Two years ago the Human Rights Commission conducted a “national survey” of university students that “found” 51 percent of them had been sexually assaulted at least once in the previous year. The headline figure and the shameless trickery that created it were immediately ridiculed by several commentators (including yours truly). According to the HRC’s own numbers, 97 percent of Australian students had never experienced anything resembling sexual assault, let alone rape. So how did they come up with 51 percent? Easy: mere “harassment” was promoted above its humbler rank in crime’s hierarchy to constitute assault. Students who answered ‘yes,’ they had suffered “Repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates,” for example, were classified by the HRC as assault survivors. Staring, jokes and emails were also press-ganged into service. Even rude behaviour experienced going to and from university was classified as a campus sexual assault. “The researchers did everything they could to produce evidence of the ‘rape epidemic’,” wrote Bettina Arndt.
For the HRC and its feminist cheerleaders, however, 51 percent was handy. More than handy; it was necessary. The Commission had taken $1 million from Universities Australia and $150,000 of seed funding from the producers of the propaganda film, The Hunting Ground, to finance the survey. Forty-one percent wouldn’t do. They were paid to make a crisis. The doctored results allowed amenable media outlets like Fairfax and the ABC to run a “more than half of students” angle. From there, a routine “growing calls” campaign began – to reform safety protocols, apologise to women, honour the “survivors” and hector men. Australian National University Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt was reportedly “emotional” and “visibly upset” about the bogus findings. The politics of this sham went over the head of astrophysicist Schmidt whose response demonstrated the accuracy of Oscar Wilde’s aphorism that “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” Yesterday the professor apologised again – this time for the delayed release of a “sexual violence prevention strategy.” Sexual violence at universities – a rarity, as the HRC survey showed – was “one of the worst scourges that we have in Australia and on [ANU’s] campus,” he said. And just like that, a lie takes hold. It wins.