Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How Misinformation is Influencing College’s Sexual Assault Policies
By Alex Rued, TheCollegeConservative, January 12, 2012
150,000 women die each year from anorexia nervosa.
The jarring statistic is essential to The Beauty Myth, an international best-seller written by feminist spokeswoman Naomi Wolf. Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, linked the figure to a newsletter citing an estimated 150,000 sufferers (not fatalities) of anorexia. Wolf assured Hoff Sommers that her next book would correct the mistake, but the datum and its implications had already been smuggled into college textbooks and individual minds worldwide.
Did Naomi Wolf, a graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, really believe it likely that three times more women die from anorexia each year than the total number of Americans who die from breast cancer or in car accidents? I am loath to accuse feminists of intentionally circulating false information, but they have historically armed themselves with humorously inaccurate figures on the gravest of issues.
Facts, Figures, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011
A recent set of feminist-promoted White House statistics has inflated the issue of sexual violence to astronomical proportions and shaped policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Kicking off a nationwide campaign on sexual assault awareness, Vice President Joe Biden announced that 20 percent of college females are sexually assaulted, making it 444 times more likely to be raped on a college campus than in Detroit, Forbes’ 2011 most dangerous city in America.
A “Dear Colleague Letter” from the Department of Education’s top civil rights official Russlynn Ali again reported that 1 in 5 female college students are victims of sexual assault. Ali demanded immediate federal action to combat this “terrible and alarming trend,” mandating that colleges employ a “more likely than not” standard of evidence (50.01% certainty of guilt) when adjudicating on matters of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
In response to Ali’s letter, Senator Leahy introduced the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 in November. Many schools currently maintain a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence (approximately 80% certainty of guilt), which is already appreciably (and appropriately) less stringent than the evidentiary burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Yet, these institutions must now further lower standards of proof to meet the Education Department’s recommendation—or risk losing federal funding.
Debunking the Rape Culture Myth
A Bureau of Justice Statistics special report found that between 1995 and 2002 an average of 1 in 40 female students experienced sexual assault. But, inflammatory data exaggerating the plight of women continues to dominate media reports. Several figures have been particularly instrumental in creating the illusion of the rampant ‘rape culture’ requiring Ali’s draconian action. The first two are that 1 in 4, which was later modified to 1 in 5, women will be sexually assaulted in college. The third is that a mere 2 percent of rape allegations are false.
The prevailing 1 in 5 statistic is from a study in which the researchers’ definition of rape was broad enough to include “attempted” forced kissing as sexual assault. Researchers also counted any and all sexual activity that occurred after a woman had consumed alcohol as rape because “an intoxicated person cannot legally consent to sexual contact.”
The 1 in 4 statistic, still found on college websites and published in rape pamphlets disseminated during freshman orientation, dates back to a 1990 Ms. Magazine article. Neil Gilbert, a Berkely professor of social welfare, questioned the validity of the 1 in 4 figure, pointing out that 73 percent of the women researchers counted as rape victims did not feel that they had been raped. In fact, 42 percent of those ‘victims of completed rape’ went on to have sex with their assailants again.
How was Gilbert’s well-founded critique received? Feminists at UC Berkeley held mass protests calling for his castration (“cut it out or cut it off!”), and Sheila Keuhl, the director of the California Women’s Law Center, wrote in the Los Angeles Journal that she found herself “wishing Gilbert, himself, might be raped.” Questioning the feminist agenda has significant backlash in the academic world, where political incorrectness is the new scarlet letter.
New York University’s Wellness Exchange advises individuals to “believe unconditionally” in sexual assault charges because “only 2 percent of reported rapes are false.” This figure can be traced back to Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book Against Our Will. Although the figure is cited on college websites and in the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004 that, “no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis.”
A Travesty of Justice
Estimates on false rape reporting are far from consistent. A study conducted over a period of 9 years by Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University concluded that 41 percent of rape complaints were false, while the authors of Until Proven Innocent believe the number to lie somewhere between 9 and 50 percent. The National Institute of Justice puts the rate of inaccurate reporting at 25 percent. The only thing clear about these estimates is that a “more likely than not” standard of proof has greater potential for injustice than the feminists’ 2 percent figure suggests.
Take the case of Joshua Vaughan, who met a fellow Vermont Law School student in a bar. The two left and had what Vaughan claimed to be consensual sex. Friendly texts initiated by the complainant over the next few days supported Vaughan’s account. Yet, seven months after the incident, a rape complaint was filed. Although the woman later dropped the case and independent investigators informed the school that Vaughan could not be found guilty of sexual assault, the Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity charged him with rape anyway. It took eight months for Vaughan to have the charges cleared.
University of North Dakota student Caleb Warner was not so lucky. The University found Warner guilty of rape and suspended him for several years, while the police vindicated Warner by formally charging his accuser with making a false report to law enforcement. Notwithstanding police evidence indicated Warner’s innocence, the University refused to reverse the guilty verdict and denied his request for re-hearing.
Campus disciplinary committees, comprised of students, professors, and administrators, are equipped to deal with academic dishonesty, but they are not qualified to preside over cases of arson or kidnapping. Rape, a felony of equal magnitude to the aforementioned crimes, requires a well-trained police force and court system that can put criminals behind bars—not simply off campus.
This information is not meant to imply that rape does not occur or should not be addressed, but only to show how self-serving feminists guaranteed that a travesty of justice for men be eclipsed by an illusive rape culture. Accurate representation of the issue at hand, crucial to determining a prudent response, is unlikely if the matter remains in feminist clutches. Equitable policies that strike the balance between deterring assailants and protecting fundamental rights can only be realized in the absence of feminism’s malign influence.
 Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 12.
 Rape in Detroit occurred at a rate of 45 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-6
 Hirsch, Kathleen (1990)”Fraternities of Fear: Gang Rape, Male Bonding, and the Silencing of Women.” Ms., 1(2) 52-56