By Kevin D. Williamson
Rape is a vicious crime, one that disproportionately affects poor women and incarcerated men, but Barack Obama knows his voters, and so his recent remarks on the subject were focused not on penitentiaries, broken families, or Indian reservations but on college campuses, where the despicable crime is bound up in a broader feminist Kulturkampf only tangentially related to the very real problem of sexual violence against women.
The subject is a maddening one. President Obama repeated the endlessly reiterated but thoroughly debunked claim that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her college years. The actual rate is . . . sort of an interesting problem, the information being so inconsistent and contradictory that one almost suspects that it is so by design.
President Obama, who gives every indication of being committed to the bitter end to his belief in the omnipotence of his merest utterance, gave a speech in which he affirmed his position that rape is wicked and that we should discourage it. Instead of giving a content-free speech, he should have directed his Department of Justice to put together some definitive data on the question.
Much of the scholarly literature estimates that the actual rate is more like a tenth of that one-in-five rate, 2.16 percent, or 21.6 per 1,000 to use the conventional formulation. But that number is problematic, too, as are most of the numbers related to sexual assault, as the National Institute of Justice, the DoJ’s research arm, documents. For example, two surveys conducted practically in tandem produced victimization rates of 0.16 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively – i.e., the latter estimate was eleven times the former. The NIJ blames defective wording on survey questions.
This is a matter of concern because a comparison between the NIJ’s estimates of college-campus rape and the estimates of rape in the general population compiled by the DoJ’s National Crime Victimization Survey implies that the rate of rape among college students is more than ten times that of the general population.
It is not impossible that this is the case, but there is significant cause for skepticism. For example, in the general population college-age women have significantly lower rates of sexual assault than do girls twelve to seventeen, while a fifth of all rape victims are younger than twelve. Most of the familiar demographic trends in violent crime are reflected in the rape statistics: Poor women are sexually assaulted at twice the rate of women in households earning $50,000 a year or more; African American women are victimized at higher rates than are white women, while Native American women are assaulted at twice the rate of white women; divorced and never-married women are assaulted at seven times the rate of married women; women in urban communities are assaulted at higher rates than those in the suburbs, and those in rural areas are assaulted at dramatically higher rates. But there is at least one significant departure from the usual trends in violent crime: Only about 9 percent of those raped are men.
It is probably the case that the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is wildly exaggerated—not necessarily in absolute terms, but relative to the rate of sexual assault among college-aged women with similar demographic characteristics who are not attending institutions of higher learning. The DoJ hints at this in its criticism of survey questions, some of which define “sexual assault” so loosely as to include actions that “are not criminal.” This might explain why so many women who answer survey questions in a way consistent with their being counted victims of sexual assault frequently display such a blasé attitude toward the events in question and so rarely report them. As the DoJ study puts it: “The most commonly reported response — offered by more than half the students — was that they did not think the incident was serious enough to report. More than 35 percent said they did not report the incident because they were unclear as to whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended.”
If you are having a little trouble getting your head around a definition of “sexual assault” so liberal that it includes everything from forcible rape at gunpoint to acts that not only fail to constitute crimes under the law but leave the victims “unclear as to whether harm was intended,” then you are, unlike much of our culture, still sane.
Of all the statistics and evidence that are prevalent in the discussion of sexual assault, there is one datum conspicuous in its absence: the fact that sexual assault has been cut by nearly two-thirds since 1995. Under the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ apples-to-apples year-over-year comparison, sexual assault has declined 64 percent since the Clinton years. That is excellent news, indeed, but it does not feed the rape-epidemic narrative, and so it must be set aside.
The fictitious rape epidemic is necessary to support the fiction of “rape culture,” by which feminists mean anything other than an actual rape culture, for example the culture of the Pakistani immigrant community in Rotherham in the United Kingdom. “Rape culture” simply means speech or thought that feminists disapprove of and wish to suppress, and the concept has been deployed in the cause of, inter alia, bringing disciplinary action against a Harvard student who wrote a satire of feminist rhetoric, forbidding politically unpopular speakers from speaking on campuses, and encouraging what often has turned out to be headlong and grotesquely unjust rushes to judgment, as in the case of the Duke lacrosse team. Feminism is about political power, and not the Susan B. Anthony (“positively voted the Republican ticket — straight”) full-citizenship model of political power but rather one dominated by a very small band of narrow ideologues still operating under the daft influence of such theorists as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, each of whom in her way equated political opposition to feminism with rape.
