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In response to their printing of Gene Lyons’ “Professors can’t be rape police” column:
To the editor,
I was appalled by Gene Lyons’ syndicated column that was printed in the Sunday, July 20th edition of the Press Republican, titled “Professors can’t be rape police”. In the column, he argues that the responsibility of proving instances of rape on college campuses and subsequently punishing rapists cannot fall solely on campuses and their staff. I agree with that point, and while I feel that colleges can always be doing more to prevent rape and to support survivors of sexual assault, they are definitely not equipped to properly investigate such cases on their own.
However, that is not the part of the column that I have a problem with. My issue with the article can be summer up in this one quote: “Based upon the dubious claim that one in five college women is a victim of sexual assault—if people really believed that, even ‘highly-selective’ schools couldn’t keep their dorms filled”. Just to clarify, the dictionary defines the word dubious as meaning “not to be relied upon; suspect”.
Another quote: “Meanwhile, Philadelphia magazine reports, little Swarthmore—its 1500-member student body filled with Honor Society grads—experienced a sharp upsurge in sexual assault reports, from 11 in 2012 to 91 in 2013. It’s unlikely that student behavior changed so dramatically over one year. Clearly something else did.” In his column, Lyons not only denies the amount of sexual assault happening in our country, but suggests that an increase in reports of sexual assault is the result of something other than actual occurrences of sexual assault. Lyons is clearly out of touch, and doesn’t seem to realize that there is a growing number of people in our country who are feeling empowered to speak out and stop allowing rape to be swept under the rug. It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward. There are immense amounts of trauma, shame, fear, and anxiety that one may experience. Overcoming that to speak about what happened, to recount the experience over and over while pressing charges, to let your community know that you have been raped, and to possibly have to face your rapist after outing them (something that happens all too often on college campuses), are all daunting tasks for many people. Thankfully, a cultural shift and network of support have been steadily developing, and I would argue that these progressive changes in our culture are responsible for an increase in the number of sexual assaults being reported, rather than this vague “something” that Lyons alludes to.
The “dubious” claims that Lyons is talking about are from a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in which 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges were asked the question, “in your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?”, and 20% of women said replied “yes”. Thus, one in five college women has been raped at some point in her lifetime. In that same study, 4% of men answered “yes” to that same question. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)–there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. And while reports of sexual assault have decreased by more than half since 1993, it doesn’t make our current statistics any less horrifying.
I know that Gene Lyons does not live in Plattsburgh, and that his views do not necessarily represent those of the Press Republican and its entire staff. However, somewhere down the line, someone read that column, and they deemed it worthy to print, thus giving validity to Lyons’ outright denial of sexual assault and how often it occurs in our country. I am asking that Lyons’ column be removed from further editions of the Press Republican. If the editors do not wish to remove the column, then I am asking for a full explanation of how and why they can support claims like the ones made by Lyons in this column. Even if the the column is removed, I would still ask that the editors explain their justification for printing something so ignorant. I await your response.
- Matt Hall
Site leader, Hollaback! Plattsburgh
Local band Thoughtcrime approached Hollaback! Plattsburgh about doing a fundraiser show, and it’s happening on Saturday, August 2nd! We’re raising money to print some educational materials, as well as some shirts that will feature some awesome designs by Shawna Armstrong! Spread the word! Click the flyer to see the Facebook event page and RSVP!
We’re teaming up with the Anti-Stigma Alliance to table at Mayor’s Cup on Saturday, June 12th.
We’ll be there from 10 am to 5 pm spreading the word about Hollaback! Plattsburgh, see you there!
Press Republican covered our recent Flash Fundraiser. Click the pic to head on over to their site to see a video and an article about the event!
By Teah Dowling, via The Burgh
Plattsburgh — A man approached a woman on the street, cupped her backside into the palm of his hand and said “give it to me, girl.”
Hollaback! Plattsburgh is a community organization committed to ending street harassment for people of all genders, ages and sexual orientations.
Since my daughter was born (she is now 6), I have ran around town with her in a stroller. I run anywhere from 3 to 10 miles, which brings me all over the city. On numerous occasions I have had younger people yell derogatory remarks at me.
I don’t understand why a Mother running with her child is grounds for harassment; it boggles me. I had a group of young women yell at me while I was at the intersection of Corneila and Broad to “keep running stupid f’ing bitch”.
In a drive-thru, someone had just paid for my items, so I paid for the people behind me. As I was pulling away, I realized I didn’t get my daughter’s items and stopped to ask, this older man behind me yelled. “get your head out of your f’ing ass you f’ing moron”. My windows were down, my daughter heard this and cried. I was so angry I pulled my car to the side because I wanted him to see my face and my child’s. As he drove by, his wife gave me the finger. I’m so frustrated with lack of respect and kindness.