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Guest Host: David Gregory
A California judge last week sentenced former Stanford university athlete Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman on campus. The lenient sentence sparked widespread public outrage and efforts to recall the judge. Letters to the court by Turner and his father painting Turner as a victim of campus party culture fueled the outrage. The case has also called into question how colleges are addressing the growing number of allegations of sexual assault. We discuss the Brock Turner case, sexual assault on American campuses and the role of law enforcement and college administrators.
- Terry O'Neill President, National Organization for Women
- Stuart Taylor Author and journalist; nonresident senior fellow, The Brookings Institution; co-author of "Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It"
- Melissa Korn Higher education reporter, The Wall Street Journal
MR. DAVID GREGORYThank you for joining us. I'm David Gregory of CNN and host of the David Gregory podcast sitting in for Diane Rehm this morning. She is on a station visit to WMFE in Orlando, Florida. The six-month sentence given to a former Stanford University student convicted of sexual assault has spurred an uproar across the country. Many view the sentence as far too lenient. The case also underscores the challenges facing college administrators and law enforcement as recorded acts of sexual assault have grown on campuses nationwide.
MR. DAVID GREGORYJoining me in the studio to talk about the case and the issues surrounding it, Terry O'Neill of the National Organization of Women and Stuart Taylor of the Brookings Institution. From an NPR studio in New York, Melissa Korn of The Wall Street Journal is also here. We will be taking your calls and comments throughout the hour on this controversial topic. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Send us your email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or on Twitter. Welcome to all of you.
MR. STUART TAYLORNice to be with you.
GREGORYGood to have you this morning.
MS. TERRY O'NEILLGreat to be with you, David.
MS. MELISSA KORNThank you.
GREGORYMelissa Korn you are in New York this morning. First, why don't bring us up to speed on the facts of the case. Give us a brief overview of the assault and what happened afterward.
KORNCertainly. So this case stems from an incident that happened in January, 2015. A young woman who was not a Stanford student attended a fraternity party at the campus. She did drink. She was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster while unconscious. Two young men, graduate students who were biking past, interrupted and chased the assailant who turned out to be Brock Turner, a Stanford student, chased and held him for police.
KORNHe was ultimately found guilty of three felony charges in March and sentenced last week. And he had faced a maximum 14 years for those three charges. Prosecutors asked for six years in state prison and he was sentenced to six months in county jail and three years of probation. He also has to register as a sex offender.
GREGORYFor the rest of his life. This is a noted swimmer as well, right? Which is one of the reason this has gotten so much attention.
KORNYes. He had Olympic aspirations and was known in the swimming community as quite a star.
GREGORYThis has obviously been a huge issue on campus. What are administrators at Stanford saying about it?
KORNSo Stanford administrators -- Stanford put out a release -- released a statement on Monday as the outrage at the sentence continued to grow over the weekend. They said they did, and I'm quoting here, "everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case." They noted that they had launched an immediate police investigation, referred the case to the Santa Clara County DA's office. They said they had reached out to the victim, once they learned her identity and within two weeks after the attack, they had conducted an investigation and barred Brock Turner from campus, which the school says it's the harshest sanction that they can impose.
KORNThat statement, frankly, had a bit of a defensive tone, noting that there had been a lot of misinformation about the school's role in all of this. They said that they're a national leader on the issue of prevention and bystander intervention training and support and justice for victims of sexual assault.
GREGORYThis has become a highly charged case in the public. There have been death threats against the judge, a petition to remove the judge from his seat as well. We talk about the sentence, Terry O'Neill, sentenced to six months in county jail, three years of probation. Too lenient?
O'NEILLFar too lenient. Far too lenient. And from what I have been able to read, it does appear that the judge was swayed by Brock Turner's arguments and his father's arguments that he's a star athlete who simply made a silly mistake. A little bit too much drinking, a little bit too much "sexual promiscuity" or in the father's words, 20 minutes of action. The judge seems to have been swayed by that. But another way to look at Brock Turner, by his actions and his behavior, and this is what I've heard said about him, is that his actions reveal him to be a predator who happens to know how to swim.
O'NEILLIf the judge had viewed him in that light, I think it's likely he would've had a much harsher sentence.
TAYLORI think the sentence was too lenient. I think two years would've been about right. Some would say that's too lenient. The prosecution recommended six years. Prosecutors generally go for a lot more than a lot of other people would think was right. But this is a judge, I think, in fairness to him, who, as far as I know, had an excellent reputation, presided over the trial very well and then he gave a sentence that a lot of people regard as too lenient. Now, he knows a lot more about this guy and this case than all the people who think it was too lenient.
