A “Culture of Indifference”: The Urgent Need for Better Sexual Assault Policies and Practices on U.S. Campuses

For the past twenty years, experts on sexual assault, victims’ advocates, and students and their parents have repeatedly called on colleges and universities to take rape seriously and live up to the standards that, beginning with 1990’s Campus Security Act, have been outlined in Federal law. And for the past 20 years most schools have not been paying attention. Last week the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) launched the second series in a three-part investigative report on campus sexual assault, exposing what they call the “culture of indifference” on college campuses that allows perpetrators to go unpunished and re-traumatizes rape survivors. Indifference may indeed be putting it nicely.

CPI’s reporters accessed a database of sexual assault complaints and consequent proceedings from 130 schools that received federal grant money to improve their sexual assault programming—what they found is a disturbing unwillingness to seriously sanction students accused of assault, even if those students are found “responsible” (the college policy equivalent of a guilty verdict). Of all of the sexual assault cases that went through hearings at these 130 schools, only 10 to 25 percent of the students found responsible were actually expelled. More common sanctions include counseling for abuse of alcohol (if alcohol was a factor in the assault), and social probation or housing restrictions.

These facts are troubling both for the student survivors, who fear running into their attackers around campus and often leave the school, and to the rest of the student body: research says it’s likely that many sexual assaults on campus are committed by repeat offenders.

As a Board member of Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), a national nonprofit that provides resources to college students who are trying to change how their school prevents and responds to sexual violence, I’m unfortunately not surprised by the CPI findings. SAFER repeatedly hears from student survivors struggling to navigate the complicated process of getting support and seeking justice, and who are often left to fend for themselves.

That is not always the case, of course.  There is the rare but positive story, such as that of Melandy, a student at the College of Holy Cross highlighted in CPI’s report, and a rape survivor who actually saw her rapist expelled from school. Melandy’s story highlights what good can come of a strong sexual assault policy (and what damage can be done by a poor one).

Colleges that receive federal funding are mandated by law to maintain policies that outline sexual assault reporting and disciplinary procedures, and inform students of their rights and options. SAFER has a rubric of what makes a better sexual assault policy, but most of the policies we see fall far short. In particular, as evidenced by the CPI report, disciplinary procedures are often vague and students starting the process do not understand it. Although schools repeatedly claim to take sexual violence seriously, it’s uncommon for policies to establish even minimum sanctions for sexual assault, or to outline different sanctions for different categories of sexual misconduct. Administrators have rarely gone through specific training on how to hear and judge sexual assault cases.

Many argue that for all these reasons, sexual assault cases are not appropriate for administrators to handle, and should be turned over to local law enforcement. However, the fact remains that schools are currently required to take action in accordance with the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which explicitly states that school policies must address “procedures for on-campus disciplinary action in cases of alleged sexual assault.” The statute goes on to say that students must be informed of their option to involve law enforcement, but we must realize that many student survivors may not want to involve local police.

Clearly school administrations do not have the same powers as law enforcement, and as such they cannot technically “prosecute a crime.” But students who choose to use the campus disciplinary system realize the difference. What they expect, and rightly so, is that their school is invested in upholding standards of acceptable and unacceptable student conduct, as they often do when passing judgment in a host of other misconduct cases. Students are routinely dismissed from schools for drug charges and plagiarism. Why should a charge of sexual assault be different? Students are betrayed by their schools not because the school is unable to mirror the criminal justice system, but because the refusal to treat sexual assault as a serious breach of student conduct amounts to entirely dismissing the severity of the crime and the trauma undergone by the survivor.

This disregard for the victims is clear in the remarks of school administrators who told the CPI reporters that they view the disciplinary process not as “punitive” but “educational.” As the associate dean of students at Indiana University said, “We’d like to think that we can always educate and hold accountable the student.”

While I place much value in education as prevention, and understand that the role of a college is first and foremost to foster personal growth through learning, there is no excuse for turning one person’s rape into another’s “teachable moment.” While the campus disciplinary system may not be set up to mete out “justice” as one administrator pointed out, valuing an educational ideal over the health and safety of other students is unacceptable…and dangerous.

It’s therefore the school’s responsibility to ensure that their sexual assault policy is as fair, transparent, and effective as possible, which likely includes training staff to properly review cases. It’s also important to remember that a sexual assault policy sets the tone on campus for how seriously a school takes sexual assault, and what behavior is expected of its students. A thorough policy with strong definitions and clear procedures not only lets students know that sexual assault will not be tolerated, but it can help students assess their situation and encourages them to report assaults.

For evidence we can look back to Melandy. Melandy used portions of Holy Cross’s policy’s consent definition to make her case, noting that even though her accused rapist claimed she didn’t “say no,” the policy clearly stated that silence cannot be assumed to imply consent, and that the “initiator” is responsible for acquiring consent from his or her partner. It also states that students who are “incapacitated as a result of alcohol” cannot give consent. The policy goes on to define alcohol-related incapacity, describe physical signs of incapacitation, and give role-play examples of violations of each category of sexual misconduct outlined in the policy. There are clear guidelines here for students and administrators. 

Clear definitions of consent and sexual assault are just two of the best practices identified by SAFER as we have reviewed campus sexual assault policies from around the country. In 2007, SAFER launched the first incarnation of our Campus Sexual Assault Policies Database, and over the next two years analyzed 93 policies from a diverse array of schools. We’ve recently released the results of that process in our 2009 Policy Database Report, and we did find some promising trends: 85 percent of the schools represented offered students 24-hour crisis counseling, and almost half of the schools had a full-time staff member dedicated to education and prevention programming. Most schools also allow students to report anonymously and/or confidentially, which encourages reporting. 

However, there are disappointing figures as well. For example, only 4 percent of the 93 schools offered rape survivors emergency contraception and STI and HIV prophylaxis at campus health centers. While most schools have some kind of prevention and education programming, only 15 percent of the schools have made such activities mandatory for students. None of the schools have mandatory primary prevention programs or bystander trainings that focus on changing the social norms that contribute to sexual violence. At just over half the schools are students required to read and sign the sexual assault policy, leaving one to wonder what good can come of a policy that students aren’t aware of.

