Rape. Decades ago, women who were raped and reported it, particularly those raped by someone outside their race or social class, were often disbelieved and shamed. That is tragic.
But how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction! Now, the term “rape” or “sexual assault” is thrown around almost effortlessly, accusations easily made and lives easily ruined.
First, the pendulum shift began with feminists pushing the notion that women claiming they were raped should always be believed and never questioned. Presumption of innocence, a foundation of our culture, suddenly went out the window. Consider how quickly the public tried and found guilty the Duke lacrosse boys. Ditto for a woman alleging sexual harassment. Watch the Designing Women episode concerning the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill controversy. The show’s theme? Only a sexist Neanderthal would question Hill!
Then followed the loosened standards for arrests in rape accusations. Sure, district attorneys still require evidence of a rape to prosecute, but police are not restricted by such to make a mere arrest (so, smile for your life-ruining mug shot!).
Close on its heels came the broadening of the very definition of rape, a term on which there is now almost no consensus, thanks to the Left’s deliberate expansion of it. Prominent scholars and activists now even define rape as including any sexual activity in which the woman is not sober, claiming that consent is never truly given if one has had a few drinks. Admittedly, I am no scientist, but I am fairly certain that a statistically significant amount of sex — including very enjoyable sex — happens under the influence of alcohol. But by the liberal definition of my generation, I have been raped. Multiple times. (No word from the Left on whether men partaking in “SUI” — sex under the influence — are similarly raped by a sober woman or, if both are SUI, they both raped each other? Logic, ever so inconvenient to the gender-warriors, causes these questions to go unanswered.)
And what of drugs and the issue of consent? While conservatives will rightly and gladly continue to urge girls to abstain from promiscuity and drug use, liberals will smirk that such is ”unrealistic” and “puritanical.” All right, so what is to be done? Will the Left continue to reassure girls that there is nothing wrong with drug use or casual sex . . . while simultaneously telling them that the (inevitable) sex under those circumstances was rape?
Lastly, there is the move toward using the term “sexual assault” rather than “rape.” Why? As a conveniently vague term, “sexual assault” encompasses a variety of acts yet nonetheless sounds horrific. Instances of “sexual assault” are, naturally, far higher than those of rape, and we can count on the public to blur and forget the distinction between the two. The resulting statistics of sexual-assault instances are then alarming, leading to greater attention for the feminist-warriors and vindication of their theories.
Keep in mind: Men can now be shamed with the “sexual assault” offender label for minor acts. If a friend jokingly comes up behind a girl and slaps her butt, that is, by today’s definitions, a sexual assault. While violating a woman is an awful act, regardless of degree, there is a difference between grabbing a woman’s breasts and violent, forced penetration. As Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale Law professor, notes:
Yale has changed its code of student conduct to define sexual assault as any “nonconsensual sexual contact,” where consent must be an advance, “unambiguous” “agreement” to each “specific” touching, whether or not consented to in the past. This sounds great until you think about it. If two Yale students are kissing and one of them touches the other sexually, that person has apparently committed sexual assault (unless they stopped and negotiated in advance) even if they’ve done it before.
Rubenfeld shows how schools even distort existing law: Fullerton State University, for example, informs its students that the “California Penal Code clearly states that having sex with a person who is intoxicated is illegal and may be punishable with a prison sentence.” But California’s rape law, albeit overly broad and terribly worded, actually does not say so — it states that a rape occurred if the person was so intoxicated that consent was not possible.
Due to all this, it is no surprise that, if recent reports are to be believed, there is an outright “epidemic” of rape on college campuses, one so grave that students are even complaining that school administrators are not going far enough in hunting down and punishing the accused. NPR confirmed last month that campus rape reports are on the rise and that students at Columbia University are now even placing in bathrooms flyers containing the names of “sexual-assault violators on campus.”
Apparently, there has not been this number of criminals running amok since England colonized Australia.
Violent-crime statistics — including sex crimes — have been declining for two decades. Did all the bad guys suddenly decide to enroll in universities? No one can explain it, other than to claim that rapes must have been underreported in the past (a claim that is, conveniently, impossible to disprove).
