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war on women

An OB/GYN writes to George Will about college rape

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly I found my hands pinned behind my back and a forearm crushing my neck and for a few minutes I found it hard to breathe. I was 22, far from home, scared, and shocked and so at some point I just stopped kicking and let him finish. Sound familiar? For several weeks I didn’t even think about it as a rape because that was easier than admitting the truth. Again, sound familiar?

When a man who is much stronger than you holds you down (Hey baby don’t fight, you know you want it) and forces your legs open the violence and power of those movements is horrifically violating and utterly disempowering. You think you screamed NO! at the top of your lungs but you were so scared and so shocked that when you went from yelling no! to pleading no to silently weeping no is hard to remember. Implied violence Mr. Will is a terrifying thing indeed.

You labor under the fear (as some men do) that there is an epidemic of false rape. That good young men will go to jail for consent withdrawn after the fact. And while false accusations likely do happen (the Duke Lacrosse case is a recent, well-known example) these are the exception and not the rule and each time a male with a platform spouts off about a false epidemic of rape it only makes it harder for women who have been violated to come forward.

And your confusion about the under reporting statistics? First a woman has to get over her fear of her assailant and the shame imparted by society and then she has to deal with the police. There are no Special Victims Units like you see on T.V. protectively shepherding women through the process of facing assailants. And if fear and shame and being disbelieved by law enforcement were not enough of a deterrent think about having your pubic hair combed for your rapist’s DNA while you are dripping with his ejaculate. And you have the gall to wonder why some women might not immediately (if ever) report a rape? I am a 47 year-old financially and professionally secure woman in a stable, loving relationship and it took 25 years and your jackass column to get me to speak up about my rape. How easy do you think it is for a scared 20 year-old to call 911 or walk into a police station and say, “I was just raped?”

This weekend I was out dancing and experienced what I think you referred to as “micro-aggressions.” I had my buttocks pinched three times and my breasts groped twice. I was called a “bitch” and a “50-year-hag” when I politely declined hopeful suitors. Whether it is a cat call or a grope these actions represent sexual aggression and Mr. Will they have little to do with sex and everything to do with aggression. I wish someone taught those 40-something-year-old men in college that verbal assaults are not the appropriate response to “no thank you” and that pinching a women’s behind is not a mating ritual.

There is no woman who I have ever met personally or as an OB/GYN who thinks that surviving a rape confers some sort of privilege. I am genuinely curious if you interviewed a few young women hoping to earn their college rape badge or is that just a conclusion you reached looking at the issue of sexual assault through the myopic lens of misogyny?

Come spend a day in my clinic Mr. Will. Come see how the scars of rape linger even decades later.

There is no survivor privilege, just survivors.


Jennifer Gunter MD, FRCSC, FACOG, DABPM


203 thoughts on “An OB/GYN writes to George Will about college rape

  1. Fabulous article! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I, too, am a victim of rape, though I didn’t get a ‘badge.’ No, when I tried to report my brutal rape (at knifepoint) to police I was threatened by the police to not report it because my rapist was a star on the University’s basketball team and they “didn’t need another scandal.” You see, another star player had just recently been convicted and received a lengthy prison term for a rape. I was 19 and very frightened. The rape kit had been done and I was given medical attention for my ruptured cervix and other injuries. The police asked the medical team to leave and they worked on me for a long time, until scared and exhausted I said I just wanted to go home. Several years later I sought rape counseling and befriended a very nice cop. I told him what had happened. He was furious. He started trying to track down the reports. They were nowhere to be found. No city police department report. No university police report. He went to the hospital. No rape kit or medical report. He took it to his superiors. The next day he was told to drop it.
    Thank you for telling your story. How did George Will, a beyond middle-aged MAN, become an expert on rape victims. He is despicable. You handled him brilliantly.

    Posted by Deidre Kellogg Ketroser | June 18, 2014, 6:01 pm
    • Thank you for courage in sharing this, but look out–there are a couple of trolls posting above who would assert that since the police and prosecutors did not pursue your complaint you were only allegedly raped and you have no right identifying yourself as a rape victim because your rape was never “proven.”

