ATIXA: Willful Non-Compliance With Title IX?

ATIXA: Willful Non-Compliance With Title IX?

Just because a law is passed does not mean it is enacted. Implementation requires a bureaucracy willing to carry out the law rather than obstruct it.

A new Title IX regulation was published on May 6; this section of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits schools that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. The new regulation was meant to bring transparency to sexual misconduct hearings and due process to those who are accused of misconduct. To most people, these seem to be worthy goals.

The new rules have been subjected to legal and bureaucratic attempts to negate or lessen their impact, however. An example of legal obstruction: In January, the gender equity National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) sued the Department of Education (DOE) to block the changes. In June it sued again.

An example of bureaucratic obstruction: The College Fix documented how the highly influential Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) tried to “work around” the transparency requirement of posting the training materials used by Title IX administrators. ATIXA is “a professional association for approximately 4,500 thousand Title IX coordinators, investigators, and administrators,” with the mission of “helping to advance gender equity in schools and colleges”; since 2011, it has trained and certified “more than 7,250 Title IX Coordinators and more than 23,550 Title IX investigators. ATIXA President Brett A. Sokolow admonished the membership to refuse because the materials were copyrighted. The College Fix interpreted this instruction to mean “ATIXA will sue colleges for following a legally binding regulation.” Sokolow backed down, however, when the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) caught wind of the obstruction and doubled down on its demand for transparency.

This did not end ATIXA’s work-arounds. And the efforts to obstruct have been co-ordinated. ATIXA co-signed a March 25, 2020 letter, for example, in which the NWLC called to suspend the then-preliminary regulations. The dynamic is a fascinating snapshot of how bureaucracy works to block the implementation of laws that it believes embody the ‘wrong’ politics. And to do so behind the scenes as well as or more than on center-stage.

True to his commitment to non-transparency, Sokolow wrote on the ATIXA Member listserv, “SAVE and OCR will be watching carefully for end-runs…SAVE is also clearly worried about work-arounds, but I distinguish ends-runs [sic] from work-arounds. End-runs violate the regs, or their spirit. We encourage all members to avoid end-runs. Work-arounds take clever advantage of areas where OCR left holes or gaps, and fill those not with abusive deviation, but with best practices and approaches that are wholly in keeping with the spirit and purpose of Title IX.” In short, do not break the law, but find ways to non-comply.

ATIXA simply defines the purpose of Title IX differently than does DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos who has returned the measure to its original purpose; prohibiting sexual discrimination. ATIXA’s agenda was expressed in 2011, when a Dear Colleague Letter from the Obama administration instructed colleges to use Title IX to pursue the far broader goal of “gender equity.” The term can be defined as the state in which all students enjoy equivalent rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities. This requires more than equal treatment under law and policy. In fact, it often requires different treatment if the student involved is a minority or viewed as oppressed. Female students are seen as vulnerable to sexual abuse and, so, accused male students have been disadvantaged in the resulting investigations and hearings. Accused males were denied the basics of due process, such as a presumption of innocence or the right to question an accuser; sometimes, they could not even learn the accuser’s name. Predictably, the number of sex discrimination complaints increased from 17,724 (2000-2010) to 80,739 (2011-2020). Lawsuits against universities by those accused increased sharply as well.

On August 14, the DeVos regulation went into effect after a federal judge denied an legal attempt to stop it. ATIXA’s attempts to block it continue. After all, ATIXA embraces an “always believe the female accuser” position. Its Annual Virtual Conference in October, for example, features Tarana Burke, the founder of the ‘me too’ movement, as its keynote opening speaker.

The organization has issued The ATIXA Members’ Comprehensive 2020 Title IX Regulations Implementation Guide. The manual advises, “This guide will help you to confirm your institutional commitment to sex/gender equity and continue the important work you’ve undertaken in recent years, while making the required changes to re-emphasize and ensure due process for all parties. ATIXA endeavors to help you to steer a course that is compliant with the new federal mandates, but that does not unravel your current progress in doing so.” In other words, it instructs members on how to comply on the surface while working-around the new rules in practice.

Perhaps the most interesting document, however, is ATIXA’s 11-page position statement: Compliance with the 2020 Title IX Regulations Will Require a Formalized and Expanded Title IX Team. Although the DeVos regulation greatly simplifies and clarifies what constitutes sexual misconduct and limits the scope of hearings, the position statement calls for “a new and/or expanded” bureaucracy to handle “dramatically expanded due process protections, transparent sharing of all evidence collected during an investigation, formal live hearings, advisors, sophisticated rules of questioning and evidence, and mandated appeals.” Perhaps, the call for expansion was predictable as bureaucracies always seek to grow, not shrink. Again, predictably, the position statement calls for more funding.

A particularly interesting section is “Might the Regulations Just Go Away Soon?”; it could have been titled “What to Do While You Are Waiting for DeVos to Go Away.” The section opens, “Some of you may have been told to wait it out, in the hopes that these regulations will be shot down by the courts, or rescinded next year by a Biden administration.” ATIXA advises against this. For one thing, “even if the regulations are enjoined by a federal judge, a partial injunction, which would affect only some parts of implementation, is much more likely than a full injunction.” For another, if Biden wins the presidency, “it will easily be a year or more…before any significant action is taken with respect to replacing the regulations.” ATIXA expresses the source of its resistance; the new rules “swing the pendulum too far, and will likely compromise rights that Title IX was meant to protect. Compliance…has the potential to deepen oppositional stances between those who identify with the rights of survivors and those who identify with the rights of respondents.”

How about identifying equally with the rights of everyone involved?

Unfortunately, campus bureaucrats and allied organizations are here to stay. In 2017, Sokolow said that Title IX officers are prepared for whatever may come. “I’m playing a long game and looking at this [new Title IX rules] as a cyclical retraction,” he said. “Title IX is 45 years old. It’s waxed and waned. It isn’t going anywhere. We just have to figure out how to navigate it.” If due process and transparency—the bulwarks of justice—have to choose a nemesis, bureaucracy ranks high on that list.

Will the New Title IX Be Sabotaged?

Will the New Title IX Be Sabotaged?

On August 14, a change of kind occurred in how educational institutions address accusations of sexual misconduct if they wish to receive federal funding. A controversial new Title IX regulation went into effect. Or did it?

In today’s extraordinarily partisan times, there can be cognitive disconnect between official policy and actual practice. One reason: the so-called “right wing” heads most government agencies while a “left wing” bureaucracy often dominates the implementation of policies. In both active and passive-aggressive ways, the bureaucracy constitutes what is called “the resistance.”

Which is going to win? The new Title IX regulation that redefines sexual expression, due process, and free speech on campus? Or the liberal academics,  administrators, and politicians? The conflict offers a fascinating glimpse into the ideological civil war that has broken out within so many government agencies and institutions.

The starting point for discussion is Title IX. Enacted in 1972, Title IX is the Department of Education (DOE) statute that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs or activities. It became an ideological flash point in 2011 when the Obama DOE altered it to embrace the much broader goal of gender equity. To do so, the key term “sexual harassment” was expanded to include verbal misconduct like telling bad jokes. Accused students and faculty were “prosecuted” through sexual misconduct hearings which denied them the basics of due process, such as a presumption of innocence. The number of sex discrimination complaints on campus increased from 17,724 (2000-2010) to 80,739 (2011-2020).

The 2011 rules created an ideological divide. One side took a #MeToo approach that demanded accusers, who were and are overwhelmingly female, to be automatically believed; due process, like the right to question an accuser, was viewed as a slap in the face of victimized women. (Note: some surveys find that males report being assaulted at rates comparable to females but they are far less likely to file official complaints.)