Though from a small sample, these findings and administrative apathy or lack of awareness that they imply are in line with numbers presented in the Department of Justice’s 2005 report, “Sexual Assault on College Campuses: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It.” The DOJ report also highlights serious issues like lack of sexual assault training for security personnel and residence advisors (who are most likely to receive reports of sexual assault), and barriers to student reporting. At over a third of the schools studied, for example, administrators said they thought the school’s alcohol and drug policies “inhibit reporting,” meaning that students are afraid of being punished for alcohol or drug infractions if they were assaulted while intoxicated. But this again goes to show how policy plays an integral role in campus culture surrounding sexual violence: adopting an amnesty policy that guarantees reporting students immunity from drug and alcohol infractions would likely increase students’ comfort with reporting, and send a message that a school is committed to supporting survivors.

The importance of campus sexual assault policies makes them necessary and promising sites for activism. SAFER has been guiding students through the process of policy reform for ten years, and we’ve seen student groups win sweeping policy revisions and add key components to weak policies. We recently partnered with V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls, on the Campus Accountability Project (CAP), which we hope will vastly expand the number of students thinking about the issue and challenging their schools to do a better job.  V-Day also has a long history of organizing students to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus.

The CAP invites college students to become advocates by researching their schools’ sexual assault policies and submitting their findings to our V-Day/SAFER Campus Accountability Project Database. This is the newest incarnation of our original database, which was restructured to include a student self-submit form consisting of a series of questions that will help students perform their own policy analysis. When the results are in, we will be able to assess the state of policies across the country and provide clear evidence to students and administrators showing how their schools are performing in the fight against sexual violence. We hope that eventually sexual assault policies will become one of the many aspects of campus culture that are rated and integrated into college ranking systems, applying even more pressure on schools to implement better policies.

Campus sexual violence is a hard issue to process, whether it’s the trauma of sexual assault, the trauma of an inadequate campus response, or simply a general frustration at the lack of justice or change. But there is also room for hope and empowered action. Students can take action with CAP, start a policy reform campaign on their campus, or get involved in their school’s awareness and prevention programming; schools can and hopefully will learn from their and others’ mistakes; and in 20 more years, perhaps we won’t still be pleading to be taken seriously.

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  • kate-ranieri

    NPR recently featured a story about this very topic and the ending wasn’t quite so wonderful. The brilliance of the story is how the young woman and her family relied on a little known aspect of Title IX to say that they university failed this student. 

  • anonymous99

    “…—what they found is a disturbing unwillingness to seriously sanction students accused of assault…”

    You’re scaring me Sarah.  You believe the mere accusation of assault requires the serious sanctioning of the accused?  You do know the difference between an accusation and the presentation of evidence which shows guilt, right?


    “Administrators have rarely gone through specific training on how to hear and judge sexual assault cases.”

    Because you’d rather not rely on the common sense of those hearing these cases as is done in every courtroom and disiplinary hearing in America?

    • crowepps

      Myths That Make It Hard To Stop Campus Rape

      by Joseph Shapiro


      March 4, 2010


      There’s a common assumption about men who commit sexual assault on a college campus: That they made a one-time, bad decision. But psychologist David Lisak says this assumption is wrong —-and dangerously so.


      Lisak started with a simple observation. Most of what we know about men who commit rape comes from studying the ones who are in prison. But most rapes are never reported or prosecuted. So Lisak, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, set out to find and interview men he calls “undetected rapists.” Those are men who’ve committed sexual assault, but have never been charged or convicted.


      He found them by, over a 20-year period, asking some 2,000 men in college questions like this: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?”


      Or: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?”


      About 1 in 16 men answered “yes” to these or similar questions.


      Profile Of A Rapist


      It might seem like it would be hard for a researcher to get these men to admit to something that fits the definition of rape. But Lisak says it’s not. “They are very forthcoming,” he says. “In fact, they are eager to talk about their experiences. They’re quite narcissistic as a group — the offenders — and they view this as an opportunity, essentially, to brag.”


      What Lisak found was that students who commit rape on a college campus are pretty much like those rapists in prison. In both groups, many are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes.


      And these offenders on campuses — just like men in prison for rape — look for the most vulnerable women. Lisak says that on a college campus, the women most likely to be sexually assaulted are freshmen.


      “It’s quite well-known amongst college administrators that first-year students, freshman women, are particularly at risk for sexual assault,” Lisak says. “The predators on campus know that women who are new to campus, they are younger, they’re less experienced. They probably have less experience with alcohol, they want to be accepted. They will probably take more risks because they want to be accepted. So for all these reasons, the predators will look particularly for those women.”


      Still, Lisak says these men don’t think of themselves as rapists. Usually they know the other student. And they don’t use guns or knives.


      “The basic weapon is alcohol,” the psychologist says. “If you can get a victim intoxicated to the point where she’s coming in and out of consciousness, or she’s unconscious — and that is a very, very common scenario — then why would you need a weapon? Why would you need a knife or a gun?”


      Complicated by Alcohol


      Stetson University law professor Peter Lake agrees there are plenty of predators on campus, and that it’s important to spot them and get them out of school.


      But Lake says there’s a problem the predator theory underestimates: the amount of drinking and sex that’s become common with many — although certainly not all — college students.


      “It’s very common for them to go out Wednesday through Saturday at a minimum, drink fairly heavily and hook up sexually with people that they may not know particularly well, may have met for the first time that night, or had been introduced through friends, or MySpace or Facebook,” he says. “So you have a lot of sexual activity, you have alcohol, you have a population that’s sort of an at-risk age, and it’s in some ways, it’s a perfect storm for sex assault issues.”


      Lake, author of the 2009 book Beyond Discipline: Managing the Modern Higher Education Environment, says schools address sexual assault mainly as a violation of conduct codes. And he says these codes have evolved to better handle sexual assault cases.


      Can They Learn From Mistakes?


      Part of Lake’s belief in second chances for students comes from personal experience as a law professor. He’s a consultant to universities about discipline procedures, and he was the honor-code investigator for his own law school’s discipline committee for a decade.


      But he’s also worked as an attorney in criminal courts where he’d see criminals who were “incorrigible” and who made him “kind of grateful that we have jails and we’re still building them.”