This has some worrisome practical results, not the least of which is muddying the water on the issue of sexual assault itself. For example, feminists energetically protest that advising women to take such precautionary measures as moderating their alcohol intake at college parties is a species of rape-culture victim-blaming (rather than reasonable advice), and so it is no surprise that, as the DoJ notes, many surveys inquire of rape victims whether they believed their attackers to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol but decline to ask the victims whether they were under the influence. Evidence very strongly suggests that rapists frequently use intoxicants, openly or surreptitiously, as part of a strategy conceived with malice aforethought to render their victims vulnerable. It might be useful to know how often this is the case and how often it works or fails to work, but we will not know if we refuse to ask the question.
Our policy debates are dominated by relatively narrow-minded and self-interested elites, and so it is natural that our discussion of sexual assault focuses on what might be happening at Villanova University rather than what’s happening on Riker’s Island or on Ojibwe reservations. But the way we talk about rape suggests that we do not much care about the facts of the case. If understanding and preventing rape were our motive, we’d know whether the victimization rate was x or 11x, and whether elite college campuses are in fact rather than in rhetoric more dangerous than crime-ridden ghettos and isolated villages in Alaska, a state in which the rate of rape is three times the national average. We’d never accept that the National Bureau of Economic Research didn’t know whether the inflation rate were 1.6 percent or 17 percent. We’d give the issue properly rigorous consideration.
But if your interest were in making opposition to feminist political priorities a quasi-criminal offense and using the horrific crime of rape as a cultural and political cudgel, then you’d be doing about what we’re doing right now.
By Echo Chambers
The dust is settling around National Football League (NFL) players Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy after each man was arrested for separate cases of domestic abuse. Now another prominent athlete is making headlines for similar reasons - female football star Hope Solo.
In June, the US national women's team's star goalkeeper was arrested and charged with two counts of domestic abuse in connection with an assault on her sister and 17-year-old nephew.
She has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in November.
Rice is suspended from the NFL indefinitely and Peterson and Hardy have been benched. But Solo continues to play for two teams, including the US national side.
Nike has publicly ended ties with Rice and Peterson, but nearly three months after Solo's arrest, the company has not said a word about its sponsorship deal with her.
This summer, the US Soccer Federation issued this gentle statement:
"We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at the moment," US Soccer spokesman Neil Bluethe told USA Today.
"At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the national team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognise that in the proper way."
Continue reading the main story“Start QuoteThere is a reason why we call it the 'Violence Against Women Act' and not the 'Brawling With Families Act'”
Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe Atlantic
Since then, Solo broke the record to which Mr Bluethe referred - the women's national team record for shutouts.
Some commentators say she should have been sent off the field months ago.
"Solving the problem in the NFL while ignoring the issue elsewhere would accomplish little as a whole," writes John Smallwood for the Philadelphia Daily News. "If we are going to address domestic abuse, let's address it, regardless of the status of the accused perpetrator."
Thousands of young girls flock to stadiums to watch Solo play, he notes.
"How is it OK to showcase Solo to those girl fans - some of whom unfortunately will become victims of the same domestic abuse she is accused of?" he asks.
ESPN's Kate Fagan came out in favour of a strong punishment for Solo. "The issue is about anger and power, about controlling relationships with violence, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator," she wrote. "The US women's national team is sending the wrong message by allowing Solo to continue playing."
But as if to demonstrate the complicated nature of this case, Fagan felt compelled to follow up days later. While she stands firm in her desire to see Solo benched, she says she was uncomfortable with how many people were using Solo's actions as a way to neutralise the discussion of domestic violence within the NFL.
NFL running back Adrian Peterson has been banned from team activities until his legal issues are resolved
"See?" she wrote, summarising the arguments that troubled her. "Women commit domestic violence, too, so let's just call it even and get back to watching some football!"
