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Making Sense of #SurvivorPrivilege

Washington Post

The White House recently released a Task Force report on sexual assault on college campuses, saying one-in-five women on college campuses are sexually assaulted and calling for more education and enforcement.

The report led Washington Post columnist George F. Will to write a column questioning the statistics and claim that all the attention over sexual assault on campuses shows that colleges are becoming victims of progressivism.

Will wrote:

"Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

The internet reaction was swift, massive and, sometimes, raw.

Women who have been victims of sexual assault shared their stories on Twitter at #survivorprivilege.

Clearly, these women do not feel a sense of privilege from the experience.

"He (Will) basically misunderstood how prevalent rape is," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "He is assuming that it really doesn't happen and that this rise in statistics is all about trying to get at some sort of advantage when, in fact, we have study after study that demonstrate that rape is absolutely ubiquitous in our society. And, he discounted all of that in favor of a point of view that seems straight out of 1950."

Twitter explodes over all kinds of issues these day, but McBride said #survivorprivilege shows one of the big strengths of social media.

"It gives people who have traditionally been disenfranchised from the marketplace of ideas the ability to have a conversation, to be heard and to be very, very loud if they want to be," McBride explained. "George Will actually experienced two types of social media backlash. One was from the very predictable, loud feminists on social media. But an additional part of the backlash that George Will experienced was from people who don't necessarily participate in social media as a form of social protest just because they were so offended by his point of view."

McBride said the Internet is already becoming the new "town square" for people who don't regularly voice their opinions. And she has some tips for people who want to join in the internet discussion.

"You've gotta read the whole piece," said McBride. "There are so many people yelling at George Will right now who haven't even read his piece. If you feel moved to weigh in by commenting or posting your thoughts, try not to be a troll, try not to shame other people for their opinions. It doesn't have to be contest about who can be the snarkiest or the funniest or the nastiest."

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