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The Misleading Video Interview With a Rapist at the Heart of the Campus Sexual Assault Freakout

How influential sexual assault expert David Lisak used a misleadingly edited video to sell his serial predator theory of campus rape.

“This is a reenactment of an interview conducted by Dr. David Lisak, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, as part of a study of men who had raped but were never reported or prosecuted for their crimes.”

So begins the set piece of David Lisak’s best-known presentation to college campuses, the military, the  judiciary, law enforcement, and untold conferences where his expertise on sexual assault is lauded. It is a seven-minute video that shows Lisak and "Frank," an actor speaking an allegedly verbatim transcript from an interview with one of Lisak’s "undetected" campus rapists.

The introduction and the surrounding content  strongly suggest the interview is linked to research Lisak claims to have conducted at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Certainly that is the impression cultivated. Even when the video is specifically identified as such by others—for example, radio hosts, authors, or filmmakers—Lisak lets the implication stand. 

Together, Lisak's statements about serial sexual offenders and revelations about their motivations illustrated in the interview have significantly shaped the debate on campus sexual assault. Yet there is no relationship between the interview and the research at UMass Boston. 

The provenance of the interview, however, is only one of its issues. Far more troubling is the discovery that what is presented as material from a single interview is actually material from multiple individuals—none of whom actually resemble the finished product—edited to align with Lisak’s theory of serial sexual predators on college campuses. (This theory is featured prominently in The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault on campus set to air on CNN beginning November 22.) [Note: For more on The Hunting Ground, see Robby Soave's article on the documentary's many problems and inaccuracies.]

More troubling still is that those interviews were conducted with just 12 individuals nearly 30 years ago, a decade before many students on college campuses today were born, when Lisak himself was still a doctoral student.

Lisak’s Serial Predator Theory

The "Frank" video, and its supposedly unfiltered look inside the minds of predatory rapists on college campuses today, is a critical component of Lisak’s theory of sexual assault. He has claimed that his research at the University of Massachusetts Boston showed that 90 percent of campus rapes are perpetrated by serial offenders who meticulously plan their assaults, and who average six rapes each. These frightening statistics are regularly cited by government officials, including those at the White House.

But as Reason’s Robby Soave and I previously demonstrated, Lisak didn’t do research on campus sexual assault at the University of Massachusetts. Rather, he analyzed a subset of data collected by several of his doctoral students for their dissertations, none of it related to campus sexual assault, and found what he has subsequently described as evidence of serial rapists on college campuses. The paper he and his former student, Paul Miller, published in 2002 never even suggests that the acts perpetrated by his 76 serial rapists took place while they were students or on a college campus, nor that the victims were students themselves.

As these were primarily older students attending a commuter campus part-time—many with jobs and families—reporting on acts not limited to their years as students or attendance at the university, the paper’s connection to campus assault is tenuous at best. Lisak himself additionally undermined the paper’s connection to serial predators when he told me that a number of the assaults reported were ongoing abuse in domestic partnerships.

Lisak has also asserted that he interviewed the subjects of his students’ doctoral research. As reported earlier, when I asked how he could have interviewed anonymous subjects of research he had not conducted, he refused to answer and ended the conversation. In fact, he has published nothing related to interviews with the subjects of the paper in which he proposed his serial-predator theory, and there is no evidence they were ever asked, by anyone, about how or why the crimes occurred.

This unfounded theory of campus serial predators, however, gained no small amount of its traction from Lisak’s provocative declarations about their methods and motivations.

The graphic and disturbing alleged interview with Frank has driven those declarations home in dramatic fashion.

Frank’s language in the video is graphic, his attitude callous, and his account of assaults committed highlights Lisak’s theory that these serial predators are unfeeling sociopaths who target their victims and meticulously plan their attacks. The video not only highlights his theory’s touchpoints, it illustrates them perfectly.

But if Frank is not drawn from Lisak’s 2002 paper, on whom is he based?

The Origin of the Frank Interview

Lisak regularly presents the Frank interview as representative of the mindset and motivation of a typical college perpetrator, the kind of serial offenders supposedly responsible for 90 percent of campus assaults.

Instead, the source used to compile the Frank script traces back to just 12 students interviewed sometime in the 1980s. The path to the discovery of the video's origins starts with a paper Lisak published in 1990 based on the research he’d done for his doctoral dissertation at Duke.