Are there truly more rapes occurring, or:
(1) Are college administrators, now largely in charge of presiding over rape allegations, quick to pronounce a situation as a rape, erring on the side of caution and of extreme feminism? As Caroline Kitchens reports:
Through a series of heavy-handed executive actions, the Obama administration has effectively required universities to serve as investigators and jurors for felony offenses. By doing so, they have placed universities in an impossible position, created costly bureaucracy, trampled students’ due-process rights, and empowered a cadre of hypersensitive, trigger-happy gender warriors on campuses.
(2) Are women themselves being taught to believe they were raped (the aforementioned “only sober consent is true consent!” notion)? Yes. And that, ironically enough, makes these women victims of liberal culture, too.
There is, naturally, a pressing consequence of all this that few discuss — the impact on the lives of the accused. The Left loves to paint a caricature — seen in countless films and shows (for example, the frat boys in American Horror Story: Coven) of a smirking college male who deliberately drugs and rapes a girl. That, undoubtedly, is rape and such a “man” deserves the worst the law and life can throw at him. But life is not so black and white, nor clear-cut, and those situations are far outweighed by murkier ones.
Allow me to share a tale of my senior year in college. My friend “Amy” stumbled into my apartment on Saturday afternoon after a wild night. I’d left the club around 3 a.m. and had last seen Amy walking out with “Steve,” a guy she’d fancied for quite some time. She spilled all the details about their wild night, as my roommate and I listened and laughed at the “TMI” portions. But then evening rolled around and Amy hadn’t heard from “Steve.” Calls she placed went unreturned. She began to fret. Suddenly, adjectives she’d used earlier to describe Steve (“amazing,” “so cool”) were turning into “jerk” and “Why the hell hasn’t he called back?” By midnight, when she finally got ahold of him, only to learn he was blowing her off, and was later seen with another girl at the same club, she became a downright wreck.
The following morning, Amy called me: “You know, I’ve been thinking. I had a lot to drink the other night, right? I mean, you saw how drunk I was.” I told Amy she actually wasn’t very drunk, as we’d not been at the club long before she left with Steve. Amy insisted: “No, trust me — I was really drunk. Like, I don’t even remember going home with him. I know it’s going to sound crazy but — I think he raped me.”
My phone nearly dropped. I told Amy to come over immediately. We talked it through. I was determined to support her if she had been violated in any way, even suggesting we go to the hospital to have her examined, but the more I spoke to her, the more it became clear this was a case not of rape but of “regrettable sex.” Amy felt scorned, used, and hurt — convincing herself she had been raped was a way of saving her dignity and avoiding the hurtful reality.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and Amy ultimately decided against filing a report. (In case you’re wondering, a week later she was still hunting down Steve — the “rape” a far cry from her mind.) But how many Amys go through with it? And how many Steves have their reputations ruined, perhaps even their lives, with a false accusation? While it’s easy to imagine Steve as a smirking, smug jerk, he was actually a hard-working guy from a poor family, at the university on a scholarship. Amy’s accusation would have easily ruined his life.
For good reason, it is hard to forget Amy — a reminder that, to the extent some in our society remain skeptical of rape claims, women themselves bear a share of the blame. After all, for every legitimate, actual rape claim there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape.
Liberals scoff and dismiss the idea that women sometimes falsely claim rape or wrongly believe they were raped. One activist in Canada recently stated: “People just don’t lie about” rape.
Really? See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, just to name a few. Navy veteran Tyrone Hicks, the “Bronx rapist” who spent ten years in prison, was finally exonerated Thursday after proving that a rape victim had misidentified him.
If rape is a hideous, heinous crime — and it is — is it not similarly horrific to brand someone guilty of such without slow and somber consideration of circumstances and evidence? Is it not also horrible when we rush to believe an accuser, with no thought for the accused? Is it not also horrible when we brainwash women into believing they were raped? Is it not heinous to shift the pendulum from attacking the accuser to attacking the accused? Is it not counterproductive to lump victims of violent rape in with victims of ‘sexual assault’?
Rape is a horror. It should be treated as seriously as its horror requires. Perhaps the Left should stop diminishing it by creating — and crying — rape.
— A. J. Delgado is a conservative writer and lawyer. She writes about politics and culture.