TAYLORI think he deserves a little consideration because of that. I think that the movement to remove him from the bench is severely misguided, you know. But bottom line, too lenient a sentence. Now, that doesn't mean that this guy's going to be off raping again. Actually, it wasn't a rape technically. It was sexual assault. The judge said, quite plausibly, it doesn't seem like he's going to be dangerous in the future. And, you know, we've got a problem in this country of sending people to prison, lots of people, for very long times.
TAYLORIf he's not going to be dangerous in the future and he's got hanging over him for the rest of his life this registration as a sex offender, it's not like he's getting off easy.
GREGORYLet me just bring Melissa back into this. Talk to me a little bit about this controversy, the outrage, the letter, for example, that the victim in this case wrote that was part of the sentencing, was read aloud by Ashleigh Banfield on CNN a couple of days ago. So this has become a highly charged case in the media and in the public.
KORNAbsolutely. So that letter went viral. There's no other word to use for it. It was posted in full on Buzzfeed after being posted in a local publication and I'm struggling to find anybody kind of in my social circles who has not read it at this point and reacted very strongly to it. It's a well-written letter. It is gut-wrenching. And the response has been, near and far, on campus, students have started to plan a protest for graduation this coming Saturday.
KORNThe details of that are still being hashed out, but students are planning to take action and say that they don't think the administration of the school did enough, that they think the sentence is too lenient and then there's also some petitions online, Change.org petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for the judge to be recalled and beyond that, a couple of Stanford law professors and others in the Silicon community are starting to raise funds for a recall effort.
GREGORYThese letters, Terry, both the father and the victim, certainly have had a tremendous impact on the public debate over this.
O'NEILLThey have. And the good news is that we will be having a national conversation about that and that's all to the good. I, frankly, think that this young man is danger. I think he will rape again if he can, if you look at his attitude. He does not believe he did anything wrong. He insisted that this unconscious young woman was enjoying herself during his attack, as part of his defense. His father defends him as not having raped. The victim, however, described his behavior, I think, very aptly.
O'NEILLShe described him as a predator who separated the weakest member of the herd. She was falling down drunk. She was blackout drunk. And he observed that, he separated her from any place where she could find help and then he viciously assaulted her. That's a dangerous individual.
GREGORYStuart, the thing that does come out from these letters is -- it seems, both of us being parents of young men, way too much cover for being drunk to sort of excuse the behavior, violent behavior, violent going way beyond just disrespectful behavior. Talk about that in terms of the father's response to it and Brock's response to it.
TAYLORWell, I think the father's response to it was very cloddish. You know, he made -- he trivialized what was happened. But I wouldn't hold it against the judge who pronounced the sentence or for that matter, against the son, something stupid that the father said. The father was not on trial. Now, the son made -- tried to make it sound like it was just about alcohol and that excused him, to some extent. Not entirely. He had some remorse. You know, that's wrong. That trivializes it, too.
TAYLORIt's a real crime. At the same time, there is a relevant conversation to be had about alcohol here and it's not being had in this country. Things like this happen as often as they do because binge drinking is rampant on campus. Young men and young women, who are blind drunk, do things they wouldn't do when they're sober and, you know, we don't, you know, and somebody's going to scream blame the victim, whenever you say that, but screaming blame the victim is not a good way to stop sexual assault.
TAYLORIt's -- the good way to stop sexual assault or to cut it down is cut down the binge drinking. That would have a bigger effect than anything else.
GREGORYI want to come back to the issue of the drinking, but I want to go to Melissa again because one of the pieces is about was justice done and where it was done. And I, at least, want to introduce the topic here of whether this was appropriately dealt with in the criminal justice system rather than by campus administrators. Melissa, what's the feeling about that?
KORNSo the fact that this made it into the criminal justice system sets this case apart from many others on college campuses right now. Far too often, student victims of sexual assault are told to not go to the police, they'll handle it internally. And the case goes through an internal adjudication process with often students or administrators who don’t have any real expertise in the subject or legal expertise, are the ones deciding whether or not somebody did something wrong and what their punishment should be.
