The College Rape Hoax

Campus Rape Hoaxes

The truth – that rape on campus is becoming less common – doesn’t fit the left’s narrative.

by: Glenn Harlan Reynolds – for USA Today

Americans have been living through an enormously sensationalized college rape hoax, but as the evidence accumulates it’s becoming clear that the entire thing was just a bunch of media hype and political opportunism.

No, I’m not talking about the Rolling Stone‘s lurid and now-exploded fraternity gang-rape story. Whatever the truth behind that story, it’s now clear that basically nothing that Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely told us happened, actually happened. But the hoax is much bigger than one overwrought and perhaps entirely fictional tale of campus goings-on.

For months we’ve been told that there’s a burgeoning “epidemic” of rape on college campuses, that the system for dealing with campus rape is “broken” and that we need new federal legislation (of course!) to deal with this disaster. Before the Rolling Stonestory imploded, Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., were citing the Virginia gang rape as evidence of the problem, but now that the story has been exposed as bogus, they’re telling us that, regardless of that isolated incident, there’s still a huge campus rape problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Sen, Gillibrand also says that “women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus.”

The truth — and, since she’s a politician, maybe that shouldn’t be such a surprise — is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What’s more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.

It’s getting press because it suits the interests of those pushing the story. For Gillibrand and McCaskill, it’s a woman-related story that helps boost their status as female senators. It ties in with the “war on women” theme that Democrats have been boosting since 2012, and will presumably roll out once again in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps Elizabeth Warren. And University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan hasn’t apologized for her action in suspending all fraternities (and sororities) on the basis of a bogus story in Rolling Stone. Nor has she apologized for the mob mentality on campus that saw arrests, vandalism and protests at a fraternity housebased, again, on a single bogus report. Instead, she’s doubling down on the narrative.

This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it’s a source of power: If there’s a “campus rape crisis,” that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) “pro rape.” If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular “crisis” programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.

Even one rape is too many, of course, on or off of campus. But when activists and politicians try to gin up a phony crisis, public trust is likely to be a major casualty. It’s almost as if helping actual rape victims is the last thing on these people’s minds.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

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