The Sexual Assault Scandal and Defending George Will

Posted on June 12, 2014 by


In a recent column in the Washington Post, the journalist George Will wrote a column on sexual assault entitle “Colleges Become Victims of Progressivism”  (June 6, 2014) in which he was critical of the Department of Justice’s new standards for proving sexual assault on college campuses and skeptical of the statistics backing those new standards.  In addition, Will criticized colleges themselves for their use of “trigger warnings” and other dubious approaches.  Now it seems Will is being excoriated by the Left, including a White House operative, who want him fired for his supposedly insensitive comments, especially his frequent use of the phrase “sexual assault” in quote marks.

Well, I have been reading many or the recent articles on the issue of sexual assault and keeping track of what the Justice Department has been doing.  And, horror of horrors, I am going to defend George Will.  Before the radicals out there begin the feeding frenzy, let me say that of course sexual assault, properly defined, and rape, properly defined are both terrible sins and crimes worthy of severe punishment (full disclosure, I am a Christian), actually in some cases, more severe than the squeamish among us might be comfortable with.  BUT, the key is in definitions, which Left-leaning people seem to want to manipulate to suit their own political agendas, or which overly emotional people simply accept uncritically.  So let’s begin.

Sexual assault is not whatever one wants it to be.  It has had a fairly settled definition in law for centuries—until now at least.  By changing the definition to make it broad enough to trap a male who so much as touches a woman accidentally (yes, I did read of one of these cases), the Justice Department has come up with the figure that one in five college females is sexually assaulted annually.  That’s a 20% rate, far greater than that of the general population.  By some interpretations, if a woman says “yes” and then after the event (sorry, but I am “old school” and do not believe it is necessary to be graphic to make a point), says that she regretted it, she might actually have a case for assault.  With those kinds of definitions and interpretations, a 20% rate might well be too low.  Let me say it plainly:  that is insanity.  And insanity imposed on others for the crassest sort of political gain. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe all sexual relations outside of marriage are sin.  They are sin, as the Bible plainly states.  But they are not all crimes. In addition, forced sexual relations (really forced) are sinful and criminal.  However who says everything a man does when he is with a woman is actually sexual assault?  Who gets to set the terms of the discussion—or, lack of discussion?  We seem to be governed by the agendas of radicals.

The other issue Will raised was with the Justice Department procedures it has foisted on colleges and the colleges’ willingness to adopt them in the silliest way.  Now, instead of local law enforcement and prosecutors and legal professionals addressing sexual assault allegations, which they ought to do, the Justice Department has basically forced colleges to form “courts” consisting of student peers and possibly faculty, maybe also some administrators, to somehow arrive at a just decision regarding the future of a male college student.  Moreover, these procedures do not generally allow for cross-examination of witnesses or the complainant, do not allow for legal counsel, do not use outside, unbiased judges, do not involve law enforcement at all, and use a standard of evidence for “conviction” that requires only a “preponderance of the evidence.”  There is no due process worthy of the name. That is not merely unfair, that is a travesty of justice. 

So what did George Will do?  He merely pointed out that what is called “sexual assault” is too often—always too often when it is unjustly defined—just plain wrong.  And George Will is right on that.  He is also dead on regarding the new Justice Department directives.  So what is everyone all up in arms about?  They don’t like it when someone challenges their pet ideologies of victimhood and political correctness.

Christians and reasonable people everywhere must avoid being caught up in this kind of injustice, just as we should avoid being caught up in any injustice.  Our job is to oppose injustice.