The other side took a traditionally Western approach to justice, with due process being its foundation, and to freedom of speech as being essential to academia. Due process advocates pointed to the extreme damage inflicted on people when they cannot defend themselves against possibly false accusations. In political terms, the conflict breaks down basically along Democratic and Republican lines.

After Trump’s election to the presidency, the Obama rules were revoked in 2017. On May 6, 2020, after years of furious debate in public and Congress, new rules were enacted which pushed Title IX back closer to its original intent. The definition of “sexual harassment” was narrowed and due process returned. But front-stage and behind-the-scenes maneuvers have continued between policy and implementation.

The most visible field of battle is the courts, with the most recent lawsuits being called in favor of the Trump DOE. Federal courts in both D.C. and New York declined to block implementation of the new Title IX. The D.C. case was the more significant one because it was brought by 18 Democratic attorney generals.

The legal questions may not be over, however. The preliminary injunctions were denied because plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success, irreparable harm, or damage to the public interest. This means plaintiffs are free to beef up their cases and pursue permanent injunctions. It is unusual for a court that denies a preliminary injunction to grant a permanent one, but it is not unknown.

The courts also offered the “resistance” a potential weapon. The DC federal court noted, “Even though certain conduct may not constitute sexual harassment under the Rule…schools still retain the authority to address and discipline such behavior through their own codes of conduct. As the Department [DOE] stated in one of its filings…’the Rule creates a grievance process only for conduct that falls within the Department’s definition of sexual harassment: if an allegation of misconduct does not fall within that definition, the Rule does not require or prohibit anything of schools regarding whether or how they must respond’.” Educational institutions have wiggle room to develop their own definitions, policies, and protections on sexual harassment, as long as they do not clearly violate Title IX or state laws.

Translation: implementation is now the battleground, and this is where passive-aggressive resistance thrives. In a January 15 op-ed for Inside Higher Education, Brett Sokolow—president of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA)—advised: “About 20 to 25 percent of the (new Title IX) regulations are potentially very detrimental to the cause of sex and gender equity in education, and we will need… to work within those requirements, challenge them in court or find clever work-arounds.” [Emphasis added.]

ATIXA is the main source of national training and legal interpretation for Title IX, with the self-stated mission of “gender equity in education.” It attempted one “clever work-around” a few months ago by challenging a new rule: Campuses must post “all materials used to train” anyone who facilitates a resolution process. There must be transparency. This may seem common sense and a basic to justice, but many of those accused have had to sue to access the colleges’ guidelines used in their own hearings.

The College Fix reported on ATIXA’s reaction to the transparency requirement. At a May 11 webinar, Sokolow told more than 4,200 participants to publish only the title—not the content—of training materials. Why? “Materials from ATIXA…are proprietary and copyrighted,” he explained. “Those materials cannot be posted…because it will violate our copyright. People…are not permitted to have a copy,” which could be reviewed only in an administrator’s office. Objections were to be sent to ATIXA, and the materials would be made available under “comfortable” circumstances. Colleges that comply with the DOE’s transparency requirement, he stated, would “get a letter from us kindly asking to make sure” the materials “are removed.”

The College Fix concluded, “The implication is clear: ATIXA will sue colleges for following a legally binding regulation.”

The DOE swiftly responded. The College Fix reported “a blog post” reiterated “that Title IX training materials, among other ‘important information,’ must be posted on schools’ websites—no exceptions.” Its regulations do “not permit a school to choose whether to post the training materials or offer a public inspection option…If a school’s current training materials are copyrighted or otherwise protected as proprietary business information (for example, by an outside consultant), the school still must comply with the Title IX Rule.”

ATIXA has backpedaled since then, but if Sokolow’s webinar session had not been publicized, would ATIXA’s obstruction have been addressed so quickly…or at all?

ATIXA is undoubtedly planning similar “clever work-arounds” to obstruct the implementation of the new Title IX. An article in Education Drive quotes Sokolow extensively and indicates that the key obstructive strategy will be to argue that the new regulations are too difficult and complex to be instituted. The article refers to “complex new federal regulations.” The following are some of Sokolow’s claims with a brief analysis included in italics.

  • The new “faux tribunal” has a “slow and stilted” pace, and could stretch for days. The current system of investigation and hearings can stretch for many days. Moreover, hearings that determine a young person’s future should be cautious and thorough.
  • “It will take skilled litigators to manage all this.” As opposed to unskilled litigators or adjudicators?
  • Title IX administrators are “irate” because they spent years adjusting to the previous rules, and “now a grenade was thrown in all their efforts.” Regulations often change, and it is the job of administrators to implement them. If they cannot or will not do their jobs, then they should resign.
  • The new regulation is vague. The new rule is less vague than the previous one.
  • Accusers will not want to pursue formal investigations; this discourages them from coming forward. If an accuser does not want an accusation to be examined objectively, then the case should not be pursued in the first place.
  • Adapting the existing system during the health crisis is difficult. This is counter-intuitive. Surely, the best time to overhaul a system is when campuses are empty and there are no active hearings.
  • Both parties will be represented by an adviser, who can be a lawyer, which will advantage rich students. This is a problem throughout society. In the current system, however, an accuser is backed by powerful, tax-funded institutions; an accused is denied representation.
  • The makeup of the hearing panels will vary according to an institution’s discretion. It varies now, and this discretion merely allows institutions to tailor the process to what may be unique needs. This is a strong point.
  • The regulation allows the panel to consider only testimony given during the hearing. The ability to question witnesses is an integral part of due process.

The foregoing are a few of the objections raised in a single article—all of which depict the new regulation as complex and unworkable in order to set up a framework for obstructing its implementation. (Interestingly, arguments from justice or morality are disappearing.) This is a glimpse into the resistance within the huge network of organizations that constitute academia. Multiply the passive-aggressive scenario by tens of thousands of educational institutions. Then apply this resistance to almost every agency in government.

On paper, the Trump DOE has won the Title IX struggle, and its impressive victory should not be diminished. In practice, however, it is unclear whether the Sokolows of the world and of government will prevail. The DOE is the machine; Sokolows are the sand in its cogs.

Can Lockdown Learning Liberate Male Students?

Can Lockdown Learning Liberate Male Students?

The COVID-19 cloud hanging over North American universities may contain a ray of sunlight. It may ease what is called “the boy problem” in education—a significantly reduced number of male students and of male achievement in colleges. As bleak as isolated learning may seem to some, it may be more male friendly than many campuses.

Critics denounce off-campus learning as a lesser service being offered at full price. Certainly, the college experience can be enhanced by direct interaction with professors, other students, and organizations. But a radical left ideology dominates the university system, and it is sustained by an army of administrators who implement policies of social control, from speech codes to sexual mores. This often leads to stifled opinions, preferential treatment of some classes of student, accusations of misconduct, speech police, campus hearings with no due process, and punishment with no appeal. There can be advantages to a stripped-down version of learning without the social justice and social control that turns the benefits of interaction into cruel dangers.

An October 2018 article in the New York Times, “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators,” complained,

The ideological bent of those overseeing collegiate life is having the biggest impact on campus culture…I received a disconcerting email this year from a senior staff member in the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement at Sarah Lawrence College, where I teach. The email was soliciting ideas…for a conference, open to all of us, titled “Our Liberation Summit.” The conference would touch on such progressive topics as liberation spaces on campus, Black Lives Matter and justice for women as well as for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and allied people.

