Do American young women deserve a sacred, federally-protected right to engage in reckless, irresponsible and even illegal behavior with no fear of consequences?
Vice President Biden seems to think so.
After a White House meeting in January to announce a new task force to curb sexual assaults on campus, the ever-effusive VEEP declared that every woman should expect such federal protection “no matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober.”
His remarks accompanied the release of a new report by the White House Council on Women and Girls, suggesting that victims of sexual assaults on university campuses are often “abused while they’re drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out or otherwise incapacitated.”
Since most students at university campuses are below the legal drinking age of 21, shouldn’t the White House do-gooders also warn against the dangers of illegal drinking and drug abuse that would lead so many of our daughters to become “incapacitated” at college parties?
To pose these questions doesn’t mean ignoring the very real problem of women who face unwanted, sometimes violent advances from brutish and anti-social males. The big new White House report, entitled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” claims that one in five university students will experience such incidents during their years on campus, but only 12 percent of them report the bad behavior. At times, this failure to go to the authorities no doubt stems from the victims’ knowledge that their own conduct in boozing to excess, or blacking out, naked, in someone’s bedroom, may have contributed to their painful experiences.
University administrators across the country already try to send a clear message that a female’s provocative, self-destructive or ambiguous behavior doesn’t give a man any right to assault or molest her. Males who nonetheless take advantage of such situations should rightly face stern, sure punishment from campus authorities and local law enforcement. But it’s hard to see a pressing need for a sweeping new federal initiative complete with “a task force of senior administration officials” and passionate endorsements by both the president and the vice president.
Obviously, there is an appropriate and necessary federal role in curbing sex assaults in the military since armed forces personnel are, by definition, federal employees. But there’s no logical reason to believe that only Washington big-wigs and the White House itself can effectively handle the job of protecting college students from unwanted advances on their campuses, both public and private, in every corner of the country.
President Obama gave the new task force just 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent and respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with current legal obligations.
It remains unclear whether those obligations include enforcement of ubiquitous state and local laws against underage drinking and illegal drugging, but the remarks surrounding the new initiative suggest that the White House will remain protective, if not solicitous, of such dubious behavior.
This much ballyhooed program amounts to so much bally-hooey. It isn’t just an example of federal over-reach. It also shows the highest officials of our government sending messages to a younger generation that may do more to exacerbate than to solve a painful problem.
This column appeared first at TruthRevolt.org.