      Those men were different than the ones he’d routinely see being disciplined on college campuses. “What surprised me was how many people have made terrible mistakes and can actually learn to be better people from that,” Lake says, “that there still is a chance for teachable moments.”


      But Lisak, the psychologist, says schools put too much faith in teachable moments, when they ought to treat sexual assault as a criminal matter. “These are clearly not individuals who are simply in need of a little extra education about proper communication with the opposite sex,” he says. “These are predators.”


      A Jury Decides


      At Texas A&M, Elton Yarbrough was a promising student. Then he was linked to five rapes.


      The first woman went to the student health center. She says that as staffers did a rape examination, one asked, “Well, were you drunk?” The woman felt she was being blamed. Because of that — and because she’d considered herself a friend of Yarbrough’s — she didn’t report the assault to campus police. A year later, when the fourth woman called, the student health center was closed for a holiday. The answering machine said to call 911 in an emergency. She did, and got city police.


      “And College Station police were there within a few minutes,” says Jennifer Peebles, a journalist who reported the case for the Center for Public Integrity. “They seemed to have absolutely taken the case very seriously and investigated it.”


      On a recent morning, Peebles — who works for Texas Watchdog, an online investigative newspaper in Houston — went to visit Yarbrough at a Texas prison. He spoke freely about the women. He recounted the sex and how, he claims, they’d come on to him.


      “He feels strongly that he didn’t do anything against the law,” Peebles says. “He says he feels like he made a bad decision and that the young woman made, or the young women, made a bad decision with him to have sex with him.”


      In the one rape case that went to trial, a Texas jury ruled this was the bad decision of a predator. Yarbrough was sentenced to 18 years in prison.



    • sarahfromsafer

      Well, fair point I suppose, anon. You’re right–schools shouldn’t be immediately handing out sanctions to students who are just “accused.” However, if you read the next paragraph I go on to make clear that the findings of the CPI report are explicitly referring to the lack of serious sanctions for students who are found responsible for sexual assault. So the administrators have found them guilty, they just aren’t doing anything about it. So perhaps I should have been more clear with my language in the opening paragraph.

      As to your second point: no, I’d rather not. First of all–again, this is not a criminal justice situation. Police officers, lawyers, and judges have gone through extensive training and had years of experience in how to investigate crimes, adjudicate cases and dispense “punishment.” So right away, we’re not dealing with “common sense.” If those folks aren’t going to be involved in a case, then yes I absolutely want the people invesitigating to have some basic training in the dyanmics and outcomes of sexual assault, what to look for when investigating the crime, etc. And the If you’re referring to the idea of a “jury of one’s peers,” in terms of common sense: well that’s not happening on college campuses either. You can’t compare apples to oranges.


  • niteowle

    For anyone who is interersted, the “Yes Means Yes” blog did a good series of posts on Lisak’s study, including the NPR report :







  • faultroy

    The comment by the writer says it all: “some survivors do not want to involve the police.  Let’s face it: with our hypersexualized society and college girls and boys in particular, there will be much sex and more sex.  To say that the “weapon of rape is alcohol” is totally true. About 95% of college “rapes,” could be eliminated if  college women would give up binge drinking. It makes no sense to accuse men of rape when the whole purpose of these parties for many of the men is to get laid. College girls know this–that is why they attend these parties. If you are a victim of a sexual assault, then you should go to the police pure and simple.  We have in the USA this little known concept called the Bill of Rights.  That means when YOU are accused of a crime, YOU have certain rights. One of those rights is to be considered innocent until PROVEN guilty.  College administrators are held to the same standards as police Depts. The fact that college women were instrumental in requiring co-ed dorms has not helped matters in the least. Now it becomes much more difficult to establish who belongs and who does not.  What we need to ask ourselves is that if rape is so serious, then why are these college women treating it so lightly?  If you were the victim of a felony (rape) go to the cops.  I hear all the whining, but I don’t see any comments as to what one would have the administrators do.  How about an article that comes up with some common sense solutions.  If two people are drinking, then obviously they are both incapacitated.  If a man winds up having sex with a girl, then how can you say that one is unable to give consent while the other is not?  To favor one story over the other is the height of bigotry.  My feeling is that a woman under the influence has no right to file charges whatsover.  If you fly to Iraq and into a battle zone, you really have no right to sue for any damages that occur as a result of you being there.  You voluntarily chose to put yourself in harms way.  The same goes for college girls going to frat parties.  You know what is most likely going to happen–don’t do it or take the consequences.  Part of becoming an adult is taking responsibility for one’s actions–no matter how uncomfortable that may be.  I’m tired of these young ladies constantly blaming everyone else and taking no personal responsibility.

  • sarahfromsafer

    I asked a colleague to help me out responding to this comment, which is representative of why so many people don’t take rape seriously, and how much work we have to do to make people understand the dyanmics of sexual assault. Here is the response:

    Actually faultroy, college administrations are NOT held to the same standards as law enforcement or criminal prosecutors. That is why a student can be kicked out of housing at the mere suspicion of marijuana use and expelled from school for failure to properly cite a source in a research paper, or plagiarism. Neither of these would hold up in any criminal court or even warrant a police incident report.
    Survivors generally don’t want to involve the police because the system is rarely a source of justice for this type of crime. Retelling stories of trauma, sitting through 6 grueling hours of a rape kit, and facing possible exposure to victim blamers such as yourself are genuine barriers to reporting. Could you possibly imagine, after suffering an unspeakable trauma, that someone may not want go through all of that just be told, “Sorry, not enough evidence. Good luck on your finals!”
    Also, college girls do not attend parties because they know men want to get laid. They attend parties, as the rest of us do, to socialize with their peers, perhaps meet new people. Women,or anyone, should not have to hole themselves up in their dorm rooms or apartments for fear of being assaulted and you suggesting they do so is insulting and just another method to “keep women in their place.” Classic victim blaming: If you don’t leave your room, nothing bad will happen. What advice, pray tell, would you have had for Jeanne Clery who was raped and murdered by another student at her school while she was sleeping in her room? Sexual violence occurs because perpetrators choose to force sexual contact, either by coercion, intimidation, physical force or incapacitation by substance, onto another person without her or his consent. (Sarah adds: the same argument applies to the point about co-ed dorms. How on earth do you rationalize that women WANTED to live alongside men, so they were bascially just asking to be raped?)
    I do, however, agree with your conclusion. Adults do need to take personal responsibility for their actions, especially adults who perpetrate sexual violence. It is high time that we place the responsibility on the person who initiates sexually predatory behavior. Being drunk does not cause rape.  Rapists cause rape. Numerous criminology studies reflect that perpetrators seek out victims who they believe will fight the least. This is true in cases of stranger rape and acquaintance rape. Rapists don’t “accidentally” rape.  You say yourself, that “the whole purpose of these parties for many of the men is to get laid,” (which I don’t necessarily agree with–see “socialization” above) which implies intent and further, responsibility.
  • kate-ranieri

