What Hath Overprotection Wrought?

What happens when a generation grows up being told that they need constant supervision because nothing is safe enough? That they should never encounter a bad grade or mean remark, it’s too wounding? That they didn’t lose, they are the “8th place winner!”?

At least a slice of them become convinced that they are extremely emotionally fragile. They need — they demand — the kind of life-buffers they’ve had since childhood.

Which brings us to this just plain remarkable essay by Judith Shulevitz in yesterday’s New York Times. It begins:

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.

So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,”she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints.

Shulevitz, my newest hero, goes on to describe what she labels “self infantilizing” — the perfect word for young adults who seem eager to stick their fingers in their ears and sing-song “La la la la la” when they hear an idea that causes them distress or tension. What’s more, they seem proud of this fragility, as if it super-sensitivity proves they are, well, super and sensitive. More evolved.

Even though real evolution involves being able to roll with some punches.

I don’t blame parents for creating these kids. I blame a whole culture devoted to overprotecting them from everything from Pop Tart guns, to red ink on homework, to a spat with their best friend. (Parenting magazine famously told parents to stick around when even their school age children have playdates because, “You want to make sure that no one’s feelings get too hurt if there’s a squabble.”)

All that treating kids as if they’re about to fall apart seems to have created exactly that: Kids about to fall apart. Or, really, kids who believe they are about to fall apart. The antidote is to remind us and them what Churchill said:

We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, cross the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.

Or even a Pop Tart. – L.

A culture of self-infantilization seems to have spawned on campus.

A culture of self-infantilization seems to have spawned on campus.

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110 Responses to What Hath Overprotection Wrought?

  1. Betsy Murgatroyd March 23, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    I usually agree with you about most everything, but as a rape and sexual assault survivor with just enough PTSD to be triggered, I think these safe spaces are needed. If you haven’t been raped or sexually assaulted, it’s easy to poopoo this sort of treatment. I do not know if I would need these spaces but I would never speak against spaces for psychological self-treatment.

  2. Kimberly March 23, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    What ever happened to removing yourself from a situation that you weren’t comfortable with? By no means am I trying to trivialize the effects of a sexual assault. It is, by far, one of the worst things a person can experience. However, there was nothing in this debate (for example) that required anyone to attend. If a person wasn’t comfortable with the topic, then they didn’t need to go. I just don’t see the need for a “safe room” — especially for one that sounds as if it virtually ignored the plight of men who are sexually assaulted. Now they’re talking about putting “trigger warnings” on books, television programs, and movies. I’m almost afraid that I’m raising kids who will be considered “insensitive”. A few months back, my son had to write a thing for school that included sayings and motto’s from their parents. I finally managed to talk him out of one that I picked up in the Army: “Grow a pair”, though he did keep “Suck it up and move on”.

  3. E March 23, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    @Kimberly — I can’t take credit for this response, it was in some of the comments in the NYT article. Having places like this, could perhaps allow people to attend the event and hear all sides of a discussion about this. Since university settings *should* be encouraging thoughtful debate/discussion, having a safe place to retreat to, might actually get people to participate/listen that might otherwise stay closed off. Remember, multiple viewpoints/attitudes about their life changing event were being presented.

    Aside from that, I agree with Betsy wholeheartedly. Having not been a victim of rape or sexual assault, I cannot begin to understand what it might be like to be in that situation and on a college campus.

  4. Michelle March 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    Betsy, I think it’s great that we are starting to recognize the long-lasting psychological effects that trauma can have on the human mind. Sympathy, understanding, and treatment are much better than the old mock, dismiss, and ignore. It would be nice if there were permanent places that people who are suffering can go to escape and feel safe. Although I think the description of this “safe room” sounds infantilizing, I don’t know anything about psychology. Maybe it’s good.

    However, I think setting up such a space specifically in reaction to the debate is ridiculous. First, because no one HAD to go to the debate. If anyone feared that it would be too much for them, they can easily NOT GO. Secondly, and more importantly, it seems pretty clear that those who set up the space were not simply concerned that discussing a sensitive topic might bring up bad memories. They were specifically reacting to the threat that someone might DISAGREE with them. This is proven by the fact that they set up another talk to disseminate their own information about rape and culture.

    This wasn’t a space for survivors of sexual assault to take refuge while a painful subject is broached nearby, bringing up issues that need to be dealt with. I have sympathy for that. This was a “safe space” for people who can’t handle it when someone disagrees with them politically.

