Features Australia

Campus lies, damned lies and statistics

Asking twice for a date is sexual harassment

23 October 2021

9:00 AM

23 October 2021

9:00 AM

This year sexual assault has been constantly in the news, part of an ongoing campaign targeting the Coalition government. Now university activists are getting in on the act, having another go at proving there’s a rape crisis on our campuses.

This time they are really cooking the books. A new National Safety Survey funded by Universities Australia and rolled out last month is full of biased, leading questions designed to inflate figures for campus sexual assault and sexual harassment.

‘Universities Australia claim to be serious about measuring levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. Ambiguously worded surveys with very low response rates are no way to achieve this,’ says Chris Lloyd, professor of statistics at Melbourne University who compared key questions in the current survey to the previous one. He adds, ‘I cannot see anything scientifically useful emerging from what I have seen of this new survey.’

The Safety Survey follows up the million-dollar survey done in 2016 by the Australian Human Rights Commission which found only 0.8 per cent of students reported any type of ‘sexual assault’ per year, even including incidents such as a grope from a stranger on the train to university.

The AHRC disguised these disappointing results by claiming widespread campus ‘sexual violence’ which was actually mainly low-grade harassment like ‘unwanted staring’. Universities were bullied into establishing a huge industry of bureaucrats and counsellors, supporting secretive committees running kangaroo courts adjudicating sexual assault.

Every year activists run campaigns claiming universities are not doing enough. Just two months ago a group of protesters interrupted a speech by ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, claiming the university was not protecting students. ‘Your Nobel Prize isn’t helping you now!’ screamed one protester. Schmidt groveled to the students, ‘There’s no easy fix. It’s a wicked problem’.

Let’s face it, it just ain’t easy wiping out unwanted staring. But now Schmidt will have to battle new scourges like ‘loitering’ and ‘invading personal space’, the latest additions to the ever-expanding definition of sexual harassment included in the new survey. To make Brian Schmidt’s wicked problem even more challenging, ‘inappropriate staring’ is now just ‘staring’. It’s hard to imagine any students who could say they have never been the recipient of staring.

And who could deny experiencing someone ‘making comments or asking intrusive questions about your private life, body or physical appearance’? As we know, one person’s compliment is another’s intrusive question in an era where even using the wrong pronoun could be seen as an inappropriate comment on a private life.

It gets worse. The section on harassment of students now includes ‘making requests for sex or repeated invitations to go out on a date’. So, you are only allowed to ask once for a date – twice is harassment. But isn’t ‘making requests for sex’ exactly what is now required in the new enthusiastic consent laws just made law in NSW? Funnily enough the new survey labels that as harassment yet regards all sexual acts including kissing as sexual assault if your partner ‘made no effort to check whether you agreed or not’.

It is all pretty confusing. But not all that surprising when you consider the people behind compiling this survey, one of whom is a self-described ‘feminist criminologist’ who has built a career promoting feminist views on ‘enthusiastic consent’ and similar issues.

Even though ‘enthusiastic consent’ is not yet law in most Australian states, the concept has been slipped into the survey, in a manner which is bound to greatly expand the number of events students regard as sexual assault. Students are told that any sexual experience, including a kiss, which lacks that prior check for consent is now sexual assault. Ditto intoxicated sex of any kind – all sexual acts are deemed assault if you were ‘affected by drugs or alcohol’.

The full list of questions in the survey hasn’t been released by Universities Australia – this analysis is based on screenshots sent by a concerned student of the version he completed. These suggest another big shift. While the previous survey asked questions about events taking place in 2015-16, the timing appears to be open-ended in the new one – the events could have happened anytime.

Similarly, the new survey appears to be not confined to campus events but includes sexual acts happening anywhere to the student, and not just involving other students. The survey explicitly and repeatedly invites responses about non-campus incidents: ‘We’re interested in all of your experiences – whether they happened in ways connected to your university, or at other times and places in your life’.

Students are asked to report not only their own experiences but also if another student from their university ‘told you, or you suspected, that they may have been sexually assaulted in a university context’. So, we are not just including hearsay evidence – say, something you read in a student newsletter – but students’ own fanciful assumptions about what might have happened to another person.

The student who supplied the survey questions was clearly outraged by the way the data is being manipulated. He wrote:

‘I was shocked and alarmed at how the survey had seemingly been deliberately constructed in a way likely to produce results that will exaggerate perceived rates of sexual violence on campus and thereby distort and manipulate public opinion and policy. The authors have applied definitions of sexual assault and harassment that are so broad they conflate normal interactions between men and women with heinous and brutal acts of violence’.

He rightly spoke about the impact of the survey on the way young men and women relate to each other:

‘It is encouraging young women to perceive any uncomfortable or awkward sexual experience as a violent sexual violation, and it is casting benevolently intentioned young men as sexual predators. How many men will undeservingly have their lives and reputations shattered because of this rhetoric?’

That is the purpose of this whole exercise – to manufacture evidence of a campus rape crisis to provide a funding boost for the mighty bureaucracy supporting campus kangaroo courts where every week young men are hung out to dry as alleged sexual predators.

Read more of Bettina Arndt on Substack.

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