I read George Will’s column so you don’t have to

Students protests Stanford's handling of sexual assault. Via Slate.
Students protests Stanford’s handling of sexual assault. Via Slate.

Actually, there’s very little reason for anyone, myself included, to read a column by George Will, but people keep printing them. Will is coming under fire this week for a preposterous column in which he claims that being a victim of sexual assault has become a “coveted status” that “confers privileges.” Because this is the new hip trend everyone wants to be a part of , “victims proliferate.” At no point does he list what these privileges are and why women would be so eager to claim this status. 

Underneath Will’s florid language, he is relishing the fact that college campuses are getting the punishment they deserve for bowing to all-powerful progressivism. They embraced micro-aggressions and trigger warnings, and now they are being smeared with accusations related to a “supposed campus epidemic of rape.” Now everyone believes these overblown statistics about rape are true because Joe Biden keeps repeating them.

Any sentient being should realize how ridiculous Will’s claims are, and one can argue that it’s not worth spilling virtual ink over yet another column that only puts sexual assault in scare quotes. But that’s just it. Will isn’t alone, and many of these columnists who rightly face outrage are proudly publishing sentiments that many other people only mumble behind closed doors.

Katie McDonough at Salon gives what should be an unnecessary reminder of the hell many women go through after reporting sexual assault. Wagatwe Wanjuki started the #SurvivorPrivilege hashtag where rape survivors are exposing just what benefits come with this “coveted status.”

And Emily Bazelon writes at Slate that contrary to Will’s claims, it’s not survivors that campuses are coddling:

I’ve been writing about the problems universities have handling these cases for years, and I have two competing concerns. The first is that to date, as the investigation by the Center for Public Integrity made starkly clear, universities have too often treated victims as if they were the problem, leaving them feeling unsupported and silenced. If schools could protect their brands by shunting victims to the side, they too often did so. Now, however, national attention—thanks to smart and decided student survivors and activists—is changing that picture. As the incentives shift, and schools try to prove their commitment to combating sexual assault, will they become too quick to find accused students culpable? That’s a legitimate fear. And so (though I’m still thinking this through) here is where I come down at the moment: I think the Department of Education should raise the standard of proof to clear and convincing evidence, to underscore the importance of (relative) certainty. And then universities should stiffen the standard punishment, so that a student who is found responsible for rape (let’s call it what it is) can expect to be expelled (though accused students should be able to argue for exceptions). I’d also like schools to be fined when they fail to live up to their obligations to investigate under Title IX violations. That’s not happening now, because the DoE thinks it can’t impose a fine without taking away all of a university’s federal funding. It’s a problem of overkill that Congress should fix.




Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

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