That approach, she writes, is a mistake.
"The reason the 'NFL and domestic violence' story is so important is because it's holding up a mirror to the rest of society," she writes. "We can get somewhere better by examining the NFL's failures. Every minute we spend talking about Hope Solo is a minute spent walking down a dead end."
On MSNBC's Morning Joe chat show, BBC World News America presenter Katty Kay emphasised that Solo's case, while serious, was not representative of the norm.
"Let's not try and use that as an example to suggest that women are as guilty of domestic violence against their partners, because it is overwhelmingly men who beat their wives," she said.
Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic agrees, citing the main US anti-domestic violence law.
"There is a reason why we call it the 'Violence Against Women Act' and not the 'Brawling With Families Act'," he writes.
For Slate's Amanda Hess, the differences between the NFL and the US Soccer Federation make them difficult to compare.
"Isn't it more likely that the lack of public pressure in Solo's case simply represents the relative lack of attention that women's soccer receives as compared with pro football?"
And unlike the NFL, she writes, US Soccer is not burdened with "a systematic, decades-long history of ignoring the fact that certain players abuse their partners."
Solo herself posted on Facebook and Twitter saying, "Once all the facts come to light and the legal process is concluded, I am confident that I will be fully exonerated."
Officials are waiting to see what the court decides.
"Abuse in all forms is unacceptable," US Olympic Committee chief officer Scott Blackmun said in a recent email to USA Today.
"The allegations involving Ms Solo are disturbing and are inconsistent with our expectations of Olympians. We have had discussions with US Soccer and fully expect them to take action if it is determined that the allegations are true."
While they wait, fans are forming their own opinions - and women's football, never as popular in the US as the NFL, is getting attention for all the wrong reasons.
Written by Kierran Petersen
The redefinition of the word violence continues among revelations that discounting a sexual partner's feelings and withholding sex constitutes sexual violence at the University of Michigan. The relevant info can befound at the university's "Stop Abuse" webpage:
Examples of sexual violence include: discounting the partner's feelings regarding sex; criticizing the partner sexually; touching the partner sexually in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways; withholding sex and affection; always demanding sex; forcing partner to strip as a form of humiliation (maybe in front of children), to witness sexual acts, to participate in uncomfortable sex or sex after an episode of violence, to have sex with other people; and using objects and/or weapons to hurt during sex or threats to back up demands for sex.
Criticizing someone sexually and withholding sex are unkind things to do, but they aren't violent acts in and of themselves. Indeed, a university spokesperson could only defend the definitions as appropriate within "a larger context," according to Derek Draplin of The College Fix:
The definitions of behaviors of violence … describe most accurately what occurs in an abusive relationship,” [U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald] said in an email. “Those behaviors not in the context of violence are not abusive. A reader of this site would recognize that it’s described as one behavior in the context of a pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner."
But, as Draplin writes, universities make these slips all the time—treating disfavored behavior and physically painful behavior as one and the same. He cites an interview with the sexual violence support coordinator at Brock University in Canada in which the administrator claims "anything that makes someone feel unsafe" counts as violence.
Institutions of higher learning should be more precise with their definitions. Being insufficiently attentive to other people's feelings is not an act of violence.
For related coverage, see "Ohio State: Students Must Agree on Why They Are Having Sex."
Brian Alexander NBC News July 31, 2013 at 3:09 PM ET
Girls are the perpetrators of some form of dating violence nearly as often as boys, surprising new studies show.
More girls – 43 percent – than boys – 28 percent – reported committing an act of physical dating violence, said researchers who are presenting their findings beginning Wednesday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting. Slightly more boys – 23 percent – than girls – 18 percent – reported perpetrating at least one act of sexual violence.
For her study, Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal study among 625 students starting in grades 5, 6, and 7, and followed them over a period of four years. Researchers interviewed the students at intervals over that time.
The study looked at a spectrum of behaviors, ranging from name calling and expressing anger, spreading rumors, and using controlling behaviors such as keeping track of dating partners, to physical violence such as slapping, hitting and biting, and sexual violence including forced kissing. Taken as a whole, one in three reported being the victim of at least one of the behaviors on that spectrum.