The conservative professor objected to the political polarization of this campus conference and the power of the administrator. Those who reject any tax-funded conference can sympathize, not because of the politics involved but because of the taxes. The fact that “those overseeing collegiate life” push their own orthodoxy is insult added to injury.

The silver lining of at-home learning: students who attend class in pajamas have little occasion to encounter social justice warrior (SJW) bureaucrats. In on-campus life, they seem to be everywhere.

In 2017, Todd J. Zywicki and Christopher Koopman of George Mason University published a study entitled “The Changing of the Guard: The Political Economy of Administrative Bloat in American Higher Education.” They found,

Universities have increased spending, but very little of that increased spending has been related to classroom instruction; rather, it is being directed toward non-classroom costs. As a result, there has been a growth in academic bureaucracies, as universities focus on hiring employees to manage or administer people, programs, and regulations. Between 2001 and 2011, these sorts of hires have increased 50% faster than the number of classroom instructors. This trend…has become ubiquitous in…American higher education. (p.2). [Data draws on WSJ article “Deans List: Hiring Spree Fattens College Bureaucracy—And Tuition.”]

Focusing on a narrow field of administrators offers a glimpse of the harm these bureaucrats inflict. Consider the impact of one branch on one student population: Title IX on male students, who have been called “the new minority” at colleges. This is particularly true of males from low-income families.

Jim Shelley, the manager of the Men’s Resource Center at Lakeland Community College in Ohio, explains one reason why; campuses feel hostile to them. They feel that college is geared toward protecting and promoting females.

“Not only are there not programs like ours [on other campuses] that are supportive of male students, but at most college campuses the attitude is that men are the problem.…I’ve had male students tell me that their first week in college they were made to feel like potential rapists.”

A great deal of attention in the last decade has been directed to “the boy problem” in education. A few examples include:

Logically, administrators seem to be ideally placed to ensure that campuses are welcoming to and not hostile environments for males. In reality, they do the opposite. Just one example are sex specific scholarships that overwhelmingly favor female applicants—often prohibiting male ones—even though Title IX’s implementing regulation, 34 CFR 106, prohibits federally tax-supported scholarships that, “On the basis of sex, provide different amounts or types of such assistance, limit eligibility for such assistance which is of any particular type or source, apply different criteria, or otherwise discriminate.”

A broader overview reveals how badly administrators may be failing or actively harming male students. The overview involves taking universities at their word and examining the makeup of staff, such as Title IX administrators. A popular campus idea is that only another member of a specific gender or race understands the experience of that gender or race; only blacks understand the black experience, etc.

This argument is used to push for a so-called diversity of hiring that gives female students access to female counselors and mentors, for example. Again, this approach leads to preferential hiring based on gender or race—that is, quotas—which are anathema to any system of merit. Nevertheless, socially engineered quotas are normal at universities. If applied even handedly, this should result in a population of administrators that roughly mirrors the population of students. This seems especially important for Title IX administrators who are supposed to ensure non-discrimination based on sex.

What is the gender mix of the student populations? It varies from campus to campus, of course, but an October 2019 article entitled The Degrees of Separation Between the Genders in College in the Washington Post renders a fair sense of it. The article states, “Fifty years ago, 58 percent of U.S. college students were men. Today, 56 percent are women, Education Department estimates show.” This is a commonly cited statistic.

CaptureOne would expect Title IX administrators, therefore, to be half-female and half-male, or something roughly close to this ratio. A review of the websites of the largest public university in each state, however, reveals a huge gender gap in Title iX staff. In the 51 universities, there were 168 female staffers to 48 male, or 3.5 times more females.

If this gap resulted from free market factors, then it would be an interesting and harmless anomaly that probably reflects how employment preferences differ between the genders. No solution would be required because no problem would exist. But universities are socially engineered institutions. They receive Title IX funding and other federal benefits on the specific condition of non-discrimination. If blacks constituted 44 percent of a student body while 3.5 times more whites than blacks occupied highly paid positions of authority, there would be a cry of “racism!” No one cries out for male students.

Administrators will not give up their positions easily, simply because they are highly paid and bring status. According to the 2012-13 “Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey” by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the average annual salary of a “Chief Executive Officer of a System” in a two-year institution was $291,132; in a four-year institution, $370,470; in a doctoral context, $431,575. By contrast, a 2015-16 report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found the average salary of a tenured professor at a public college was $78,762. Again, this is not a hard comparison, but it renders a good general sense of the scope of the problem and why the administrators will not easily cede their authority.

Ultimately, the solution is to privatize colleges and run them as businesses in which owners make decisions, usually according to market feedback. In the absence of this and the presence of tax-funding, however, it is blatantly wrong to privilege one class of human being and discriminate against another class in employment and opportunity. It is especially hypocritical to do so within a program that allegedly champions non-discrimination.

If the lockdown of universities loosens the death grip that anti-male administrators have on college campuses, then at least one benefit will come from it. If SJW social justice bureaucrats are shown to be irrelevant, perhaps cash-strapped universities will consider a return to academia and cease to be petri dishes of social experimentation.

Myths and Hoaxes of Sexual Abuse Stoke ‘Politically Useful’ Fear

Myths and Hoaxes of Sexual Abuse Stoke ‘Politically Useful’ Fear

“[S]ince love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”—Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

For those who want to control a population, fear is more useful than love and far easier to elicit. A culture conditioned to feel knee-jerk fear allows political power to rise on a tide of emotions without the need for arguments and evidence. When the adrenaline of fear hits, people cry out for social control in the belief that government can protect them. Those who want to verify a crisis before acting on it are seen as part of the problem because they obstruct or delay the “solution.” For decades, a fear response has been embedded into society through constant cries of “danger!” Many alarm bells have been manufactured, however, because they are politically useful to those who want to produce legislation or funding.

The issue of “sexual violence and women” illustrates this process. Women have received the unrelenting message that they live in danger from men, and only government can save them from it. Predictably, many politicians support and promote this process and conclusion.

The dynamic can be glimpsed through a phenomenon that has become commonplace within feminism: declaring an “awareness month” for specific issues like domestic violence (DV). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing so. But the “awareness” declared usually promotes a myth that is propped up a hoax.

Consider one such event: National Stalking Awareness Month (January).

When stalking involves genuine threats of harm, it is a problem that should be legally addressed. But awareness advocates use the term so broadly that criminal behavior is lumped together with totally legal activities.  The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCADV) defines stalking as a “pattern of behavior that makes you feel afraid, nervous, harassed, or in danger” which can be physical or verbal contact, unwanted gifts and communication. This subjective definition furthers the myth that common and innocuous behavior, such as repeatedly emailing someone after a breakup, is a criminal matter. Anyone who questions whether persistent emails deserve legal intervention or who suggests a private solution instead is accused of promoting violence against women.

The myth is then given urgency by hoax statistics such as “one in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization.” The alarmingly high rate of victimization is understandable when it is seen to include unwanted communication. “Repeatedly receiving unwanted telephone calls, voice, or text messages was the most commonly experienced stalking tactic for both female and male victims of stalking (78.8% for women and 75.9% for men).”

A myth joins a hoax and together they seek government support. First recognized in 2004 by the NCADV, National Stalking Awareness Month has received Congressional approval and a Presidential Proclamation. The harm the myth does becomes official. The discussion of stalking now focuses almost entirely on women as victims and men as victimizers. The expanded definition introduces immense subjectivity into the enforcement of laws and policies. The alleged pervasiveness of stalking encourages oversensitivity and fuels fear. Sensationalized rhetoric does much the same. The NCADV, for example, views stalking as a first step toward femicide.

