PASSIONS HAVE been running high on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, with women telling wrenching stories, universities being accused of failing victims, and the federal government seeking ways to force schools to do better. It seems like an unimpeachable cause. But, like many moral crusades, this one relies on too many uncritically accepted claims, often embraces blind zealotry, and has the potential to hurt innocent people without necessarily aiding those it seeks to help.
As proof of the catastrophic scope of the problem, we are told that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. But this figure comes from surveys in which the questions used to measure alcohol- or drug-facilitated sexual assault are worded so broadly as to lump together incapacitation and impairment, and in which most women classified as victims of rape do not believe they were raped and do not report the incident because they don’t think it’s serious enough to report.
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