GREGORYRight. And we're going to pick up on that when we come back, as opposed to criminal justice system, which is why I wanted to introduce it. More of our discussion about the very difficult case, the role for college administrators as well and the issue of sexual assaults and sexual assaults on campus, the role of drinking and so on. More of our conversation after this break. I'm David Gregory. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
GREGORYAnd welcome back. I'm David Gregory sitting in for Diane Rehm this morning. We are discussing that Stanford University rape case involving Brock Turner. I'm joined here in the studio by Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, Stuart Taylor of The Brookings Institution, and from an NPR studio in New York, Melissa Korn of The Wall Street Journal. Stuart, I want to address some of the feedback that we're getting. And we encourage feedback this morning. You can certainly call us at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. You can find us on Facebook or send us a tweet.
GREGORYAnd a lot of that feedback we're getting so far is a question, which is, why aren't we calling this rape? But, in fact, this was not rape. It was sexual assault. And in the law there's a difference.
TAYLORYeah. Lots of people are calling it rape and it's understandable because it has a lot in common with rape. But rape is defined in California law at least is involuntary sexual intercourse, among other things, meaning some, you know. And this was not intercourse, it was fingers. Now that doesn't necessarily make it better. But that's what the law says and it's -- and sexual assault will do. Also, it's not just an arbitrary distinction. Rape is a more serious crime than what this guy did generally. Rape poses a risk of venereal disease transmission. It poses a risk of pregnancy. That's not to say, oh, it's okay with fingers. But it is a more serious crime.
GREGORYTerry, you refer to him as a rapist.
O'NEILLSure. I think that he would have had -- I think he would have had sexual -- a sexual assault on this young women if he had not been stopped. I think it's entirely possible that that's true. I think that whether we call it rape or sexual assault, the most important piece is that it is an act that deeply strips an individual of control of her body or his body. It is deeply traumatizing no matter what instrument is used to invade her body in ways that she does not and cannot control. And so whether we call it sexual assault or rape, I think what we really want to do is think about this very much from a victim-centered perspective and give the victim control back over her body.
GREGORYMelissa, I want to come...
KORNThis is -- yeah.
GREGORYI want to come back to where we left off, because this issue of control, the issue of respect for the victim and the accused in these kinds of allegations gets to this question of who best to handle it. Should it be the police? Should it be in the criminal justice system? Or should administrators and campus police on Stanford University's campus be dealing with it? Why don't you continue that point?
KORNSure. If it's a criminal act, it should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. That's a pretty straightforward determination in most parts of this country off of college campuses. When it comes to a college campus, there are different levels of police and security forces. Some answer to the school administration, some answer to the local city and some are independent police forces entirely.
KORNAnd they're -- the lack of consistency is really problematic in cases of sexual assault or really any violence on campuses, because it's not entirely clear, often, who's in charge. And students don't know who they're supposed to turn to or what their rights are, because their rights in a school -- university-led system are different from their rights in the criminal justice system, both for the accused and the accuser.
TAYLORI agree completely with Melissa that it's a -- if it's a criminal offense, it ought to be dealt -- or an alleged criminal offense, it should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. And I would add, not by campus sex bureaucrats. And there is a movement afoot in the country, and they're trying to exploit this case to advance their cause, to keep cops away from these cases. Don't get them -- don't get no cops on campus. You know, there's kind of a -- it's a slogan that one of the anti-rape groups, a saying, cops off campus. Keep it away from the prosecutors. Because activists in this area think the police and the prosecutors are not sympathetic enough to rape victims and they should be better off with campus discipline.
TAYLORBut I would point out that in this case, for example, if it had been handled initially by campus bureaucrats -- putting aside for the moment, this woman wasn't a student -- it would have -- it's quite possible he would have escaped punishment entirely.
TAYLORBecause a lynchpin of the case against him, I think, was that he gave a quasi confession. He didn't admit that it was nonconsensual but he admitted what he did. I'm not sure they could have proved that otherwise.
GREGORYTerry, this gets tricky, right? Because there are issues of how the police might handle the situation here vis-à-vis a victim. But there's also the question of the accused, right? And more often, in these cases, a young man and whether having the right to cross examine the accuser...
GREGORY...is adequately provided for in a campus setting versus the criminal justice setting.
O'NEILLExactly. And I think that the best way to try to approach these issues is to look at the institutional -- the different institutions in our society. We do expect the criminal justice system -- the police, the prosecutors, the courts -- to deal with crimes. We know that rape is a -- that the police are spectacularly bad at treating rape victims or sexual assault victims properly. And so that is a problem in itself. But that is a problem within the criminal justice system that needs a lot of work.