  5. Powers March 23, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    “What ever happened to removing yourself from a situation that you weren’t comfortable with?”

    Isn’t that exactly what’s going on?

  6. Shawn D. March 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    How dare you not lead with “TRIGGER WARNING”?!?!

  7. Shawn D. March 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Hmm… apparently my “/sarcasm” tag was taken as a real tag by the code.

  8. Steve Horwitz March 23, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    See the piece linked below for what happens when the idea of a “safe space” gets out of hand and causes faculty to stop teaching anything remotely controversial. I’m all in favor of making sure those who have suffered real trauma don’t have to relive it, but when everyone’s trauma, no matter how small, becomes reason to have to avoid talking about anything vaguely challenging, higher education is dead.


  9. Beth March 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Well said! I’m an activist and I’ve become shocked that in the last decade this concept of trigger alerts and safe spaces had made its way into activism. Seriously, people want to be activists without triggers, its absurd.

  10. Warren March 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    I know a lot are going to hate this, but here goes.

    Whatever happened to an individual taking ownership of their issues?

    Doesn’t matter what the trauma was, if the victim suffers from ptsd, delayed ptsd, or whatever, that person should be dealing with it. There are all sorts of supports and treatments available.

    How many trigger warnings and safe places are going to be needed. One for sex assaults, child abuse, family of murder victims, mugging victims, burglary victims, bullying victims, and the list is endless.

    By constantly sugar coating life so that victims never need to face what happened, or be reminded of what happened says something really demeaning. “You were a victim, you are a victim, and you always will be a victim. You are weak and we will take care of you. There, there.”

    I feel for anyone that suffered at the hands of another. That is horrible and unacceptable.
    Keep in mind, society did not commit the act that traumatized you, and society is not responsible to tap dance around what happened to you. Take control of your life, stop being a victim.

    It is life, and you have to deal with it, not constantly runaway from it. Everytime one has to go to one of these safe places to avoid adversity, that person is being assaulted again by the same person, because you have allowed that person to take away from your life. The only power someone has over you is the power you give them. Don’t give it to them anymore.

  11. Amy H March 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    ^ Steve Horowitz, well said. Living in the real world involves some serious self-coping skills. While I can’t imagine the horrors that some people have been through and how hard it must be to recover while facing reminders, the rest of the world is not going to bend to every single idea of what constitutes trauma.

  12. Mandy March 23, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Some of the most vocal opponents of the “trigger warning” trend (and that’s exactly what it is, a trend) have been psychologists and therapists, who maintain that treating PTSD sufferers with kid gloves is demeaning to them and impedes their healing process. In the meantime, the vast majority of students who do NOT suffer from PTSD should not be indulged in this thinking – more and more prevalent on college campuses – that encountering disagreement is a threat to their safety. http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/05/23/treatment-not-trigger-warnings/

  13. Emily Guy Birken March 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    This is the aspect of the “safe room” that disturbs me:

    “The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.”

    What the what? Now, I am certainly no psychologist or counselor, and I have also never suffered from the sort of trauma that could be triggered. But I feel as though specifically infantilizing the safe room’s activities would be REALLY insulting to anyone who needed it.

    Having a safe space to recover from a trigger when you want to involve yourself in a debate could be a positive thing. I can see where Brown wanted to provide the space so that those who needed to make their voices heard but might suffer for it could join the debate.

    But including everything but a Lisa Frank unicorn poster seems counterproductive and insulting. Decorating it like an 8-year-old’s play room not only reinforces the stigma that those who have suffered the trauma of rape are crybabies (which no right-minded person could believe, but there are a lot of crazy people out there) but this kind of safe space also could potentially prevent healing since there would be no need to rely on your own true grit. You can always color or blow bubbles and escape to childhood if you need to.

    A room with just some chairs, a table or two, coffee, and counselors should have been more than sufficient.

  14. John March 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Ok, people here are gonna hate my viewpoint on this too BUT I’m with Warren on this one.

  15. Andrea March 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Meanwhile, these are the same people who secretly believe that those who have lived lives of poverty and abuse (including sexual abuse) just need to get a job and that will fix everything. No bubbles and pillows for them, it’s just for those who have paid $60K/year to go to Brown.