What is the solution to this first indication that women may be murdered? The NCADV offers a list of them—every one of which involves more government intervention. “Ask your legislators to update the federal domestic violence firearm prohibitor to including misdemeanor dating violence and misdemeanor stalking” is one suggestion. Laws and policies increase dramatically, as they have over past decades, but the problem never goes away. It is too politically useful to go away.

Gradually, a climate of fear becomes the cultural norm, especially on college campuses where awareness campaigns and sexual myths are popular. But the panic hits Main Street, as well.

On April 6, the New York Times published an article entitled “A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide.” Lockdowns trapped women in close proximity to abusive men, it maintained, and this situation resulted in soaring rates of DV.  The conclusion was based upon warnings from DV activists, whose salaries usually depend upon the public attention given to this issue, and upon any reported increase in calls to DV hotlines—calls which were handled as though they were confirmed cases.

In an earlier article for the Libertarian Institute, I observed that police reports are more reliable sources by far, for several reasons. “People access DV hotlines…for  many non-DV issues…but they report this crime to the police. The same person may phone a hotline many times, but a police report is…‘one person, one case’. The funding of a DV service often depends on its volume, which encourages overstatement. Police accounts also ground DV in reality, with real names and verifiable details rather than anonymous reports.” The rate of police reports during the lockdown in many or most cities has shown a decline or little change.

Nevertheless, mainstream media around the world echoed the New York Times article. The UK Independent (April 15) stated Domestic abuse killings appear to double during UK’s lockdown,” for example. The main source cited was an anti-DV “campaigner, who is chief executive of domestic abuse charity Nia.”

Meanwhile, other newspaper accounts indicated that crime in general was sharply down in UK during the same period. This does not mean murders were down, of course, but it raises questions, even if the Independent’s account is accurate. What was the general rate of murder? Did the crime increase for both sexes and, perhaps, more for men than for women? Can murder, which has many motives, be automatically ascribed to DV? Was the murder done by a male partner, as most articles suggested, or was a stranger or a woman the perpetrator? How can the last question be answered if those accused have not been tried?

In America, where murder rates have generally soared since the lockdown, a substantial number of police departments reported a decrease in DV. This should give pause to those reporting on the issue. Instead, the data was strangely interpreted. A recent headline in The Financial Post captured the gist of it, “No surge in domestic violence cases during COVID-19 lockdown—that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.” In short, reports of decline are reason to worry about an increase. Counter-evidence did not discourage fear mongering. Remember, it serves a political purpose and fits an established narrative.

The myths and hoaxes continue to block the possibility of genuine solutions emerging. A big step toward a genuine solution to stalking would be a definition that includes only harm or threat of harm to person and/or property and that includes men equally. A big step toward solving DV would be to credit only investigated cases and to acknowledge that both sexes are victimized at roughly the same rate.

All victims benefit from the truth. Unfortunately, the truth suffers from the disadvantage of being far less politically useful.

Men’s Lives Matter: Male Victims of Sexual Abuse

Men’s Lives Matter: Male Victims of Sexual Abuse

When a woman sexually abuses a man, the pain inflicted is dismissed by those whose political paradigm does not include men as victims.Unfortunately, these voices dominate the research, media, and legislation that surrounds the issue of sexual victimization.

Their narrative: “Women are victims, men are perpetrators.” This rigid approach even ignores the glaring male-on-male sexual violence in prisons because it does not fit the mold; in fact, if prisoners were counted, then men might well show a greater rate of rape than women. The blindness to male victimization inflicts a second injustice on every male survivor who is either viewed as a liar or as unimportant. Female survivors of rape in the ‘50s were treated in much the same way by law enforcement and the court system.

The situation with the sexual abuse of men is slowly changing. A few years ago, the CDC added a category of sexual abuse called “made to penetrate,” which is an important but almost entirely overlooked form of sexual abuse, perhaps because it applies only to males. A report entitled “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions” was published in a 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. There, UCLA researchers Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer explain, “By introducing the term, ‘made to penetrate,’ the CDC has added new detail to help understand what happens when men are sexually victimized…Therefore, to the extent that males experience nonconsensual sex differently (i.e., being made to penetrate), male victimization will remain vastly undercounted in federal data collection on violent crime.” Stemple and Meyer conclude, “we first argue that it is time to move past the male perpetrator and female victim paradigm [of rape]. Overreliance on it stigmatizes men who are victimized.”

Including the category ‘made to penetrate’ could shift the entire paradigm of sexual violence. The CDC, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010-2012 State Report, released in 2017, indicates (Tables 3.1 and 3.5):

Males:

  • Made to penetrate: 1.7 million
  • Rape: Numbers too small to report a reliable estimate
  • Sexual coercion: 1.6 million
  • Unwanted sexual contact: 1.9 million

Females:

  • Rape: 1.5 million
  • Made to penetrate: Numbers too small to report a reliable estimate
  • Sexual coercion: 2.4 million
  • Unwanted sexual contact: 2.5 million

With this shift of paradigm, female-on-male violence may start to receive attention. The problem is enormous. BOJ statistics for 2018 show the imprisonment rate in America as 431 sentenced per 100,000 residents. Extrapolating from the figures for federal prison, well over 90% of prisoners are male. In its report “No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons,” Human Rights Watch indicates that approximately 20% of male prisoners are sexually victimized. Most sexual violence professionals, however, seem indifferent to the situation.

The rate of male sexual victims is likely understated because men notoriously underreport their abuse. The National Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline offers several reasons why. They are socialized against appearing “weak”; their abuse becomes the brunt of jokes; they believe there is no support out there for them…and with reason. The Maryland nonprofit Stop Abusive and Violence Environments summarized the situation. “On the one hand, about 25% of men who sought help from DV hotlines were connected with resources that were helpful. On the other hand, nearly 67%…reported that these DV agencies and hotline were not at all helpful. Many reported being turned away.” Their research tells “a story of male helpseekers who are often doubted, ridiculed, and given false information. This…impacts men’s physical and mental health.”

How can this happen in a society preoccupied with sexual abuse? The dominant narrative of sexual violence is identity politics. This claims that a person’s identity is not defined by a common humanity and the choices he or she makes as an individual. It is defined by the specific subcategories of humanity into which a person fits; gender and race are examples. Instead of humanity having common interests, such as freedom of religion, the subcategories have interests that clash. Men benefit at the expense of women. They do so by sexually oppressing women…or so the story goes.

The preceding statement reflects some historical truth. In the ‘50s, men as a class did receive preferential treatment in the workplace, academia, and from the general culture. Women who experienced sexual and domestic violence were blamed for their own victimization. But society has changed at a dizzying pace. We live in a healthier society that contains a fatal flaw: identity politics. If people are defined by biological subcategories that are in conflict, then society is at war—a forever war. Fairness or equality to one class means pulling down another. If men perpetrate sexual violence, then raising up women means policing and punishing males. When facts contradict the narrative, they may be given a cursory nod, then the narrators return to the script.

In the ‘60s, the unjust treatment of female rape victims sparked a sexual revolution that ripped open the culture. But no revolution defends male victims. Instead, the ‘60s revolution has been institutionalized within academia, bureaucracy, and law. It has calcified. The established sexual order now depends on ignoring male victims or dismissing them as inconvenient. It must ignore the fact that violence has no gender. Violence only has individuals who abuse and individuals who are abused. Excluding women or men from either category shows a willful blindness to reality. It expresses political self-interest, not justice.

Women: Reject Victimhood, Embrace Your Individualism

Women: Reject Victimhood, Embrace Your Individualism

As a teenager I lived on the streets for as short a period as I could manage. This one experience brought more violence into my life than I care to remember, let alone describe, but it did not define me. I mention the experience for one reason; it is not ignorance or a lack of empathy that makes me flatly state that sexual violence against women has declined over time. Almost everything is better for North American women now than it was decades ago.

