Forbes – Leadership: Women Sexually Assault Men Far More Often Than You Think

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The statistics on gender and sexual assault are surprising.

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A federal appellate court has ruled that a male student can continue his lawsuit against Purdue University. The school suspended him for an alleged sexual assault and he claims that this resulted in his expulsion from the Naval ROTC and the end of his planned naval career.

The student, “John Doe,” is accused of sexually assaulting his former girlfriend, “Jane Doe.” John claimed that Jane had become unstable and was angry at him for reporting her attempted suicide. John also alleges that the panel that decided against him never actually spoke to Jane or even read any statement written by her. In fact, the school proceeded against John even though Jane decided not to file a formal complaint. All the evidence against John was summarized by an investigator’s report to which the school did not give John access. Nevertheless, the panel concluded that Jane’s testimony was more credible than John’s.

The appellate court held, among other things, that John’s allegations could support a claim that Purdue discriminated again him on the basis of his gender. The court ruled that if the panel never spoke to Jane or read any statement written by her, it would be reasonable to conclude that the panel sided with Jane, at least in part, because of her gender. Purdue’s case wasn’t helped by the fact that its Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education “put up on its Facebook page during the same month that John was disciplined an article from The Washington Post titled ‘Alcohol isn’t the cause of campus sexual assault. Men are’.”




In fact, this sort of language, that assumes men are the only people who commit sexual assault, is disturbingly common among Title IX Offices at schools. As I discuss in my book, Campus Sexual Assault, major universities use training materials that assume perpetrators are men and victims are women. Examples include training materials that state: “sex offenders are overwhelmingly white males” and materials telling faculty who sit panels adjudicating sexual assault claims that they should be “very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence,” and that the accused may not be “who he says he is”. Obviously, these materials are loaded with gendered assumptions about who the villains and victims are.

People may be blinded to this discriminatory language because everybody assumes that of course, it is almost always men who are the sexual assaulters. After all, that is what people see in media accounts. But many people also have exaggerated ideas about how much crime is committed by minorities as a result of what they see and read in the media. Anecdotes can be misleading and biased. The question is: what does the actual evidence say?

Two scholars who looked at this question came up with a surprising answer. It is worth noting that these scholars are highly qualified researchers who work at well respected, progressive academic institutions. Ilan H. Meyer is a Distinguished Senior Scholar for Public Policy at the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law, and Lara Stemple is Director of the UCLA Health and Human Rights Law Project. They looked at the highest quality data available, using reports from the Center for Disease Control and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Their results were published in the American Journal of Public Health, the leading public health journal in the country. Here is what they found:


“To explore patterns of sexual victimization and gender, we examined 5 sets of federal agency survey data on this topic (Table 1). In particular, we  . . . found widespread sexual victimization among men in the United States, with some forms of victimization roughly equal to those experienced by women.”

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Given the prevailing narrative, one might expect that sexual violence against men is nearly always perpetrated by other men. However, when Meyer and Stemple looked at the data they found that the opposite is true:






“The results were surprising. For example, the CDC’s nationally representative data revealed that over one year, men and women were equally likely to experience nonconsensual sex, and most male victims reported female perpetrators. Over their lifetime, 79 percent of men who were ‘made to penetrate’ someone else (a form of rape, in the view of most researchers) reported female perpetrators. Likewise, most men who experienced sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact had female perpetrators.”

A lot of people are resistant to the idea that women frequently assault men. Obviously, not all of the evidence for this can be set out in a short post of this nature. (The evidence is discussed in greater detail in my book.) For this post, it will have to suffice to repeat that this research comes from very credible data analyzed by well-qualified scholars at highly regarded progressive institutions.

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Those skeptical of this claim should bear in mind that when people are very sure that things work a certain way, even the tools they use to measure things can end up incorporating those very biases rather challenging them. For example, until relatively recently, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report simply defined rape as something that a man does to a woman. So, of course, crime reports indicate male perpetrators and female victims. Even once that definition was modernized, rape still required sexual penetration. Meyer and Stemple looked at “forced intercourse”, not sexual penetration, which is why their results may be so surprising to many people.

This is a complicated issue and only so much can be said about it in a short post. Future posts will elaborate on the various ambiguities and implications of this data. But for now, the Meyer and Stemple data should encourage everybody to think twice about what “everybody knows” about sexual assault. And, as the recent court ruling shows, universities should be more careful about implying that “men are” the cause of sexual assault.

 

 

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Source: forbes.com

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