The Great Rape Conspiracy
comrade_cat posted about an article by Heather MacDonald called The Campus Rape Myth, which takes on the “campus rape industry.” Warning: reading the article is likely to significantly raise your blood pressure.
MacDonald spews more than 6000 words to “debunk” college rape as a ridiculously overblown myth fueled by false reports, radical feminist research, and slutty college girls.
She’s not alone in her beliefs. I remember a response to one of my own rape posts, in which a man said he liked what I was saying, but thought I was making up the part about how many of my friends had been raped, because he didn’t believe it happened that often.
As pissed off as I was by this response, I couldn’t help appreciating the parallel … after all, how often do rape victims share their stories, only to be told they’re lying?
MacDonald targets a single article in her attempt to reveal the falsehoods of the great rape conspiracy:
“The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years … This claim, first published in Ms. magazine in 1987, took the universities by storm.”
She goes on to point out that many of these “so-called” rape victims didn’t identify the experience as rape, and didn’t even report it! She also refers to a 2000 study by the Department of Justice. I assume she means The Sexual Victimization of College Women, which studied rapes over six months and estimated that “Over the course of a college career — which now lasts an average of 5 years — the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.” (As everyone knows, the U. S. Government is a just hotbed of radical feminism.)
Page 23 of the study lists some reasons women chose not to report:
“…common answers included that the incident was not serious enough to report and that it was not clear that a crime was committed. Other reasons, however, suggested that there were barriers to reporting. Such answers included not wanting family or other people to know about the incident, lack of proof the incident happened, fear of reprisal by the assailant, fear of being treated with hostility by the police, and anticipation that the police would not believe the incident was serious enough and/or would not want to be bothered with the incident.”
Gosh, where could they have gotten the idea that people won’t take them seriously if it was friend or date raped them? How could they think that if they were raped after partying or drinking, that they might be mocked and treated with outright hostility? Who taught them that unless it was a black stranger with a knife, it doesn’t count as a “real” rape?[1. From MacDonald’s article, “Like many stranger rapists on campus, the knifepoint assailant was black, and thus an unattractive target for politically correct protest.”]
Buried in MacDonald’s article is a valid point. When working in rape education and prevention, I saw a tendency to toss statistics about without being able to back them up or explain where they come from. Given how many people refuse to accept how common rape is, I believe it’s important to back up the numbers when possible.
Mostly though, MacDonald’s article is crap. Sadly, it’s crap a lot of people choose to believe. Because we don’t want to admit rape can and has happened to people we love. Because it’s easier to ridicule the numbers — and the victims — than to accept we have a problem.
I’ve mentioned sitting in my college dorm with several female friends when two guys walked by, mocking the 1-in-4 statistic. “If that were right, it would mean one of you had been raped,” said one. Unstated was the assumption that this was utterly ridiculous. How absurd to think that someone he knew had experienced such a horrible crime?
Of course, he was right. MacDonald does the same thing in her article:
“The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience.”
Well, yes. That’s the point. And you can either turn your back on those women, or you can open your eyes and try to do something about it.
April 14, 2010 @ 10:10 am
Has MacDonald ever worked in a campus-oriented rape crisis center? I have not because I do not have the temperament to handle such work. A college friend did, as part of peer support program. Not all of the women who called the center reported their attacks. Looking at the sheer numbers of calls, that’s enough to sober you right there.
April 14, 2010 @ 10:13 am
Thank you for this post.
Jim C. Hines
April 14, 2010 @ 11:10 am
“Has MacDonald ever worked in a campus-oriented rape crisis center?”
Dear God, I hope not. The idea of a rape survivor calling or coming in, only to be smacked with this kind of attitude, horrifies me.
April 14, 2010 @ 4:56 pm
My husband will tell you the percentage of raped (forcible intercourse without consent, just in case some apologist tries classifying street harassment as rape) women is 50%.
The percentage of raped/sexually molested (sexual contact involving genitals, hands, mouths or anuses, before puberty) women in his world is 100%.
I’m more genrous. I put it at 80%.
One in four? *hollow laugh*
April 14, 2010 @ 7:47 pm
I had a dear friend that was raped recently. She went to a friend’s house with her boyfriend and they got very drunk. Sometime later she woke up, and the friend was in the middle of raping her. She doesn’t recall exactly what happened– but part of that, I think, is the trauma of it. She gave me a very detailed account two days later, but by the end of the week couldn’t even remember what she told me. She didn’t report it. She told me that she wasn’t sure that it was rape; she had too much to drink, so she might well have been conscious enough that he thought she was okay with it. She wasn’t sure she had told him no… and if she hadn’t, was it really rape?
It wasn’t until I heard her telling me all of this that the idea of rape really struck home. I’ll admit, I didn’t take the rape talks in college seriously; I didn’t really think I would ever know anyone that had been through it. Now, well… I have become aware of multiple friends that have been raped, assaulted, or molested. And none of them ever reported it.
When my friend went through this ordeal this summer, she was terrified to tell her boyfriend about it. He had known the guy for years, they were best friends… she thought her boyfriend would believe him over her, and would hate her for making the accusation. As far as I know, her parents still don’t know about it. I am one of a handful of friends she told. I took her to the doctor to get her checked out for STDs, I bought her morning after birth control, I let her stay the night with me because she didn’t want to be alone. Watching her go through it… seeing how terrified she was to tell anyone, how afraid she was that if she reported it, they wouldn’t believe her… that drove the point home for me.
As I read that article, it was easy to see the logic behind it. But I can’t shake the experience of holding my friend as she cried. She was drunk. She didn’t report it. But it was most definitely rape, and anything that seeks to invalidate what she went through makes my blood boil.