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  • Brian||

    He's an amalgamation of multiple rapists. That's fine.

    It's like Obama's autobiography.

  • MarkLastname||

    Or that guy Lena Dunham raped. (Let's be honest, that's the moer likely scenario)

  • Tommy_Grand||

    Some believe certain social goals are important enough to justify a lie. A problem with that tactic arises if/when the lie is uncovered, b/c the opposition gets powerful ammo.

    In Maryland, i think, some activists, hoping to prevent the spread of AIDS and other STDS, gave free condoms to poor people . sounds like a good idea to me. I bet it had a small positive effect. Later the activists published a totally fake (made up) study saying their program had been wildly successful and that disease transmission declined dramatically. When the fraud came to light, conservative politicians used it as a club to reduce funding for several (IMO) beneficial, compassionate programs.

    Perhaps Lisak feels his, ahem, less-than-totally-forthright tactics are justified ("anything to reduce campus rape!!") but i wonder if he may become the ally of his gravediggers.

  • BearOdinson||

    I get your larger point. But I would imagine that the majority of conservative pols (are there any in MD?) were against taxpayers footing the bill.
    If activitists want to pass out condoms, more power to them. Even homeless folks like sex. (Can you imagine the smell??) But

  • Tommy_Grand||

    I get your point, Bear. I think of it like this: Assuming we’re forced to fund their health care, if free condoms = much less much AIDS (as the activists claimed), it makes sense to fund free condoms.

    At that point, th3 pure-blood libertarian screams: “We should NEVER
    be forced to pay for their health care!!”

    I know, ok? But since I AM paying for it, I’d prefer to pay slightly less. just my .02

  • Jack Strawb||

    Perhaps. Anyone with an interest in doing so could contact the organizers anywhere he's scheduled to speak and email this and other articles. Academic organizations are eventually loathe to do business with so obvious a fraud, if only for fear the tarnish transfers.

  • Derpmaster General||

    So....it's really Haven Monahan?

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Hahahahaha !

  • Marshal||

    Lisak's career seems very similar to the disgraced Mississippi coroner who lied in court for decades before being uncovered. They were both successful because they delivered what institutional powers wanted, and they were so useful these institutions refused to stop using them even after their duplicity was proven to all reasonable people.

  • ||

    Lisak's career seems very similar to the disgraced Mississippi coroner who lied in court for decades before being uncovered.

    I am pretty sure Lisak and Michael Bellesiles share the same tailor.

  • msimmons||

    Thankfully this behavior does not occur among climate changy researchers.

  • Tommy_Grand||

    you see it with some of the global warming alarmists, who'll admit (in private), "I dislike exaggerating the risk, but it's the only way to motivate uneducated masses to act."

  • MarkLastname||

    Which is funny, because it ultimately has the exact opposite effect: If the scientific literature in general suggests an average of x bad things occur per unit time (degrees increase in temperature, rapes per year, whatever), with x being the mean of all estimates ranging from x/5 to 5x, when an activist say "oh, I'll just take the highest estimate, and say 'look, there's 5x bad stuff happening per unit time! We must act!", then, inevitably, people are going to notice when that prediction turns out to be false; when the temperature increases by only x; or when reality confirms that only x rapes happen per year (because usually the estimates closer to the mean are more accurate and have higher sample sizes). And when that happens, people stop trusting the 'experts' and 'activists' in general.

    The media is the biggest culprit here. They propagate sensationalist high estimates of everything from rape to global warming to whatever, invoking the name of 'science' or 'experts' in the process, and when their numbers turn out to be over-estimates or outright fabrications (as extreme estimates tend to do rather often), even the credibility of honest and accurate experts is now tarnished. And the people bitching about 'denialism' largely have themselves to blame.

  • Lorenzo Valla||

    Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

    Same thing is happening with all of the 'racism' and other 'problems' on college campuses.

    Plato wept.

  • Intraveneous Woodchipper||

    To quote Rahm Emmanuel: "Never let a crisis go to waste."

    Especially if it's made up.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I don't know. The only reason any academic would ever make shit up is if the oil companies are paying them, and I don't see what the Koch Bros have to gain here. /progressives

  • woodNfish||

    They are not "progressive" they are regressive. They are also not "liberal", they do not believe in liberty, especially yours. Stop helping them hide behind words that mean the opposite of what they are. That is what PC is all about - hiding the truth. Don't help them.