  16. Doug March 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    I’m beginning to think that a standard interview question should be used by recruiters and HR reps. Something along the lines of “Are you inflicted with undiagnosed psychiatric trama that requires a ‘safe space’ or requires the banishment of words and phrases from everyday conversations (aka, “trigger words”)?”

    Because answering that question tells me I do not need to hire that person.

    Everyone’s got issues. Some are minor, some are major. Expecting and demanding that others kowtow to your particular “issue” is an infantile behavior that should be exposed for what it is.

    The only thing that comes out of this is intellecutal nullity.

  17. bmj2k March 23, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    “The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies”

    A safe space is one thing, a kindergarten is another.

    “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    That’s the world, isn’t it?

    People who have genuine trauma and need a safe space are not the same as people who can’t handle opposing points of view and want to play with Pay-Doh, eat a cookie, and take a nap.

  18. Andrea March 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    “The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.”

    Can someone explain why is treating rape victims like 4-year-olds a good thing? I get having a place to go when removing oneself from a difficult situation and taking ownership of one’s challenges, as Warren described. But, like Emily, I picture “a room with just some chairs, a table or two, coffee, and counselors should have been more than sufficient.”

    Can someone who thinks this is a good idea explain the benefit of creating a “pre-school space” and calling it a “safe space” for college students?

  19. Warren March 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Emily Guy,
    Sorry, but counselors on hand everytime there is something being presented that may trigger someone? Really?

    How many counselors do you think Colleges should have on staff full time, just for this? And are you going to be okay with tuitions going up just to cover the costs?

    Here is a better idea. No safe rooms, no trigger warnings, just grow up and deal with your issues. If it is really bad, excuse yourself and leave. Go home, go for coffee or whatever. If you are lucky maybe a friend will come out and hold your hand. But colleges are not their to hold your hand. They are there to educate you and one of the ways they do it is to challenge and push you. If you cannot take that, then maybe college isn’t for you.

    Betsy, why does a college or any other place have to set aside space, time and money for you to have a safe place to go to? Your an adult. Handle it.

  20. Kenny Felder March 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    This one story says so much. “Self-infantalizing” is a wonderful term. But it also speaks of a culture in which victimhood is raised to the status of a virtue. And to an academic culture in which words such as “educated,” “sophisticated,” and even “enlightened” are all code for “having the correct set of political beliefs”–so if you want to develop critical thinkers you don’t present both sides of an issue, you just push the students as hard as you can toward the correct side. It’s ugly to watch.

  21. Michelle March 23, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Warren, I don’t know if this is universal, but when I went to college there was a health center, partly subsidized by tuition and partly paid as-you-go (I assume they accepted insurance, but I don’t know because I never got sick). When you have a large population of people who basically live at the school most of the time (and considering that many universities are in otherwise small towns), it makes sense to have everything included. In that context, if it was part of the regular health-services provided by the university, yeah I do expect counselors to be available for anyone who has a genuine psychiatric or psychological need, at any time, for any reason.

    I don’t think it was necessary to make a huge extra production for this event. I think that if the school health center was providing appropriate psychiatric / psychological care for any students who genuinely need it, they would already have a place to go if this debate triggered a need. Or if *anything else* triggered a need for care. Frankly, I think this “safe space” was a cynical, purely political attempt to paint an opponent’s viewpoint as so awful that students need to be “protected” from it.

  22. E March 23, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    @Warren — I tend to agree with you. I’ll include an asterisk only because I don’t know what it’s like to be a college co-ed having to deal with a post-rape life.

    You comment about “how many……”, made me think. I wonder how many resources are being used up because of the risk and rate of rape/assaults on campuses? Again, I have no first hand experience so I do feel a little uncomfortable about commenting on a complex issue, however I have never understood why college are in the business of handling accusations of rape/assault with their own resources — why don’t they turn those over to the police and legal system?

    There’s a new documentary coming out about this:

  23. fred schueler March 23, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    what’s the role of infantalization in promoting the kind of genitalically male individuals who do the raping?

  24. Jennifer March 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    A debate about sexual assault in which one party is essentially saying that it doesn’t exist is not the same thing as a political debate about concepts or a philosophical debate, for that matter. While it’s a great idea to have discussions, a debate involves rhetoric, which does not promote open discussion of real viewpoints. Not sure how many political debates most students of any type attend, regardless, as most are too busy with school work, socializing, working, etc.