    Faultroy you clearly are aligned with the rape-supportive folks in this nation. You wrote “Part of becoming an adult is taking responsibility for one’s actions–no matter how uncomfortable that may be”

    I’d agree but only to a point. Taking responsibility means not taking something that doesn’t belong to you, including a woman’s or a man’s bodily autonomy.  Just because she (he) is passed out does not give any male, drunk or otherwise, license to violate another person–male or female. 


    You also wrote “About 95% of college “rapes,” could be eliminated if  college women would give up binge drinking” Again, your notion that girls are at fault and boys will be boys, illustrates some of what the author of this article is addressing. You may be tired of “young ladies” blaming boys but there are millions of us who are downright angry that women continue to live in a rape culture because of people who think as you do.


    What is working are intensive educational rape prevention programs on college campuses to develop rape consciousness that shifts the cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes needed that shifts the value of women as sex partners to one that frames women as equals in the college experience. Educational efforts that involve intensive, sustained rape education efforts play a vital role in dismantling rape supportive culture. 



  • crowepps

    About 95% of college “rapes,” could be eliminated if  college women would give up binge drinking.

    You may not have noticed the quote in the article about how 90% of the rapes were caused by predators – 90% of college rapes could also be eliminated if those guys were jailed.

    It makes no sense to accuse men of rape when the whole purpose of these parties for many of the men is to get laid. College girls know this–that is why they attend these parties.

    I almost hate to ask, but do you think the purpose of ‘allowing’ girls to attend college is so they will be available when the men want “to get laid”?  I thought it was so the woman could get an education.

    I’m tired of these young ladies constantly blaming everyone else and taking no personal responsibility.

    And yet you have no problem at all allowing the men involved to constantly blame the women for being there, being drunk, not stopping it.  What about THEIR personal responsibility?  I realize I’m a geezer, but it was understood back in the good old days that no ‘decent’ boy would ever think of ‘taking advantage of’ a girl or woman who was drunk.  That sort of despicable behavior identified the cad.

  • faultroy

    Kate you are absolutely right.  I am partially blaming the victim.  I too went to college and had my share of parties drunk and horny. As adults, there is a reason men like women and women like men.  And if I were to be honest, using Sarah’s and your criterion, I too might be classified as a rapist. But  No one ever accused me of raping them. However with these new rules and regulations, I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have had a rape charge dumped on me.  Adults pretty much know when someone is interested and when they are not.  We do not have to make Rape the cornerstone of college life.  And let’s just for the record note how this article is totally one sided. There is not one quote from a college official that has been charged with being indifferent to sexual assault on a college campus.  Pretty interesting how officials are not allowed to even respond to the allegations. Furthermore  I actually read the Safer “rubic” suggestions and found them to be trite enough to have been written by a 7th grader: transparency, in clear language????  And as far as women not wanting to go to the police: then it technically is not rape.  For rape to occur, there must be a factual finding in a court of law–again it’s criminal due process.  It is totally unfair to call it rape unless a trial is held and the individual is found guilty or innocent.  And as per victim’s reluctance to go thru the uncomfortable, demeaning and potentially fruitless effort–that is what I mean by women taking rape more seriously. Oh and for background?  I was personally involved in a professional rape ring investigation at Marquette University in Milwaukee in which these black guys that did not even go to school there would rent apartments for one month, go to the college, and just casually mention that there was a party taking place.  The college kids would tell some of the girls and they would literally flock to the place.  When the girls came in, they were actually taken into separate rooms by the guys and raped no booze, no light hearted conversation, just pure unadultered rape.  We never did catch them. No one could identify them.  In this case it was the stupidity of the girls and the fact that in their naivete they were finally free to do as they wished and they got a taste of freedom.  College kids, like most people usually have to learn the hard way–and believe me these ladies did.  As police, prosecutors and society at large we must do everything reasonable to make sure that when a rape occurs that we pull out all stops and arrest those in violation of the law.  However, this is serious business and not a sock hop. And we are not in the baby sitting business or the “he said she said” business. In order to get the job done we need the cooperation of the victim. And in my opnion we need to be even more aggressive with the victims that come forward and expel not only the perpetrator but the victim as well. That will  get these pernicious rape statistics even lower then they already are.  For the record, the number of college rapes is far lower than the general  population average. If I sound hard nosed, that is because as a taxpayer I think I have a right to be. If you and your friends can’t focus on getting an education and you need to party, do it off campus and at the very least you owe it to the adminstration to take your bad decisions to where it does not negatively reflect on the institution.   When you drink and drive, we don’t give you a free pass because you are “incapacitated.”  If you get stoned to the point where you don’t know where you are or who you are with and you get raped, if it were up to me, I would make you do jail time just because you’re too stupid to be treated as a normal citizen–but lucky for you, there is no such law. It is time we changed this bizarre diouble standard for young women.  In my youth I joined the Marine Corps and after I was in for 10 minutes it quickly became obvious to me that the Corps was not as fun as I thought it would be.  Funny there were no sympathetic 24 hours a day counselors, no calling my Congressman, no calling for “an intervention and discussion.”   When I wound up in war, it became even less fun and the possibility of my impending death was very very real (I thought about petitioning the Commandante of the Marine Corps and telling him that I was just a teenager and really not all that enthused about dying but somehow I didn’t think he would be particularly empathic).  I couldn’t go back and tell the Marine Corps that I made an ignorant childish mistake and I want to take it back and that in reality I am a victim. Nor could the very good men that actually died take it back either. The point is that the millions that preceded me and the hundreds of thousands–many who died subsequent to me took responsibility for their actions and did their time.  Those millions of us teenagers would have been told the same thing I am saying here–you wanted to be treated like an adult, well we did and you signed a contract: now Man Up and Cowboy UP and do your job–and if that means dying–well you did sign the contract…  It’s the same thing here.  If you make stupid mistakes, take responsibility for them and move on. Learn from them.  Ladies I am more than empathic to a women that plays it safe and sensibly–but if you’re dumb and gullible…well you got what you asked for–just like I did. 

