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No, this is not written in defense of Washington Post and Fox News pundit George Will, whose recent column on rape has drawn outrage and resulted in his ouster from the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where his syndicated musings had run for many years. Earlier this month, Will wrote, among other things, that campus rape victims now have a kind of cachet: “When they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

Having taught at a major university, I know just how wrong Will is. Young women are still ashamed of being victims of sexual assault, and the crime remains woefully underreported, on campus and off. As the Obama administration has noted, many colleges and universities mishandle complaints of sexual assault, giving perpetrators little more in the way of punishment than the equivalent of a visit to the principal’s office.

But it’s also clear that many young feminists and their allies tend to discount the tools they have at their disposal to help protect themselves. There is, for example, a significant correlation between binge alcohol consumption and being the victim of sexual assault. Yet too many young women are furious at those who point that out. Modest advice about crime prevention is met with accusations of “blaming the victim.”

Does a woman have the legal right to get sloppy drunk without being the victim of rape? Does she have the constitutionally protected right to walk down a dark street scantily clad in the middle of the night without being assaulted? Absolutely. Do those behaviors qualify as common sense? Ah, no.

In October 2013, Slate’s advice columnist Emily Yoffe (her nom de plume is “Prudence”) wrote an essay noting the link between alcohol consumption on college campuses and sexual assault. She advised young people — especially young women — to keep their wits about them.

“Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice,” she wrote. “But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. … That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”

Yoffe’s essay certainly drew some support. (I wrote her an encouraging email.) But the comments section was also filled with denunciations of her thesis, some of which amounted to a deliberate misreading: “Slate’s article by Emily Yoffe … does nothing but reinforce traditional stereotypes associated with rape. That rape can be prevented solely by focusing on the victims,” wrote one. “Mildly disgusted by this article. We shouldn’t be teaching women not to get raped, we should be teaching men, boys, NOT to rape,” wrote another.

Can’t we do both?

Over the years, I’ve talked to many women whose lives were forever changed by a sexual assault, whether committed by a stranger or an acquaintance. The lucky ones finally regained a sense of control, of self-worth, of safety after years of therapy. The post-traumatic stress wasn’t automatically wiped away by a guilty verdict for the perpetrator, either. Given that trauma, women ought to do everything in their power to avoid being victims.

And, yes, we should also teach men that they have no right to women’s bodies. One of my former students once wrote a powerful essay about the need to change a culture in which the adage that “boys will be boys” reinforces reprehensible behavior. She was right.

Women rightly cringe at outdated mores that blame rape on the victim’s appearance or behavior or even her surroundings: “Why was she wearing that short skirt?” “Why was she out so late by herself?” Happily, those views are ebbing, at least in the developed world.

However, that doesn’t mean young women shouldn’t do everything possible to stay out of harm’s way — including staying sober. It’s not foolproof, of course, but it helps, just as locking your doors at night helps protect against burglars. That’s certainly what I’m going to try to teach the young women in my life.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: Henderson Images via Flickr

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has been claiming that COVID-19 has been mostly defeated in the U.S. — which is laughable in light of how much infection rates have been surging, especially in Sun Belt states. But according to Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Team Trump has found a new coronavirus talking point: claiming that Americans can learn to live with the pandemic and the ever-climbing death count.

According to Abutaleb and Dawsey, the "goal" of Trump's White House and campaign allies "is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus — that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year, and the economy will continue to improve. White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House's thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations."

A Trump Administration senior official, quoted anonymously, told the Post that Americans will "live with the virus being a threat." And a former Trump official, according to the Post, said of Trump's allies, "They're of the belief that people will get over it, or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on — and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day."



Figures from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore show that the coronavirus pandemic continues to be quite deadly — especially in the United States. As of Monday morning, July 6, Hopkins was reporting a worldwide COVID-19 death count of more than 534,800 — and almost 130,000 of those deaths were in the U.S.

Biden's campaign has been asserting that the former vice president has a much better track record than Trump when it comes to pandemics. Democratic strategist and Biden campaign adviser Ariana Berengaut told the Post, "From really January on, Vice President Biden has been laser focused on the rising risk to the American people presented by this pandemic. You can almost imagine them side by side — Trump's leadership and Biden's leadership…. Trump has no plan for tomorrow, no plan for a week from now; so, there is absolutely no plan for the fall, and that's what encapsulates the whole arc of that contrast."

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told the Post that Trump's coronavirus response has been and continues to be an abysmal failure.

Garin asserted, "Trump is increasingly defined in voters' minds by his failing response to the coronavirus crisis, and virtually every action and position he's taken have been wildly out of sync with where the public is at on what should be done. Biden now has a remarkable opportunity to contrast himself with this failure of leadership that a large majority of voters see so clearly."