  25. Steve March 23, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Warren said:

    “How many trigger warnings and safe places are going to be needed. One for sex assaults, child abuse, family of murder victims, mugging victims, burglary victims, bullying victims, and the list is endless.”

    To that I’ll add:

    You can find somebody somewhere who gets seriously “triggered” by anything —

    How about “fear of public speaking?” A professor asks a student a question in class. The student is expected to answer in front of everybody… Yikes!!!

    I know a woman who had a serious fear of butterflies. And not just any butterflies. She was only afraid of Monarchs. Will we be so insensitive to minorities like this woman that we don’t provide a safe place for Monarch Butterfly Phobics? Afterall, the fewer there are, the more important it is to be “sensitive” to their needs, right? I’m kidding of course! And how about people who get upset by sarcasm? Do we need a special room for them? Years ago, society knew that “The Place” for hyper-sensitive people who couldn’t function was the asylum.

    Betsy Murgatroyd said:

    “I usually agree with you about most everything, but as a rape and sexual assault survivor with just enough PTSD to be triggered, I think these safe spaces are needed. If you haven’t been raped or sexually assaulted, it’s easy to poopoo this sort of treatment. I do not know if I would need these spaces but I would never speak against spaces for psychological self-treatment.”

    Betsy, nobody is forcing anyone to attend this debate, are they?

    I am also amazed that Betsy, and so many other people, are still ignorant of treatment modalities like EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)- that are relatively simple. EFT can relieve PTSD and emotional overwhelm from events like sexual abuse and war attrocities.

  26. Michelle March 23, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    “A debate about sexual assault in which one party is essentially saying that it doesn’t exist is not the same thing as a political debate about concepts or a philosophical debate, for that matter. While it’s a great idea to have discussions, a debate involves rhetoric, which does not promote open discussion of real viewpoints. Not sure how many political debates most students of any type attend, regardless, as most are too busy with school work, socializing, working, etc.”

    This is becoming a common argument. “I’m all for free and open discussion, but allowing THIS PERSON to speak wouldn’t foster REAL DISCUSSION.” Glad there are people out there who are able to decide for the rest of us which viewpoints are “real viewpoints” which ones are just “rhetoric.”

    Secondly, no matter how ignorant, offensive, or wrong a speaker is, you shouldn’t need psychological care to deal with the fact that someone disagrees with you.

  27. lollipoplover March 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    “The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.”

    Why can’t the room have punching bags and Krav Maga instructors teaching useful, empowering skills that strengthen trauma victims vs. treating them like helpless babies that need pacifiers?

    I firmly believe in life that you cannot control what others say or do, only how you react to it. “Super sensitivity” is something to work out in elementary school with guidance counselors. Being bombarded by differing viewpoints WILL happen in the real world. You can’t always retreat to the unicorn-farting-rainbow room. Sometimes, avoidance IS a good strategy. I treat toxic people in my life like poison ivy: Avoid contact.

  28. Warren March 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    My oldest graduated just last year, and I can remember talking to her about the one of the community bulletin boards I saw when I was down for a visit. There was not one recreational event on it. It was overflowing with posters for support group meetings. Everything from sexual assault victims, to AA, to child abuse, to financial counselling and even for seperation anxiety.

    My daughters exact words, “If you have a problem they have a group for it.”

  29. Warren March 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    So by your logic, everytime they have a speaker, no matter what the subject, they should be obliged to have a speaker also appear to counter that point of view.

    So a if you have a speaker talking about the speed of light, they have to have someone speaking that will say it doesn’t exist?

  30. tz March 23, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Found this, back in 1923, GK Chesterton commented about bows and arrows not being available as toys for Christmas:


  31. Matt March 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Having dated a rape victim, I don’t think having a “Safe room” close by is a bad idea. My exGF would occasionally freak out bad enough (including a suicide attempt) I’m not sure she could have made it across campus, but also had a valuable perspective to offer so if audience questions were allowed her presence would have been beneficial.

    The complaints about the debate even occurring though are highly troubling. There are legitimate concerns around some of the measures being taken, and stifling debate guarantees a less than optimal outcome.

  32. Wendy W March 23, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    “Meanwhile, these are the same people who secretly believe that those who have lived lives of poverty and abuse (including sexual abuse) just need to get a job and that will fix everything. No bubbles and pillows for them, it’s just for those who have paid $60K/year to go to Brown.”

