The national controversy over rape on college campuses has provided an example of overreach by feminists, but conservatives need to be careful not to overreach themselves. Ann Coulter overreached badly in her editorial on the subject last week, in which she wrote:
From the Duke lacrosse team, the Columbia mattress girl and the University of Virginia, the left has not been able to produce one actual rape on a college campus.
Not one actual rape? Really? Come on, now. Not one?
The often-cited statistic that “one in five” women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted has been widely debunked, based on a combination of FBI crime statistics, the poor methodology of the study, and common sense. Women are now a majority of students on most campuses. If female students had a 20% chance of being sexually assaulted, why would anyone send their daughters to such a dangerous place?
But conservatives do ourselves no favors when we engage in the sort of ridiculous hyperbole that Coulter uses. Perhaps she was being sarcastic, or perhaps she is being intentionally inflammatory in order to get attention. (It is most likely the latter.) But the fact that some women have been assaulted at college has been well-researched and well documented, including by FBI crime statistics. The number is not one in five, but it is not zero.
Yes, false accusations do exist. But it is simply illogical to conclude that the existence of false accusations means there are no true accusations – especially given the presence of FBI crime statistics documenting a specific number of reported crimes. By making such an outrageous claim, Coulter damages no only herself, but damages other conservative commentators by proxy because we are associated with her. She would be well served to needs to town down the hyperbole and be more serious.
But that would not sell as many books, would it?