O'NEILLOn campus, all college campuses that receive federal funding are required to offer an equal educational opportunity to all of its students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. So if you take that institutional obligation on the part of the college and then say, so how do we give an equal opportunity to a rape victim or a rape survivor? What are the obligations that we have? And what are the obligate -- you look at, from an equal educational perspective, to both protect the rights of the accused but also to protect the ability of the victim to go on and graduate, to not pay a price for not finishing her English paper that was due the week after she was assaulted.
O'NEILLSo if you look at it from the institutional obligation perspective, I think many things begin to fall into place.
GREGORYLet me add one other element into this that I think is important, because the question of leniency also raises the profile of Brock Turner, right? He's a celebrated athlete. That's what's generating a lot of the publicity. And for many who are critical of this sentence, they think, well, you know, this was somehow factored in, that he was this elevated member of society because he had to be protected because he was a star athlete and white. And we got an email from Stuart saying, can you please address the apparent discrepancy in sentencing for minorities. It would appear that socioeconomic privilege is proving to be a distinct factor in the sentencing of individuals who commit violent crimes. And, Stuart, that has been leveled in this case as well.
TAYLORYeah. And I think it's frankly been overdone. There's a case from Texas. It's been getting a lot of publicity, Baylor. Ken Starr lost his job. The most notorious rapist in that case is named Sam Ukwuachu. He was a football player. He's also an African American. His crime was much worse in terms of violence and his past was much worse in terms of violence than in this case, than Brock Turner's. He got the same sentence Brock Turner got. I don't think that this judge in California would have given a different sentence to Brock Turner if he'd been black or for that matter if he'd been poor or for that matter if he hadn't been an athlete.
TAYLORI think there are cases, and I think Ukwuachu's is one, in which athletes get special protection from various -- not from the cops in that case -- but this is not one of them in my opinion.
KORNThis is Melissa and I'd like to add to that a little bit. I think the judge in this case, in the Brock Turner case, said one of the reasons he was not giving a harsher punishment was his concern that it would have a, quote, "severe impact" on the young man. And that phrase, severe impact, makes a lot of people cringe. Because, well, he did something that had a severe impact on this young woman and perhaps the punishment should be severe.
KORNAnd the -- there's concern that Turner's swimming success and the fact that he, you know, was at a school as prestigious as Stanford and now had been -- that opportunity had been taken from him in some way because he was banned from campus for doing this, that that was almost punishment enough. And so I agree, it's not even so much about race as it is about athletes having quite a bit more freedom and forgiveness.
GREGORYTerry, can I take the athlete part of this out of the equation and ask you how you consider the anguish of this young woman and her family and the anguish of this young man and his family. Because however poorly his father may have handled this letter in his -- this is still unconditional love of a parent for a child who had made a horrible mistake and is going to live with that mistake for the rest of his life.
KORNSure. And one hopes that, as he processes through the horrific act that he did, that he begins to come to grips with it in ways that it's clear he has not and his father is doing all he can to shield his son from actually coming to grips with what he did. That is a real problem. And that is something that the son will suffer for, quite frankly. His father is doing him no favors by trying to minimize what he did. I get that his father wants to keep him out of jail. And goodness knows, I am a parent and my heart goes out to that effort. But by minimizing the act, he is actually harming his son, I think, more than he knows.
KORNI do want to say, you know, take the athlete part out of it, because I do think that athletes are treated very differently, particularly when it comes to sex assault and other kinds of behaviors. The statistics on incarceration of people of color -- and not just young men of color but increasingly young women of color -- are devastating, absolutely devastating. We know the criminal justice system nationwide has a lot of work to do to stop the systemic racism in that whole area. So we really do need to pay attention to that. But I think the fact that Brock Turner is an athlete is probably the most important piece.
GREGORYI want to go to the phones. Sabrina is calling from St. Louis, Mo., this morning. Good morning, Sabrina, you're on the air. Sabrina calling from St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Sabrina, you're on the air.
SABRINAGood morning. Thank you for taking my call. So I wanted to talk a little bit about Brian Banks the football player who was falsely accused of rape and how he received a five-year sentence. And then they later found out that that was a false accusation. It just seems like the judicial system makes up excuses for white kids and then athletes more than they need to. They make an excuse with the affluenza kid. Then there was an excuse for Dylan Booth, only he was around people who influenced him wrong. And now there's an excuse for this rapist.
