Comment on the latest philosophy lawsuit

As you may have read, Peter Ludlow is suing Northwestern University (and some of its administrators), Prof. Jennifer Lackey, and the philosophy PhD student who reported him for rape, and who he was found by the university to have harassed. Ludlow is suing for defamation and gender discrimination. Eric Schliesser, as he so often does, has some very good things to say about the topic here. But there were a few other things I especially want to emphasize.

In the official complaint, it’s noted that the student’s allegations of rape were found by university investigation to be unsubstantiated. This doesn’t mean that the university investigation found that the student was likely making the allegation up, found that the allegation was implausible, found that the student was lying, etc. All that it means is that there was insufficient evidence found to support the allegation. As anyone familiar with university or legal proceedings involving rape will know, rape cases are often very difficult to substantiate. That an allegation of rape was unsubstantiated does not mean the person who alleged that rape took place is lying.

It’s also claimed, in the official complaint, that Prof. Ludlow ‘refuted’ the allegation of rape by, among other things, producing affectionate text messages from the student which were sent after the alleged incident took place. We really shouldn’t have to be explaining this in the year 2014, but this doesn’t refute an allegation of rape. Far from it. It is incredibly common for victims of rape to initiate or maintain what appear to be affectionate, consensual relationships with their assaulters after they have been assaulted.


See the following links for more information:


Victim Responses to Sexual Assault

Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social Reactions on the Disclosure of Rape

Understanding Rape Survivors’ Decisions Not to Seek Help from Formal Social Systems