College rape: A response to George Will

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “no!” and “get off!” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly I found my hands pinned behind my back and a forearm crushing my neck and for a few minutes I found it hard to breathe. I was 22, far from home, scared, and shocked and so at some point I just stopped kicking and let him finish. Sound familiar? For several weeks I didn’t even think about it as a rape because that was easier than admitting the truth. Again, sound familiar?

When a man who is much stronger than you holds you down (“Hey baby don’t fight, you know you want it”) and forces your legs open the violence and power of those movements is horrifically violating and utterly disempowering. You think you screamed NO! at the top of your lungs but you were so scared and so shocked that when you went from yelling no! to pleading no to silently weeping no is hard to remember. Implied violence Mr. Will is a terrifying thing indeed.

You labor under the fear (as some men do) that there is an epidemic of false rape. That good young men will go to jail for consent withdrawn after the fact. And while false accusations likely do happen (the Duke lacrosse case is a recent, well-known example) these are the exception and not the rule and each time a male with a platform spouts off about a false epidemic of rape it only makes it harder for women who have been violated to come forward.

And your confusion about the under reporting statistics? First a woman has to get over her fear of her assailant and the shame imparted by society and then she has to deal with the police. There are no special victims units like you see on television protectively shepherding women through the process of facing assailants. And if fear and shame and being disbelieved by law enforcement were not enough of a deterrent think about having your pubic hair combed for your rapist’s DNA while you are dripping with his ejaculate.

And you have the gall to wonder why some women might not immediately (if ever) report a rape? I am a 47 year-old financially and professionally secure woman in a stable, loving relationship and it took 25 years and your column to get me to speak up about my rape. How easy do you think it is for a scared 20 year-old to call 911 or walk into a police station and say, “I was just raped?”

This weekend I was out dancing and experienced what I think you referred to as “micro-aggressions.” I had my buttocks pinched three times and my breasts groped twice. I was called a “bitch” and a “50-year-hag” when I politely declined hopeful suitors. Whether it is a cat call or a grope these actions represent sexual aggression and Mr. Will they have little to do with sex and everything to do with aggression. I wish someone taught those 40-something-year-old men in college that verbal assaults are not the appropriate response to “no, thank you” and that pinching a women’s behind is not a mating ritual.

There is no woman who I have ever met personally or as an OB/GYN who thinks that surviving a rape confers some sort of privilege. I am genuinely curious if you interviewed a few young women hoping to earn their college rape badge or is that just a conclusion you reached looking at the issue of sexual assault through the myopic lens of misogyny?

Come spend a day in my clinic Mr. Will. Come see how the scars of rape linger even decades later.

There is no survivor privilege, just survivors.

Jennifer Gunter, MD

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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  • JR

    You know, I have been thinking about this lately. I am not really fond of “reality” tv shows, but I admit I have a fondness for a few reality-contest shows. These shows partially choose participants based on their talent. But the casting is also based on personality, likability, and the contestant’s story.

    Let’s face it – America does have a fondness for underdogs! So we hear of the person who lost their parent. We hear of the person who overcame an illness. We hear the person raised in poverty. We hear many socially acceptable stories.

    But, I can’t think of a single time the story has been “overcoming rape”.

  • Andy

    This is why colleges shouldn’t investigate rape allegations AT ALL. Rape is a crime and should be investigated ONLY by the police and district attorneys. And NO ONE should be punished for ANY crime until the due process of law has run its course and a jury has pronounced its verdict.

  • ninguem
  • ninguem

    Sounds good to me.

    Here’s another no-brainer.

    If you are a physician accused of a violent crime, do you want the criminal matter addressed by the courts, or the Medical Board?

    • JR

      I’m not sure how that relates to the discussion.

      Is being a physician accused of a violent crime a “badge of honor”?

      • ninguem


        I could care less about any “badge of honor”. A rape accusation is made. Call the police. A specific accusation is made, arrest the accused and try the case.

        Neither the Medical Board, nor any college, should be trying a felony case.

        And yes, doctors have been on the receiving end of such false charges. Dorothy Rabinowitz got a Pulitzer for this story. I don’t think the doctor ever returned to practice.

        • JR

          This article isn’t a debate of that issue.

          Rather – it’s calling out someone for calling “Rape a Badge of Honor”.

          • ninguem

            OK fine.

