Open thread on ‘The College Rape Overcorrection’

We’ve been asked in the comments to put up a thread for discussion of Emily Yoffe’s essay ‘The College Rape Overcorrection’, which has been generating a lot of attention in the post-UVA fallout. Up until now, I haven’t really had the stomach to talk over a known rape apologist‘s (and general holder of awful view’s) musings on campus rape. But there are some things worth saying about the article, and hopefully our readers can say them in the comments.

ThinkProgress has a helpful explanation of the disparity between the statistics used by Yoffe in her article and the statistics used by many anti-rape activists, as well as by the Obama administration. They also point out that:

There’s another way forward in this area that campus activists are pushing for: Online surveys that ask all outgoing college students about their experiences with sexual assault during their time in school. That way, colleges wouldn’t have to rely on the artificially low number of official reports that come through their disciplinary offices. And students may be able to provide a clearer picture of their experiences than federal researchers are able to capture.

The highest-profile school that has so far publicly released the results from this type of survey, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported that 17 percent of female students and 5 percent of male students said they’ve been sexually assaulted.

Other schools may soon fall in line. Rutgers University was chosen by the White House to pilot a climate survey to gauge students’ experience with sexual violence, and Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, have already indicated that they’re planning to begin conducting similar surveys soon.

While there may not be definitive data points in this area yet, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Over the past several years, students at colleges across the country have come forward to say they were raped and accuse their schools of mishandling their cases. Groups like Know Your IX have united students at dozens of different schools who identify as survivors of assault, helping to spark a national movement and a renewed focus on these issues.

There are also, of course, quite a lot of smaller studies documenting the problem of rape on campus – a body of literature which Yoffe largely overlooks. Some representative examples are here here here here here and here.

It’s sobering to think that Yoffe’s article, which is focused on one-sided accounts from the perspective of the men involved in allegedly false accusations – accounts which are strongly contested by both the universities and the women involved – will probably not be subject to anything like the skepticism that is typically leveled at rape accusations. False accusations matter, of course – and they have the potential to do a great deal of harm. But I also think it’s really important not to frame this as an issue of believing women vs. protecting men – if only because men are more likely to be sexually assaulted than they are to be falsely accused of sexual assault.