A guest speaker for the UCSB Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) on Wednesday spoke against commonly held beliefs regarding sexual assault on college campuses.
Guest Speaker Andrew Cavarno, a fourth-year history major and member of Young Americans for Liberty, argued that a frequently referenced statistic of one in four women being sexually assaulted on college campuses is heavily inflated and lacking in evidence.
“There is absolutely no evidence of a rape epidemic on college campuses,” Cavarno said. “The word epidemic implies that there’s a sudden wave of sexual violence, or that things are getting worse – this is just not the case.”
YAL originally intended the event to be a panel discussion featuring speakers from differing sides of the argument. Pointing to an empty chair beside him, Cavarno emphasized that no one with an opposing view was present to make the case for the statistic, even after having sent out “hundreds of emails.”
“Why is that chair empty?” Cavarno asked, “If all the evidence is truly on that side, if it is beyond reproach, if there’s no reason to debate this, then why is this chair empty?”
Cavarno argued that while sexual assault on campuses is an important issue, the current system infringes upon due process rights.
“Regardless of the numbers, we still have to have a system that works,” Cavarno said. “Regardless of whether its one in five or one in 50, we still need a system that allows survivors to receive support but also a system that does not infringe on the due process rights of accused students.”
“There is absolutely no evidence of a rape epidemic on college campuses.” — Andrew Cavarno
Cavarno criticized a study conducted by the Association of American Universities, stating that it had a sample with an “extraordinarily low response rate” and an “over-broad definition of sexual assault.” He also argued that the study does not distinguish between acts of sexual assault and acts of sexual battery.
“Both sexual assault and sexual battery are inexcusable, but they are not the same kind of action,” Cavarno said. “The one in five statistic on the other hand uses definitions that fail to distinguish between a girl getting her ass grabbed at a party and being forcibly penetrated, or having someone have sex with her when she is incapacitated.”
Cavarno argued that the way schools handle sexual assault often ruins the careers and social lives of men by unfairly branding them as rapists. Cavarno then wrapped up his speech saying “feminism teaches the notion that men are not deserving of empathy,” concluding that “schools should not adjudicate sexual assault.”
James Cornell, fourth-year electrical engineering major and Vice President of Young Americans for Liberty, said the speech was “very factual and academic.”
“I think [the statistic] paints a very bad image of males in society and males on college campuses,” Cornell said. “It instills a lot of fear into women so they don’t feel safe on college campuses where they should be.”
Katia Stern, a second-year financial math and statistics major, said that inflated statistics devalue the instances of more heinous cases of rape.
“I think if the statistic is over-exaggerated it sort of devalues the worst cases of the rape, and it makes it seem like it’s a lot more prevalent and we start to consider really minor accusations in the compass of the broader definition of rape,” Stern said. “It kind of diminishes the value of individuals who are brutally raped.”
On the other hand, a first-year anthropology major, who asked to remain anonymous, said universities should support victims of sexual assault by providing programs like Campus Advocacy Resources & Education (CARE) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
“I don’t think that it’s wrong for universities to be involved in advocating for victims of sexual assault,” she said. “I was sexually assaulted as a minor and I feel like the system that I had before university has utterly failed me, and I feel like it’s very important to have CARE and CAPs and for this university to be very strict on people who are accused.”