  • crowepps

     And as far as women not wanting to go to the police: then it technically is not rape.  For rape to occur, there must be a factual finding in a court of law–again it’s criminal due process.  It is totally unfair to call it rape unless a trial is held and the individual is found guilty or innocent. 

    So if a person is shot dead, but the person who is arrested for pulling the trigger isn’t convicted, then the victim wasn’t ‘murdered’?  Because it is totally unfair to call it ‘murder’ unless a trial was held and the individual is found guilty or innocent?

    And in my opnion we need to be even more aggressive with the victims that come forward and expel not only the perpetrator but the victim as well. 

    Sure, because by carelessly leaving her dorm room (or failing to put a huge bar inside the door to prevent the rapist from entering), she has LURED him into ‘making a mistake’ and so it’s ALL HER FAULT.

  • curt64knight

    Being drunk has NOTHING to do with making rape a rape or not.  Yes, if you’re irresponsible and get drunk in a frat house with 100 horny guys and start flirting, you have effectively made a mistake that you need to take personal responsibility for… but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have the right to not be violated.


    I hate ‘arguments’ like this that take a legitimate point and spin it to try to make a ridiculous one sound sensible.  If somebody gets raped, it’s rape — regardless of whether it’s reported or not, regardless if she was drunk at the time.


    At the same time, there are instances that are NOT rape, that get reported as rape (as in she willingly has sex, then afterwords regrets it, etc), and those people reporting these non-crimes should be prosecuted to the same extent as the rapists.  There are certain responsibilities that a woman must take to avoid risky situations — like the Kobe and Mike Tyson situations where the woman went into their room at night — it doesn’t excuse the rape, but really, you have to know the guy is going to want sex, and if you don’t, don’t put yourself in that position.  Again, not excusing the rape, just saying people should use reasonable caution.


  • queenyasmeen

    … and college campuses: back when I was a college student and an activist for sexual assault prevention on campuses in the mid- to late-1990’s, many colleges, mine included, had an internal system for reporting any emergency on campus.  This meant that, back when land lines were the only way to get help, you had to dial campus security because 911 simply wasn’t available.  When you got campus security, there was an intense desire on the part of campus administration for you to keep the issue at hand in-house; in other words, if you needed medical attention, you were more likely to get campus health services than an actual emergency room, and if you needed police, you were more likely to get campus security, and either way, they were very much inclined to settle the matter internally so that when they send the glossy brochures to the mommies and daddies of prospective students, they could claim they had low crime rates because fewer incidents were a matter of public record.  I don’t know specifically that my school participated in this, but I do know that many schools placed a lot of pressure on sexual assault survivors to keep the matter within the school’s disciplinary structure and NOT press charges.  So, while Ms. Martino’s assertion that some survivors may choose not to press charges is valid for many reasons, it may also still be a common practice among school administrators to pressure rape survivors to seek limited justice in the school’s disciplinary system rather than splash the school’s name across the papers when local law enforcement gets involved and a trial occurs.  That’s just one more way in which schools cheat survivors out of justice.


    And in other news, faultroy, you scare the living shit out of me.  The fact that you pretty much admit within your second post to being a rapist says it all about your perspective on this matter.  Could you please do as you’re advising young college women to do, and lock yourself inside your dwelling, never to emerge?  While you’re at it, go ahead and disconnect your internet. 

  • crowepps

    Their argument that it is the woman’s own fault for being drunk is even more lame when you consider what the response would be if a man drunk to unconsciousness was anally penetrated by another man. Would that also not be ‘rape’ because it was his own fault for making himself vulnerable? Or would instead there be protests that ‘everybody knows’ that would be criminal behavior on the part of the perpetrator?  Perhaps that ‘wouldn’t actually be rape until there was a trial and conviction’?


    I did a deposition of a psychiatrist who treated sex offenders many years ago, and he explained in great detail over several hours the bizarre belief structure that was involved. One of the ones that was the oddest to me was the idea that sexual consent was irrevocable — if a woman kissed them, they felt that was permission to go ahead and do whatever, because that ‘consent’ could not be reversed – any touching of bodies was complete license for any subsequent act.  Saying no to a second kiss, or to anything else, was entirely unreasonable and ‘cheating’ because ‘she shouldn’t just change her mind’.


    One of his patients felt that he could identify which women were willing to have sex with him because “they talked to him and laughed and stuff”. He was entitled to have sex with any woman who TALKED to him. Women had only two choices – shun him entirely or tolerate sex with him.


    The idea that the PURPOSE of women is entirely as an object with whom a man can satisfy himself sexually seems to me to be pretty tightly linked with the idea that the PURPOSE of women is to have children. Either function can and has been filled by women in comas – consciousness, intelligence, will and talents entirely unnecessary.


    Although some people think the way to reach this sunny future is to FORCE women into it, and other people think it’s “more fully human” to PERSUADE women that it’s their sacred duty to voluntarily assume this role, both entirely miss the fact that there should be more to femininity, and humanity, than being able to spawn while unconscious.

    it doesn’t excuse the rape, but really, you have to know the guy is going to want sex, and if you don’t, don’t put yourself in that position.

    If this statement is true, that it’s a woman’s responsibility to always “know the guy is going to want sex” and to avoid being alone with him because of that, then it pretty much invalidates all those protests about how unreasonable it is that “women are always suspicious of men”, “women act like all men are animals”, etc.  Apparently, women SHOULD be suspicious of men because all men ARE animals.


    If guys walk around in a perpetual state of desperation for sex, if they truly are that ruled by their testosterone 24/7, considering that there are only a few hours a week when they actually are HAVING sex, then they should have developed a really good ability to tolerate and control the fact that most of the time they are NOT GETTING ANY. If they can get through a day of typical errands without assaulting the sales clerks and sit through boring business meetings without flinging themselves on female coworkers, they should have had enough practice to manage to restrain their overwhelming lust during a party.