Yet North America is widely decried as a “rape culture,” and the condemnation is passionate to the point of sounding almost religious. “Rape culture thrives in the dark,” Anthony Zenkus writes in Common Dreams. “It hates the light. It tries to tell victims and future victims that the dark is normal…It succeeds in hiding the sun, keeping the light away and changing the subject. It makes excuses for the dark. Boys will be boys.”

A “rape culture” is defined as one in which the dominant attitudes normalize or trivialize the sexual abuse of women. 1970s feminism coined the term to describe the allegedly pervasive threat of sexual violence by which men oppress women. For fifty years, women have been taught to be afraid of men and angry with them.

It is time for the fear and rage to stop. A social revolution has overturned sexual attitudes since then, and the results have been remarkable. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network—America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization—such attacks have fallen by more than half since 1993 even though the definition of sexual abuse has expanded. Yet, according to most voices in the media and politics, the danger to women never seems to diminish. Quite the contrary.

Campus rape is called “epidemic” and “getting worse under Betsy DeVos” despite colleges being empty for months. The abuse of indigenous women in North America is denounced as “genocide,” but the fact that indigenous men are abused at almost the same rate is rarely mentioned. Domestic abuse is said to be soaring due to COVID-19 lockdowns even though there is evidence it is not. And why is April considered Sexual Violence Awareness Month rather than the Sexual Celebration Month?

The explanation lies in two words: funding and status. Ask yourself who gains the most in money or power by stoking ubiquitous fear and anger? “The sexual violence industry” benefits by garnering the support that comes from terrified, outraged, and intimidated people. This industry consists of politicians who get elected on “women’s issues,” in much the same manner as Hillary Clinton almost did. It consists of bureaucrats whose wealth and prestige rest upon a gendered narrative of women’s oppression. And their pay-offs can be huge. The FY 2020 budget request for the Office on Violence Against Women, for example, totals $492.5 million. The industry also sustains academics, researchers, and other “experts” whose careers flourish…that is, if they take the sanctioned line.

Facts do not seem to matter. If they did, then male survivors of domestic violence would be recognized; again, by most accounts, they experience domestic violence (DV) at roughly the same rate as women. Or, rather, facts do start to matter when they become obstacles that need to be overshadowed by emotions, like fear.

Fear can be incredibly valuable. Adrenaline flashes through the body and increases the chance a person will survive in the face of immediate danger, like a careening car. But a pervasive fear—one that dominates everyday life—hurts people by shutting down their ability to assess what is real and what is a reasonable response.

It also makes them easier to control. In his novel 1984, George Orwell depicted a dystopian society called Oceania in which “no emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred.” The fear made people obedient to authority. The hatred bonded them into a collective that assembled for regular two-minute hate sessions of screaming; the world was divided into “them” versus “us.” When combined, the two emotions killed individuality and the willingness to question.  During most of the novel, for example, Oceania is at war with Eastasia and friendly to Eurasia. But Eurasia had once been the enemy. This earlier truth is unacknowledged because people are unwilling to contradict the now-official history.

Pitting the sexes against each another—“them” versus “us”—creates a sexual and social dystopia. It lumps all women into one class and denies their ability to think as individuals who can assess their own risks in life. But when a woman defines her identity as an automatic victim, she is far less likely to question authority and more likely to be hostile to those who do.

Women need to strenuously reject victimhood and to realize that they share a common humanity with men. Otherwise, they will be used by those who create or worsen a crisis in order to profit from it. This process will go on indefinitely because there will never be enough law or cash for the sexual violence industry to declare “mission accomplished.” Its real mission is to continue the flow of power and money.

Tulane University Accused Of Anti-Male, Title IX Violation

Tulane University Accused Of Anti-Male, Title IX Violation

A complaint filed on April 17 with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) could echo through college corridors across America. Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE)—a “national policy movement for fairness, due process and the presumption of innocence”—accuses Tulane University of sexual discrimination against male students. A review of 300 large colleges conducted by SAVE’s Title IX Equity Project found many institutions to be vulnerable to similar complaints.

The issue is federal funding. Tulane is a private university, but it accepts tax money for student aid. This obligates it to accept the policy conditions attached to funding. Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination in federally supported schools. 34 CFR 106—Title IX’s implementing regulation—prohibits scholarships or other financial aid that, “on the basis of sex, provide different amounts or types of such assistance, limit eligibility for such assistance…or otherwise discriminate.” (106.37(a)(1)) The alternative is to refuse federal money, as some religious colleges do, and maintain more control over policy.

Instead, Tulane’s tuition-aid page “strongly” encourages “all families” to apply for a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as for Tulane Institutional aid; a FAFSA must accompany the latter. The page claims that “all admitted students are considered for merit-based scholarships.”

There is reason to question this claim.

Tulane has a history of offering female-only scholarships. It is laudable to promote women’s education, but Tulane’s methods create problems. For one, in accepting federal funds, the university accepted Title IX. And then there is the ethical matter of privileging one class of student over another, especially since males are a minority at Tulane (slightly over 40 percent) and have a lower graduation rate within four years.

Tulane also has a history of being investigated by the OCR for sexual discrimination. In 2018, Title IX attorney and mother of two boys, Margaret Valois filed a complaint that sparked an OCR investigation. Valois offered female-only scholarships as examples of sexual discrimination. She stated elsewhere, “Tulane’s implementation of Title IX provides greater educational opportunities for female students…When opportunities and benefits are offered to one group because of their sex…it is patently unfair”

Tulane and the OCR quickly entered into a resolution agreement that stated, “By September 6, 2019, the University will ensure that it is not treating male students differently on the basis of sex…with respect to financial assistance.” Relevant faculty were to receive Title IX training, with Tulane’s Institutional Equity Team presumably preventing discrimination.

Or, perhaps, not. The university appears to be currently violating 34 CFR 106 on same-sex financial aid. The provision allows an exception, however. Same-sex financial aid is permitted when “established pursuant to domestic or foreign wills, trusts, bequests, or similar legal instruments or by acts of a foreign government “ which specify sex. But a condition adheres. “….Provided, that the overall effect of…such sex-restricted…forms of financial assistance does not discriminate on the basis of sex.” (106.37(b)(1)) Overall, the financial aid must not disadvantage either sex.

SAVE says Tulane’s aid policies do. The complaint asserts that its website shows three internal scholarships designed for male students. This contrasts with ten female-only internal ones. In terms of external scholarships, the complaint alleges Tulane “lists external female-only scholarships on its website but does not list any of the external male-only scholarships identified in a national survey of sex-specific scholarships.” By contrast, six female-only external scholarships exist. “This practice is prohibited by 106.37(a)(1)),” the complaint concludes, because it disadvantages male students. The university has not responded to direct queries.

And, so, a resolution similar to the 2019 one has been requested.

In November 2018, the Inside Higher Education article New Scrutiny for Women’s Programs” opened, “University of Minnesota ends requirement that some scholarships go to women. Tulane evaluates its programs limited to women. Other institutions face new complaints.” Whether or not SAVE’s complaint succeeds, it joins the rising cry for male students to be treated as equals.

Do Activists Want Domestic Violence To Increase During the Pandemic?

Do Activists Want Domestic Violence To Increase During the Pandemic?

A contradiction is grabbing the narrative on domestic violence (DV) during the coronavirus lockdown: a decline in police reports on DV means the rate is increasing and more government is needed. A cynic might wonder if DV experts want to stoke the panic that drives funding and legislation. DV is too important, however, to allow either cynicism or opportunism to dominate the discussion. Reality should fill this role.