      Your story emphasizes that there are several gradations of male privilege, and some men are definitely more privileged than others. Your rapist enjoyed the most coveted of all, jock privilege. It is an exquisitely American idea (though here in Canada we have our version of it) that talented male athletes should get away with just about anything, and as such they are given a free pass to use and abuse women and less privileged men. Americans have seen it at the high school level in Steubenville, in university at Penn State, and in amongst the pros in countless NFL and NBA scandals. I have offended a lot of hardcore basketball fans by asserting that the homophobic and misogynist Kobe Bryant almost certainly assaulted that hotel worker in Colorado, since innocent men don’t have to pay hush money to accusers. The fact that Bryant can dribble a ball and win championships is all that many people, male and female, seem to care about, so all is forgiven and forgotten.

      I do believe, perhaps too optimistically, that there are a few safe places in the world insulated by such rampant misogyny, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, I can imagine nothing more dangerous to the safety and well-being of young woman than a university better known for its sports teams than its academic reputation, colluding with a backward small town police force and an incestuous and patriarchal medical community to oppress and silence victims and to protect and exalt the privileged ball dribblers and kickers no matter what.

      I am so sorry that such a horrid thing happened to you. It sounds like you didn’t stand a chance. I hope you are angry. I sure am.

      Posted by Les Wright | June 18, 2014, 6:37 pm
      • Your observation that academics / athletics risk is a succinct summation of the problem of entitlement in college athletics. Thank you.

        Posted by Bill | June 18, 2014, 9:11 pm
      • I would note that from historical perspective as a campus security director, there is also a definite link between college athletes and alcohol abuse, in conjunction with sexual assaults. Not to be redundant, but we must address the alcohol problem concurrently or I believe the assaults, student to student, will continue.

        Posted by Mike Dressel | June 18, 2014, 11:22 pm
      • I have worked in university student health and certainly agree that binge drinking among young people is a longstanding and ubiquitous worry. Curiously, i don’t think it is any worse on Canadian campuses than American ones, despite our drinking age of 18 or 19 (depending on the province) vs. 21 across the US. People of all ages have pursued alterations of consciousness throughout human history, and I for one would far prefer to odour marijuana pervading dorms, residence halls, and frat houses than stale beer and vomit. If there was a paradigm shift amongst young people and marijuana were legal and, even more important, destigmatized, campus security and residence dons would have fewer fires to put out. A college freshman seeking intoxication through alcohol knows he faces at the worst a underage drinking citation. But that same person caught with a joint or a tiny ziploc bag of oregano-like leaf faces a criminal conviction that could ruin his life. The only reason I didn’t use cannabis in university yet drank like a fish was fear of getting caught for the former–I was in the naval reserve and then the Canadian military took a zero tolerance approach to illicit drug use, yet tolerated alcohol use–even amongst underaged recruits and officer candidates such as me. Given the mess alcohol created for me in short order, cannabis would’ve been a less catastrophic option.

        That said, I can tell you as a long-abstinent alcoholic (with personal experience) and a doctor with some clinical experience with addictions that the inclination of some to demonize alcohol as the premier and even sole contributor to male sexual and physical aggression is perilously naive. I speculate that a lot of adolescent and young adult impulsiveness and and general idiocy would be reduced if alcohol didn’t have such a toxic hold on student life. But that doesn’t address the systemic issue of rape culture entitlement that enables by no means all but still far too many privileged young men to seek and get what they want from girls and women, no matter what. Reduced use of alcohol on campus might mean fewer young women rendered vulnerable to act (though I still think that the onus for reducing rape always falls on the potential perpetrators and never the potential victims), but as one who has met a few sex offenders in a clinical and correctional context I can assure you that these guys (and I anticipate MRA objections by insisting the “guys” is completely appropriate here) are Einsteins when it comes to identifying, grooming, and dominating their victims. The athlete-rapist culture is ingrained in complex dynamics of power and entitlement that likely began when these guys were pre-teens and showing talent and thus receiving attention and privilege and continual reinforcement that they were important. I doubt that Ms. Ketroser’s rape was a simple case of a nice guy gone bad due to a little too much at a kegger. Lots of young men drink too much and hit on girls, too often to the point of harassment. Raping someone at knife point is a special kind of nasty altogether.