    Perhaps instead of warning women that they have the duty to remain always on guard against the ravening hordes, and never drink because it might make them vulnerable to a male predator, it ought to be the truism that MEN should never drink because THEY have the higher duty to remain always in control of their inner predator.

  • jayn

    One of the ones that was the oddest to me was the idea that sexual consent was irrevocable — if a woman kissed them, they felt that was permission to go ahead and do whatever, because that ‘consent’ could not be reversed – any touching of bodies was complete license for any subsequent act.  Saying no to a second kiss, or to anything else, was entirely unreasonable and ‘cheating’ because ‘she shouldn’t just change her mind’.


    One of his patients felt that he could identify which women were willing to have sex with him because “they talked to him and laughed and stuff”


    That’s interesting, crowepps–and rather frightening.  It sounds like these men consider the whole process of getting to know a woman and eventually sleeping with her as a single act, rather than a sequence of acts that each have to be consented to.

  • crowepps

    Actually, from the way he described the mental processes, there wasn’t any step of “getting to know a woman” at all, because as far as these guys are concerned, what would be the point of wasting time hanging around with her except the chance to have sex with her? They seemed to view ‘relationships’ as something that one had with ones male buddies — friendship, conversation, shared activities.


    The whole point of spending time trying to get a woman to talk to them and buying her drinks was because that was what was necessary to get women to have sex with you. Why else would they be wasting time doing it? It’s not like there would be any point in listening to women talk about themselves and their dumb girlie stuff if that wasn’t the price you had to pay to get laid.


    The process sounded a lot like they thought they were picking out a prostitute who could be paid with booze instead of money.


    In one rape case that I worked on, the woman was willing to, actually looking forward to, having sex with the guy and voluntarily took him home with her, but she did NOT want to have anal sex with him, and when he ignored her noes and manhandled her into it anyway, she called the cops and reported him. I think that’s indicative of the attitude of ‘yes means whatever I want’ rather than what two people mutually want to do.


    This, obviously, is really different category from the ‘getting plenty of sex at home but want to find a stranger and cause terror, pain and humiliation because I get off on it’ violent rapists.

  • colleen

    there wasn’t any step of “getting to know a woman” at all, because as far as these guys are concerned, what would be the point of wasting time hanging around with her except the chance to have sex with her?

    I really enjoyed the transition from ‘there’s a reason men like women and women like men’ to the final paragraphs where he was comparing the ordeal of having sex with him/being raped to the joys of being in Marine boot camp.

  • crowepps

    I’m not sure if enjoyed is the word, but I did notice that his rant about girls who report rapes was very similar to that of the guy sitting in prison for the next decade because the jury didn’t buy his justification.  “We both drank too much and made mistakes, so why punish me?  She failed in her responsibility to be able to defend herself from my attack.”

  • ahunt

    Ya think, colleen?


    Indeed, the “pass” F gives the boys here is creepy beyond belief. If any of our sons had tried this line of reasoning on us, Dad might have pulled out the Crown Royal and issued the challenge. Best guess is the sons would have declined.

  • jayn

    Suddenly I’m feeling extremely blessed in my experiences with men…

    Actually, from the way he described the mental processes, there wasn’t any step of “getting to know a woman” at all, because as far as these guys are concerned, what would be the point of wasting time hanging around with her except the chance to have sex with her?


    I would think he’d at least to want to know a woman enough to decide if he really wants to have sex with her, but apparently any vagina is good enough.  No wonder some men refer to their ability to pick up women as their ‘game’, they certainly sound like they’re treating it as one, and women are the prize.


    I think I’m going to be sick.

  • ahunt

    Suddenly I’m feeling extremely blessed in my experiences with men...


    Me too, and especially blessed by the calibre of the sons we raised.


    crowepps brings up the salient point…either we raise our daughters to assume all men are inherently predatory, and teach them that “partying” is an invitation to rape…or?


    Indeed, F can have no objection to this, given his own words.

  • angelbuns

    The problem is that people don’t always understand what rape is and what it does to a person. You hear all the time, “its not like you’ve never had sex before…” or even, “you’ve got a vagina, its gonna happen eventually…”


    People don’t really understand that rape is more than just about sex. Esepecially to the victim. It doesn’t surprise me that colleges and universities are so lax on this. Considering that the actual justice system seems to often consider rape that does not end in homicide to be a joke (look at the penalties), it doesn’t surprise me that when it comes to school campuses where there often will be no legal intervention that the consequences for the perpetrators of such crimes is treated as even less of an offense. I think its pretty telling when you pointed out that students are expelled for plagiarism and not rape in many instances. So, that tells you right there that the schools honestly don’t think that sexual assault is even close to being as bad as plagiarism. Which is very sad and very disturbing.

  • sarahfromsafer

    Thanks for bringing that up. It’s actually an important possibility to consider and something that other people have asked me about—if school admins ever DISCOURAGE students from going to the police—and I don’t have a good answer. I can say that it’s basically illegal for them to do that according to Clery (by the spirit, if not the letter of the law) but I don’t have numbers that reflect how often it happens, unfortunately.

  • grayduck

    Why not work to improve the criminal justice system rather than the school disciplinary process?

  • frolicnaked

    GrayDuck, it’s not an either/or type of thing. Both contain significant opportunities for victim blaming and worsening of an already potentially traumatic situation.


    Why interpret “school disciplinary processes should be improved” as “we don’t care about the criminal justice system” when in reality, advocates are working to improve both in order to help sexual assault survivors obtain justice?

  • crowepps

    Speaking of sick-making, check out these excerpts, or even go to the link and wade through the whole thing, and then consider just how stressful it must be to affirm that you are a ‘man’ in a culture where ALL men are supposed to be successful at “domination and power”.  Since there are going to be a few winners and lots of losers as the men measure themselves against each other, a man can far more easily affirm his ‘manliness’ (to himself) by aiming his ‘domination and power’ at the girls.

