SUNBURY — Regional advocates who assist women in crises are furious about syndicated columnist George Will’s position over a “supposed” campus epidemic of rape and the way in which victimhood serves, in his words, as “a coveted status that confers privileges.”
“I was outraged,” Susan Mathias said.
Mathias is chief executive officer of Transitions, a Lewisburg crisis center that provides advocacy and education to victims, survivors, families and communities to end patterns of violence and abuse.
The column distributed for publication June 5 “set us back,” Mathias said. “It disrespected survivors and used rather harmful rhetoric. George Will made a very serious issue on campuses seem trivial. He called victims delusional, just at a time when we really need to have people coming forward and asking for help.
“He put sexual assault in quote marks, as if it was virtually acceptable.”
Nearly one in five women and one in 16 men are victims of an attempted or completed rape during their college years, according to a study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice.
Between 20 and 25 percent of female undergraduates will be the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in the coming academic year, the U.S. Department of Justice reports.
Will challenged that 20 percent rate and cited an American Enterprise survey that reduced the likelihood to 2.9 percent.
“But even if you were to believe the smaller number,” Mathias said, “it’s unacceptable. Anything except zero percent is unacceptable.”
Irate in Harrisburg
Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Harrisburg, is still fuming.
“I thought, how can anyone actually write that victims of campus sexual assault are in a way achieving or wanting some kind of celebrity status?” she said. “It is beyond me.”
And beyond Mathias.
“It is not a privilege to be a victim,” she said. “If someone who has been raped is considering a legal action against the perpetrator, they have to come forward, have to deal with a sexual assault evidence collection rape kit, and have to answer all kinds of questions. There is a lot of shame and blaming going on in the process.
“It’s a difficult process. And what’s worse, juries tend to believe it’s the victim’s fault. But I’m here to say that with assault or rape, it’s never the victim’s fault. Never.”