While most of us may not rank name-calling, or bad-mouthing another to their friends as “violence,” the researchers say they included the psychological and relationship tactics because they can have a profound impact.
“We see in other research that the psychological stuff has just as much of a negative impact on health outcomes as the physical and sexual” violence, said Carlos Cuevas, associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, who is also presenting a study on youth dating violence at meeting.
Espelage and her colleagues found that acts of verbal dating violence were common. For example, 31 percent of all study participants admitted deliberately doing something to make a partner angry, and 26 percent used a hostile tone. Physical and sexual violence were less common in the group studied with 10 percent saying they had hit or slapped a dating partner, 11 percent saying they’d bit a partner, and 6 percent saying they had forced a partner to kiss.
The main aim of the study Espelage helped conduct was to illuminate any links between bullying at younger ages and violence as children began dating.
Using self-reports taken at intervals from 2008 through part of 2012, the study showed a very clear and dramatic link. Middle school bullies were seven times more likely to become dating violence perpetrators by high school. This was true for both boys and girls.
“Our data show that for kids who gained self-esteem by dominance in middle school” via verbally or psychologically bullying others, “their need for control spilled over into their relationships four years later.”
It’s not just the Nelson Muntz types, either, Espelage explained. “I’m talking about the popular kids, the high social status kids, too. If you’ve got a nasty, bully girl in junior high, she’s going to have a bad outcome.”
Cuevas’ study of 1,525 teens focused on the influence of cultural factors in dating violence among Latino youth. He found low incidence of self-reported sexual violence – 2.1 percent of boys admitted perpetrating an act of sexual coercion compared to 0.4 percent of girls. Girls were more likely than boys to engage in any instance of physical or psychological dating violence.
Both Cuevas and Espelage stressed that other studies have shown that severe, injury-causing violence is more often male perpetrated, and that girls typically have a greater fear of injury from dating violence.
Before conducting his study, Cuevas anticipated that family bonds and support would help prevent both delinquency and dating violence. But “I was a little surprised… We thought it would be helpful, but it turned out to be very helpful in decreasing all forms of violence we measured, and all forms of delinquency.”
“We think family education is one of the real gateways for intervention and prevention,” he said. “If you are able to educate families and parents around these issues, it provides the first line of defense for helping kids avoid getting into these kinds of behaviors.”
Brian Alexander is a frequent contributor to NBC News and a co-author of “The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction.”
Gender aspects of abuse
The role of gender is a controversial topic related to the discussion of domestic violence.
Among the persons killed by an intimate partner, about three quarters are female, and about a quarter are male: in 1999, in the US, 1,218 women and 424 men were killed by an intimate partner, regardless of which partner started the violence and of the gender of the partner. In the US, in 2005, 1181 females and 329 males were killed by their intimate partners. Women are also much more likely than men to enlist help if they wish to kill their spouse; but such multiple-offender homicides are not counted toward domestic-violence statistics.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”
Erin Pizzey, the founder of an early women's shelter in Chiswick, London, has expressed her dismay at how domestic abuse has become a gender-political football, and expressed an unpopular view in her book Prone to Violence that roughly two-thirds of women in the refuge system had a predisposition to seek abusive relationships, and to inflict violence. Pizzey also expressed the view that domestic violence can occur against any vulnerable intimates, regardless of their gender.
A Freudian concept, repetition compulsion, has been cited as a possible cause of a woman who was abused in childhood seeking an abusive man (or vice versa), theoretically as a misguided way to "master" their traumatic experience.
There continues to be discussion about whether men or women are more abusive, whether women's abuse of men, or men's abuse of women is typically more severe, and the question of whether abused men should be provided the same resources and shelters that exist for women victims sekä Carney (2007)
A problem in conducting studies that seek to describe violence in terms of gender is the amount of silence, fear and shame that results from abuse within families and relationships. Another is that abusive patterns can tend to seem normal to those who have lived in them for a length of time. Similarly, subtle forms of abuse can be quite transparent even as they set the stage for further abuse seeming normal. Finally, inconsistent definition of what domestic violence is makes definite conclusions difficult to reach when compiling the available studies.
