Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sexual Assaults on Campus

Emily Yoffee and Amanda Hess have two differing views on a too-common problem in the Twisted States of America:
“a young woman, sometimes only a girl, who goes to a party and ends up being raped.”
Emily Yoffe:
Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them.
Amanda Hess:
Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue. Parents can tell their own daughters not to get drunk, but even if those women follow instructions, it won’t keep other people’s daughters safe. It will just force campus rapists who rely on alcohol to execute their crimes to find other targets. As Yoffe notes, the research of David Lisak suggests that most rapes are committed by a small group of predators who claim a large number of victims. We can prevent the most rapes on campus by putting our efforts toward finding and punishing those perpetrators, not by warning their huge number of potential victims to skip out on parties.
I get what Amanda Hess is saying, but I see her argument as somewhat of a strawman. It’s not that universities refuse to prosecute rape. It is that often they go unreported. So on that front, I believe women should be encouraged to report it to the police asap, as well as seek medical attention where evidence can be collected. To help in this, if they are underage and were drinking, they should also be told ahead of time that any rule-breaking they were involved in incidental to the assault will be taken off the table.

Yoffee has a valid point:  All of us have a fundamental responsibility for our own safety and well-being. I have always loved to drink, but it was very seldom I got smashed when out in public, because I knew I was opening myself up to being a victim. I did let go more often in Germany, because the places I did get really wound up in were very safe and I was with my German friends. I would never do that in the third-world, which includes American cities.

So, what’s my solution to campus sexual assaults?
Since over 80% of them involve alcohol, I would make college much harder. College should be an intellectually-challenging experience with so much homework required that partiers will soon find themselves flunked out. If you can drink your way through it, it isn’t really that hard, which means a diploma isn’t all that valuable. As it stands now, for most disciplines, college is little more than a box checked and an expensive rite of passage.

Perhaps the bar should be low for rape, to the point where having sex with a drunk woman can get you charged. What this should ultimately do is push people who want to get laid away from drinking (I know, it’s counter-factual. I was young once).

I’ve already had this talk with my teenage son. You shouldn’t be having sex anyway, but most especially with a woman who has been drinking. It could easily become a life-changing mistake you regret for the rest of your life. That advice applies equally to both sexes.

For a more informed treatment of the issue, see Volokh - She Raped Him, Using Guilt and Arguing

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