We don’t live in a rape culture, but we
do inhabit a culture saturated with gender propaganda. Call it a Ms.Information culture.
And nowhere is the Ms.Information more rampant than in the area of sexual assault. Coming
up next Factual Feminist: The two biggest myths about women and sexual violence.
Myth number one: 1 in 5 college women are raped or sexually assaulted. This claim has
been repeated over and over by journalists, political leaders; it’s been said so many
times it’s almost beyond the reach of rational analysis. As I and many others have said,
the figure is wrong, and now there is new data, just released last month, from the U.S.
Bureau of Justice Statistics which gives us a much more reliable estimate. The 1-in-5
claim is based on a 2007 internet study with vaguely worded questions, a low response rate,
and a non-representative sample. And other studies with similar findings have used the
same faulty methods. The real number, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics is
1 in 53; too many, but a long way from one in five. Does that mean that sexual assault
is not a problem on campus? Of course not. Too many women are victimized, but it is not
an epidemic and it is not a culture. Exaggeration and hysteria shed no light and produce no
solutions; they actually distract from a real problem.
Myth two: Women almost never lie about rape—no more than 2 percent of rape charges turn out
to be false. Rape crisis activists often urge us dogmatically “believe women, always believe
what women say.” They do this for a reasonl they’re reacting to a long history where victims
were routinely disbelieved and blamed because of their choice of clothing or sexual history.
But the answer to bad old practices is not bad new practices. As Cathy Young has noted
in an excellent discussion in Slate: “The myth of the lying woman,” has been replaced
by “the myth of the woman who never lies.” Why replace one myth with another? Of course
women lie. Not because they are women, but because they are human. And human beings lie.
Especially about sex. Now women make false accusations for different reasons. I mean,
some do it because they want to explain away an embarrassing sexual encounter, or sometimes
they’re disturbed and seeking attention, sympathy, or revenge. Sometimes they’ve taken one too
many feminist theory seminars and came to believe that drunken or regretted sex constitutes
felony rape. The claim that 2 percent of rape accusations are false is unfounded. It seems
to have started with Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 feminist manifesto “Against Our Will.”
Other statistics for false accusations range from 8 to 43 percent. But these studies also
have flaws. The truth is, we have no idea right now what the right number is. And it
may be unknowable. For one thing, it is hard to define what we mean by a false accusation.
Is it a case where the police refuse to pursue a claim because of too little evidence? I
mean that doesn’t prove it’s false. On the other hand, it would be wrong to assume that
just because someone is found guilty and sent to jail, that means the charge was legitimate.
We know that many men have been found guilty of rape, and later exonerated. Think of the
high school football star Brian Banks who served 5 years in jail and afterwards his
accuser admitted that she fabricated the accusation. And recently, we have seen dozens of high-profile
campus rape cases revealed to be born of false accusations. The bottom line: false accusations
are nearly impossible to define, let alone quantify. We can’t know for sure how common
they are. But we do know that they happen far too often. There’s no alternative: we
need to treat the alleged victim seriously and respectfully, while at the same time being
vigilant about protecting the rights of the accused. That’s called due process.
Next week I will address more myths about rape and sexual assault. Let me know if you
agree, if we live in a culture saturated with gender propaganda. Please let me know what
you think in the comments section. If you appreciate this series, please show support
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the Factual Feminist.