In August 2012, two rapes by unknown assailants were reported at Harvard University, sending the school into crisis. Police cruisers idled around the campus; uniformed and plainclothes officers came out in force. Students were advised not to walk alone. A member of the undergraduate council called for the closing of Harvard Yard. “I thought Cambridge wasn’t a dangerous area,” a freshman told the student newspaper. “It was Harvard—it was supposed to be safe, academic.” (In fact, Harvard still was safe. The campus authorities ultimately deemed at least one of the rape allegations baseless, judging by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Since Harvard never disclosed the outcome of either of its investigations, its findings regarding the other supposed incident remain secret.)
In September 2015, Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust announced that Harvard students experience sexual assault with “alarming frequency.” Faust was responding to the results of a sexual assault survey conducted at Harvard and 26 other colleges earlier in the year. According to the survey, spearheaded by the Association of American Universities (AAU), 16 percent of Harvard female seniors had experienced nonconsensual sexual penetration during their time at the college and nearly 40 percent had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact. The “severity of the problem” required “an even more intent focus on the problem of sexual assault,” Faust said. Harvard professor and former provost Steve Hyman decried the “terribly damaging” problem that “profoundly violates the values and undermines the educational goals of this University.”
And yet, apart from Drew Gilpin Faust’s recital of Harvard’s burgeoning rape bureaucracy—50 Title IX coordinators, a new Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution filled to the brim with “trained investigators,” a doubling of staff at the Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response—nothing else happened. No beefed up escort services, no added police presence. Life went on as usual, including the usual drunken parties and hook-ups.
The rhetoric from the other participating schools was similarly alarmist. According to Yale president Peter Salovey, the “profoundly troubling” behavior documented in the AAU survey “threatens individual students, our learning environment, and our sense of community.” But Yale, too, confined itself to denunciations of the “threatening” behavior.
Why the disparity between administrative talk and action? Harvard, after all, is not the only college capable of forcefully responding to alleged rape. In the fall of 2014, the University of Virginia doubled down on security after a student was abducted and presumed raped (the girl was later found to have been killed). If Drew Gilpin Faust and her fellow presidents really believe that they are presiding over a crime scene of what would be unprecedented proportions, they should at the least radically revamp their admissions procedures to prevent sex fiends from joining the student body, if not provide round-the-clock protection to female students.
Nothing of the sort ever happens, however. And that is because there is no such crime wave on college campuses—according to the alleged victims themselves. The vast majority of survey respondents whom the AAU researchers classified as sexual assault victims never reported their alleged assaults to their colleges’ various confidential rape hotlines, sexual assault resource centers, or Title IX offices, much less to campus or city police. And the overwhelming reason why the alleged victims did not report is that they did not think that what happened to them was that serious. At Harvard, over 69 percent of female respondents who checked the box for penetration by use of force did not report the incident to any authority. Most of those non-reporters—65 percent—did not think their experience was serious enough to report. This outcome is inconceivable in the case of real rape. No woman who has actually been raped would think that the rape was not serious enough to report. The White House Council on Women and Girls, echoing campus rape dogma, maintains that colleges are churning out legions of traumatized rape “survivors,” who go on to experience a lifetime of physical and emotional disability. Apparently these victims are so shellshocked that they don’t even realize how disabled they are.