A Response to George Will’s Latest: Campus Rape Is Not a “Fiction”

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site. Posts published on the Community site do not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Last month, The Washington Post published George Will’s latest take on campus rape, “Due process is still being kicked off campus.” The piece grossly misrepresents the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the critical importance of Title IX in addressing it.

As a rising senior at Georgetown University, as well as an anti-violence organizer, I know firsthand the pervasiveness of sexual violence on college campuses, as well as Title IX’s role in reducing it. I’ve watched many of my peers at Georgetown suffer rape, followed by post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Some, afraid to attend courses shared with their rapists, avoid their classes, take long leaves of absence, or drop out of school entirely. Fortunately, Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, mandates that schools respond to incidents of sexual misconduct and help victims continue their educations. In the face of violence and its after-effects, Title IX is often the only recourse student victims have at their disposal, their only avenue for obtaining the support and accommodations they need to keep from dropping out.

Will dismisses this bleak reality in his piece, when he glibly calls the very real violence my peers suffer a “fiction”, a “perpetual hysteria” fueled by what he calls “discredited social science.” In reality, study after studyincluding The Washington Post’s own — have suggested that more than 20 percent of college-aged women will experience sexual misconduct during their time in school. Will may consider suffering rape “a privilege” but I’d doubt that the numerous survivors on my campus would attest to the same.

Will then attempts to conjure the specter of gross government overreach (“incipient tyranny”!) by focusing the entirety of his piece on a single, unrepresentative instance of a campus sexual misconduct proceeding gone wrong — one made possible by, he claims, the widespread denial of due process to accused students under current federal law and guidance. What Will neglects to mention, however, is that Title IX provides accused students far more procedural rights than are otherwise guaranteed under federal law or policy.

In short: under the Constitution, accused students need only be afforded notice that an offense has been alleged and a hearing about the matter; under Title IX, meanwhile, accused students must receive the very same protections afforded to accusing students, including prompt investigations, regular updates, notice of rights, and trained adjudicators. As Alexandra has written, that means that a student accused of sexual assault enjoys far greater protections in an adjudicatory process than does a student accused of selling drugs or committing simple assault. More than any other federal law today, Title IX is fundamentally concerned with guaranteeing all students access to education.

Will does a disservice to accused and accusing students alike by misrepresenting the basic facts of the prevalence of campus rape, as well as the protections legally entitled to those who accuse and are accused of perpetrating it. It’s time we stop putting up with his rape apology and focus on what’s really at stake: students’ right to education.

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Washington, DC

Maddy Moore is a rising senior and anti-violence organizer in Washington, DC.

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