DV may tend to increase during times of stress, but this cannot be assumed. A May 8 headline in The Atlantic ventures, “The Worst Situation Imaginable for Family Violence. All over the United States, adults and children have been quarantined for weeks with people who hurt them.” Assuming that “the worst situation imaginable” is upon us quickly transforms into statements of ‘fact,’ such as the claim of increasing DV. Even so, the headline is more realistic than most others because it refers to “adult” survivors, which gives a nod to the many men who are abused. A 2015 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that more men than women had been physically attacked by an intimate partner: 4.2 million male victims, and 3.5 million female victims. There is a burning need for media to deal with what is real about DV.

The data on current and changing rates often rely on two sources: hotlines and police reports. The latter is far more accurate, for several reasons. People access DV hotlines and services for help on many non-DV issues, including housing, immigration, and medical problems, but they report crime to the police. The same person may phone a hotline many times, but a police report is almost always ‘one person, one case’. The funding of a DV service often depends on its volume, which encourages overstatement. Police accounts also ground DV in reality, with real names and verifiable details rather than anonymous reports. When police statistics are available, they should be preferred to anecdotal accounts by advocates.

Yet media often uses more political and less reliable reports over crime ones, perhaps because they are more attention grabbing. An article in the Marshall Project is an example; “Is Domestic Violence Rising During the Coronavirus Shutdown? Here’s What the Data Shows.” It notes that police reports in three cities, including Chicago, DV appear to have declined during COVID-19. After mentioning the drop, the article states, “but police and experts say that may be a problem…News outlets across the country have written about advocates’ concerns that crime statistics are masking an uncounted rise in domestic violence.”

It is always valid to question discrepancies in information from different sources, but news stories should not work to dismiss hard evidence that casts doubt on whether there is a DV crisis. They should not turn hard data of a decline in DV into an alarm bell about an increase.

An ABC headline declares, “Fewer domestic violence calls during COVID-19 outbreak has California officials concerned.” A Los Angeles Police Chief warns “that’s going in the wrong direction with what we believe is actually happening” without adding evidence of why the direction is “wrong.”  A City Attorney declares, “I am very alarmed by what appears to be a dramatic decrease in reported crimes involving our most vulnerable.” Both men presume that trapped victims are unable to reach out even though email, texting, and cell phones make communication easier than ever before.

The Denver Channel states, “In March, Denver Police reports show a decrease in calls for domestic violence compared to last year during the same month but in Aurora, Gateway Domestic Violence Services saw an increase in calls from March 19-25, 2020 compared to the previous week.” Why would it be easier for a victim to call Gateway than a police line? People know 911; how many have memorized the Gateway number? The report merely highlights conflicting accounts, both of which may be accurate.

The Chicago Tribune weighs in with an article entitled, “Why a drop in domestic violence reports might not be a good sign.” NewportRI runs the headline “Newport County hasn’t seen uptick in reported domestic violence incidents during coronavirus pandemic,” and it follows with the statement “but it’s important to note the data doesn’t tell the whole story.” The Iowa Capital Dispatch declares, “The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has not seen a huge growth in calls to its statewide hotline, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Pingel. But it is anticipating an increase.”

News stories are becoming opinion and advocacy pieces. Typically, they present a truly wrenching story of DV; police and other statistics are mentioned; even data that shows a decrease, however, is construed as proof of an increase and is used to call for more government support, more intervention. Sometimes unsubstantiated “data” is thrown into the mix. On April 5, for example, the New Mexico Political Report asserted: “Last week, domestic violence incidents in Bernalillo County reportedly jumped 78 percent.” When the EndtoDV organization attempted to verify this alarming statistic, County Undersheriff Larry Koren could not “confirm anything resembling these numbers.”

No one knows the real rate of DV under COVID-19, and some indications point to a definite rise. Rates of DV naturally fluctuate over time and geography, however, with peaks generally occurring in Spring when the preceding figures were collected.

As a woman who has experienced severe DV, it is difficult not to react viscerally and urgently to cries for help. But people need to pause and assess whether the call is justified before rushing toward solutions that impact the lives of others; false solutions harm real victims and those accused, as well as their families. The first priority must be a respect for evidence over assumptions, for truth over advocacy. All approaches to this sensitive, explosive issue must start with what is real.

Native American Boys: Forgotten Victims

Native American Boys: Forgotten Victims

A recent study by the Nebraska State Patrol and the Commission on Indian Affairs should change how the media and lawmakers view violence against Native Americans. They should look carefully at male victims, but it is far from clear that they will.

The Omaha World-Herald offers a surprising statistic, “The greatest percentage of Native American missing persons are boys age 17 or younger, accounting for 73.3% of all Native American missing persons in Nebraska.” In fact, they account for 59.6% of missing people in the state. The data is even the more remarkable because it resulted from LB 154, a state bill to “require a report on missing Native American women in Nebraska.” The 21-line bill that authorizes the study mentions “Native American women” six times; men and boys are not mentioned at all.

At long last, male victims of violence may receive the same attention as female ones. Or will they?

Some telling comments conclude the study. Under “Important Related Information,” it states, “During the period of this investigation…there have been several tragic events involving young Native women in Nebraska: the cases of Ashlea Aldrich and Esther Wolfe. These alleged crimes against Native women make plain” why the study and “its ongoing follow through are vitally important.” State Senator Tom Brewer, who co-sponsored LB 154, is quoted: “We need all law enforcement to communicate and work together to address the exploitation and victimization of Native women.” The concluding words of Judi M. Gaiashkibos, Executive Director, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, speaks only of “women and children” and laments “actions and policies” that “have displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance and diminished their status…leaving them vulnerable to violence.”

Men and boys are nowhere. Nor does the media seemingly note even the possibility of male victims. A Lincoln Journal Star article that anticipated LB 154 was entitled “Senators want to step up investigations of missing or abused Native women.” And a word commonly applied to violence against Native American women is “epidemic.” These women deserve every bit of attention and compassion they receive, but so do males.

Lawmakers also ignore male victims. The latest Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which awaits reauthorization, is an example. It sets the national standard on how sexual abuse is handled, including “Standardized protocols for…missing and murdered Indians.” (Sec. 904) Native American women is one of the Act’s core issues with TITLE IX—Safety for Indian Women addressing the problem. Title IX opens, “More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women, or 84.3 percent, have experienced violence in their lifetime”—a statistic drawn from a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey entitled “Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men.”

The statistic is appalling, but VAWA makes a curious omission in quoting it. Immediately after the 84.3 percent figure, the Survey cited reads, “More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native men (81.6 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime.” In other words, Native American men experience only 2.7 percent less violence than women. A few lines later, the  Survey states “55.5 percent” of women and “43.2 percent” of men “have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner,” figures that differ by 12.3 percent. And, yet, this data does not make it into VAWA.

It is difficult to avoid concluding that VAWA slants important evidence in order to champion female victims and dismiss male ones. In theory, the programs VAWA administers are available to both sexes even though the language is gendered for females. In practice, VAWA is widely accused of making only a tiny portion of its considerable resources available to men.

The plight of male victims must be well known to lawmakers who appear to be passionate about issues like domestic violence (DV). A 2019 article in Indian Country Today, “Breaking the silence on violence against Native American men” cites “a recent study by the National Institute of Justice”; it reported that “more than 1.4 million American Indian and Alaska Native men have experienced violence in their lifetime.” The total may be an understatement. Males victims of DV ”are often reluctant to seek help or tell friends or family out of embarrassment and/or fear of not being believed. They may worry that they—and not their partner—will be blamed for the abuse.”

