Back in December, Fox New contributor and self-declared “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton said that getting raped in college is a learning experience. She downplays on-campus sexual assaults as “clumsy hook-up melodrama,” which of course angered victims’ advocates and anyone else with a brain.
Now, 123 members of the Princeton Class of 1978 have written and published an open letter to the so-called “Princeton Mom.” They call her out on her absurdity and lament that her outlandish opinions are prone to being associated with the prestigious university.
We are members of Princeton’s Class of 1978 who feel it necessary to speak up about sexual assault and rape in response to the undue repeated attention the media has given to the self-proclaimed “Princeton Mom.” We believe we speak for the great majority of Princeton moms and dads, as well as alumni who do not have children, in saying rape in general — and date rape in particular — is inexcusable, rape survivors deserve our help and support and anyone who sexually assaults another person should be prosecuted legally.
Unfortunately, the Princeton name continues to be associated with the “Princeton Mom’s” views. In a recent CNN interview, she belittled accusations of rape as merely the aftermath of a “clumsy hookup” and called sexual assault a “learning experience” for young women who drink too much alcohol or who don’t fend off their attackers by explicitly telling them to “stop and leave.” To fail to challenge such views damages decades of efforts to help women come forward after being sexually assaulted. It suggests to college women — indeed to all women — that it is really their fault that they were raped.
Rape and sexual assault are violent crimes against persons of any gender. It is particularly disturbing when college students violate the trust of people they know. The mix of social pressure, alcohol and drugs, misguided beliefs about entitlement and power, and unclear messages from peers about what constitutes appropriate approval for sex all contribute to this phenomenon. Rape survivors may have years of posttraumatic stress disorder, lack of trust in others, depression and anxiety; long-term effects can be exacerbated when the rape is committed by a date or an acquaintance. We know this first-hand — some of us from personal experience at Princeton and elsewhere and others from the experiences of our children and friends. And while we know that Princeton, like many other colleges and universities, has been struggling to find the right balance between the rights of the accused and protections for the victims, we believe that for far too long the attitudes of the so-called “Princeton Mom” have pervaded many campuses, even if not spoken as loudly.
Fortunately, we are hardly alone in our opinions. In March 2014, The Daily Princetonian quoted the “Princeton Mom” as comparing a woman who gets raped to someone who doesn’t look both ways before crossing the street and gets hit by a car. Over 200 faculty members signed an open letter to the paper deriding these comments and expressing their support for survivors of sexual assault on campus. Numerous groups, including the University’s Men Against Violence Resources and Intervention Project and the Editorial Board of the ‘Prince’, also spoke out. In response to her latest comments, U.S. News & World Report asked why CNN “allow[ed] the ‘Princeton Mom’ to air her insulting views on rape?”
Yet the wider world continues to see this woman dressed in orange and black associating her out-of-touch personal beliefs with our alma mater. We — along with many other alumni — see these views as outrageous and unworthy of being associated with Princeton. We ask the Princeton administration to continue its efforts to create a campus climate where all accusations of sexual assault are treated with the seriousness they deserve, and we invite those who share our views to raise their voices to join ours.
Sexual assault is a real and serious thing. The “Animal House” days of college culture are long dead. It’s not acceptable to pick on “nerds,” drink excessively, and sexually assault half-conscious women. And it’s time that college administrators and conservatives like the “Princeton Mom” realize this.