A group of conservative feminists on Thursday agreed that the statistics being used to create the impression of a "campus culture of rape" are overblown, though they admitted that sexual assaults do sometimes take place on campus.
The Independent Women’s Forum hosted a panel discussion at the Fund for American Studies to discuss the issue. The group included a former philosophy professor, a journalist, a former State Department official, and a lawyer.
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The issue of rape has also been hyped on social media through hashtag activism, such as the #YesAllWomen trend, which swept Twitter earlier this month.
The panel agreed that rapes do occur on campus, but there also seemed to be agreement on the fact that statistics being promoted are often wrong.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former professor of philosophy, discussed the problems with the statistic that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted on campus that is often promoted by campus feminists. Sommers said the definition of sexual assault used to gather that statistic was far too broad. For example, any sexual experience that occurred while under the influence of alcohol or drugs was counted as a sexual assault.
Sommers said the promotion of false statistics only works against the problem. True cases of rape are diminished when sexual assault is defined so broadly.
Stuart Taylor, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and lawyer, agreed with Sommers. He said the broad definition of sexual assault also has a negative effect on justice. Taylor said the overhyping of rape on campus is degrading the law, leading to many young men being wrongly accused.
The overhyping of rape on college campuses is also harming women, denying female agency, trivializing true cases of rape, and creating false female victims, according to Cathy Young, a contributing editor at Reason magazine.
Young said many women have trouble saying "no" in situations. She suggested colleges should make more of an effort to teach young women how to say "no" in situations they are uncomfortable with.
Andrea Bottner, a former State Department official who has traveled around the world to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, emphasized the unique problems the United States faces in confronting the issue of rape.
Many women across the world have no concept of justice in rape cases, much less the ability to discuss the problem in public forums.
While the panel agreed that rape on college campuses is a problem, few solutions were offered to fix the problem.
The panelists suggested that colleges take a smaller role in prosecuting accused rapists. They also believe increased coordination between colleges and rape crisis centers could help the problem. Additionally, there was agreement that legal standards in rape cases need to be made clearer.