    Masculinity is a concept that is historically and culturally situated. Using West and Zimmerman’s “doing gender” framework, masculinity can be seen as a performance rather than a category. In modern Western interpretations of masculinity, the emphasis is placed on domination and power. Conway-Long (1994) maintains that masculinity is a performance of dominance in everyday life where every action is geared towards maintaining control. In addition, Kaufman (1994) asserts that masculinity is the suppression of emotions, needs, and possibilities like nurturing, empathy, and compassion. In the same vein, masculinity has many times been explained as a dialectical rejection of femininity and homosexuality. The definitions of manhood are set in opposition to a whole set of “others,” which include racial minorities, sexual minorities, and women (Kimmel, 1996; Weeks, 1994). All of these enactments of masculinity usually take place in a homosocial context in that these performances are performed for other men. According to Kimmel, men look to other men for validation of their manhood. This homosocial enactment is a dangerous one in that it involves great competition and the risk of failure. That manhood is demonstrated for other men’s approval is both a result of sexism and one of its main components. Because women are valued less in today’s society, men find it necessary to measure themselves through the eyes of other men.

    In hegemonic white masculinity, the enactments of masculinity as mentioned above are joined by an emphasis on power, success, and wealth. Even though white men hold power in today’s society, they are constantly working to defend their positions of dominance. There is a constant fear that they will be “outed” as inadequately male (Kimmel, 1996).

    Within homosocial male groups such as athletes and fraternities (Martin and Hummer, 1992), the use of women as sexual conquests becomes a mechanism for gaining status. Commodification of women and discussing these sexual conquests become ways to solidify male relationships without the threat of homosexuality.


  • emma

    Hey, guess what, Roy? I recall going to plenty of parties whilst at university, and sometimes I even *gasp* got drunk. My friends and I went to parties to have fun, to dance, and to relax after studying our asses off. You may think that women exist to amuse you and other men, but this is, in fact, not the case – we very rarely went out wanting to hook up.


    It was interesting, though, the way the occasional guy would get aggressive when we knocked them back. Most didn’t – a lot of the guys were there to have fun, and were capable of doing so without fucking unwilling or unconscious women – but a few appeared to think that because we existed, we owed it to them to sleep with anyone and everyone with a dick.


    As for this:

    In order to get the job done we need the cooperation of the victim. And in my opnion we need to be even more aggressive with the victims that come forward and expel not only the perpetrator but the victim as well.


    Expel them from what or where? Are you meaning that women should be expelled from university for…what? Getting drunk and forcing someone to rape her?* Jesus, faulty, for all the talk about ‘taking responsibility’, you don’t seem to think rapists need to take a whole lot of it. You sure as hell don’t seem to be taking any for the crime you admitted committing, you hypocrite. It’s really disturbing to me that someone with your attitude towards women is involved with investigating rape, especially given that you are, by your own admission, a rapist yourself. Given that most rapes are by men already known by the victims, what exactly would you suggest we do to avoid forcing men to rape us?** Hey, perhaps we should cover ourselves entirely, or better still, just not ever leave the house at all, though of course, we might force someone to rape us in our houses.***


    Here’s a better thought, though: men who are unable to prevent themselves from raping unwilling and/or unconscious women should avoid leaving their houses or interacting with real, live people. I really can’t imagine a more effective strategy for preventing rape.


    Also: You’re aware that university isn’t the military, yeah? I’m unshocked, though, that someone like you would join a violent, hierarchical, patriarchal, murderous institution.


    Take your own advice and take responsibility for your crime. Turn yourself in. You’ll always be a rapist, but you don’t need to be a lying hypocrite.


    *Heavy sarcasm

    **More heavy sarcasm

    ***Still more heavy sarcasm. Need to go disinfect my keyboard now.

  • crowepps

    I suppose its a logical extension for someone who believes that if women have uteruses they’re required to use them for having babies to also assume that the fact men have a penis means they’re supposed to stick it into everyone who doesn’t succeed in fighting them off, but it does seem a little — I don’t want to say slutty — that’s not right.  Indiscriminate?  Promiscuous?  What’s the word I want?


    Oh, I’ve got it — STUPID!  Very, VERY stupid!


    A clear sign of someone failing to realize that the big brain up on top in the CRANIUM is the one that’s supposed to be in charge — not the infantile, greedy, testosterone fueled one in the head down below.

  • crowepps

    In order to get the job done we need the cooperation of the victim. And in my opnion we need to be even more aggressive with the victims that come forward and expel not only the perpetrator but the victim as well.


    Expel them from what or where? Are you meaning that women should be expelled from university for…what? Getting drunk and forcing someone to rape her?*

    As I understood this part of his rant — it was getting a little incoherent at this point — the woman should be tossed out for labeling ‘a drunken mistake on both parts’ as rape, because obviously, unless he’d been arrested, tried and convicted BEFORE it happened, then it couldn’t be called rape.  Exactly where to obtain the time machine which would make preemptive conviction possible BEFORE she laid the complaint wasn’t explained.


    Personally, I think if the college adminstrative procedure makes it clear that “he was responsible”, at that point the REAL cops ought to be called, because although certainly expelling him does protect the other women at the college, it doesn’t do anything at all to safeguard all of those women OUTSIDE the college into whose company he’s going to be placed without a clear warning label.

  • grayduck

    “GrayDuck, it’s not an either/or type of thing.”


    I disagree. The SAFER web site makes clear that they expend no resources at all to the goal of trying to suppress the incidence of rape among women who do not attend college. Their mission may be laudable; I am just wondering why they have chosen to devote their resources in a way that only has the potential to benefit a limited number of women and that holds no potential at all for getting rapists out of our communities entirely.

  • sarahfromsafer

    SAFER works on the issue of campus rape because SAFER was founded by college students who were trying to reform their school’s sexual assault policy. When they were sucessful, they heard from students at other schools who wanted their help in starting similar campaigns on their campuses, and thus SAFER as a national organization was born. They had expertise on that facet of the issue, not on reforming the criminal justice system. There are people working within the criminal justice system (and outside of it) on that kind of reform.

    Sexual violence is a huge issue, with tons of organizations and advocates working on different aspects or “niches,” not to the exclusion of one another, but because it’s hard to tackle everything at once, and there are specific issues on which people can work toward specific solutions. I don’t think this is any different than how any other anti-violence or anti-oppression movement operates. SAFER realizes we are just one piece of the puzzle, and actively applaud and support our allies working on the other pieces.

