IN the debate over sexual violence on college campuses, two things are reasonably clear. First, campus rape is a grave, persistent problem, shadowing rowdy state schools and cozy liberal-arts campuses alike.
Second, nobody — neither anti-rape activists, nor their critics, nor the administrators caught in between — seems to have a clear and compelling idea of what to do about it.
The immediate difficulty is that what many activists want from colleges — a disciplinary process that leads to many more expulsions for sexual assault — is something schools are ill equipped to offer. As Michelle Goldberg acknowledges in a judicious article for The Nation, dealing with serious crimes in a setting that normally handles minor infractions risks a worst-of-both-worlds scenario: a process whose lack of professionalism leaves victims more “devastated than vindicated,” even as its limited protections for the accused lead to endless lawsuits claiming kangaroo-court treatment.
The deeper problem, which applies for courts of law as well, is that even with a near-perfect justice system, sexual assault on campus often happens in a context that by its nature defies easy adjudication. Most campus assaults involve incapacitation, usually involving alcohol, rather than brute force; most involve friends and acquaintances and partners and exes; and most women assaulted while under the influence do not themselves use the word “rape” to describe what happened. As long as these patterns persist, it is difficult to see any disciplinary or legal change that would inspire substantially more formal accusations, let alone clear and airtight verdicts.
But this does not mean our society is helpless against sexual violence on campus. Rather, we’re searching ineffectively for better after-the-fact responses because we aren’t willing to deal with some of the root causes, or upset the underlying legal and cultural status quo.
You started so well, especially giving props to Michelle Goldberg, whose thinking on campus rape is spot-on. But then, you just couldn’t help and inject a barb against anti-rape activists, immediately followed by what amounts to, for the nth time, a condemnation of girls who don’t share your religious values.
So, one more time, Ross:
Penetration of a woman who is either incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, whether knowingly or unknowingly ingested, is a crime. Once male toddlers are taught about good and bad touching and they become boys, they need to be taught starting at about age 8 or so, that touching a girl in certain ways always necessitates her specific agreement. Once they become pre-teens, they need to be taught more specifically about sex and rape and when sex is sex and when sex turns into rape.
As for universities handling rape cases? I am against giving school administrators whose first worry is the school’s reputation, the power to prosecute rape. That is the job of a police department and a DA’s office. Have we not learned enough from the Sandusky case?
In conclusion, rape has nothing to do with the woman’s behavior. As drunk as a girl may be, she NEVER deserves to be violated by anyone. Period. End of story. Get it?
— ADDENDUM —
“Penetration of a woman who is either incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, whether knowingly or unknowingly ingested, is a crime.”
Just so I am perfectly clear about this sentence… Incapacitated means unable to give or refuse consent.
To read the rest of this op-ed and my comment, click here.
Curated from www.nytimes.com