Patrick Witt is the Yale wunderkind whose decision to forgo a Rhodes Scholarship to become a recruit in the NFL has lately been churning emotions in the New York Times sports section. Witt did not give up the Rhodes, it is claimed, because of his love of football. He gave it up out because he’d been nailed over a sexual assault.
Very frankly, I find the substance of this case pretty boring. How many of us really care why or whether Mr. Patrick Witt did or did not become a Rhodes Scholar?
The only issue I find interesting here is this question: What is a “sexual assault?”
We’re told that Patrick Witt was accused of that offense by a young woman who was a fellow student at Yale. Yale officials “informally” confronted Witt with the charge, and the matter was settled (without any investigation) by having the two agree to “stay friends” but avoid each other’s company for a while.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was IT.
I’d been led to believe that sexual assault was a crime. A serious crime.
In my reading, it is customary to speak of sexual assault as if it were only a few legal millimeters away from outright rape, and therefore presumably a felony, properly punishable by a long prison term.
So how can it be that Patrick Witt is not in a state penitentiary doing time? (Right now, the real Patrick Witt is happily training in a camp for NFL recruits.)
The only possible answer is that Witt’s “sexual assault,” whatever it was, was not a felony at all. Or anything like a felony. It may not even have been a misdemeanor. It may not have violated any law whatsoever. It may have been little more than an especially objectionable and gross breach of sexual etiquette.
That makes this sentence from the Times’ coverage leap into prominence: Connecticut law does not require colleges to report suspected sex offenses, and experts say the vast majority of campus sexual assaults are not reported,either the college authorities or to the police.
“The vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported, either to the college authorities or the police.”
If ”sexual assault” is truly the major crime that so many influential voices insist it is, how is it even thinkable that universities don’t report it to the police? Would they not bother reporting a murder on campus? Would they shrug off a kidnapping and demand for ransom? Suppose students were being maimed and tortured or held prisoner against their will? Would this be a matter for some sweet little heart-to-heart talk? Supposing arsonists were burning the students’s cars or rooms? Would the officials not call 911?
So why is the equally grave crime of sexual assault ignored? Can it be that the “vast majority of sexual assaults” on college campuses aren’t really crimes at all, but personal offenses ripe not for the penitentiary but some sententious little talking-to, as seems to have been the case here?
And if that is so, why has “sexual assault” been made into something millions of people think it is only a little less heinous than rape?
Can it be that those millions are being misled?