This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly
By Martin D. Schwartz, co-author ofAbusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women with Walter S. DeKeseredy and Molly Dragiewicz
In Abusive Endings, we write about a form of male violence against women that we’ve all known about but that society has not seen as a problem. Police, prosecutors, criminal, and family court judges have gone to extraordinary lengths to ignore women, or to accuse them of lying about the abuse. Of course, it is related to many other forms of woman abuse, ranging from rape to sexual harassment. Even now there is still optimism that the publicity of the #MeToo campaign will bring forward a new era of accountability. However, the ability of men (and women) in charge to sustain business as usual over change is very strong.
This is not the first time we have been alerted to massive amounts of women abuse. In 1980s, researchers were getting extensive publicity for studies showing high levels of what was then called “date rape.” While this energized many feminist communities, it was not only heavily disregarded in mainstream academia, the government and by the general public, but often drowned out by backlash politics—mainly by people who had no data or studies but who got top mainstream media coverage for books, articles, and claims that academic researchers were “biased.”
More recently we have heard from study after study after study confirming these early results on university campuses were correct, and in fact worse for members of the LGBTQ community. Yet, the federal government is in full retreat from efforts to protect women, and the backlash battle cry is that men accused of violence against women are being denied due process rights by the judicial procedures in place for all crimes. The news that hundreds of thousands of women were being assaulted annually (and including sexual harassment the number would be well into the millions) fades when compared to the rare occasional man charged with offending. In academia, the latest cry is that all studies are biased because victims are more likely to fill out surveys than non-victims. Of course, there isn’t a scintilla of evidence to support this, but once again, people without data find it simple to invalidate women’s claims with an unsupported assertion.
Meanwhile, our leaders often theoretically agree that there is a problem, but practically argue that there are no grounds to take action. Inside Higher Education’s (in conjunction with Gallup pollsters) survey of 647 college presidents found only 28% disagreed with the statement that sexual assault is prevalent at American campuses. Luckily for their students, however, this widespread incidence of sexual assault was only taking place on other campuses. A full 78% of these same campus leaders disagreed that their own campus had this problem. It’s everyone but us.
The popularity of the MeToo movement can and will be dismissed by backlash politics. Those concerned with violence against women (and men) need to keep their voices raised to have any hope of a safer society for women.