It’s hard enough to come to terms with sexual assault—the inevitable cycle of self-blame, self-loathing, abhorrence for the attacker, fear and paranoia, nagging doubts, and plenty of misery—without having longtime Washington Post columnist George Will (or others like him) proclaim that being a sexual assault survivor is actually a coveted title because it comes with “privileges.”
In a column on June 6, Will accused the “epidemic of rape” of being a result of “hookup culture” and a “cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults” and therefore not an epidemic of sexual assault, but of “sexual assault” (his quotation marks, not mine). Will continues by condemning the Obama administration for propagating what he considers the false statistic that 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted in college, and only 12 percent are reported. (He claims that the two statistics cannot coexist). He thus concludes these statistics are a result of overzealous claims of sexual assault that aren’t actually assault (he claims that, without a “preponderance of evidence” suggesting “forcible sexual penetration,” it is not assault) but just trumped up charges based on “nonconsensual touching.”.
Will focuses his invective on instances of campus rape and claims that new policies are “begetting the soft censorship of trigger warnings to swaddle students in a ‘safe,’ ‘supportive,’ ‘unthreatening’ environment, intellectual comfort for the intellectually dormant.”
He concludes by saying that the Obama administration and the academic system are using campus rape as a straw man—fixing a problem that’s not actually there:
Academia is learning that its attempts to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations — brings increasing supervision by the regulatory state that progressivism celebrates. What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.
Will concludes that ”victimhood [is] a coveted status that confers privileges.”
Will focuses almost entirely on campus rape, so I will too, as I muddle through. In countless stories of campus rapes, the horrors don’t end when the rape does: They continue through the insinuating questioning of the victim (what were you wearing? were you drinking? what did you say?) and detailed recounting of the rape (over and over and over again), and the inevitable stigma of being the one who cried rape, the one who was too weak to fight back, the one who used rape as an excuse to cover up indiscretions, the one who secretly wanted it but won’t admit it, the one who might accuse you of rape if you get on her bad side. And then there’s the ever-present threat of STDs or pregnancy. Yup, privileges.
If you don’t believe me, see this very personal and moving story proving just how very wrong Will is: I was raped and I stayed silent about my coveted status.