The blind eye to male victims is not limited to Native Americans, however, but pervades most discussions of DV. Consider the VAWA provision that allows battered immigrants to petition for legal status. In 2016, Attorney Gerald Nowotny called out the provision’s unfairness to men. Nowotny wrote, “The irony is that when it comes to the perception of domestic abuse, the focus is almost exclusively on men as the perpetrators of violence and abuse. The statistical reality is that more men than women are victims of intimate partner physical violence and psychological aggression.” Nowotny’s assessment derived from a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Justice that found more men than women experienced physical violence from an intimate partner and over 40% of severe physical violence.

But the assumption of mainstream media and lawmakers seems unshakable: men commit violence against women; men are not victims. What if this gender bias were a racial one? What if VAWA was the Violence Against Whites Act? There would be and there should be outrage. The same people should be as outraged as by the suffering of men who too often remain silent for fear of being ridiculed or not believed. In this regard, male victims today resemble female ones from decades ago; they are revictimized by a system that does want to hear their voices.

 

New York Times Hurts Survivors With Falsehoods About Domestic Violence

New York Times Hurts Survivors With Falsehoods About Domestic Violence

The dominant narrative on domestic violence (DV) during COVID-19 hurts survivors, like me. Decades ago, I was blinded in my left eye by a man who said he loved me even as his fist hit my face. I’ve tried to make sense of that insanity ever since. Why did he do it? Why did I stay? The one thing that anchors me to answers is reality—what is true of DV?—not what is emotional or political. The media delivers the opposite.

“Domestic Violence Calls Mount as Restrictions Linger: ‘No One Can Leave’” by Julie Bosman appeared in the New York Times on May 15 and addressed DV in Chicago; the article hurt rather than helped survivors to heal. Its central claim was that “the problems [of abuse] have only deepened since stay-at-home orders were first imposed. In Chicago, the number of people seeking help has increased significantly in recent weeks.“

The NYT article is typical of a DV meme that is spreading quickly through the media and may soon be embedded in legislation. The assumption that stay-at-home orders are increasing DV must be questioned because it is deeply flawed and takes survivors away from the reality they desperately require.

First, the article is factually inaccurate. It states, for example, “The Chicago Police Department said that domestic-violence related calls increased 12 percent during a period from the start of the year through mid-April, compared with the same time period in 2019.” This comparison is invalid on its face. Illinois’ stay-at-home order was implemented on March 21, and data from approximately three months prior is irrelevant to an analysis of the order’s effect on DV. Either Bosman is unaware of when Chicago’s stay-at-home order came into effect—the article does not state the effective date—or the numbers are misrepresented through sloppiness or deliberately. Since the article spins off these statistics, the skewed calculations are nontrivial.

More precise data offer a different picture. The Marshall Project examined police reports of DV since May 8 in three major cities, including Chicago, and stated, “reports of domestic abuse in three cities have dropped.” In Chicago, calls to the DV phone line increased while police reports declined; “Domestic violence [in police accounts is] down 23 percent” in recent weeks.

The article speculated that the difference between police reports and hotline accounts “may be because it’s harder for victims to get help during the pandemic.” This is possible, although dialing 911 should be no more difficult than dialing a hotline. The National Domestic Hotline (NDH) report for 2019 reveals another possibility. Hotline callers often inquire about peripheral issues, such as housing or immigration status. The NDH states, “14,590 contacts experience Housing…up 217% from 2018.” It is not clear whether an account of immediate abuse accompanied the housing query; it is clear that the hotlines are used to address a wide range of problems, especially when so many people are losing their housing and jobs. This is one reason why police reports are a more accurate measure of DV.

Table 9Bosman’s assumptions are also deep biased; for one thing, she refers to DV survivors as exclusively female. This is a false and harmful assumption. Estimates of male DV survivors vary widely, partly because men are notoriously reluctant to report abuse for fear of being ridiculed or dismissed. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief reports 4,255,000 males experienced physical violence from an intimate partner in 2015 [Table 11] compared to 3,455,000 females [Table 9]. Data sources differ on the numbers, but they do not differ on presenting males as a significant percentage of DV survivors.

Table 11The bottom line: Men endure a high and, perhaps, an equal rate of DV abuse as women. If stay-at-home confinement increases violence against women, then confined men would be equally vulnerable. To leave out abused males, let alone to imply that males are the perpetrators, takes the reader far from what is real about DV. An analysis that does so deserves no more credence than would U.S. homicide statistics that acknowledged only white deaths.

Bosman mentions stay-at-home children as being at greater risk, along with women. As evidence, she refers to unnamed doctors who are “hearing accounts” of people “lashing out, particularly at women and children.” The clear implication: males are endangering women and children. It is impossible to disprove hearsay accounts from unnamed sources, of course, but hard statistics indicate a different picture. Data on child abuse is difficult to collect and verify, but a 2006 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 70.6% of abused children were brutalized by mothers, and 29.4% by fathers. Female abusers are unlikely to have disappeared since then, and it does children a great disservice to distort the reality of their abuse. It makes the abuse harder to address, for one thing.

Getting the facts straight on DV is not an academic matter. There are human beings crying out in pain. Moreover, the media spotlight on DV and shut-in order may be a prelude to a legislative push; laws could embed harmful bias and distortion into public policy under which we all live. Certainly, DV funding for women only was included in the last coronavirus relief (CARES) bill. The first package included funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and $45 million for other DV programs. An April 13 letter from 41 Senators from 29 states called for future relief bills to allocate an additional $413 million to programs that address the “horrifying…surge” in DV. The primary vehicle for dispersing funds and services would be the controversial Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is widely accused of ignoring male survivors.

Survivors deserve better than what the media is delivering. All that survivors ask  for is an unprejudiced and factual view of an important issue. Nothing is more important than knowing the truth because this is where any hope of a solution begins.

No Evidence That Domestic Violence Is Rising Due To COVID-19

No Evidence That Domestic Violence Is Rising Due To COVID-19

A media blitz declares domestic violence (DV) is soaring during COVID-19 because stay-at-home orders have trapped women and children in close proximity to abusive men. Flawed evidence and assumptions underlie this claim but, with the panic of the crisis, it could be embedded in public policy, nevertheless.

A headline in Vice presents the perceived problem: “New York Is Seeing a ‘Frightening’ Increase in Domestic Violence Calls. Calls to New York’s domestic violence hotline rose by 30% in April, compared to the same month last year.” The information apparently comes from Crystal Justice, the Hotline’s chief development and marketing officer.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, however, “The New York City Police Department said that reports of domestic violence have ‘progressively declined’ since the onset of the pandemic. The crimes fell nearly 15% last month compared to March 2019.” Melinda Katz, district attorney in Queens, reports “domestic violence arrests have fallen nearly 40%.”  Perhaps the lesson of the Vice story is that calls to a hotline are not a good indicator of actual domestic violence rates.

An April 28 article in the Huffington Post offers a solution to the problem that it acknowledges as being only “likely” to exist. “Two advocacy organizations released a slew of recommendations for the next coronavirus relief legislation [CARES2], which Congress is drafting now. Chief on the list of demands is emergency funding.” The first CARES package included funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and $45 million for other DV programs.

A political push has been underway. In an April 13 letter, 41 Senators from 29 states called upon future COVID-19 relief bills to allocate an additional $413 million to programs that address the “horrifying…surge” in DV. The primary vehicle proposed for dispersing funds and services was the controversial Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has yet to secure reauthorization.