        Posted by Les Wright | June 19, 2014, 6:54 am
  2. Reblogged this on freshfaced and commented:
    Men and women’s thinking about sexual assault needs to be changed to create a safer place for both sexes. No one wants to get raped and no one wants to be accused falsely. If you want to change “rape culture”, you need to change the over “sexualization” of our culture.

    Posted by meghanmeints | June 19, 2014, 7:41 am
  3. Dr. Gunter- I am not whatsoever insensitive to what happened to you, but I think your article is an ad hominem attack on Mr. Will that belies his point. He made no claims that rapes don’t happen nor that they are acceptable. The very statistics he cites acknowledge that a large percentage of actual rapes go unreported. The tone of your post implies otherwise. You imply that he thinks rape is no big deal. His point on the subject of rape, right or wrong, is that he thinks the frequency is exaggerated to the status of epidemic when reality is that it is less frequent, and that extreme measures enacted to prevent it run the very real risk of creating more victims on the other side.

    I don’t doubt that actual rape happens much more frequently than false rape accusations, but there is also no doubt that false accusation do indeed happen, and they can be tremendously destructive to the accused. Should these victims be ignored as collateral damage in the interest of the greater good, and is it not worth considering how certain anti-rape measures will likely increase the frequency of this category of victim?

    Will’s broad point is not about rape. It is about the ever increasing instincts of progressives to protect people’s feelings at the expense of freedom and preparedness to deal with the harsh realities of human existence, and on that, I think he makes a very fair point…

    Posted by Alternate Perspective... | June 19, 2014, 4:36 pm
    • I think your opinion is in the minority. Comments like “privilege” and “victimhood” in this context are misogynistic. As for false accusations, I touched on that because it is actually a common tactic of rape apologists. No one brings up false accusations when we talk about robbery, although it likely happens.

      Studies tell us that 7.5-11.9% of women between the ages of 18-24 are raped and 19% are assaulted sexually. To call this a supposed epidemic is obscene.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | June 19, 2014, 5:04 pm
      • It is not apparent that he is using privilege and victimhood within the context of sexual assault. He makes those statements within the context of microaggression which is the crux of his argument. I don’t disagree that those are terrible percentages, and perhaps he is wrong on the frequency, but I don’t see his article as a misogynistic scandal if placed into proper context of what he is really getting at… Again, I am saddened to hear your story, but your post is being distributed for political purposes as a proof positive of Will’s misogyny and that of conservatives by extension, and I think a distortion of his message is required to arrive at that conclusion…

        Posted by Alternate Perspective... | June 19, 2014, 5:30 pm
      • You are in the minority of people who think George Will had any kind of point worth making in that post.

        Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | June 19, 2014, 5:34 pm
    • >I am not whatsoever insensitive to what happened to you, but…

      And that “but” erases the false claim that precedes it.

      >ever increasing instincts of progressives to protect people’s feelings…

      It’s not my FEELINGS, buster, it’s my BODY. Get it?

      I love how the rape apologists show up here hiding behind their pseudonyms.

      Posted by Maija Rothenberg | June 19, 2014, 5:35 pm
    • That is a strained interpretation to argue that Will was trying to react to “…the ever increasing instincts of progressives to protect people’s feelings…” and, more important, that making an issue of rape is about “feelings”. I am more conservative than liberal as the words are commonly used in our polarized society – although I do accept a lot of liberal viewpoints – and I was taught by my parents to respect other peoples feelings; but rape is not about feelings. Rape is about right and wrong. Rape is wrong. Rape steals from the victim, and to espouse a conservative value, rape steals from our national resources by leaving scars on women. Some women overcome these scars, but many, perhaps the majority, do not. [There are even worse statistics on recovery from rape than for rape itself.] Speaking about the women who do not recover, as a country we are deprived of the contributions these women would have made if they were not abused. Mr Will was at best careless in his choice of words, and more likely inadvertently self-disclosing of his real attitudes.