TAYLORWell, in the -- Brian Banks was an African-American football player who was convicted based on false testimony by his accuser and put in prison and had his life ruined. Fortunately, I think, he later -- I think it was on tape -- that he got her to admit it wasn't true and he was released. And I think that was a case of someone being wrongly imprisoned based on false testimony, not because he was African American.
TAYLORBut I'd like to disagree for a moment, respectfully, with something Terry said -- cops and prosecutors are spectacularly bad at these cases. That would have been true, I think, 40 years ago. I don't think it's true now. I'm sure there are some who are spectacularly bad now but I'm writing a book about this. I've looked at dozens of cases. And the cops and prosecutors are handling these cases very well in general from what I can tell. The people who are spectacularly bad are the campus sex bureaucrats.
TAYLORAnd I'll give you a quick example from Occidental College. It's a little bit like this, in that both people were drunk. But in this case, text messages established that the young woman went voluntarily to the young man's bed, texted a friend, I'm going to have sex now, texted the young man, do you have a condom? Then they had sex. Then a couple of days later, she gets persuaded by an extremist professor, oh, no, you're not happy now? You were raped.
GREGORYI'm David Gregory...
TAYLORAnd he gets kicked out. He gets kicked out of Occidental based on that evidence.
GREGORYI'm David Gregory. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Back to you, Stuart. So gets kicked out as a result of that.
TAYLOROccidental kicks him out. And let me quote Danielle Dirks, the Occidental professor, an extremist in my opinion, who was active in getting him kicked out. She helped persuade the young woman to say it was rape because she'd been drinking. He'd been drinking too. She wasn't passed out drunk like the woman in the Stanford case. But Danielle Dirks persuaded her she had been raped. She was unhappy, he didn't call, you know. But, you know, there was nothing forcible about it and she wasn't unconscious. Obviously there are degrees of drunkenness. Plus, Dirks has publicly said that most campus students who are male are sexual predators -- most of them.
TAYLORShe has said, you know that the guy in your case, she said to this Occidental woman, you know, he was the typical campus rapist. He is from a good family. He's an athlete. He was a high school valedictorian. That's the typical campus rapist. That's the kind of thinking that's going on inside the campus bureaucrat department.
GREGORYAnd so, Melissa, when you have a case like this, what kind of anxiety is this going to produce in this debate about whether these cases should be referred into the criminal justice system to the police as opposed to being dealt with on campus?
KORNSo the fact that the victim here in the Brock Turner case was not a student makes it much harder to argue that it should have gone to the campus system. Because the victim wasn't a student, that would make, you know, wouldn't really have been possible to do. However, when the victim and the assailant are both students, there's definitely concern over going to the campus system. I don't know if the sentence here will discourage people from going through the criminal justice system because, even though it was a very light sentence, this man's name is still public now for the criminal -- and the -- has a criminal record.
KORNAnd if it went through the campus judicial process, a lot of that stays private forever. So the accused, the person who allegedly did these crimes, wouldn't be known and could easily transfer to another school if they wanted to without much problem, without much fanfare. So at least Turner's case is public because it went through the criminal side of things.
O'NEILLYeah. And, David, I just want to emphasize that I don't think it's either/or. In other words, the criminal justice system has a role to play in our society and college campuses are part of U.S. society. There is, if crimes are committed, the criminal justice system should be involved. But on campuses, universities and colleges are required to provide equal educational opportunities to their students. And they do have a role to play when they become aware that someone who has committed a heinous act is on their campus. What do they do? How do they provide -- how do they live up to their societal obligation and their legal obligation to provide an equal education for all of the students on their campus?
KORNAnd a lot do have formal policies to suspend somebody or kick them off of campus entirely once they've been charged with or found guilty of a felony. If it's a misdemeanor, they have different rules and you'll often see a lot of these cases drop down to misdemeanor. So all of a sudden the student is back, allowed on.
GREGORYWe're going to take another break here. There's questions about drinking on campus, questions about whether sexual assaults are up on college campuses. Why? And what to do about it. We'll take more of your calls and questions. I'm David Gregory. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
GREGORYAnd we're back on The Diane Rehm Show, talking about sexual assaults on college campuses. How they're dealt with, the issue of alcohol, all stemming from the public outrage that you've heard about this week involving Brock Turner, that student athlete, the swimmer out at Stanford University who was convicted and sentenced for six months in prison after sexual assaulting a young woman out in California. In the studio here is Terry O'Neill, the President of the National Organization for Women.
