Exciting times this week, after La Trobe University decided to close down my talk to the Liberal Club student event. I’ve just written about this for The Australian. If you are a subscriber and would like to add to the lively debate about this issue, you can make comments here.
And here’s my article:
“Good news. There is officially no rape crisis on our campuses.” That was the headline of the news story that ran in The Australian exactly a year ago after the Australian Human Rights Commission released the results of a million-dollar survey into sexual assault and harassment.
It was disappointing news for feminist activists who had conducted a long campaign arguing that campuses were unsafe for young women.
Yet they managed to influence media coverage to disguise the reassuring survey results showing only 0.8 per cent of students claimed to have been sexually assaulted in the previous year, even using a broad definition that included being “tricked into sexual acts against their will” and incidents during travel to and from campus.
All they came up with was a high incidence of low-level harassment — mainly involving staring and sexual jokes or comments.
Hardly a rape crisis — yet my news story was the sole mainstream report to promote the positive news. Such is the grip of these social justice warriors that stories everywhere presented the survey results as disturbing evidence of women under attack.
Vice-chancellors around the country promised new measures to address violence on campus, neatly fudging the evidence to present the worst possible picture. Writing in Guardian Australia, Lenore Taylor denounced my news story, repeating Madeleine Albright’s famous barb about “the special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
These bullying tactics have succeeded remarkably well in browbeating the university sector into an emperor’s-new-clothes state of denial about our remarkably safe campuses. The survey results were ignored, reassuring evidence buried. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found universities to be about 100 times safer than the general community.
Instead we have witnessed an Orwellian display of doublespeak and deception over the issue. The campaign pretending young women are at risk of rape on campus continues unabated. Last month Universities Australia ¬announced new “tools for dealing with sexual assault and harassment” that it hoped would lead to an increase in disclosures.
Reports on these new tools detailed numerous measures for encouraging more rape disclosures while neatly avoiding any mention of actual AHRC findings. It was all strangely reminiscent of Tim Soutphommasane’s efforts to solicit complaints about the famous Bill Leak cartoon just -before Leak died in March last year.
Later this month I was supposed to be speaking at a La Trobe Liberal Club student event, discussing whether universities really faced a rape crisis. Early this week university administrators told the club the talk could not take place because the topic didn’t “align with the values of the university and the strong campaign they’ve been running against sexual violence on campus”.
During subsequent discussion with the administrators I was told they were concerned about providing support and counselling for students who might be upset by my talk. Yesterday the university backed down in response to questions I’d posed asking it to justify shutting down -debate over the issue and to provide evidence to support its campus rape campaign. It belatedly agreed to allow the event to take place. However, it warned there might be security costs for the organisers. The Liberal Club is hoping the August 14 event still may happen but many details need to be settled with the university.
La Trobe, like universities around the country, has introduced new sexual assault services, training for staff and students in dealing with sexual assault and harassment and sexual consent courses for all students. A Bendigo Advertiser article in April quoted La Trobe spokesman Tim Mitchell pledging still more action, feebly adding “the university’s campuses and residences were overwhelmingly safe places to be”.
“End Rape on Campus” was the slogan for yesterday’s national rally against sexual violence at universities funded by the National Union of Students’ women’s department, using compulsory student union fees.
Tanya Plibersek joined the media clamour ¬promoting this event with her Womens Agenda article titled “The time for decisive action on campus assault is now”, noting the anniversary of the release of the AHRC survey data. “This disturbing report found there are too many sexual assaults happening, too many going unreported and nowhere near enough is being done to prevent and punish this abhorrent behaviour,” she wrote. Her misleading tirade failed to ¬report the tiny sexual assault numbers found in the survey, instead claiming 145 reported rapes at universities over the past five years.
Ironically, the justification for the expensive AHRC survey was the dubious nature of such reports that were never subject to proper investigation. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored, wrote Aldous Huxley. There’s a Stasiland quality to this conspiracy between most mainstream media and universities as they kowtow to feminists and deny the truth about our safe university campuses — demonising young men in the process. Lying to young women about their safety is a sorry start to higher education for our bright young women.