  • Michael||

    I'll tell you what. We libertarians will hold down the fort with quality comedy and clever sarcasm, and you yokels just continue to get your plus-sized asses out to the voting booths and pulling the right levers. This way everybody's happy and no one has to think too hard or figure out jokes that are way above their pay grade. Deal?

  • MSimon||

    He shoulda interviewed Crystal Magnum. He could have gotten a REAL good story from her.

  • ||

    It's pretty disgusting that a man has used crimes against women to build up his own career and prestige in a way that discredits real victims of sexual assault. It's a lot like all these "women" committing rapes, murders - or this week taking over and shooting from the roof of a downtown DC office building - thus driving up crime statistics for women. However, in fact it is fully intact transgender males committing these crimes. Let's see some Reason analysis of that phenomena. Thanks.

  • woodNfish||

    I'm pretty certain "disgusting" is part of the definition of "Leftist", along with "communist", "socialist", "fascist", "totalitarian", "racist", "misogynistic", "hyporitical", "low IQ", "gruber" and "lying" among other descriptors.

  • Jack Strawb||

    wmds, wmds, wmds...

    I'm still waiting for the US left (as awful as feminists are) to come up with anything close.

  • woodNfish||

    How influential sexual assault expert fraud David Lisak used a misleadingly edited video to sell his serial predator theory of campus rape.

    Fixed.

  • MarioLanza||

    Maybe these people can next re-enact Kinsey sexual exploitation of children:
    ===
    Kinsey solicited and encouraged pedophiles, at home and abroad, to sexually violate from 317 to 2,035 infants and children for his alleged data on normal “child sexuality.” Many of the crimes against children (oral and anal sodomy, genital intercourse and manual abuse) committed for Kinsey’s research are quantified in his own graphs and charts.

    For example, “Table 34” on page 180 of Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” claims to be a “scientific” record of “multiple orgasm in pre-adolescent males.” Here, infants as young as five months were timed with a stopwatch for “orgasm” by Kinsey’s “technically trained” aides, with one four-year-old tested 24 consecutive hours for an alleged 26 “orgasms.” Sex educators, pedophiles and their advocates commonly quote these child “data” to prove children’s need for homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual satisfaction via “safe-sex” education. These data are also regularly used to “prove” children are sexual from birth.
    ===
    From Sex, Lies and Kinsey by Dr. Judith Reisman

  • BearOdinson||

    I am seriously calling bullshit on this one. There are some issues with his methodology (particularly selection bias), and he did interview admitted child molesters in preparing his data. But I have NEVER heard this nonsense before. Either you are making this shit up, or this Reisman broad is.

  • BearOdinson||

    I just did some research and apparently Dr Reisman has after the Kinsey Institute for years. However I partially retract my statement. I will look into this. At first I thought she was just a FRC or other socon prude, but apparently there is some serious shit with young children.

  • msimmons||

    becuz war on wombunz.

  • Win Bear||

    I don't see why this should be surprising to anybody. The philosophy underlying progressive and Democratic social justice ideas is critical theory. Critical theory roughly says that all social and economic "facts" are just myths and stories. According to critical theory, what matters is whether people believe these stories to be true; there is no objective truth beyond that according to them.

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    Does anyone find it odd that people who have committed serious crimes would reveal this to anyone, especially when they could be traced. One possibility is that the researches made up or exaggerated the data. Another is that the people interviewed made up or exaggerated the data. How do you know the people telling you these remarkable things are actually telling the truth? Personally, it doesn't pass the smell test.

  • Harold Falcon||

    Reason has to win every fucking award for exposing this lying cunt. Jay oh bee well dee oh en ee.

  • Aloysious||

    Yeah. This is one of the reasons I donate.

  • dan'o en barrel||

    Great piece. Thanks for valuing truth more than avoiding the risk of being labeled as a rapist enabler.

  • WikipediaEditor||

    Do society a service - help keep the Lisak entry factual.
    (Someone keeps tring to edit out the facts. Imagine that.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lisak

  • Jack Strawb||

    Superbly done, Linda. Many thanks.

    Is anyone really surprised that rape crisis feminism's go-to doc for their serial predatory theory (which takes a great deal of responsibility out of women's hands) is a fraud? Wouldn't he have to be, given how their ideology entire sits on a foundation of lies such as "1 in 4"?

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