    Um,. NO. These are not the same people. These are the two opposite ends of the political spectrum.

  33. SKL March 23, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    An adult is capable of either staying away, or walking away, from a difficult situation.

    I’d like to know how people who claim to be so fragile on one hand, can declare all of us a culture of rapists etc. on the other hand. You either can handle the topic of rape or you can’t.

    I’m sick of the counterproductive double standards. For example, if you recommend that women do (or don’t do) xyz to reduce their chances of being an attack victim, you are blaming the victims, you’re a rape apologist, you’re the worst part of the “rape culture.” I’m supposed to put on my big girl panties and suck it up when I’m all but accused of raping people myself. Where’s *my* “safe room”? :/

  34. Emily March 23, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Warren, I agree with you on this. I myself had a “close call” right before university–stranger at a bar, he asked me to go for a walk with him, and then pressured me into everything up to the deed, at which point I got away, even though I had to break free of his grip on my wrist to accomplish that. Anyway, getting over that was difficult, and it took a while, and it certainly didn’t happen all at once, but I managed it. I told my really amazing R.A. at university about two weeks after it happened, and I got help from her, and from the counselling office, and gradually, the flashbacks became fewer, farther between, and less severe. The following year, I was volunteering at the Women’s Centre on campus, and I performed in the university’s production of The Vagina Monologues. When I needed a “safe space” (for whatever reason), I’d step outside, or go to my room or apartment, or go to the library, music building, the art building, the art gallery (because it was quiet), or another similar place–in other words, I’d solve my own problem. I would have found the “safe space” with Play-Doh and colouring books to be infantilizing as well, because being sexually assaulted didn’t make me less of an adult. I was also on student government for my first two years of university, and it didn’t occur to us to create a similar “safe space” during the Vagina Monologues. Even if someone had suggested it, it probably would have been overruled, because it was an optional event, and if it got triggering, leaving was an option.

    As for your daughter, and the “community events” bulletin board at her university being full of posters for support group meetings, and no recreational events, my university took that to a new level, by effectively disguising support group meetings as recreational events. My second year, the Health Centre put on an “alternative,” alcohol-free Halloween party, with candy, a Halloween movie, and a costume contest. There was one girl who was instrumental in planning this, and I knew her from Big Buddies (like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but run through the university), so I went for a little while to be polite, planning to meet up with some friends later, and I told her my plan beforehand. I arrived at the (sparsely-attended) party, to find the director of the Health Centre there, behind a table of free condoms and literature about safer sex, safe partying, etc., next to the refreshment table. The girl who invited me offered me a small, opaque candy bag and a free condom, and I said no to the condom. She also tried to keep everyone at the party for the duration of the evening, by admiring my princess costume, but saying that the costume judging wouldn’t happen until the end of the night. I left early, and met up with my friends as planned. I don’t remember if I drank anything that night, because it wasn’t important. The next day, I opened up my candy bag from the Halloween party, and inside it, I found, obviously, candy…..but also a condom. It made me angry, because it showed that this girl, and the director of the Health Centre, didn’t trust in my ability to go out dancing with my friends on Halloween, without getting drunk and having sex. If I remember correctly, the Health Centre also organized a Halloween party during my third and fourth years, but I never went again. Instead, during my third year, I went to the Halloween party organized by the music department, and in my fourth year, I collected canned food for Trick or Eat.

  35. Jennifer March 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Is the problem really that we are raising a generation of people who aren’t “resilient enough” as they recover from being raped? What would “enough resilience” in the face of being raped look like? How should someone correctly and resiliently perform being a rape victim?

    I suspect it looks a lot like “being quiet and never mentioning it to show how tough you are,” aka the status quo.

    The details of this particular safe space make an easy target for mockery, but I’d love to see Lenore/Free Range Kids address how overprotective parenting might contribute to raising *so many rapists.* What happens when young men are shielded from eating conventionally grown apples or walking home from school but not taught that their actions can have real consequences for themselves and for others? Why is rape still so rampant on college campuses?

  36. Donna March 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    “At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. ‘I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,’ Ms. Hall said.”

    While I have sympathy for people who are suffering from PTSD and other legitimate issues, this comment makes it very clear that that is not what this is about at all. This is about an inability to be in the same room where people disagree with her views. She didn’t say that she was being triggered or suffering from flashbacks or anxiety attacks being in the room. She said that she couldn’t stand to be in a room where there are viewpoints that go against hers.