GREGORYStuart Taylor, the author and journalist with the Brookings Institution. And in New York today is Melissa Korn. She's a higher education reporter for The Wall Street Journal. So much more to discuss. I want to take an email from Penny. She writes, please discuss the complicity of college and university administrations by lacking to enforce alcohol laws. Stuart, we started talking about the issue of binge drinking on college campuses. And by the way, it's worth pointing out, for young men and women, this occurred in the first four months of his freshman year.
GREGORYIt says something about how many young people are going to college, leaving home and losing self-control around alcohol.
TAYLORAnd a lot of these cases -- very good question, and a lot of these cases involved first year students, by the way. You know, especially the victims. But alcohol is huge. Almost every case we see, now, you know, the vast majority anyway, of campus alleged rapes or sexual assaults -- there's, there's a lot of drinking on both the part of the male and the female. And that doesn't mean that there wouldn't be any sexual assaults if there weren't so much drinking, but I'm absolutely sure there would be a lot fewer if the binge drinking were cut down.
TAYLORNow, college administrators have a tough problem on their hands, because binge drinking is something kids want to do. They could do a lot more than they do to cut down on it. And if I could do a quick aside, I think reasonable discussion of this issue is clouded by the myth that there's an epidemic of campus sexual assaults, like meaning it's growing. There are more of them. There -- it's always been a terrible problem. It's a terrible problem now. The best Justice Department statistics show that the rape and sexual assault rate on campus plunged from 1997 and 1913.
TAYLORNow, there aren't, you know, more recent statistics might suggest a countertrend, but the more recent statistics have been influenced by all the publicity, which causes more people to report.
KORNI do think that's worth noting -- oh, go ahead, Terry.
GREGORYGo ahead, Melissa. Go ahead. Go ahead.
KORNYeah. I do think it's worth noting that the number of assaults hasn't necessarily increased or decreased. It's really hard to know that, because it's a notoriously underreported crime. But there's more conversation about these issues in the past 5, 10 years than there's been, perhaps ever before. So, there's an increased reporting of the incidences. People are coming forward and saying, this happened to me, whether it's right afterwards or six months later, or two years later and they're sharing their stories. There's much more of a conversation about sexual assault on campuses than there has been before.
KORNSo, I agree, it's not necessarily a new problem or a growing problem, but it's a much more public problem, and that's putting administrators in a bind to actually respond to it.
O'NEILLYeah, and I do want to point out, I don't think that alcohol causes rape. I don't think that young men who engage in sexual assault do so because they have been drinking. I think they utilize alcohol and other substances in connection with their sexual assaults. Here's the good news. With, with the numbers that I've seen, maybe, maybe five percent of men on campuses, maybe almost 10 percent of men on campuses actually commit rape. There's a lot more than 10 percent of men on campuses getting drunk and doing binge drunking -- drinking.
O'NEILLAnd they're not committing rape. So, it's really, it's really, sexual assault's being done not as a result of alcohol. And the good news is that 90 percent of men on campuses are upstanding people who do not commit sexual assaults and 75 percent of women to 85 percent of women on campuses don't experience sexual assault. 20 percent of women, or 15 to 20 percent of women, that is far too many and we need to do something about it. So, I think we need to keep all of that in perspective. And note that there's an enormous amount of alcohol being consumed that does not lead to sexual assault.
GREGORYBut on this point, I want to go to the phones. Jesse calling in from Silver Spring, Maryland on this issue of whether alcohol is a factor. Good morning, Jesse.
JESSEHi. Thanks for taking my call. You guys really just touched on what I wanted to say. But yeah, I wanted to say that it's not that the alcohol, the binge drinking might be a part of things, but it's not the root. And I think it's really dangerous to put too much emphasis on that drinking, because as you just said, plenty of people are binge drinking and managing not to assault people. So, I think, you know, really, what has to happen in order for things to change is that boys and men need to be educated on not objectifying women.
JESSEAnd also, not calling something promiscuity when it's assault.
GREGORYThank you, Jesse. Stuart.
TAYLORWell, I think boys and men are being educated. There's a huge amount of orientation at the colleges. There's a lot of that in high schools. And it's not easy to change human nature. It would be easier to cut down on the drinking. Now, of course, drinking doesn't cause sexual assault in the sense that people wouldn't do it without drinking. But it lowers impulse control. That's pretty clear. And impulse -- you know, there are guys, not every guy is all predator or all good guy. There are some people who might, you know, have tendencies to be a predator and if you cut loose their impulse control, they take over.
