moral panics and rape hysteria

Rape hysteria creates horrible injustices, depriving the accused of due process (those accused of rape on campus), or depriving people of their good name based on associations and prejudice (Catholic priests). The hysteria is not just stupid, it is fundamentally unjust.
And here is my big issue: when people are being not just normally stupid, but slack-jawed-and-drooling stupid at the service of injustice, then I doubt their motives. It is a willful stupidity serving a nefarious cause. The argument being employed by the campus-hysterics “women don’t lie about rape so they must always be believed” is not reason-based but power-based: it is cult thinking and thought stopping. It is designed to crush dissent and opposition and remove the rights of the accused. (dp monahan)

In the UK, 11% of rapes are reported to the police, and in the USA only 2% of rapists are convicted. I’m familiar with these figures but I still find them sickeningly shocking.

DP Monahan clearly lives in another reality where rape is not such a big deal. In fact, for people like him, our overriding concern in the face of crime and injustice should be ensuring that potential criminals keep their ‘good name’, not creating a safe arena where victims finally feel they can come forward.

To ensure I’m not going to biased sources, I thought I’d get my information on US campus rape from what is assuredly Monahan’s favourite news outlet – Fox News.

Fox News reported in September last year that:

Nearly 20 % of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a White House task force. I suspect the true number is significantly higher. Many young women are reluctant to report it. They keep it secret for fear of embarrassment, shame, retribution, and the trauma of reliving the nightmare during legal or disciplinary proceedings. I get it. There are repercussions. Victims are especially afraid of being stigmatized or ostracized within the tight, insular social circles on campus.

Fox News reported two days ago that:

Sommers says the real number of college women who are victims of sexual assaults that would measure up to the standards of a criminal court is about 1 in 40. She said the 1-in-5 figure cited by the administration includes verbal threats and is derived from surveys in which respondents are asked “an artful combination of straightforward and leading questions” and categorize all sex that occurs while the female is intoxicated as rape.

I’m disgusted by this term ‘rape hysteria’ that is clearly being used to belittle and trivialise this issue. Even if the above source was correct – there would be 1 in 40 women on American campuses who experience a sexual assault that could go to criminal court: that’s the absolute minimum from someone pushing an agenda to undermine the official government figures. I would say that is serious enough for some form of moral panic.

But let’s face reality, the first Fox News reporter believed it was probably even higher than the 1 in 5 figure. The attention this problem is being given isn’t hysteria. It’s clearly a long overdue attempt to address it.

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