Martin S. Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach, provides an annotated bibliography of over two hundred scholarly works which demonstrate that women and men often exhibit comparable levels of IPV violence. In a Los Angeles Times article about male victims of domestic violence, Fiebert suggests that "...consensus in the field is that women are as likely as men to strike their partner but that—as expected—women are more likely to be injured than men." However, he noted, men are seriously injured in 38% of the cases in which "extreme aggression" is used. Fiebert additionally noted that his work was not meant to minimize the serious effects of men who abuse women.
In a Meta-analysis, John Archer, Ph. D., from the Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, UK, writes:
The present analyses indicate that men are among those who are likely to be on the receiving end of acts of physical aggression. The extent to which this involves mutual combat or the male equivalent to “battered women” is at present unresolved. Both situations are causes for concern. Straus (1997) has warned of the dangers involved—especially for women—when physical aggression becomes a routine response to relationship conflict. “Battered men”—those subjected to systematic and prolonged violence—are likely to suffer physical and psychological consequences, together with specific problems associated with a lack of recognition of their plight (George and George, 1998). Seeking to address these problems need not detract from continuing to address the problem of “battered women."
Donald G. Dutton and Tonia L. Nicholls, from the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia also undertook a meta-analysis of data in 2005. They concluded:
Clearly, shelter houses full of battered women demonstrate the need for their continued existence. Moreover, outside of North American and Northern Europe, gender inequality is still the norm (Archer, in press). However, within those countries that have been most progressive about women’s equality, female violence has increased as male violence has decreased (Archer, in press). There is not one solution for every domestically violent situation; some require incarceration of a terrorist perpetrator, others can be dealt with through court-mandated treatment, still others may benefit from couples therapy. However, feminist inspired intervention standards that preclude therapists in many states from doing effective therapy with male batterers are one outcome of this paradigm. The failure to recognize female threat to husbands, female partners, or children is another (Straus et al., 1980 found 10% higher rates of child abuse reported by mothers than by fathers).
The one size fits all policy driven by a simplistic notion that intimate violence is a recapitulation of class war does not most effectively deal with this serious problem or represent the variety of spousal violence patterns revealed by research. At some point, one has to ask whether feminists are more interested in diminishing violence within a population or promoting a political ideology. If they are interested in diminishing violence, it should be diminished for all members of a population and by the most effective and utilitarian means possible. This would mean an intervention/treatment approach based on other successful approaches from criminology and psychology.
Theories that women are as violent as men have been dubbed "Gender Symmetry" theories. On the other hand, Michael Kimmel of the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that men are more violent inside and outside of the home than women.
Both men and women have been arrested and convicted of assaulting their partners in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The bulk of these arrests have been men being arrested for assaulting women. However, in the case of reciprocal violence, frequently only the male perpetrator is arrested. Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for a number of reasons. Another study has demonstrated a high degree of acceptance by women of aggression against men.
Murders of female intimate partners by men have dropped, but not nearly as dramatically. Men kill their female intimate partners at about four times the rate that women kill their male intimate partners. Research by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD RN FAAN has found that at least two thirds of women killed by their intimate partners were battered by those men prior to the murder. She also found that when males are killed by female intimates, the women in those relationships had been abused by their male partner about 75% of the time. (See battered person syndrome and battered woman defense.)
Some researchers have found a relationship between the availability of domestic violence services, improved laws and enforcement regarding domestic violence and increased access to divorce, and higher earnings for women with declines in intimate partner homicide. However, both men and women are far less likely to be abused when married to each other. The bulk of injuries from domestic violence involves co-habitation or the distresses of relationship break-ups.
Gender roles and expectations can and do play a role in abusive situations, and exploring these roles and expectations can be helpful in addressing abusive situations, as do factors like race, class, religion, sexuality and philosophy. None of these factors cause one to abuse or another to be abused.
In 1997, the Canadian Advertising Foundation ruled that a national ad campaign that featured Nicole Brown Simpson's sister Denise with the slogan "Stop violence against women" was in fact portraying only men as aggressors, that it was not providing a balanced message and was, in fact, contributing to gender stereotyping. (The murder of Nicole Simpson also included the murder of Ronald Goldman.)