  • jayn

    Crowepps, this gave me a slightly scary thought today–could ab-only sex ed be helping to feed this sort of mindset?  The program I was in touched on the issue of consent multiple times, and it was stressed that someone who was drunk was legally unable to consent to sex.  I don’t know what the typical ab-only program covers, but if the message is ‘don’t have sex’, I can imagine that the issue of consenting to sex may not even come up.  My education made me feel somewhat empowered, by knowing that whether or not I had sex was up to me, and that it was wrong for someone to try and force me into it (fortunately, that’s never actually happened).  If kids are only hearing ‘don’t do it’, then that may leave them unprepared when they come face to face with the sort of mentality you’re talking about.

  • crowepps

    Good girls never say yes sends the message to boys that even if girls WANT to have sex, girls are ‘supposed to’ say that they don’t — “oh, stop, I really shouldn’t, I’m a good girl” — and that the boy can safely ignore it because she doesn’t really mean it and is only worried she’ll sound slutty.


    Men immersed in ‘guy culture’, if that isn’t an oxymoron, believe that the requirement they prove their masculinity through dominance and control means that waiting for ‘consent’ is for wusses, that hesitating before taking advantage is for losers, and that actually wanting to spend time with a woman anyplace besides bed is for ‘girly-men’.  Did you see the FloTV ad on the Superbowl?  Missing the Super Bowl to shop with your woman means you’re a girl too and should “wear a skirt”.


    And this is the ‘masculine brand’ to which the conservatives think we should return?

  • crowepps

    Research by Lisak, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, showed that 58 percent of male college students who admitted in a survey to actions that amounted to rape or attempted rape also reported having multiple victims. And those serial rapists committed 91 percent of the rapes reported by the survey group. Lisak and his collaborator, Brown University’s Paul M. Miller, referred to the phenomenon as that of “undetected rapists.”


    Dr. Lisak’s fact sheet is also interesting:


  • grayduck

    “There are people working within the criminal justice system (and outside of it) on that kind of reform.”


    Please provide examples.

  • prochoiceferret

    Please provide examples.

    Zoologists believe that the North American gray duck is incapable of using widely-available Internet search engines such as Google, and therefore must resort to requesting information directly on discussion forums. Sometimes, other posters will provide this information, in the hope that others will benefit from it as well. But more often than not, the gray duck’s informationally helpless nature only causes annoyance to those in its vicinity, who then leave its enquiries unacknowledged and unanswered.

  • kate-ranieri

    Zoologists also note a propensity for the female gray duck to demonstrate curiosity when it reality it is cognitive dysfunctionality called laziness

  • sarahfromsafer

    GrayDuck, there are a number of books on the history of rape law reform, I suggest you look into them. Rape Law Reform by Spohn and Horney might be a good place to start although it only covers initial reform efforts and is now out of date. A simple google search will find you more recent work.


    Most folks currently working on this issue are involved with state/city agencies and task forces. I will use my own “neighborhood” organization, the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, as an example. They identify policy priorities in NYC and do important advocacy work on behalf of those policies/reform initiatives (which often include CJ issues), mobilizing other people in the wider movement to end sexual violence….like me.


    Then there are folks who train lawyers in the proper representation of sexual assault victims, like the Victim Rights Law Center.


    Sometimes groups operating within the CJ system take steps to  make change, as is currently happening in the UK–the body within Britain’s government responsible for police inspection is currently surveying assault victims about their experiences with police and prosecutors, in an effort to figure out why the reporting and conviction rate of rape and sexual assault is so low in England.

  • sschoice

    It’s worth posting in response that some of what you’ve written indicates you might have done some things that you regret and that have hurt someone else.  If so, it’s to be expected that you would have difficulty talking about it, but you know you need to deal with that, you need to talk about it, and we’re not going pretend to be your counselor or confessor.  What we’re sure of though is that we can give you information on how you can get help and/or help someone else, and encourage you to do it.


    If you’re motivated enough to write all you have about how you feel about all of this — which must be all the harder for someone like you with a military background and the history of the military telling it’s soldiers to ‘suck it up’ when they’re hurt or see someone they care about hurt — you’re motivated enough to get help, or if you have already done that (or tried to do it) to be open to continuing to do so you can talk about this with more honesty and compassion, and so the relationships you have in the future will be less hurt by whatever has happened.


    If you know someone who maybe has been hurt, whether you or someone else is responsible (or if maybe in some other incident in the past you were the one who got hurt), you’ve got a responsibility to talk about this with authorities, and if you need help call a local women’s crisis center, like a rape crisis center. That’s what they’re there for — and if it doesn’t seem like it to you if you call, keep trying or try elsewhere, agencies like that ought to be able to help men like you as much as they would help any woman, or a child.


    If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with a woman (which unlike your post here may be more likely the case for you on the phone), ask to speak with a guy, many women’s shelters have guys on staff who work with men, both men who have been victims of violence, who are friends or who care about partners who have been victims, or who have been accused or somehow required by the legal system to get therapy because of perpetrating abuse, or who voluntarily come forward and want help with counseling because they’ve committed acts of abuse.  If a given shelter or crisis line does not have men on staff or a men’s program, they’ll probably be able to refer you to one that does, they’re in most communities because they’re needed and have been of help to many men.


    We’re not trying to second-guess if or how any of those categories may apply to you, and we’re not trying to “out” you if there’s something you’ve done that’s wrong or if (additionally) maybe you were hurt in some ways like this yourself, but you seem to have enough anxiety and confusion about these issue to where any of that is a possibility and if so then the people affected, which regardless of the details includes you, deserve help.


    If this person happens to be in the military, there are also resources there who can help them.  Similarly, we’d want you to get help from the appropriate parties you may already be aware of, and if you feel you need support in doing that there must be counselors or chaplains who you can also speak with for support and guidance.  If you can’t go through the usual channels in the military, look into one of those women’s crisis centers / rape crisis centers as a starting point, as mentioned in the paragraphs above.


    You apparently came here to have your point of view heard and to learn from the responses you get.  Hopefully some of what you’ve read here will be of help.


    — southern students for choice – athens