“When all you do all day long is sit around and argue with crazy people, it affects your rational judgment,” says former Fox contributor and current Ring of Fire host, Mike Papantonio. Bob Beckel stunned even his Fox News cohorts Tuesday when he blurted out, “When’s the last time you heard about rape on a college campus?” during a round table discussion about Colorado legislation that would allow women to carry concealed weapons at college for protection against sexual assault. Beckel has been a Democratic political contributor to Fox News since 2000 and joined the network in 2011 as co-host for “The Five.”
Beckel has a history of misogynistic remarks; however, frighteningly, his mentality on this subject is not entirely unlike that of most college campuses. Unfortunately, it is true that sexual assault on college campuses is rarely taken seriously. About 1 in 5 women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape while attending college, yet, a study by The Center for Public Integrity, reports that 95% of college rapes go unreported.
It seems to be the trend that even when an instance of sexual assault at a college is reported, adequate and appropriate action is rarely taken. The study found that colleges rarely expel men found responsible for sexual assault, and that typical “punishments” include such diminutive actions as summer suspension, social probation, and academic penalties. As stated by one of the respondents to the survey, “Judicial hearings almost NEVER result in suspension, let alone expulsion. … Alleged perpetrators still remain on campus, in fraternities, and on sports teams.”
What is more often the case is that the victims of sexual assault suffer more than their assailants. Often they feel ashamed and doubly traumatized when their perpetrators get off the hook so easily. And women may be threatened or coerced to not report an instance of sexual assault. This trend is becoming more apparent, particularly among college athletic departments. Just last year, St. Mary’s freshman, Lizzy Seeberg, committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. The circumstances surrounding her assault and subsequent investigation were outrageous, yet they were not exceptional.
As a result of the Seeberg case, the US Department of education launched a seven-month investigation into how assault cases are handled at the University of Notre Dame, and, not long after, the Obama administration initiated an attempt to crack down on the way colleges handle sexual assault cases. The “Dear Colleague” letter, which was sent to all schools, asserts, “The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.”
After the uproar his comment received, Beckel wisely issued an apology yesterday saying the issue of rape on college campuses is both “serious” and “horrendous.” He went on to say, “… rape is rape. Whether it’s date rape or it’s somebody coming in off the campus trying to rape somebody else. I very strongly feel that way,” though his entire attempt at an apology seems to be backpedaling rather than admitting that his statement was blatantly uninformed.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.