Emily Yoffe asks if “anyone still take[s] both sexual assault and due process seriously.” She certainly doesn’t.

I am not going to delve very deeply into debates over the statistics about how many women are raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed. Let’s just stipulate that there are many such cases, that incidents of this nature can be considered ubiquitous, and that many more offenses occur than are reported to police or otherwise come to light.

The mistake that Emily Yoffe makes when she argues that, yes, women might indeed worry that men in their lives might be falsely accused is that she relies on her own rebuttal “of the endlessly repeated statistic that about 2 percent of accusations are false” to cast doubt on the claim “that science proves accusers are almost always telling the truth” and therefore to dismiss the ubiquity of such incidents.[1] This is a false binary: In her logic, the two percent number is wrong, therefore the veracity of sex crime reports can and should be treated as on par with other crime reports.

Yes, I will grant that the Uniform Crime Reports rely on false precision due to a number of problems with underlying data and that while the National Crime Victimization Survey might be more reliable, there are problems with it, too. Which is all to say that we don’t really have good numbers. But the ones we have are almost certainly low.[2] The National Sexual Violence Resource Center nonetheless reports that

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives (a)
  • In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime (o)[3]

Remember, these numbers are very likely to be low. Not high, but low.

There are problems with the #MeToo movement. I would agree with Yoffe that there is an unfortunate tendency to overgeneralize in ascribing toxic masculinity to all men.[4]

I think further that in cases such as those of Bill Cosby’s, Donald Trump’s, and Bill Clinton’s accusers, young women should be asking themselves how it is that some doors are open to them and whether those doors would be open were they not so young, female, and pretty. That the answer to that question might be no suggests that the powerful men they approach may be sex criminals.

And, I continue[5] to accept that the female gender role of sexual gatekeepers—leaving the role of sexual aggressor to males—inherently introduces ambiguity to the word “no” and casts doubt on the assertion that “no means no.” I continue to believe that affirmative consent, in which members of all genders are free to and should request, grant, and refuse consent as they see fit, substantially mitigates that ambiguity and erodes the plausibility of any claimed ‘misunderstanding.’[6]

None of this is an excuse for rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment.

There is no “due process” for victims of rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. It’s well known that to report these offenses, indeed as we saw yet again in the cases of the women who came forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh, is to be accused oneself.[7] It seems that the only folks entitled to “due process” with respect to these incidents are the men women accuse, less so if the latter cannot afford quality legal representation, but much, much more so if they can.[8]

To ensure “due process” for victims is clearly not Yoffe’s project. In her zeal, she diminishes the experience of far too many women. She’s right that we’ll never know for sure how many. But we can know that we need to take the women who do come forward much more seriously than we do.

  1. [1]Emily Yoffe, “Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?” Atlantic, October 13, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/sexual-assault-has-become-partisan-issue/572893/
  2. [2]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006).
  3. [3]National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Get Statistics,” n.d., https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics
  4. [4]Emily Yoffe, “Does Anyone Still Take Both Sexual Assault and Due Process Seriously?” Atlantic, October 13, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/sexual-assault-has-become-partisan-issue/572893/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Salon’s ‘sensitive’ Arthur Chu needs to learn about “Yes means Yes,’” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/01/12/salons-sensitive-arthur-chu-needs-to-learn-about-yes-means-yes/; David Benfell, “Affirmative consent is still a better idea,” Not Housebroken, November 12, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/11/12/affirmative-consent-is-still-a-better-idea/
  6. [6]Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Means to toxic ends,” Not Housebroken, October 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/10/04/means-to-toxic-ends/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Innocent until proven guilty,” Not Housebroken, September 29, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/28/innocent-until-proven-guilty/

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