[CONTENT WARNING, for some detailed examples.]

Sadly, the two seem to go together like cookies and cream, at least in the USA. Title IX is partly as fault, ironically: that law demands that schools “take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects” or face punishment. This usually means that colleges set up their own pseudo-judicial system in order to handle sexual assault complaints, which doesn’t have the same level of oversight or funding as state or federal systems.

As a result, colleges will cover up or bury cases. Outrages like this are the inevitable result:

One student involved in the USC complaint, who asked to remain anonymous, said a DPS detective told her the campus police determined that no rape occurred in her case because her alleged assailant did not orgasm, and that therefore they had decided not to refer the case to the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Because he stopped, it was not rape,” she was told, according to the complaint. “Even though his penis penetrated your vagina, because he stopped, it was not a crime.”

A student judicial affairs official cited a similar reason to that student for dismissing the case, meaning that her alleged assailant would not face any court proceeding.

The Feds are starting to mop up the mess, and inadvertently revealing how bad the situation is.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is now investigating 106 colleges and universities due to concerns about whether the schools violated Title IX in their handling of sexual violence cases.

Some schools have multiple cases open, bringing the total number of investigations to 113 at 106 institutions as of April 1, according to the department’s most recent shared information. The number of investigations under the gender equity law Title IX has now reached a record high, doubling from less than a year ago when the department first began disclosing the number of ongoing inquiries.

Scientific studies back this up.

This study tests whether there is substantial undercounting of sexual assault by universities. It compares the sexual assault data submitted by universities while being audited for Clery Act violations with the data from years before and after such audits. If schools report higher rates of sexual assault during times of higher regulatory scrutiny (audits), then that result would support the conclusion that universities are failing to accurately tally incidents of sexual assault during other time periods. The study finds that university reports of sexual assault increase by approximately 44% during the audit period. After the audit is completed, the reported sexual assault rates drop to levels statistically indistinguishable from the preaudit time frame. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the ordinary practice of universities is to undercount incidents of sexual assault. Only during periods in which schools are audited do they appear to offer a more complete picture of sexual assault levels on campus. Further, the data indicate that the audits have no long-term effect on the reported levels of sexual assault, as those crime rates return to previous levels after the audit is completed.[1]

On the other foot, fraternities and social attitudes about alcohol[2] are creating a culture where sexual assault is normalized, even tolerated. A recent study asked college men about their intentions.

There was one participant who indicated that he would rape a woman, but denied any likelihood to use force to obtain intercourse. Because we did not know how to make sense of this answer and could not exclude a random error (e.g., careless marking), this case was dropped from the analysis. Cases with missing data for the dispositional measures or intentions were also dropped. This left us 73 cases for analysis, which all fell into one of these groups: endorsing no intentions of sexual assault (n=49), endorsing intentions to use force but denying intentions to rape a woman (n=13), and endorsing both (n=10).[3]

Let me do the math for you: that study found that about a third of college men would be willing to force a woman to have sex with them, and about half of those said out loud that they’d be willing to rape. And there’s a strong tie between what these men believe and what they’d be willing to do.

Given that callous sexual attitudes permit violence and consider women as passive sexual objects, it follows that for men who endorse these, sexual aggression becomes an appropriate and accepted expression of masculinity. In this sense, using force to obtain intercourse does not become an act of rape, but rather an expression of hypermasculinity, which may be thought of as a desirable disposition in certain subcultures. Taken together, these research findings suggest that an expression of hypermasculinity through callous sexual attitudes may relate to an inclination to endorse a behavioral description (i.e., using force to hold an individual down) versus referring to a sexually aggressive act as rape.[3]

These findings have been held up by other studies.[4][5] We have solutions in hand, like the example I mentioned yesterday, but we’ve all got to pitch in to change our culture and pressure those in charge to take this stuff seriously.


[1] Yung, Corey Rayburn. “Concealing Campus Sexual Assault: An Empirical Examination.Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 21, no. 1 (2015): 1–9. doi:10.1037/law0000037.

[2] Abbey, Antonia, Tina Zawacki, Philip O. Buck, A. Monique Clinton, and Pam McAuslan. “Alcohol and Sexual Assault.” Alcohol Research and Health 25, no. 1 (2001): 43–51.

[3] Krebs, Christopher P., Christine H. Lindquist, Tara D. Warner, Bonnie S. Fisher, and Sandra L. Martin. “College Women’s Experiences with Physically Forced, Alcohol- or Other Drug-Enabled, and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Before and Since Entering College.Journal of American College Health 57, no. 6 (May 2009): 639–49. doi:10.3200/JACH.57.6.639-649.

[4] Byers, E  Sandra, and Raymond  J. Eno. “Predicting Men’s Sexual Coercion and Aggression from Attitudes, Dating History, and Sexual Response.” Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 4, no. 3 (January 29, 1992): 55–70. doi:10.1300/J056v04n03_04.

[5] Struckman-Johnson, Cindy, David Struckman-Johnson, and Peter B. Anderson. “Tactics of Sexual Coercion: When Men and Women Won’t Take No for an Answer.” The Journal of Sex Research 40, no. 1 (February 1, 2003): 76–86.

[HJH 2015-10-31: Missed a study!]