TAYLORAnd it's utterly clear that women who get as drunk as this victim did, put themselves in positions where they're more vulnerable than they would be otherwise. Is that -- no, that's not blaming the victim. If I had a daughter going off to college now, fortunately, my two are through college, I would be very, very eager to convince her don't get blind drunk. You're just putting yourself in danger.
GREGORYThat's true for men and women. One of the things I'd like to begin it earlier, Terry. I mean, you know, I have younger kids, but one of the issues with social media, posting pictures of yourself in either, you know, not wearing much clothing or naked and then boys, who are consuming this and spreading this, all leads to two things: Objectifying each other and having no concept whatsoever of what intimacy is about and appropriate respect for each other is about. That can often lead to, whether you're drunk or not, thinking it's okay to hook up with somebody behind a dumpster outside of a party.
O'NEILLYou know, David, I think that does go right back to the other national conversation that we keep having in a really bad way about sex education in the schools. Let's be clear, relationship education needs to be an integral part of sex education. And again, schools are being torn apart on that issue. Parents are absolutely at lager heads, and politicians have gone in and made it even worse, trying to politicize the sex education in schools. But, clearly, if you had adequate sex and relationship education, beginning age appropriately in elementary school.
O'NEILLYou would not have a -- and college students call it this, and I think they're absolutely right. There is a rape culture in this country. It is powerful. We've seen it in the exoneration -- the six month sentence for a vicious, vicious, ugly assault. We see it in the young man who committed this assault, minimizing it by simply calling it promiscuity. I think that if you get back to the college campus, Stanford University seems to me to have missed an opportunity to engage in a teachable moment.
O'NEILLThis -- the victim in this case was not a student. But her sister is. And it seems to me that the administrators at Stanford had an opportunity to have a campus wide conversation about not minimizing this kind of attack. About saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, these statements, sure, he wants to stay out of prison, but we reject categorically the notion that he was simply engaging in a frolic of some kind.
GREGORYMelissa, what are colleges doing now, both with regard to sexual assault, but also, this earlier point that was made by our listener who emailed? About enforcing alcohol law?
KORNSo, one of the challenges is the legal age for drinking is 21 and most college undergraduates are -- at these schools that we're talking about, at least, are under 21. So, they're not even drinking legally. So, the schools are in a tricky position to -- the administrators are in a tricky position to have to try to crack down on a problem, on an activity, that isn't even legal, but they all know it's happening anyway. So, there are some college leaders, who have, for years, called to lower the drinking age to 18 so that they can then properly address the repercussions of binge drinking.
KORNIncluding just the medical issues when somebody drinks too much and gets sick, students are afraid to call campus security, because they're afraid to get in trouble. That shouldn't be the case. They should get, you know, some sort of a free pass if there's an actual medical emergency. But the schools are definitely uncertain how to deal with illegal drinking, underage binge drinking when they're not supposed to be doing it in the first place. And the school can't really acknowledge that it's happening on their campuses.
O'NEILLAnd I just want to add that when someone does engage in binge drinking, the obligation of all of us is to get that person to safety, whether it's female or male. If you see someone who is falling down drunk, you know, the first thing you don't think of is, oh, I could have my way with that person. The first thing you think of is let's get hydration, let's get medical care. Let's make sure that that person is safe. And the last thing that we do is to say oh, she's now got herself, she's gone and got herself assaulted, because she's falling down drunk.
O'NEILLLet me say that when students engage in binge drinking, they don't realize until it's too late that they've had too much. And once they've had too much and cannot negotiate walking out a door, they do need a great deal of help. So, standing back and crossing our arms and saying, well, you know, shame on you. Yes, we need to do that at some point. But in the moment, we need to get that person safe.
KORNAnd on that note, you asked what schools are doing about the binge drinking and the result in actions, and I would say a lot more schools are training their students on bystander intervention, including Stanford. So, there are offices on campus -- I believe Stuart, you're fortuitous, kind of the, sexual assault -- the sexual bureaucracy on campus. They will go to fraternities and sororities and sports teams and residence halls and run bystander intervention training programs.
KORNHere's what to look for if somebody is getting themselves, drinking perhaps too much. Or has gotten into trouble, or this person looks like a predator and they're, you know, making inappropriate gestures toward somebody or touching, here's how to step in, and they are doing more to engage the student community to understand that everybody is responsible for everybody's safety.
