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October 4 2017

Our Colleges Have A Problem With Definitions For Rape, Sexual Assault

featuring Carrie L. Lukas

A recent report on crime at institutions of higher learning is leading to some controversy in the educational community. In accordance with the Clery Act, public colleges and universities must report all incidents of crime on campus, with a particular focus in this case on incidents of rape and sexual assault. Schools have turned in numbers which range from the expected rates for the general population to unbelievable extremes in both directions. (Some schools reports dozens of rapes in a single year, vastly above the national average by population size, while others report zero incidents of sexual assault of any sort. Both are equally difficult to believe.)

Rachel Frommer at the Free Beacon examines some of the inconsistencies and finds that at least some schools have more of a “definitional problem” than a crime problem.

A “definitional problem” in universities’ descriptions of sexual violence makes it difficult to know what can be learned from the newly released data on crime at institutions of higher learning, the president of a conservative women’s organization told the Washington Free Beacon.

“When one person or school says ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault,’ it may be referring to something different than when someone else says it, so we aren’t comparing apples to apples,” said Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum, about the annual security reports universities release yearly on Oct. 1, as federally mandated under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Statistics Act.

The Clery Act, as the policy is known, was named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old raped and murdered in her dorm room by a fellow student at Lehigh University in 1986. It requires that colleges document crimes that occur on campus, outline the safety policies in place, and compile the information in annual reports containing three years’ worth of data.

Along with the persistent problem of schools attempting to operate their own Kangaroo courts to handle sexual assault cases, misleading or confusing definitions of crimes are yet another area where we can muddy the waters, making it harder to deal with serious problems of actual crime. Breaking this down into two categories, most of the schools (though sadly not all) seem to have a fairly good handle on the definition of rape. As Frommer points out, the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics definition seems to be the standard.

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, it probably would be if they hadn’t included the word “consent.” When placed in the hands of some of these school boards, consent can mean anything from the normal, sane definition of indicating willingness in a sufficiently sober state to a requirement for three copies of a form drawn up by the dating partners’ respective lawyers, reviewed by a state approved panel and signed by a Justice of the Peace in the blood of a goat before the first button on somebody’s sweater is undone. Add to that the question of whether or not a young lady who has had a single, 8 ounce glass of beer can give consent more legitimately than someone who is literally unconscious after imbibing half a bottle of tequila and some roofies and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.

Far more common than questions over the definition of rape seems to be the concept of sexual assault. One might imagine that anything involving the word “assault” would involve some form of physical contact, right? And specific “sexual assault” would imply something more intimate than a punch in the face. But not necessarily. These days we have “woke” social justice groups claiming that whistling at a woman as she walks down the street is sexual assault. Talk about muddying the waters of the legal system! That’s boorish and rude behavior to be sure. Possibly even sexual harassment. But assault?

And yet, left in the hands of unqualified college “disciplinary panels” that sort of behavior could result in an unofficial conviction on sexual assault charges which will follow the accused for the rest of his life. All of these factors represent one more reason why colleges and universities need to limit their “law enforcement” action in the case of all crimes to immediately notifying the police and fully cooperating with them in a proper investigation. As long as the standard is anything less than that, students will not be safe and equal protection under the law will not be achieved.

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IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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