It is time to pause in the race to legislation and ask the most basic question: is there a surge in DV? The supporting evidence seems anecdotal and often histrionic; it is usually provided by advocates or organizations with a vested interest in DV funding. These factors do not invalidate the data offered, but they heighten the need for scrutiny and for more neutral sources to be checked.

The Coalition to End Domestic Violence recently conducted a rough verification test. The CEDV did a Google search on the terms “coronavirus,” “domestic violence,” “police reports,” and each senator’s state. (Police reports are among the most politically neutral sources that are easily available.) The results from the 14 states that responded were categorized to indicate a decrease in DV (more than 10% under baseline), a steady mode (less than 10% change), or an increase (more than 10% higher). Eight states revealed a decrease; five were steady; and one confirmed an increase.

The increase occurred in Boise, Idaho. The Idaho Statesman (March 18) explained, “Local police saw a mild increase in domestic reports last week, compared to the same time last year, but it’s too early to tell if it is a real trend. From March 7 through March 14, Boise Police responded to 63 reports of domestic battery and domestic disputes. In the same week of 2019, Boise Police responded to 55 reports of domestic battery and domestic disputes.”

The point is not that one set of claims is true, and the other is false. The point is that the reports are preliminary and contradictory. The claims need to be checked before hasty legislation embeds bad data into law.

Some people will ask, “What’s the harm?” Apart from expending taxpayer money in a time of fiscal crisis, DV prevention is correctly considered to be a worthy cause that deserves compassion and cash. A great deal of harm occurs, however. DV is further politicized and pushed away from what is real about the issue. For example, media accounts almost always refer to the victim as female and the abuser as male even though the abuse of men is common.

How common? Studies and estimates differ, partly because men are notoriously reluctant to report abuse for which they are often ridiculed or dismissed. The Centers for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2015) found that “In the U.S., about 1 in 3 (33.6% or 37.3 million) men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.” Meanwhile, “over 1 in 3 (36.4% or 43.6 million) women” experienced DV. The injuries to women tend to be more severe but the rate of abuse is roughly the same for both sexes.

The bottom line: Men endure a significant and, perhaps, an equal rate of DV. If stay-at-home confinement increases violence against women, then confined men should be equally vulnerable to greater abuse. Yet the proposed funding and protections are extended through the VAWA—with the ‘W’ standing for ‘Women’— which is notorious for discriminating against male victims. The Act’s language is gender neutral but its programs are not; shelters are almost always “women-only” places, for example.

The April 13 letter from the 41 Senators offers another example of anti-male discrimination. “American Indian and Alaska Native communities” are singled out as desperately needing DV services. “Shelters and Tribal advocacy programs,” the letter states, “are often all that stand between safety and Native women going missing and/or murdered.” This language echoes a section of VAWA—Title IX: Safety for Indian Women—which cites a stunning statistic from a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. “More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women, or 84.3 percent, have experienced violence in their lifetime.” The VAWA citation has a curious omission, however. Immediately thereafter, the Survey states that “more than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native men (81.6 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime.” In other words, the men experience only 2.7 percent less violence than the women. And, yet, only women are mentioned.

A head-long rush toward DV legislation that is based on fear of COVID-19 and on gender bias is far from harmless. It continues the problem by distorting the reality of DV and fixing prejudice against men into the law. Everything about COVID-19 claims should be checked and verified, including underlying assumptions.

Reform Title IX Now

Reform Title IX Now

The Department of Education’s (DOE) reform of Title IX — the law that bans discrimination based on sex at federally-funded schools — has been a long time coming. For three Senators, it has not been long enough. They strenuously object to the impact on how colleges handle accusations of sexual misconduct. No longer will an accused be presumed guilty until proven innocent. Instead, he will be accorded due process.

On March 31, Patty Murray — the leading Democrat on the Senate education committee — Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to express their opposition to finalizing the reform. “We urge you not to release the final Title IX rule at this time,” they argued, “and instead to focus on helping schools navigate the urgent issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This is an odd argument. Now seems to be the perfect time for colleges to work on policy and administrative matters. Campuses are empty. No sexual misconduct hearings will be interrupted; students will be spared the confusion of a mid-semester policy change; administrators can implement regulations before the new academic year.

Colleges are hardly caught off guard. The reform began on September 22, 2017 when the DOE withdrew the controversial Dear Colleague Letter (2011) that governed the treatment of sexual misconduct accusations on campus. The Obama-era Letter was widely criticized for mandating a low standard of proof for findings of guilt and encouraging the denial of due process, such as a defendant’s right to a lawyer. The DOE’s replacement guideline was officially made public on November 29, 2018 when the Federal Register published “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance.”

The proposed reform received vast attention and backlash in this time of #MeToo that demands automatic belief of women’s accusations. in January 2018, three national public interest organizations, including the highly influential National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), sued DeVos and the DOE to block the Title IX reform. The lawsuit claimed that the “new and extreme Title IX policy…was issued unlawfully and based on discriminatory beliefs about women and girls as survivors of sexual violence, in violation of the Constitution.” The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

Senator Murray has also attacked the Title IX proposals. A news release from her office reported on Murray’s statements at a Senate hearing on campus sexual assault. “I stand with you [accusers] and I’m going to keep fighting to stop what happened to you.” Murray accused the DOE of being “callous” and ignoring “the experiences of survivors,” which would “discourage students from coming forward after being sexually assaulted.” Gillibrand has decried DeVos as favoring “predators over survivors.” Warren has stated, “There’s no greater example of how we’re failing students and teachers than Betsy DeVos, the worst Secretary of Education we’ve seen.” These statements do not argue for the delay but for the derailment of DOE’s plans.

Liberals view the new rules as a shift to the right and an abandonment of Obama-era policies. Consider two definitions of a key term, “sexual harassment.” According to the Dear Colleague Letter, “Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” This broad characterization includes bad jokes and leering glances. By contrast, DeVos uses the reigning Supreme Court definition of “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.” This is a far more limited definition.

Why, then, are the 3 Senators calling for delay rather than dismantlement? The coronavirus is unlikely to disappear as an issue before the 2020 election. And, if Joe Biden wins, he has promised the reform would be withdrawn. This process would be be easier, however, if policy changes were not already implemented.

Stalling the DOE reform seems to be a conscious strategy of its opponents. According to Tulane University Title IX coordinator, Meredith Smith, the NWLC orchestrated a sequence of delays with various victims rights groups. Smith stated, “So there was this delay strategy happening. We would hear that the Department of Education was about to release the regulations and then the National Women’s Law Center and all these other groups would parachute in and get more and more meetings on the calendar which push [the release date] back.” They requested a long series of meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for example. During the final public commentary on a regulation, individuals can meet in person or over the phone with OMB officials to share concerns; this process usually takes a couple of days, With the DOE regulation, the first meeting was November 13, 2019, and the process ended on March 27, 2020. It stretched over 4 months.

A recent article in the National Review, entitled “Coronavirus Is No Excuse to Delay the Education Department’s New Title IX Regulations,” declared, “Those making this argument [for postponement] are taking advantage of a crisis to try to keep due process out of college campuses.” They are gaming the system.

The DOE reform returns due process to campuses. It also offers relief to lawsuit-prone schools that now function as police, judge and jury in handling students and faculty accused of sexual misconduct. Increasingly, colleges are sued in federal court by those who were found guilty without a fair hearing. As a headline in the Detroit Free Press stated. “Courts ruling on side of students accused of sexual assault. Here’s why.” The “why” is the violation of their due process rights.

Justice delayed is justice denied. And Justice must not be further denied.

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