The White House’s Selective Anti-Rape Politics

The White House’s selective anti-rape politics

April 9, 2011

In another phony-concern crusade, the Obama administration launched a campaign to exploit rape and sexual abuse—but only the small fraction occurring at school that can be blamed on young people. The severe limitations of the White House campaign demonstrate its lack of sincerity even to the point of using a vital issue like rape to promote its reelection politics.

The Department of Education’s guidance rationalizes singling out schools for its anti-sexual-abuse campaign:

The statistics on sexual violence are both deeply troubling and a call to action for the nation. A report prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that about 1 in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. The report also found that approximately 6.1 percent of males were victims of completed or attempted sexual assault during college. According to data collected under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f), college campuses reported nearly 3,300 forcible sex offenses as defined by the Clery Act. This prblem is not limited to college. During the 2007-2008 school year, there were 800 reported incidents of rape and attempted rape and 3,800 reported incidents of other sexual batteries at public high schools. Additionally, the likelihood that a woman with intellectual disabilities will be sexually assaulted is estimated to be significantly higher than the general population. The Department is deeply concerned about this problem and is committed to ensuring that all students feel safe in their school, so that they have the opportunity to benefit fully from the school programs and activities.

Baloney. The Department’s “concern” is too politically selective and reelection-oriented to be rated as genuine.

No doubt, the 3,300 forcible sex offenses reported on college campuses and 4,600 rapes and sexual batteries reported in American schools do indicate a problem worthy of attention. But what about the Administration’s ownDepartment of Health and Human Services’ report (see tables 3-12, 5-1, and 5-3) confirming 68,000 substantiated cases of sexual abuse victimizing youths—32,000 toward teens age 12-17 and 36,000 of children ages 11 and younger—in American homes in 2008? Is rape and molestation by adults—the large majority inflicted by perpetrators 30 and older, nearly all parents and caretakers—somehow less “deeply troubling,” less of “call to action,” than sexual offenses by peers? Or are they just politically less profitable for politicians and interests to talk about?

Both FBI and National Crime Victimization Survey reports show sexual violence by and against young people today stand at their lowest levels than at any time in the four decades of reliable reports. Of course, the 7,900 reported rapes and sexual abuses on American high school and college campuses, the 32,000 confirmed rapes and sexual abuses victimizing teens in American homes, and the thousands of admitted cases by Catholic priests and otherchurch personnel all represent serious undercounts; the true numbers are much higher. Why, then, single out schools, which account for only a fraction of the known cases. Why does it matter to the White House where sexual violence occurs?

The White House singled out schools and young people as the targets for its anti-sexual abuse and violence campaigns and omitted homes, churches, and other institutions due to ugly, gutless politics. Unlike families and churches, schools are seen as dominated by young people, who are always safe to scapegoat for social problems. Vice President Joe Biden made it clear that students were to be regarded as the “problem” and grownups as the “solution:” “As caring adults, as parents, and as leaders, we must deal the brutal truth. The facts surrounding these incidents are shocking,” he said. “The misplaced sense of values and priorities in some of these cases is staggering,” he said in an April 4 university speech launching the campaign.

Values? The shocking lack of values and caring reflected in the White House’s official indifference toward the politically inconvenient abuses affecting hundreds of thousands of children is revealed in the administration’s merely token statement recycling last year’s proclamation of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Nor can I find any statements by Biden, the latter a staunch public Catholic, condemning priests’ abuses and the church’s efforts to conceal them. No White House summits and press splashes for impolitic sexual abuse victims.

Biden’s cowardice in failing to speaking out against sexual violence by his own adult, parental, institutional, and religious peers rendered his imprecations to college men particularly hollow: “You guys have an absolute obligation as men to speak up,” Biden said, directly addressing the men in the (university” audience. “You want to measure your manhood? Measure it based on the gumption you have to speak up.”

Only certain young rape victims interest politicians. That’s how little this president and vice president—like previous ones—really care about children and youth when advocacy for them doesn’t suit political aspirations.

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