June 13
Washington Post columnist George Will
Washington Post columnist George Will (Photo by Sigrid Estrada)

Editor’s note: On Thursday, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Post columnist George Will objecting to his column published online last Friday about sexual assault on college campuses. Today, Will sent the senators a response. Here is an excerpt:

Dear Senators Blumenthal, Feinstein, Baldwin and Casey:

I have received your letter of June 12, and I am puzzled. You say my statistics “fly in the face of everything we know about this issue.” You do not mention which statistics, but those I used come from the Obama administration, and from simple arithmetic involving publicly available reports on campus sexual assaults.

The administration asserts that only 12 percent of college sexual assaults are reported. Note well: I did not question this statistic. Rather, I used it.

I cited one of the calculations based on it that Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute has performed {link}. So, I think your complaint is with the conclusion that arithmetic dictates, based on the administration’s statistic. The inescapable conclusion is that another administration statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college is insupportable and might call for tempering your rhetoric about “the scourge of sexual assault.”

As for what you call my “ancient beliefs,” which you think derive from an “antiquated” and “counterintuitive” culture, allow me to tell you something really counterintuitive: I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you do. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes.

Read the senators’ letter here, and Will’s response in full here.

Read more:

Alyssa Rosenberg: George Will’s distasteful conclusions

Rep. Jackie Speier: What George Will doesn’t understand about sexual assault