Campus sexual assault has become the third rail of journalism, and yet seemingly impossible for reporters to leave alone. Rolling Stone was hit with a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit after the magazine’s “A Rape on Campus” was thoroughly debunked, with writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely named in the suit as “a wanton journalist who was more concerned with writing an article that fulfilled her preconceived narrative about the victimization of women on American college campuses.”
Further, a male Columbia student has sued the school for standing by silently, after both school and law enforcement authorities had rejected the case of his rape accuser, as “Mattress Girl” Emma Sulkowicz gained worldwide publicity dragging her dormitory mattress around campus and across the stage at graduation “as an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia.” Columbia even granted Sulkowicz college credit for the stunt, which was reportedly part of her senior thesis.
Now, Washington Examiner opinion writer Ashe Schow says that the Washington Post is taking its crack at covering the overwhelming epidemic of campus sexual assault. She tweeted yesterday:
The lawyer who wrote the piece, “No matter what Jackie [from the debunked Rolling Stone piece] said, we should automatically believe rape claims”? Yes, that’s her.
The Weekly Standard also has taken notice of the Washington Post’s risky editorial decision to assume the crusade against campus rape.
Now the Washington Post has joined a race to the bottom among the legacy media, in a June 12 package of two very long front-page articles and a third inside the paper that includes both the results of a Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll and detailed interviews of some respondents. The main headline: “1 in 5 women say they were violated.” The articles and the poll purport to confirm claims by the administration, its congressional supporters, most of the media, and campus activists that around 20 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted while at school. In this portrayal, the nation’s campuses are hotbeds of violent crime.
But like many other advocacy polls on sexual assault, the Post-Kaiser poll misleads readers—most of whom surely will assume that “sexual assault” means criminal sexual assault—by using that criminally charged phrase for shock value in the articles while deliberately avoiding it in the survey questions. As detailed below, those questions are so broad as to invite survey respondents to complain about virtually any encounter that they later regretted, including many that were not sexual assault or rape as defined by law.
Virtually none of these students went to the police, nor did most report any incident to their colleges, whose adjudication procedures are all but designed to find the accused student guilty. Instead, the Post reporters simply assumed the truth of most of their sources’ claims and thus the guilt of the accused.
The Washington Examiner also questioned the Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Questions about the 1-in-5 statistic and how the Washington Post arrived there were enough to motivate the Post’s Glenn Kessler to publish a follow-up article.
And the Washington Post continues its fight against campus sexual assault today, devoting its Grade Point education blog to tips for “survivors.”
Sen. Karen Gillibrand, a true believer who invited “Mattress Girl” to be her guest at January’s State of the Union Address and was caught on video saying she hoped rape hoaxes were “putting more of a spotlight on the problem” of campus assault, is hard at work on her campus sexual assault bill.
Up next? Amherst College.