            Read the Will column.


            The only person using the term “Badge of Honor”, with respect to the crime of rape…….is you.

            And Jennifer Gunter.

            Neither he word “badge”, nor the word “honor” appear in the Will column.

            I suggest YOU read the column. If there’s anyone changing the subject it’s you.

          • JR

            I did read it. it claims:

            “they make victimhood a coveted status”

            Then it goes on to claim that a very clear rape is… a grey area. A misunderstanding perhaps.

            If men don’t understand that this is a rape, then we need to start having open conversations about consent. If a man isn’t sure if he has consent or not… he should assume he doesn’t and take responsibility for that.

          • ninguem

            So we finally agree, the term “badge of honor” is your own projection.

          • JR

            You are arguing about word choice, not a real issue.

          • ninguem

            You chose the words.

            Words that weren’t there.

          • JR DNR

            Being a victim is not a coveted status.

    • Paul

      Excellent point. The courts would at least attempt to preserve rules of evidence and maintain a “beyond reasonable doubt” requirement. The judges are not implicitly rewarded for convictions. The prosecutors, who are implicitly rewarded for such convictions, are checked by the judges.

      No such check exists with the medical boards or other administrative courts. The university tribunals would find themselves in a similar state, and convictions would garner more accolades than acquittals.

  • JR

    If a man isn’t sure if he has consent, he should assume he doesn’t have consent. If our boys are describing obvious acts of rape as a “grey zone” than that means there is a problem with the boys and what they are taught, not with the women being raped.

    • Pat Brown

      Ok, this would be the equally drunk and/or drugged male counterpart of our impaired young college co-ed?? HE is supposed to be alert and coherent, while she is too wasted to say “no”?? I don’t think that is remotely “equal” or even mildly sensible. Is it incredibly stupid for both parties? Of course. Does it make it reasonable for her to drag him into “college court”? Nope. If it is rape, prove in a court of law, if not, learn and move on….and don’t get wasted in mixed-gender groups or settings. I refuse to denigrate my gender by insisting that women are victims no matter what, and men, equally young and moronic, are aggressors or beasts for moving forward in the face of what seems, in a haze, to be an equally agreeable partner.

      • ninguem

        ^^^ what Pat Brown said ^^^

        Here’s a listing of false rape charges against college students, cases that turned into litigation against the college, with links to the case itself, and to the litigation when available.

        I remain puzzled why the colleges would want to handle a crime of this nature in-house. Give it over to real police, real courts, real rules of evidence, real perjury prosecutions for the very few but very real incidents of false accusation, and real jail for those who really are guilty.

        And for that matter, when the rape accusations are received properly by the town where the college is located, the town should treat the college the same way it handles any other public nuisance.

        If allegations of criminal activity kept coming out of a tavern across the street from the college, the town would shut the place down, revoke liquor licenses and business licenses.

        Surely the town can do something similar to a fraternity, for example, that might become a repeated focus of sexual violence in the presence of alcohol and marijuana.

  • Pat Brown

    Please stay focused. I am NOT talking about the author’s rape; I am talking about the number of drunken encounters that are “handled” by colleges and universities. If there is rape, report it and prosecute it. I dare say that many of these hazy morning-after reconsiderations are NOT reported to real authorities because of the drunken/high nature of the encounter. Instead we have colleges deciding the issue, where-in the male is ALWAYS guilty unless he can produce a notarized consent from the female, clearly noting WHICH sexual activities are permitted. Ridiculous!!!

    • JR DNR

      You are the one going off topic. I wasn’t referencing the author’s rape either. Please re-read the articles.

      What we as a society NEED to do is start talking about consent, because it’s clear too many boys feel sex is something they are entitled to take.

      If a boy isn’t sure he has consent, he needs to assume he doesn’t.

    • JR DNR

      But I’m not talking about drunken encounters.

      I’m talking about how a boy can protect himself. You clearly think that boys are the ones in danger that need protecting, so please educate boys how to protect themselves: If you aren’t sure you have consent, assume you don’t.

  • Eric W Thompson

    Rape is serious, but in many cases hard to prove. When it is a ‘he said, she said’ innocense must be presumed by law. Unless you can get witnesses or recording of the event it is tough. Execution for rape is not too smart. Makes it all the more likely the perpetrator will kill the victim to avoid capture; after all he is already facing the death penalty.

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