NY Times To Resurrect The Serial Campus Rapist Myth (Update)

Anyone with a smattering of knowledge about the wild west of campus sexual assault hysteria would know that the study by David Lisak was utterly, thoroughly, totally debunked. And, for a brief shining moment, it disappeared from the dialogue, relegated to the trash bin of “fake news.”

It’s back. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Stephanie Saul, takes the lead in resurrecting the myth:

For several years, researchers have been fiercely debating how many campus rapes are committed by serial offenders. A 2002 study based on surveys of 1,882 college men and published in Violence and Victims, an academic journal, found that as many as 63 percent of those who admitted to behaviors that fit the definition of rape or attempted rape said they had engaged in those behaviors more than once.

But in 2015, a study of 1,642 men at two different colleges was published in JAMA Pediatrics and found that while a larger number of men admitted to behaviors that constituted rape, a smaller percentage of them, closer to 25 percent, were repeat offenders.

The first linked study was Lisak’s, published in a “peer-reviewed journal” dedicated to “interpersonal violence and victimization.” It’s not, however, an academic journal, as Saul claims, but a private journal unconnected to any academic institution.

The second study noted was published in the prestigious pediatrics variant of the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, which should certainly be legitimate. Except Saul writes that it addressed “behaviors that constituted rape.” And the study says?

Sexual assault and rape are defined as any sexual contact without the expressed consent of the victim. This includes any sexual touching without consent, including sexual touching or sexual intercourse, with someone too intoxicated to resist.

To characterize that as rape takes a special kind of dictionary, or a deliberate effort to deceive. The article engages in the usual fallacious inductive structure of an anecdote to be bootstrapped by innuendo into suggesting that it proves a pervasive problem. It’s the antithesis of evidence that has become the norm for media, and widely accepted by people who conflate example with evidence.

In October 2015, after a small get-together at their apartment, her friends got worried because Ms. Stroup had had too much to drink. They enlisted the clean-cut male student from downstairs to look after her while they went out for food.

The next morning, Ms. Stroup woke up disoriented and in pain. Large bruises in the shape of hand prints were emerging on her upper arm and thigh. She struggled to go to class, where she told a friend, “I’ve been raped.”

Has she? Perhaps, but the conclusion can hardly be drawn from the allegations provided unless one squints really hard and blindly believes. But to Stroup’s credit, she didn’t rush to her friends, a sympathetic gender studies professor or the local chapter of Know Your IX. She went to the police. Stroup did what a person should do if they believe they’ve been the victim of a crime.

What’s the point of this anecdote to Saul’s article? It’s the myth.

Kansas State University had been warned about the man, Jared Gihring. Another student, Sara Weckhorst, said she had complained to university officials more than a year earlier that he had raped her while she was passed out drunk at a fraternity house.

Two questions arise here. First, why, if Weckhorst believed she had been raped, did she not go to the police? Second, what became of her complaint to university officials?

But it was only after Mr. Gihring’s arrest by the police here in July — more than two years after Ms. Weckhorst first complained — that Kansas State took action to expel him.

Whether or not Ms. Stroup’s alleged rape was foreseeable — one of the issues posed by a lawsuit she filed against the university — her case raises disturbing questions about repeat offenses on campus, and whether universities do enough to prevent them.

Unfortunately, this Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter neglects to offer any information as to either of these questions. But she does go for the quick and easy innuendo.

At Kansas State, the federal government is now involved, investigating the university’s handling of the 2014 complaint by Ms. Weckhorst. The university is facing lawsuits by Ms. Weckhorst and another Kansas State student, Tessa Farmer, who also alleges she reported a rape that was not properly investigated, as well as the case brought by Ms. Stroup, now 19, who joined Ms. Weckhorst’s lawsuit in November.

The “federal government is now involved”? Sounds very serious. Have they federalized the national guard and seized control of the campus to protect women from a rape epidemic of clean-cut Kansas guys? Or perhaps the women involved filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Anyone can file a complaint. And under the extant OCR over the past few years, the Office of Civil Rights had a tendency to exaggerate the significance of filing a complaint, telling the press about how a school was “under investigation” because a co-ed filed a complaint. Of course, filing a complaint is, in itself, a meaningless act. Similarly meaningless is claiming to the media that a school is under investigation.

Notably, the alleged rape of Stroup is being prosecuted because she did what a rape victim should do: she went to the police. According to Weckhorst’s allegations, her rape occurred off campus, and so was beyond the University’s jurisdiction. But she never went to the police, preferring instead to blame the school:

After the semester ended, she and her parents met with university officials on campus.

“This will continue to affect our daughter for the rest of her life,” her mother said during the meeting. Nothing “will ever Band-Aid what has been done by this facility of higher education.”

That sounds horrifying. And so she chose not to go to the police, not to make a complaint about her rape, and instead to do nothing but emote about the trauma. And, if her allegations are truthful, to leave a rapist on campus.