GREGORYRight. I think that's such an important point, that, you know, not everybody is binge drinking and falling down drunk in this one setting. There can be some responsible people who step up and say, hey, you know, you okay? Stuart.
TAYLORI'd like to agree on the importance of education of young people in high school, or maybe before, certainly in college, in the ways that have been discussed here, but I have a caveat to add. This education, sex education is going on all over the country in campuses, and a very large component of it in a very large number of campuses is basically teaching students all accused males are guilty. You don't need to look at anything but the fact that's someone's accusing them and then you know they're guilty. And that happens to be false. And that's not education, that's miseducation.
GREGORYI'm David Gregory. You are listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Terry O'Neill.
O'NEILLAll crimes have some degree of false reporting. That's absolutely true. It turns out that sexual assault has one of the lowest percentage of false reporting compared with other crimes.
GREGORYYou're shaking your head, Stuart.
TAYLORYeah. I don't think anyone knows exactly what the rate of false reporting is, but I think there's a consensus among law enforcement people that it's higher for sexual assault than it is for most crimes. And I have seen many, many, many cases of false allegations. Or frankly, in today's campuses, it doesn't need to be false to be a wrongful -- often, men are kicked off campus, I mentioned the Occidental case, simply for having sexual relations with a young woman, a student, while they had both been drinking, whether or not she was particularly intoxicated.
O'NEILLArmed robbery, arson, burglary, those are all much more highly false. There's a lot more false reporting in that than the crimes including armed robbery.
KORNYou are now seeing more men come forward who have been accused of sexual assault or rape. They're now coming forward and suing the universities that kicked them out or saying that they -- the universities mishandled the cases and they are kind of finding a voice more in the past year or two than before.
O'NEILLAnd Brock Turner claimed that the victim enjoyed it.
TAYLORI'm holding in my hand the manuscript of a book that my co-author Casey Johnson and I have written on this issue. In this book are more than 50 cases of males in college who appear to have been innocent. You can never be sure. Sometimes, you can be sure. A lot of times, you can't be sure. Being disciplined in campus proceedings, wrongly, in my opinion. It's a very common phenomenon. And it's particularly common, because the colleges are kind of propagandizing a lot of their students to think that any unhappy sexual experience was a rape. And that's not true.
O'NEILLThere is at least one study that shows that there's a plurality, not a majority, but a plurality of law enforcement officers who believe sexual assault myths. These are stereotypical, empirically incorrect beliefs that an individual holds about rape and rapists and victims. So, one example is only bad girls get raped, that women ask for it. That women cry rape only when they've been jilted or when they're embarrassed and want to cover something up. These are all myths.
O'NEILLAnd they're very dangerous myths. The reality is according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which gathers information about intimate partner violence, a recent survey of victims that called the police in cases of intimate violence -- intimate partner violence, two in three were afraid to call the police in the future. One in five actually felt safer after calling the police. And only one in three victims -- and one in three victims felt less safe. So, so we have a real issue.
O'NEILLClearly, there is some false reporting, but let's -- let's be clear. The vast, vast, vast majority of reports are, in fact, true and those survivors of rape need enormous services.
GREGORYI want to read this email we have from a listener. You can teach girls tactics to avoid getting raped, as we as parents have done for our girls. But why aren't parents teaching their boys to not rape? We have talked openly about this with our boys. If boys and men did not rape, all the tactics and tricks to avoid getting raped would not be needed. Melissa.
KORNIt's interesting that you bring that up. I have a good friend who, with a young child, under the age of one, who said that they are looking forward to raising their son to understand the importance of consent when it comes to hugging and kissing when they're little kids. Or holding hands or ultimately, when they're older, sexual relations. And that really inspired me. I like to think that there are more parents doing that. But I agree, there should -- it's not just about teaching women how to avoid situations where they could be put in danger.
KORNIt's about teaching men, teaching anybody how not to take the situations on themselves and become the assailant.
TAYLORI, of course, that's true. Parents should teach their sons, and I expect that that has not been done as much as it should be. And one healthy thing about this national conversation, we're not agreeing on everything, but we can all agree on that. Right? Parents should teach their sons...
O'NEILLYes means yes.
TAYLOR...to be, you know, very careful and very gentlemanly in a good, old fashioned sense.
O'NEILLAnd if you don't -- if you don't hear yes, it's rape.
GREGORYThank you to Terry O'Neill, Stuart Taylor, Melissa Korn. A conversation and controversy, a very important issue that will continue. I'm David Gregory sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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