Colleges Could Be Legally Liable For Rapes If They Refuse to Adopt Proven Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 12, 2018) – A just published study shows that not only are most college programs aimed at the problem ineffective in reducing rapes, but that these very programs – many of which are very expensive, and often involve the entire incoming class – may actually be causing an increase in the number of rapes on campus, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf's proposals for dealing with campus rapes have been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. News, Washington Examiner, National Public Radio, New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, and in other respected media outlets, and one was singled out for praise by Education Secretary Betsy Devos in connection with reforming the current system for dealing with sexual assaults on campus.
"Campus rape interventions may be having the opposite of the intended effect," says a report.
As the researchers noted, "The few studies that directly have examined this possibility indeed are supportive of the substantial likelihood of such negative effects. Commonly used interventions may fail with high-risk men because they are likely to generate 'hostility reactance' - one of the key causes of both sexual violence itself and the unintended adverse effects of the interventions."
Furthermore, they say "We address the question of why universities have failed to address this possible effect of interventions and why previous reviews have not highlighted this possible danger."
In summary, these rape-prevention programs are more likely to encourage young men at high risk for raping to actually engage in it, and have little if any effect in otherwise preventing it.
This is regrettable, suggests Banzhaf, because there is a program - highlighted in the New England Journal of Medicine - which has been shown to reduce the incidence of campus rapes by almost 50%. It has worked at universities in Canada, where university students are very similar to ours, but U.S. colleges have largely ignored it.
If a university puts on programs aimed at preventing rapes, knowing that they are probably ineffective, and may in fact increase rapes, while a very effective alternative exists, then they are the cause in both a moral and legal sense of almost half the rapes which occur on their campus, suggests Banzhaf.
It's the same as if a doctor, asked to prescribe a pill to prevent a serious contagious disease, prescribes one he knows is probably ineffective or may even cause the disease, all the while failing to even tell the patient that a much more effective pill exists. That would of course be a clear case of malpractice, and the physician would probably be legally liable if the patient subsequently contracted the disease.
Perhaps, similarly, colleges which deliberately put on rape prevention programs which are probably ineffective and may indeed actually cause more rapes, and fail to offer one which has been proven to be dramatically effective, should be sued by the students who are subsequently raped, suggests Banzhaf.
Feel-good show-that-we're-trying-hard programs should be subject to the same type of research universities are supposed to encourage and engage in, he argues.