What Is "Survivor Privilege"? I Don't Know And Neither Does George Will

[Content note: sexual assault]

At the Daily Dot, I have an analysis of George Will’s useless Washington Post column and many (but not all) of the ways in which it is wrong:

George Will’s misunderstandings about sexual assault are numerous and astoundingly ignorant. He continually uses “sexual assault” in scare quotes as though its very existence is dubious to him. He insists that if a man continues having sex with a woman after she said “no” several times, it cannot be rape, because she had willingly had sex with him in the past. He calls definitions of sexual assault that include non-consensual touching as well as non-consensual penetration “capacious,” as though using someone else’s body sexually without their consent is somehow not assault and never traumatic just because it doesn’t involve both a penis and a vagina. He denies that intoxication renders one incapable of giving informed consent, even though it’s fairly well-known that people who are drunk don’t always know or understand what they’re doing.

He even refers to women as “females,” cementing my belief that he belongs in an episode of Star Trek and not in the real world, let alone on the staff of an award-winning newspaper.

But perhaps his most egregiously out-of-touch statement is that “when [universities] make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Will does not elaborate on what, exactly, is so “coveted” about being a victim of sexual assault, how exactly universities “confer privileges” upon students who come forward about their assaults, or how these privileges, supposing they exist, are what is driving the supposed “proliferation” of “victims.” Evidence is less of a priority than rhetoric, apparently.

Read the rest here.

What Is "Survivor Privilege"? I Don't Know And Neither Does George Will

7 thoughts on “What Is "Survivor Privilege"? I Don't Know And Neither Does George Will

  1. 1

    Years ago George Will showed that an intelligent, educated man can be incredibly ignorant and foolish. Will’s problem is that he keeps showing these traits over and over again.

  2. 2

    Wow, what a load of crap. Will seems to forget that dressing up bullshit using a thesaurus doesn’t fool anyone.

    His callous contempt for pretty much everyone comes through in that piece, and I find it astonishing that a man so privileged apparently wants to slam college students by the tag ‘privilged young adults.’

  3. 3

    His article is an open admission that he does not want to see certain crimes as rape, because it would mean something bad for himself or people he likes. A charitable though still loathsome interpretation is that he could imagine himself doing those kind of acts (sexual assaults) though he has not, or that he heard some pals bragging on their crimes and didn’t want to believe those guys were evil.

    A totally reasonable interpretation, at least by the numbers and by recognition attitudes can correlate to actions, is that his article is a confession to being a serial rapist. Thanks for the heads up, George.

  4. AMM

    [Warning: probably OT.]
    The phrase “sexual assault” has always struck me as a little misleading and kind of a euphemism.

    I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that “assault” is the threatening; once someone actually touches you, it becomes “battery.” So “sexual assault” sounds like it would refer to harrassment that stops short of any sort of non-consensual touching (which rape would be an extreme example of.)

    IMHO, what we’re generally talking about here is non-consensual touching and worse, i.e., deeds which might better be called “sexual battery,” which has the advantage that it sounds more brutal and thus more like what it’s actually referring to. Calling it “sexual assault” seems sort of like describing killing someone as “harrassment.”

    I’m probably tilting at windmills, but I wish we could start using a more honest term for what we’re talking about.

    1. 4.1

      AMM – just chiming in to see if I can help clarify. What you’re talking about with respect to the difference between assault and battery refer to the definitions of those terms in civil law, not criminal law. You’re absolutely right about the distinction: assault (in a CIVIL case where one person is suing another for damages) is when the defendant is accused of doing/saying something to the plaintiff that would make a “reasonably person” believe that they are in imminent danger of bodily harm, while battery in a civil case is when a defendant touches the body of the plaintiff without their consent. When I first learned that, I thought it was bizarre, and still find it counterintuitive, particularly given the fact that common usage of the word “assault” almost always implies some kind of unwanted touching. But, I suppose the reason “assault” has come to be understood in that way could be related to the fact that in CRIMINAL law (as opposed to civil law), assault actually does refer to unwanted touching. I also think, though, that the reason “assault” feels insufficient (to me, at least) has a lot to do with so many rape statutes’ having such specific requirements about genitalia, penetration, definitions of “violence,” and what “counts” as, shall I say, “legitimate” rape. Sometimes I see cases classified as sexual assault that, in my mind, are absolutely rape cases, which kinda touches the tip of the iceberg of the disgustingly ignorant article from Will. (Tried to bring it back!)

      (I’m a lawyer, btw, but I don’t practice in an area of law that would expose me to more detailed or extensive knowledge on this subject as it applies to various jurisdictions or anything, but I hope this info helps clarify things a bit!)

  5. 5

    how exactly universities “confer privileges” upon students who come forward about their assaults,

    Oh, that’s easy: They ignore them and tell them to rethink their claims, while insulating them from real law enforcement agencies which might do the same as well. See? That’s privilege!


    (I’m off-topic too, if AMM is.)

    Sexual Assault simply covers more criminal behavior than Rape. An assault does not necessarily, but may, include a beating. That’s battery – being beaten. [This may be different in other countries, where the legal definition of assault does not include contact.] Grabbing someone in a sexual manner, unwanted, is an assault too. I wouldn’t call assaults battery when they are, in fact, not, for political reasons. Do call it rape when it is rape. In a jurisdiction outside the US and maybe some other countries, yes, it should be called sexual assault and battery, because that is what it is. (Unless there is another category more fitting than battery, I don’t know, I suppose that depends on jurisdiction.)

    If the accusation (or known fact) in a particular instance is rape, no, don’t call it anything other than what it is, because that can be used in a dismissive or denialist fashion. Sexual assaults may include several aspects (harassment, a physical assault, a beating, a rape), and they should be individually noted, no hiding.

    It is problematic, to be sure, even just talking about sexual assault (when no specifics are given) in global media. Even more problematic when LEOs, or the mouthpieces of various organizations like universities, or the legacy news gatekeepers, or people with an agenda, do want to hide worse crimes behind a label of sexual assault. Which is why it is important to listen to victims and demand that others address the actual facts rather than just one label which may cover a number of things.

    Due to the same behavior, there are a lot of things that people refuse to define as sexual assault when, in fact they are. Like groping. Some people want to treat that like mild harassment with a twist, or something.

    As for a personal perception, if I hear assault, sexual or not, it doesn’t sound minor to me. Regardless as to how someone might be trying to play that off. It just makes them sound bad, part of the cultural problem that provides an environment for sexual assault and rape. But then, a good chunk of those doing that don’t see anything wrong with a lot of behaviors we would call rape and/or assault.

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