George Will continues with his assertion that it is mathematically impossible for 1 in 5 women to have been sexually assaulted while in college. He calls the statistics “insupportable” and when he replied to Senators Blumenthal, Feinstein, Baldwin, and Casey he chided them to temper their “rhetoric” about the “scourge of sexual assault.” But it’s not just the statistics that appear to bother Mr. Will as he also expresses concern about definitions:
“I think I take sexual assault more serious that you do. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it.”Sexual assault, including rape, is very hard to study. The data is retrospective, some women do not accept they were assaulted or raped for some time, some women might not be able to answer yes on a survey because that makes it real, and for others such a survey might trigger their post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless, it is well-accepted in the medical community that rape is widely under reported (shame, fear, disbelief, shock, difficulty navigating the legal system among the reasons).
What about talking about rape in the broader context of sexual assault, the idea that drawing attention to non-rape sexual assaults trivializes rape? The point is so ludicrous I am somewhat at a loss as how to respond. Just as talking about smoking induced asthma does not trivialize lung cancer deaths and talking about a robbery committed with a gun does not trivialize school shootings, talking about unwanted touching, stalking, and sexual coercion does not in any way diminish rape.
To imply there is a false epidemic of sexual assault while purporting to be concerned about sexual assault is the height of double speak. If we confined the discussion to the 7.5 to 11.9 percent of women who are raped between the ages of 18 to 24 we still have a “scourge of sexual assault,” so I don’t get the point of challenging the experiences of women who got away with only the revolting sour taste of an unwanted kiss or furtive glances over their shoulders for weeks after a party unless of course you don’t think that those experiences should be counted as sexual assault.
Believing that rape isn’t under reported, restricting the definition of sexual assault to rape, thinking that education about sexual assault in all its forms allows the “privilege” of “victimhood” to proliferate these are indeed the very kinds of ideas that trivialize violence against women.