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Sexual assaults and the truth
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Long ago and far away, a woman we hardly knew presented herself bruised and weeping on our doorstep one night. She told a vivid tale of woe. An old friend of our family she'd been dating had supposedly beaten her and thrown her down stairs. Why she'd come to our house instead of police headquarters wasn't entirely clear.
The story went on for hours. After she'd gone, I asked my wife, "What percentage of that did you believe?"
Her eyes got big. She's a warm, compassionate soul whom people frequently seek out for advice.
"What do you mean?" she said.
"I mean that you've known X closely for 20 years. Do you really think he's just started beating up women at age 45?"
When I put it that way, she did not.
In time, our late-night visitor's charges proved false. Our friend was the fourth or fifth man she'd accused that we learned about -- none suspected of hurting women before or since. Like the others, he'd been forced to restrain her from attacking him. Flinging herself down staircases was evidently a dramatic specialty of hers.
She eventually left town, seemingly in search of more gullible audiences.
Based on a fascinating article by Emily Shire in The Daily Beast, Amherst, Mass., might have been a promising destination. It's based upon two lawsuits filed by male undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who allege they were banished into academic limbo by absurdly biased Title IX "assault hearings" in which activist professors played judge and jury.
Subject to the proviso that nearly anybody can also file a lawsuit, Shire's piece definitely sounds like the UMass I knew in my youth: the New England birthplace of daft political correctness and serio-comic identity politics.
Actually, I'd wondered when I saw UMass identified as one of 55 schools under investigation by a White House Task Force for devoting insufficient zeal to sexual assault probes. UMass-Amherst on a list of colleges failing to protect women from predatory frat boys?
Now anybody sending a daughter off to college these days would be well-advised to hire a professional referee to give her the final instruction boxers get before the bell: "Protect yourself at all times." That said, isn't it odd that with violent crime rates dropping sharply everywhere, sexual assaults are supposedly metastasizing on campus?
Supposedly, one in five women college students gets sexually assaulted. Alarming statistics are manufactured by including in the definition of "sexual assault" things like trying to steal a kiss or patting a girl on the fanny -- ill-advised and boorish, but not normally a crime.
 One lawyer says, colleges have "created an environment where these male students ... are treated as guilty before innocent."
And that can't be good for men or women.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons can be reached at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.