Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, and seven co-sponsors have introduced a truly appalling bill in the Senate. It could have been written, and perhaps basically was, by the most rabidly misandrist feminists. (Misandrist is the little-used antonym of misogynist. It deserves wider circulation.)
It is intended to stop the supposed “epidemic” of sexual assault on American college campuses, requiring colleges to handle accusations of such assaults in certain ways. But it gives away its bias by consistently calling accusers in campus sexual assault cases “victims,” while the accused are just called the accused. That, of course, begs the question as to whether there actually was a sexual assault in the first place.
Any sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable. But when it comes to much of what falls under the purview of this bill, categorizing some conduct is not so easy. Was it a sexual assault or nothing more than a clumsy, unwelcome pass? Was it a morning-after regret? Because many campus sexual assault accusations turn out to be he said/she said cases, false accusations face little downside risk.
Throughout the bill, the accusers are supported and the accused are left to fend for themselves. The bill, for instance, requires that colleges receiving any federal funding whatever, “shall establish a campus security policy that includes the following: ‘(1) The designation of 1 or more confidential advisor roles at the institution to whom victims of crime can report anonymously or directly ….”
The accused gets no such advice or counseling. The accuser can demand and get a “forensic interview” with the accused. Can the accused do the same? Nope.
And while being convicted of sexual assault can be a life-changing—indeed life-ruining—event even if there is no criminal prosecution, a mere preponderance-of-the-evidence standard is applied. If it is considered even slightly more probable that the accuser is telling the truth, that’s all that’s needed to convict. Sexual assault is a felony in every state, but conviction in the criminal justice system requires a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard, a much tougher standard to meet in order to ensure that innocent people are not convicted.
But the consequences of being convicted of sexual assault in a college proceeding can be devastating. Expulsion is often the punishment. Any future background check would quickly turn up the fact that the person had been expelled for sexual assault, which would be the end of that job application.
In other words, this bill is a travesty of due process and even simple fairness.
But is there an actual epidemic of rape and assault on American college campuses in the first place? Much of the evidence is based on feminist propaganda and a deeply flawed study that showed that 20 percent of female undergraduates are assaulted during their college careers. That is a preposterous figure. There are 11.7 million female college students in this country, and yet, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey there are only 237,000 cases of sexual assault, on or off campus, in the entire country every year.
Feminists claim that many cases of sexual assault go unreported. No doubt that’s true. The usual statistics for campus sexual assault are that while 20 percent of women are assaulted in their college years, only 12 percent of those assaults are reported. But as Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute points out, those two numbers cannot be both correct. In the years 2009-2012, there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State University. If that’s 12 percent of the total number of assaults, then the total number would be 817. But there are 28,000 female students at Ohio State, and 817 is 2.9 percent of 28,000, not 20 percent. (When George Will used this example, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch was so outraged at his use of entirely correct sixth-grade math to demolish a feminist argument that it dropped his column.)
I have two observations to make.
We should repeal the federal law mandating a drinking age of 21. It would greatly reduce drunkenness on college campuses with a concomitant reduction in sexual assault. It is, by orders of magnitude, the most widely flouted federal law on the books. But by forcing students to drink in private instead of in public, it greatly reduces the social pressure to behave. So they often don’t.
I understand why six liberal Democratic senators would sponsor this junk. The feminist movement is an important constituency. But why on earth would Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Marco Rubio of Florida cosponsor it? My respect for both of them is much diminished.