Mothers Must Speak Up for Their Sons on Campus by William A. Jacobson
The Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia frat gang rape has fallen apart. Now come the recriminations.
Those who care about stopping campus sexual assault, as I do, are outraged by the Rolling Stone story for all the right reasons. The shoddy journalism and questionable complaint will damage true victims of sexual assault, who may be more hesitant to come forward, and less likely to be believed.
There also are those standing up for journalistic standards and the rights of innocent fraternity members, individually and collectively, accused of a horrific sex crime. But there is another strain of reaction, which refuses to acknowledge that theRolling Stone story is a symptom of a larger problem of radical feminism on campuses, where agenda trumps evidence and individual rights.
That strain of reaction holds that it is more important than ever for even questionable accusations of sexual abuse and rape to be presumed true regardless of the evidence and not be questioned.
In that view, the Rolling Stone story’s falling apart reinforces the belief that the burden should be on the accused male to prove innocence, even if campus quasi-judicial systems provide few procedures to do so.
Increasingly, university administrations under pressure from the federal government take that attitude of presumptive guilt based on a mere accusation.
The dubious, if not completely discredited, statistic that one in five college women is a victim of rape or sexual assault feeds the frenzy. What are a few ruined young male lives if it serves the greater good of fighting “rape culture” and the patriarchy?
Blackstone’s famous formulation of justice has been turned on its head. No longer is it “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Now it is “better ten innocent men suffer, than one guilty man escape,” as Amy Miller wrote of the current state of campus affairs.
That’s the attitude of Zerlina Maxwell, writing in the Washington Post. The title of the column originally was “No matter what Jackie said, we should automatically believe rape claims.” The word “automatically” was replaced with “generally” after an Internet uproar.
“Incredulity hurts victims more than it hurts wrongly accused perps,” the subhead to the Maxwell column, gave away the game:
Now the narrative appears to be falling apart: her rapist wasn’t in the frat she says, the house held no party on the night of the assault, and other details are wobbly. Many people (not least UVA administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters, and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is “innocent until proven guilty.” After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.
In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation. This is not a legal argument about what standards we should use in the courts; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.
The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.
How easily Maxwell minimizes the impact of a false or questionable accusation.
Just ask the Duke lacrosse players whether an accusation is no big deal. Or the dozens of men suing universities after being found “responsible” (not necessarily “guilty”) for situations involving mixed signals and intoxication of males and females in equal measure, the accusations frequently made months or even years later.
Just ask the men falsely accused in the Hofstra University rape hoax in 2009 how inconsequential the mere accusations were. They were arrested and subjected to threats in prison from other inmates, as often happens to those accused of sex crimes:
The Hofstra freshman who had a raunchy restroom romp and then cried rape made up the twisted tale because she didn’t want her schoolmates — particularly her new boyfriend — to think she was easy, the beau told The Post yesterday.
Publicly branded as rapists, the men said they were hounded as the lowest type of criminal in prison and feared for their lives.
“They were harassing me more than anybody else, just because of what I was in there for,” Felipe said. The guards “were badgering me. They would push me and shove me.
“I thought I was dreaming. The worst part was hearing that I could do 25 years. I’m not even 25 years old. I’m just 19.”
Ortiz was forced to ask for protective custody, because “the inmates were referring to him as the rapist,” his lawyer Carlos Cruz said.
“In school, they are calling my daughter the sister of the raper,” said Taveras’ father, Ramiro, 43. “Unfortunately, everything doesn’t stop because the DA says go home and drops the charges.”
The father also said his son had received a letter from his employer, Cablevision, telling him he had been fired. But late last night, a Cablevision spokesman told The Post he would be reinstated.
There is no reliable statistical measurement of the quantity of false accusations, but there is a mountain of anecdotal evidence of the problem, including the Rolling Stone story. The problem is only likely to get worse owing to the “yes means yes”trend, where even objectively consensual sex may give rise to a claim of sexual assault for failure to obtain the necessary affirmative consent.
As Dr. Helen Smith notes, the University of Virginia case “is just another example of how male space is being destroyed step-by-step. . . . If there are males out in society or even playing video games in the privacy of their own basement, the totalitarians are there in full force to make sure that they have nowhere to hide.”
With the Rolling Stone story, it was a hunt for the most despised male or group of males, and most sympathetic victim, to tell a larger story. Chris Bray, one of the first people to question the veracity of the Rolling Stone article, writes at The Daily Caller how the Rolling Stone author sought out the best victim narrative to fit the larger “rape culture” narrative (boldface and italics in original):
She was rape shopping: going from campus to campus auditioning rape victims, contacting advocacy groups and asking for introductions. But the rapes she found at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn didn’t have the right narrative feel. They were just rapes, and she needed a cover-worthy rape. So she kept shopping until she found someone who would tell her a version of the story she had already decided to tell. She needed a big rape — something splashy, something with wild details and a frat house. She needed a rape that would go viral. You can’t do that with just some regular boring rape.
Radical feminists on campus, driven by theories about “patriarchy” and “rape culture,” are the new hunter-gatherers, seeking out accusations to prove a theory, not evidence to fairly adjudicate guilt. Hence, any accusation, no matter how improbable, must be treated as presumptively true, thereby ensnaring college men in a net from which it is difficult to escape. Even when found not “responsible” by a campus tribunal, men at Columbia University, for example, are liable to have their names scrawled as perpetrators in bathrooms, on flyers, and online.
That may yet happen with the UVA frat members, as Hanna Rosin at Slate.comnotes that their names are circulating:
In the last few days, the names of the fraternity members started to leak out, and many of us began to look up their Facebook pages. I found myself playing the profiling game: Is that the kind of haircut a rapist would have? Are those the kinds of girls he would have hanging all over him? Oh, yeah, that bro is totally a rapist.
The lack of a finding of male culpability in a given case is used as just further proof that the net needs to be tightened, and the hunt pursued with greater vigor.
Mothers, how much longer will you allow your sons to live as hunted people on campus? Must their lives be ruined so that feminist “rape culture” and other theories can be validated in a real-world testing laboratory?