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Study may force universities to stop campus rapes

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Study May Force Universities To Stop Raping Women; New Study May Compel Them to Use Programs Proven To Reduce Campus Rapes

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (October 14, 2019) –  Although a program proven to slash campus rapes by almost 50% has been publicized and available for about four years, U.S. colleges and universities have largely refused to use it, but a new study may force them to finally begin taking effective action against a continuing epidemic of date rapes on campus, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

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If a university deliberately uses an ineffective program to attack a problem when another program of proven effectiveness exists, it can be legally liable to those who would have been protected, just as a doctor who prescribes an ineffective drug to prevent an illness would be liable to those who contract the illness if a drug which was effective was known at the time but ignored, says the law professor whose legal analysis in this field has been quoted 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.

Banzhaf also addressed this problem at an international conference in Prague, and he was a featured speaker at a joint national conference of The Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) and the School and College Organization for Prevention Educators (SCOPE).

Now a new study will see if a program proven to cut rapes by an astonishing 46% at Canadian universities is likewise effective at U.S. universities, as knowledgeable observers believe it will be.

If the study shows the program to be as effective here as it was in Canada, it will provide powerful ammunition for a law suit by any woman who was raped where the university provided an anti-rape program which was ineffective, since the university can then be found to be a cause of the rape, says Banzhaf.

Banzhaf notes that he is using the term "cause" in the legal sense, under which a rape or other injury can have many different causes; anything, including any breach of a legal duty, which is a significant factor can be held to be a legal "cause."

For example, in a very famous case, a faulty door lock was found to be a cause of the rape of singer Connie Francis, even though the primary and most responsible cause was the criminal who bypassed the faulty lock and raped her at knife point.  Nevertheless, Howard Johnson's motel was found liable in a civil law suit because its failure to keep the lock in good repair was found to be a legal "cause" of the rape.

According to psychology professor Charlene Senn, who has studied male violence against women for many years, virtually none of the campus anti-rape programs have been proven to actually reduce rape.  But one approach which has been shown to slash rapes by an astonishing 46% - and to reduce attempted rapes or other forms of sexual assault by 63% - has been largely ignored by U.S. colleges and universities.

Instead, they spend millions annually on education programs trying to convince men not to rape, although such programs have been shown not to work.

Others also employ programs designed to encourage bystanders to intervene, but these also do not work, especially in the short run. This is not surprising, says Banzhaf, since most date rapes occur in private where there are no bystanders to intervene.

Refusing to use programs which have been proven effective, especially when several have been shown not only to reduce but to also actually slash the number of rapes and attempted rapes, is wrong and a legal cause of these unnecessary rapes, says Banzhaf, just as failing to maintain locks and to take other security measures has been held to be a cause of rapes in other contexts.

Suppose, he says as a hypothetical, there was an epidemic of a serious illness on a university campus, which was sickening many female students each semester.

If university doctors provided vaccinations against the disease, knowing that there was no proof that such injections reduced the incidence of the illness, it would constitute a clear case of malpractice, especially if the physicians knew of a pill or injection which would slash the rate of infections by almost 50%.

A jury, faced with such a situation, might even be inclined to award punitive damages to any female students who suffered as a result, especially if the doctors led the students to believe that the vaccine was effective, and failed to tell them of an alternative which could have protected them, argues Banzhaf.

The reason why so few institutions of higher education have even tried using these proven programs seems to be an exaggerated concern of political correctness.  As the respected Chronicle of Higher Education [CHE] has documented, the objection is that "the courses put the burden on women to protect themselves, instead of teaching men not to rape."

However, Banzhaf notes that, to reduce bicycle theft on campuses, colleges teach students how to take preventive measures (e.g., not leaving them unlocked, overnight, and/or in a lightly trafficked area).

Although such messages likewise put the "burden" on those who might become victims, and might even lead some students to blame the victim of bicycle theft for failing to take simple common sense precautions, universities still utilize them because they are effective in actually reducing bicycle theft.

For obvious reasons, they do not provide educational programs designed to discourage thieves from stealing stealing bicycles, nor to encourage students to intervene if they see a bicycle about to be stolen.

The same strategies are also used by colleges to reduce other serious crimes which likewise affect students: e.g., having their laptops stolen if left unattended in libraries, having items taken from dorm rooms which were left unlocked, being robbed or beaten when venturing alone at night into high crime areas, etc.

All arguably place the "burden" on students, including both males and females, to modify their behaviors, but no one apparently sees much wrong in encouraging students to be safer, and few criticize universities for not having elaborate and expensive programs to try to teach people not to steal, rob, or beat others.

Thus political correctness, not lack of evidence or cost, seems to be the reason that virtually all U.S. universities have refused to use this proven program.  Since it is aimed only at females, some say it puts all the responsibility for rape prevention on women, or even that it has the effect of seemingly blaming the women for their own rapes.

But, as Professor Elise Lopez of the University of Arizona explains: "One of the analogies I like to use is that we wouldn't stop wearing our seatbelts hoping that nobody else is driving drunk."

Prof. Charlene Senn, s feminist who has devoted her life to helping women, helped develop these programs which teach women "how to speak up, say 'no,' and act assertively to reduce their risk of experiencing violence."

As part of these programs, according to CHE, "women talk about how they've been socialized - how they've been encouraged to be the nice girl, to be polite, to be compliant. They practice speaking up when their boundaries are crossed."

As CHE also put it, it is important for female students "to understand the emotional barriers that can prevent them from being assertive, and learn how to overcome them."

In this regard, says Banzhaf, it is also noteworthy that, in addition to protecting women from becoming victims of rape, studies showed that "not only did the course reduce the risk of sexual assault, the women who had been victims said it helped their recovery process and made them less likely to blame themselves for what had happened."

So, since women who have been raped are less likely to blame themselves if they have taken the course, even exaggerated notions of political correctness, and fear of "blaming the victim," should not deter colleges from using techniques which have been proven - according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere - to prevent almost half of all collegiate rapes, argues Banzhaf.

And, if colleges continue to cause rapes by foisting off on students programs which have not been proven to work, they should not be surprised if a woman on such a campus who was the victim of rape sues them for being a cause - at least in a legal sense - of what she needlessly suffered, says the law professor.

Banzhaf has been called "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars," and an "Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer's Trial Lawyer."


Professor of Public Interest Law

George Washington University Law School,

FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,

Fellow, World Technology Network,

Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),

2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA

(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418

http://banzhaf.net/ jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com  @profbanzhaf

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