The title of a Bettina Arndt article from October last year:
Arndt was wrong; “rape culture hysteria” had already arrived with the importation and screening at universities Australia-wide of the American “documentary” The Hunting Ground.
Although the “documentary” was already discredited, marketeers of The Hunting Ground created a cachet for the film by teaming with the Australian Human Rights Commission in the creation of a survey on the prevalence of sexual assault on Australia’s tertiary campuses. The AHRC also called for “submissions on sexual assault and sexual harassment at university.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on one such submission:
Universities have been accused of “actively covering up sexual assaults” in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which alleges there have been just six expulsions in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints.
The allegations, made by the advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia, are based on more than five years of data and freedom-of-information requests, which show more than 500 official complaints of sexual assault and harassment have been made to universities in the past five years, with 145 reports relating specifically to rape.
The actual number of complaints relating to sexual assault and harassment is 575, this number appearing in a graph provided by the SMH:
Thus 575 allegations of sexual assault or harassment, which includes jokes, staring and unwanted filming, has morphed into sexual assault complaints.
“Professor Catharine Lumby, Macquarie University and Board Member, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia” provides the foreword for the EROC submission:
It is a chastening privilege to write this introduction to End Rape on Campus’s comprehensive report on sexual harassment and assault in Australia’s universities. It is a report that sets the benchmark for understanding and responding to the shameful levels of sexual assault and harassment on our campuses.
That a report of such breadth and depth was produced without funding by current and former university students is testament to what our universities are doing well: training students in rigorous research and advocacy skills. That such a report needs to be written at all speaks volumes about how comprehensively many of our universities are failing their students in a foundational area: the right to gain an education in a safe environment.
The EROC report is actually a classic example of selective reporting, questionable assumptions, exaggeration and outright fabrication:
The nature of rape culture within university communitiesEROC Australia understands that sexual assault and harassment are motivated by power and control, male entitlement, and patriarchal dominance. Sexual violence is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality, and is more likely to occur in societies where traditional gender roles (which normalise and sustain that gender inequality) are perpetuated and adhered to.11 We note that sexual violence occurs on a continuum of behaviour ranging from sexist jokes and innuendos, through to sexual assault, and that the behaviours on this continuum are intrinsically linked.
EROC Australia believes that sexual assault and harassment are more likely to occur in contexts or institutions where misogynistic, sexist and coercive behaviour is normalised, minimised, overlooked or excused. Such attitudes or beliefs can contribute to, and legitimise sexual assault by creating permissive communities where the behaviour of perpetrators is tolerated (or even venerated), while survivors are blamed for the sexual violence they experience.
In the 1970s, the term ‘rape culture’ was coined by feminists in the United States to describe the phenomenon where communities normalise or minimise sexual violence while blaming victims.12 As part of this work, feminists also identified numerous rape myths which can silence victims, delegitimise their experiences, and contribute to community confusion of what causes, and constitutes sexual violence.
And just to nail down the women-are-victims narrative, here’s EROC submission co-author Anna Hush’s explanation for the large number of university students who don’t complete their degrees:
Sexual assault is a problem of equal access to education
A 2015 survey by the National Union of Students found that a staggering 14% of respondents had experienced rape, attempted rape or assault by penetration. The overwhelming majority of these students were unhappy with how their incident was dealt with; they reported feeling “ignored’ and “unsupported” by their university after reporting their experiences or seeking support.
We need to recognise that sexual assault is fundamentally a problem of equal access to education. Universities have a moral responsibility to create an environment in which students feel safe during their studies. This responsibility is also codified in law – the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 requires that “a safe environment is promoted and fostered” by the provision of access to quality support services.
Research shows that sexual assault affects student survivors in many different ways. Post-traumatic stress is a common effect of sexual assault, and impacts students’ ability to continue their studies. The stress of deadlines, inability to focus in class, and secondary effects of depression or anxiety can cause a survivor to fall behind in their degree. Avoidance symptoms are another common feature of post-traumatic stress; a survivor will often avoid places that may trigger flashbacks of the incident. This may mean avoiding classes they share with the perpetrator, or the entire campus, for fear of running into the person who sexually assaulted them.
EROC Australia is very concerned about the level of sexual assault occurring at Australian universities. The experience of sexual assault support services, our own experience, and emerging research in the field suggests that Australian university students are experiencing sexual assault at high levels, although there are still significant gaps in the research literature.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics currently estimates that 1 in 5 women in Australia, and 1 in 25 men have experienced sexually assault since the age of 15.
The submission’s authors have manipulated and restated ABS estimates:
In 2012 an estimated 17% (1,494,000) of all women aged 18 years and over and 4% (336,000) of all men aged 18 years and over had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 (refer Table 1).
One in five has greater dramatic impact than 17%.
Continue reading the submission and you’ll discover that most of the alleged rapes are not “occurring at Australian universities”:
Most rapes which have been reported by students to EROC Australia occurred off campus, often in a domestic setting such as a share-house or apartment, a friend’s home, their own home, at a house party, lounge rooms, bedrooms, student villages etc. Off campus sexual assaults also took place in a range of other locations; cars, hotels, parks, cabins, etc.
While some universities restrict their attention to rapes which physically occur on campus, EROC Australia cautions against this approach and stresses that rapes which occur off campus often result from social connections that are created at universities. In such cases, it is artificial for universities to ignore their role in fostering the social relations in which sexual assault has occurred, regardless of its geographic location.
Information from police sources indicate that many of the alleged on-campus incidents are committed by non-students who have gone to universities seeking a target-rich environment. Two examples:
Police arrested one man who followed a woman out of Sydney University law library as it closed, stalking her around campus masturbating. When police located him later that evening, still on campus, he was wearing “a distinctive pair of prison issued green sneakers”.
Another student at La Trobe University was feeding ducks in the pond when a man in a vehicle stopped to ask directions. But upon nearing the car, she saw the driver was masturbating and pant-less. (He was described as Caucasian, mid-40s, balding, wearing glasses, but no pants.)
Two college football players who were suspended from their team last year and saw their scholarships revoked after rape accusations have been cleared by police after authorities say their accuser recanted her story.
Nikki Yovino, 18, of South Setauket, NY, has been charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence in connection to an incident at a Sacred Heart University football party in October, the Connecticut Post reports.
Rape can ruin lives but so can false rape allegations.
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