POLITICS: PennAve

Democratic senators accuse columnist George Will of trivializing rape

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Education,Crime,Senate,PennAve,Sean Lengell,Gender Issues,Sexual Harassment

Four Democratic senators have blasted conservative pundit George Will for downplaying the prevalence of rape on college campuses, saying his "ancient beliefs" trivialize the plight of rape victims.

In a letter Thursday to the Washington Post columnist, the senators took exception to Will's June 6 column, in which wrote of the "supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault." He accused colleges of inflating sexual assault statistics, saying that when "they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

The senators -- Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania -- said Will's "thesis and statistics fly in the face of everything we know about this issue."

"More egregiously, you trivialize the scourge of sexual assault, putting the phrase in scare quotes and treating this crime as a socially acceptable phenomenon," the senators wrote. "It is in fact a spreading epidemic, and you legitimize the myths that victims and victim advocates have worked tirelessly for decades to combat."

The Democrats added that Will's notion of a perceived privileged status of survivors of sexual assault on campuses "runs completely counter to the experiences described to us." The number of campus sexual assaults likely are higher than statistics show, they suggested, because victims often are afraid to report crimes committed against them for fear of retribution.

"In this instance, your writing, which purports to be based on accurate facts and figures, has not only shown a fundamental disrespect to survivors, but also includes a harmful rhetoric that has made addressing this issue so difficult," the senators said.

The Democrats aren't the only ones condemning Will. The National Organization for Women has urged the Post drop his column. Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg also criticized Will, writing that his argument was based on "deeply troubling assumptions."

George Will Letter

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