Saul’s article is designed to ignore the obvious implications of Weckhorst’s failure to act and lay blame on schools for failing to expel males about whom complaints are made, shifting responsibility off accusers to schools for not condemning and punishing men for unproven claims of rape and the debunked myth of the serial rapist. From this, the conclusion to be drawn is that whenever a guy is accused of rape, he should be summarily expelled before he rapes again.

The myth is back, this time at the hand of a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter writing for the paper of record, the New York Times. And it’s “fake news.”

Update: I received an email from Sara Weckhorst informing me that, despite it’s glaring omission from the Times article, she did go to the police, albeit not immediately, and that Jared Gihring was convicted of raping her, though not Crystal Stroup.  Weckhorst was displeased by my “libelous” post.

11 thoughts on “NY Times To Resurrect The Serial Campus Rapist Myth (Update)

  1. Erik H.

    I don’t understand why these studies all keep using those mishmashed definitions which fail to distinguish between radically different things. It may get some extra support in the short term but it only works until folks don’t realize the trick and they they lose trust. You’d think they would figure it out.

  2. Enjoin This!

    Take the long view. This is really part of a concerted effort by the New York Times to reinvigorate the word “tendentious.” Doing a fine job of it, they are.

  3. CAB

    I took a look at the link, and there’s nothing to suggest that Violence and Victims isn’t an academic journal. Most academic journals are put out by private publishing companies (Sage, Springer, and Taylor & Francis are the ones I see most commonly; the hard sciences tend to use Elsiver, I think) rather than by university presses; I only can think of one big-name journal in sociology that is published at a university press. Interdisciplinary journals centered around a specific topic like this aren’t rare at all, either. On top of that, the editorial board looks pretty legitimate and pretty academic. Out of the whole lot, only four of them look to be practioners rather than researchers. Michigan-Dearborn and Aliant International notwithstanding, they’re also mostly from well-known and well-ranked universities. Heck, one of them is from my department; a friend of mine RA’d for him last year. Of course, none of this means that the Lisak study isn’t bunk–it just means that it’s bunk that made it into an academic journal.

    1. SHG Post author

      Harvard Law Review isn’t published by Elsevier. It’s published by Harvard Law School. It goes through eight rounds of review before publication. Harvard Law Review isn’t dedicated to research proving a presumptive side of a cause. And still, it’s largely crap.

      But then, soft science being what it’s become over the last decade, particularly sociology, it’s not surprising this suffices to be called academic and peer reviewed. That’s why courts are filled with junk science that’s “peer reviewed in academic journals.”

      Maybe the problem is soft science academics ought to rethink what constitutes an academic journal. Or, if the choice is publish or perish, seriously consider perish.

  4. Joseph

    >That sounds horrifying. And so she chose not to go to the police, not to make a complaint about her rape, and instead to do nothing but emote about the trauma.

    The complaint filed by Ms. Weckhorst states that she reported the incident to the Riley County Police shortly after the incident occurred, and it appears that the alleged rapist is currently facing charges of rape against both Stroup and Weckhorst. So it may be that she did in fact pursue justice through the appropriate channels at the time.

    1. SHG Post author

      While there’s no link to the complaint in the story, which makes it interesting that you know what it says, it does state in this article that he entered a plea as to both at the same time, suggesting that Weckhorst only went to police when Stroup did, not a year before Stroup’s alleged rape. So, no, it does not appear that she “pursued justice through the appropriate channels” until after Stroup was allegedly raped.

      1. Joseph

        I believe this to be a copy of the complaint filed, though I cannot say it with certainty since it is hosted on a third-party website:

        It states: “Sara was devastated that K-State refused to even investigate the rapes she suffered at the hands of two of its students with whom she shared the campus. Upon leaving the K-State office, she headed to Riley County Police Department to report the rapes.”

        A presumably more reliable source is a document hosted on the Kansas State website, although it does not assert authoritative that the rape was reported, only that Weckhorst claimed to have reported it:


        It states: “Ms. Weckhorst states that she reported the rapes to the Riley County Police. Id. ¶ 32. Despite her allegation that fifteen witnesses observed the first alleged rape and that some took video and photographs, she does not allege that law enforcement or prosecutors have taken action against J.F. or J.G.”

        Weckhorst has claimed to have reported the rapes to the police. The police did not arrest J.G. at the time. It may be that Weckhorst is not being truthful about her timely police complaint, or it may simply be that the police and prosecutors declined to take action at the time.

        1. SHG Post author

          Not sure what part of my comment made you think this entitled you to post links here, but since you did, I’ll let them slide. Note paragraph 32 (the second doc is a memo referring back to the complaint. It adds nothing). What’s missing? There is no allegation she actually went to the police, made a complaint, whether she sought prosecution or what became of her complaint. If she had done any of these things, there would be. There isn’t.

          You did a lot of work looking for a turd. And a turd is all you found.

          1. Joseph

            >Not sure what part of my comment made you think this entitled you to post links here

            You expressed interest in how I knew what the complaint said and I linked directly to the source because I am a bad man who runs roughshod over the rules set by others.

            I suspect that you are right about the lack of an actual complaint to the police.

Comments are closed.