Originally published on 6/10/2014
Offenders: George Will, columnist for The Washington Post and New York Post
The Offense: Op-ed in which Will invalidates efforts on college campuses to combat sexual assault as a ploy to give victims privileges and perks. Utilizing incorrect and ignorant assumptions about sexual violence, perpetuates the stigmatization of sexual assault survivors and contributes to a culture of victim-blaming.
NOW’s Analysis: Will’s op-ed on the growing movement to reform campus policies on sexual assault is ignorant and misguided. Instead of viewing the rise in sexual assault education on campuses as positive reform, Will suggests that it is merely a ploy to “make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges.”
If you are confused as to what “privileges” come with being sexually assaulted, you are not alone. Will alleges that allowing trigger warnings in class lectures and required readings is enabling a student’s “entitlement to serenity” and is making students and officials “hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations.”
There isn’t much “delusional” about the fact that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. With his clearly misguided understanding of how simple statistics work, Will tries to invalidate this measure suggesting that “if only 12% of assaults are reported, the 20% assault rate is preposterous.”
No sir, your conclusions are preposterous. Why are survivors of sexual assault so unlikely to report? Perhaps it is because of the stigma associated with sexual assault. Or maybe it is the constant perpetuation of victim-blaming in our culture. Sometimes, ignorant and misguided media skew the sexual assault narrative so wildly that it is hard for survivors to recognize when they have been assaulted.
(An example of the media’s confused priorities when it comes to sexual assault can be seen in their response to the 2013 Steubenville case.)
Demeaning sexual assault as a ploy for “privilege” and referring to survivors as “intellectually dormant,” “hypersensitive,” and “delusional,” only further invalidate survivors’ experiences and place the blame where it does not belong.
Media representation is one of the many reasons for the underreporting of sexual assault in the United States. The fact of the matter is, Will’s ignorance is just a tangible representation of the victim-blaming culture that surrounds sexual assault.
Take Action: Have something to say? Tweet @georgewillf to voice your concerns about his insensitive victim-blaming and ignorance in regards to sexual violence on college campuses.
Follow/join the conversation on Twitter by following #survivorprivilege. Trigger warning: Many individuals are discussing their own experience(s) with sexual assault.
Update 6/11/2014: Read more about NOW’s stance on this issue at Media Matters for America’s blog.