept their premises unless and until they are proven up. Reason writers have shown a distressing blind spot when it comes to lefty/SJW framing of issues.

      1. Yoffe destroyed the 1 in 4 stat. Small, extremely biased sample, over-broad definition of sexual assault, and data shenanigans to put Michael Mann to shame.

        1. And like I said above, this statistic reveals a literal case of doublethink. What woman would attend a college believing she had a 1 in 4 chance of being raped?

        2. The ‘1-in-4’ stat and every other source cited by the Panic-Mongers was destroyed the moment it was used… however, the people doing the criticism were unfortunately TEAM RED and therefore not to be trusted

  12. I sometimes wonder if there is something about human psychology that makes people want to be in some sort of danger, to the point that they will exaggerate threats in the absence of real ones. Or if this something unique to our time or culture. But you see it all the time. You’d think we would be celebrating the progress that has been made toward living in a safer, more just world. But if you do that you are being a “denialist”.

    1. Definitely. While I don’t like conscription – a stint in the Infantry does tend to get it out of their systems and give them a better perspective on danger. That and some coursework in statistics can really enhance their BS detection abilities too.

      1. Definitely true. My father is a Vietnam vet, flew Cobras in ’69. The rest of my family would make fun of him for his worrying and hyper-cautious warnings that he delivered in the form of oft-repeated phrases. “Check, double check, then check again!” Then I had my turn in the breach, and find myself cautioning my wife every time she has to drive in the rain (daily in Seattle), and being the sole worrier when a group of friends and I are running low on water when camping. People joke about how I sound like an old man…well, watch the worst possible outcome happen to a couple people you know, and see if you don’t start sounding like Woody Allen cast as a driving instructor.

    2. These types of ghost stories about scary groups of “others” committing rapes and murders as a matter of ritual go back at least to blood libel in the Middle Ages.

      Which is depressing. We are as stupid and superstitious now as we were in the 12 century.

      1. Every generation needs a witch to hunt.

        1. I nominate the senators from California.

        2. Nothing unifies like hate.

    3. cognitive biases. the following video explains everything – i promise!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Gf9mtXnJfM

      pbs is good for something, i guess.

  13. Slate’s Emily Yoffe argues persuasively that we live in the latter world.

    When you’re being schooled on journalistic credibility and competence by Dear freakin’ Prudence, it might be time for a little self-reflection.

    1. Credit where it is due. I gave up on Slate at least 12 years ago, but they have been all over this and done an excellent job on this story.

    2. RCD is on a roll.

      If I were Rolling Stone, I’d hire RCD to cross examine my journalists before I published anything that isn’t music related.

      Does Rolling Stone still do stuff about music? Or are they like MTV now?

    3. “When you’re being schooled on journalistic credibility and competence by Dear freakin’ Prudence, it might be time for a little self-reflection.”

      Bravo

  14. Unfortunately, debunking hasn’t stopped the latter factoids, so I assume we’ll be hearing the “1 in 4” cited regardless.

    People (on both TEAMs, btw) continually make assertions which are easily disprovable, because they rely on the “I WANT TO BELIEVE”-ers who are always willing to accept those claims uncritically. In his column yesterday, Krugabe (again) claimed massive cuts in federal spending were the reason we have had such a slow recovery.

    1. At least Krugabe’s claims tend to be non-falsifiable. The “1 in 4” statistic is patently absurd.

  15. I hope this incident reminds Reason writers of the futility of presuming that mainstream feminists are simpatico with or libertarianism or that accepting the main premises of mainstream feminists in an attempt to be accommodating will engender goodwill. The type of politics espoused by mainstream feminism is incompatible with libertarianism, and the manner in which truth claims are evaluated in these circles precludes consideration of libertarian arguments. The extent to which one is a libertarian is the extent to which one is not a modern-day mainstream feminist, and vice versa (as those libertarians who have adopted the feminist label have discovered time and again).

  16. What woman would attend a college believing she had a 1 in 4 chance of being raped?

    What father or mother would willingly send their child to rape camp?

    “No, honey. It’s Khan Academy on the basement computer for you.”

  17. What the researchers found was the opposite of what Gillibrand says about the dangers of campuses

    Would that be Senator Kristen Gillibrand of the state of New York?

    1. I thought she was busy trying to prove every single woman in DoD had been raped?

  18. It’s not that children face no danger; rather, certain dangers are exaggerated in people’s minds (predators) and others minimized (car accidents).

    There’s a difference between a car accident and being attacked or abducted by a sexual predator. The guilt of not being there to help your child is heart wrenching, the stuff of nightmares.

    Just think that a child (son or daughter) who is being attacked or abducted is probably crying to you for help. At least in an accident, you know there will be EMTs and firemen to help you; there are hospitals; there is family. A person being attacked is alone, and may suffer indescribable horrors alone. You’re impotent, unable to help your son or daughter. I wouldn’t be able to bear such a thought.

  19. Suppose Jackie’s story was not so incredible. Suppose that premeditated, ritualistic gang rape was a plausible occurrence at the average college

    Sure, I’ll suppose that the ritualistic satanic child molestation occurred right there, in the daycare while the front doors were unlocked and parents were regularly walking in and out to pick up various children for dental appointments and whatnot. I’ll suppose that. Supposing it right now.

  20. The comments on the article at Slate are (as of early this morning anyway) quite encouraging. I think the number of comments expressing the viewpoint that it’s about time someone rational spoke up against all this extremist “rape culture” nonsense outweighed those critical of Ms. Yoffe’s position by like, 10 to 1.

    Prudie is pretty darn mainstream. Every damn one of those “Dear Prudence” posts gets 3,000 comments on it, more on a good day. I suspect that she’s got more readers than reason, rawstory, and jezebel combined.

    1. I read the article yesterday, and recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It was long, detailed, rational and kind of frightening.

  21. My buddy’s ex-wife makes $84 /hr on the computer . She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her payment was $13167 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    site here ???? http://www.jobsfish.com

  22. …Suppose that any attempt to apply reason results in the simultaneous attack by a flock of screeching, feral harpies….

  23. I want to say to the generation of ‘journalists’ who have been covering “The 2014 RAPE PANIC-ATTACK BY MIDDLE CLASS WHITEY“, that your failure to even once reference ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds‘ is an extreme disappointment

    I’d think that people who live on the internet should become more familiar with patterns of Herd-Behavior

  24. Good commentary.

    I sincerely believe it all could have been so very different — so much better — between men and women. There’s still hope. See:

    “The Sexual Harassment Quagmire: How To Dig Out” http://malemattersusa.wordpres…..-quagmire/

  25. Actually, the truth about rolling stone and the rest of the leftist media is they do not care about rape, it is just another tool in their bag to smear, defame, and destroy whatever target they are aiming at. If they cared about rape they wouldn’t glorify serial rapists like bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy. The latter also proves they don’t care about murder either or corrupt police or corrupt DAs, etc.(Corrupt cops, and DA helped cover up Kennedy’s crime.) The narrative is the goal, everything else is just a method to get there.

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