      Posted by Bill in SF | June 20, 2014, 9:27 am
      • Actual rapes????? WTF is an a ‘inactual rape’ ? (Sic) Drunken male SOB’s don’t differentiate so definitively. Recognize the issue, college men are out of control and feeling entitled to alcohol abuse and degradation of a college woman. It has become a bizarre, inhuman, cruel, life-bending event for the victims. I was a campus security director. I’ve seen the lack of a sense of wrong-doing. It is despicable and worthy of life in prison. Mad as hell, can you tell?

        Posted by mike dressel | June 20, 2014, 10:00 am
  4. Thank you for speaking out. I, like the majority of victims, still find it difficult to do so – even 57 years after the fact.

    Posted by anonymous | June 21, 2014, 11:33 am
  5. Thank you as well for this post. I too am a successful woman, happily married, but I too have struggled. As a 3 + survivor. The details are still too difficult to discuss. 2 relatives, and an exboyfriend (with a child to share – yes there’s no laws to prevent this in my state).

    I will never let it happen to me again. We are fighting bills to be passed to protect women. Every win small or large is a step in the right direction.

    Thank you for your voice. I say “No More!”…

    Posted by 3xsurvivor | June 21, 2014, 2:48 pm
  6. Thank you for speaking your truth in such a public way.

    I was molested multiple times by a cousin during the holidays and we visited my aunt’s house when I was a small child. After 30+ years of interalizing this, I spoke my truth a little over a year ago. I was and continued to be blamed by most of the family for making this up to destroy my cousin’s life. Really?! This is all to common the response sexual assault victims get from their own families not to mention privileged white males who are writing out of complete ignorance as someone in the know. Males are also the victims of sexual assault — even privileged ones at Ivy League institutions. Is that part of your simple arithmetic or is that different?

    The coveted victims live a lifetime of pervasive consequences as a result of such acts. As you probably know Dr. Gunther but of course Mr. Will does not, most offenders are serial offenders. The good bloke from the Ivy League campus or any campus is likely committing the same act countless times to countless victims during his four years in college — not to mention before college and after college. What a privilege to be sexually assaulted by such a predator. It is about aggression and complete disregard for victims as human beings — which undoubtedly carries into other areas of their lives … such as writing and publishing such arrogant, ignorant, factless commentaries. Wonder what your maker will think of this valuable contribution to humanity George?

    Posted by Erin's victim | June 21, 2014, 7:02 pm
    • Erin’s victim, you are more right than you know. Certainly, rapists tend to be serial aggressors. But so do conservatives and that is what drives George Will.

      It’s obvious from his column that he approaches very issue by (1) asking himself what the conservative sheepmind take on this would be, then (2) distorting facts and evidence as needed to fit.

      He obviously cares little about rape or any other issue. Promoting the conservative sheepmind, regardless of reality, is A to Z in his book.

      Posted by Bob Sherman | June 22, 2014, 8:34 am
  7. Thank you Dr. Gunter for having the courage to share your experience and your voice. You are surely helping so many who cannot yet share their own stories. I also appreciate those comments which are supportive and constructive suggestions for changing things for the better.

    Posted by Maya Lee, IL | June 24, 2014, 4:40 pm
  8. When is the Wash Post going to fire this jackass? Let’s demand it now!

    Posted by Mary | June 25, 2014, 3:26 am
  9. Thank you. As the mother of a survivor, I applaud your bravery. Because that’s what it takes to repair the souls of survivors. God bless and God speed. May you continue to make a difference in the world of survivors.

    Posted by Dorothy Simons | June 26, 2014, 9:14 am
  10. More hugs and thank you. Brave, truthful, amazing.

    Posted by bethhavey | July 3, 2014, 10:20 am


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