Jim C. Hines
April 14, 2010 @ 7:54 pm
It’s not something that comes up in discussion in my life as much as it used to back when I was in college. But at that point in my life, just from talking to friends, 1 in 4 seemed like a pretty serious underestimation as well.
Not saying that’s changed today, only that in the day job where I interact most with other human beings, I don’t know the people as well and couldn’t say one way or another.
April 14, 2010 @ 8:41 pm
When I mention how many women I’m friends with who have been raped or sexually assaulted (four and three, respectively), people assume either I’m lying or I’m somehow going out of my way to meet more victimized women than the average. I’m not, unless you count living on a college campus as meeting more than average. But I think my friends know I will be there for them and not judge them, so perhaps they tell me more than they do others. One person who assumed I was exaggerating was actually a mutual friend with one of the victims, so I can assume that she didn’t feel comfortable enough to open up to the naysayer.
April 15, 2010 @ 4:42 am
Thank you for this article! I belive it.
I know personally 3 victims (1 male – very handsome and rather efeminate looking nice guy, I was pretty shocked when he told me about it – and 2 female ones) of the rape. None of them reported it. Both girls were virgins and had problems in their sexual life after it. The boy seems to be O.K., but he doesn´t want talk about it. And I understand him. Who ever would belive him? I do and I feel very for him (for all of them and for all victims).
Rape is terrible thing, not only for women (which are mostly victims), but for all. And I am allways shocked when I hear that rape is “natural male sexual behavior”…
Jim C. Hines
April 15, 2010 @ 8:38 am
I’m so sorry he did that to your friend. It sounds like it was an overwhelming experience for you, too. I’ve been in the position of being one of the few people someone told about a rape, and I hate the feeling of helplessness… It sounds like you did everything you could to support your friend and help her. You were there for her, you believed her … I’m glad you were there.
It’s one thing to stand back and have a nice, distanced, intellectual conversation about this stuff. To “play devil’s advocate,” as one commenter said over on my LJ.
It’s a very different conversation when you’ve lived through it, or been there firsthand for someone who has.
Jim C. Hines
April 15, 2010 @ 8:41 am
It’s a self-fulfilling dynamic. The people who scoff at rape, who make jokes or just make it obvious they don’t believe it’s as prevalent as people say … well heck, I know I wouldn’t confide in them if I were raped. Whereas if you make it clear you’re willing to listen and take people seriously, they’re more likely to talk to you.
Jim C. Hines
April 15, 2010 @ 8:46 am
As I understand it, male victims are even less likely to report than women, for a number of reasons. I do think society and the legal system has gotten a little better over the years about taking rape seriously, but there’s still such a long way to go. (As MacDonald’s article demonstrates quite well.)
“Rape is terrible thing, not only for women (which are mostly victims), but for all.”
Yes. For men and women, for the family and friends of the victims, and for society as a whole.
“And I am always shocked when I hear that rape is ‘natural male sexual behavior'”
I don’t even know how I’d respond to that. I’m torn between punch-to-the-face and simply walking away and saying “Never speak to me again.”
April 15, 2010 @ 10:15 am
Thank you very much!
I felt like something in me was dying when I heard such words for first time. (Alas, not for last time.) And I allways fight with my tears after it.
I am very grateful to you for your article! You are really great that you can write about it. I very admire you.
April 15, 2010 @ 12:56 pm
This is a very hurtful and hateful article for me becouse I have lived through a rape and for a long time it caused me to go wild and do alot of things that I would never have done before. I have a dear friend who was also rape and it changed her so much that she chose to end her life rather then live with the pain and it is alot of pain to live with! I have turned mine into a drive to help others that have gone through or are going through the wreck that a rape can do to those who choose to live with it and work through it. THank you for your support.
April 15, 2010 @ 5:44 pm
I’ve been lucky enough to have it not happen to me. The sum of my harassment experiences have been having a guy try to put his head on my shoulder on a subway train after staring at me, and someone groping my crotch in a New Year’s Eve crush in London, both long ago. (So part of that 100%.) Neither was pleasant, the second one may have been accidental, the first was scary. And nothing whatsoever to compare to rape, especially assault by someone you know and trusted. A lot of the problems with rape is that women and the society still don’t accept that women have rights to their own body. So they worry about whether someone will believe them instead of protesting the violation of their person, or it’s felt that if a woman is drunk or dressed provocatively, then she’s given up her rights to her body, and date rapists feel that they can override any feeble protests made. But of course, the same thing often happens to male victims as well.
I wonder if this woman’s article was prompted by the equally awful piece by American University student journalist Alex Knepper. Knepper is gay, but also far right, and basically posits that girls know what can happen to them if they go to a frat party and drink, and therefore, it’s not rape and they’re making it up as rape when really they’re just ashamed they had drunken sex:
”Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry ‘date rape’ after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.”
Charming, isn’t it? If you drink, you deserve to be raped and can’t call it rape because you must have wanted sex. Knepper is also prompting the campus rape industry theory that believes this is all a game to get attention, money, revenge, whatever. It’s the same idea towards those who experience racism and child abuse — deny that the crime happens or happens often and blame the victim for most cases. (Or in the case of the Catholic Church, blame the gays, even though half the victims were girls.)
So this is obviously a new package for an old gambit.
Jim C. Hines
April 15, 2010 @ 8:48 pm
I’m very sorry someone chose to do that to you, and to your friend. One of the things that pisses me off about the article is that it belittles most everyone who’s been raped, treating the subject like a game, or a way to score points and try to show how clever you are.
It’s real, it hurts, and like you say, it can be devastating to those who have been raped. I wish more people understood that.