    Jennifer – The belief was that one of the speakers was going to criticize the term “rape culture,” not that anyone was going to deny the fact that sexual assault exists. Since I happen to agree with her in being critical of the term (although maybe for very different reasons), I do very much believe that this is a discussion people should be having.

    Even if I could agree that some people may need a place to escape the din to calm down and collect their thoughts on subjects this close to them, leaving a classroom next to the talk open should be sufficient. Not sure why it needs to be a kindergarten classroom. And if they are going to treat college students as toddlers in need of a nap, they should at least bring in actual frolicking puppies instead of videos.

    “But it also speaks of a culture in which victimhood is raised to the status of a virtue.”

    I agree with this completely.

  37. Yocheved March 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    I am a survivor of rape and domestic violence.

    It sounds to me like everyone there could use a good course of CBT. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is about exposing people to small, controlled amounts of their “trigger”, while under guidance of a trained and licensed therapist. By slowly building up exposure, learning coping strategies, and proving to yourself that you won’t die if you hear a scary word or have a scary thought, you can regain control of your life and live like a normal human being again.

  38. DaveS March 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm #


    McElroy was not going to be making the claim that sexual assaults on campuses do not exist.

    What McElroy would be claiming doesn’t exist is a ‘rape culture’ that exists throughout the US.
    That is, a culture in which rape is prevalent and accepted as a norm.

    Now, maybe such a culture does exist in some backwater 3rd world hell holes. Here in the US, being accused of being rapist is often enough for someone to be heaped with scorn. Scorn which often follows them even if the accusations are proven false.

  39. Emily Morris March 23, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    I think I’m largely with Warren.

    Now, I’m no psychologist or counselor and I don’t properly comprehend PTSD, so I’m not going to judge what so-n-so needs.

    But if the true-blue psychologists are against trigger warnings, well, that’s something.

    If you need a safe place to retreat to, fine. But that should be an individual decisions. And I don’t even have a problem with colleges creating a safe place if they anticipate the need.

    But when we get into this practical praise of those needing trigger warnings and refuse to let victims take charge of what happens to them and how they will respond, we create nothing but a big, ugly mess.

    And yes, why bubbles and play-do and crayons? What’s that about?

  40. Eric S March 23, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    Personally, I don’t see the need for a “safe place” like this, in this situation. If one starts feeling uncomfortable with the topics being discussed, leave. Go home. Go for coffee. Go to the library and do homework. From the sounds of it, the “safe places” are set up to enable these people, further instilling in them that they are and will always be a victim.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think organizations, and places where rape victims can go to for help are great. I’m happy that they are around. But this isn’t one of those places. It was set up, so that people can go “running and crying to” if they feel overwhelmed in the debate. It’s like children learning to throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. So parents knowingly, or unknowingly, enable them by giving into their “demands”.

    I’ve never been a rape victim (yes, men get raped too). But 2 women close to me have. Both women say, one of the worse feeling for them, is feeling like a victim…everyday. They don’t like talking about it, because people start “infantilizing” them. Feeling sorry for them. They hate it. They hate being reminded that they are a victim. They want to move forward, strengthen themselves. So if these 2 women can feel like this, I’m certain there are many sexual assault survivors who do as well.

    If people want to enable victims of whatever, enable in them the strength to overcome, and not feel like a victim constantly. Infantilizing people only makes things worse for them in the long run. It’s the long run that we should all be more concerned about. That includes how we raise our children.

  41. Echo March 23, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    it’s creating a generation of emotional, functional, mental and societal cripples.

  42. SMH March 23, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    I will assume that rape occurred on my large urban campus, although during 7 years, I knew no one who had encountered more than mild harassment. But having experienced my own severe trauma – being involved in a major “spree shooting” situation – where 7 of my coworkers died and 14 were wounded – if I spent my life worrying about triggers, I’d be at home curled up in my closet.

  43. Sia March 23, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Um. There already are warnings on dvds and video games. The ‘bomb’ symbol for violence?

  44. Eric S March 23, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    @ Michelle: “I don’t think it was necessary to make a huge extra production for this event. I think that if the school health center was providing appropriate psychiatric / psychological care for any students who genuinely need it, they would already have a place to go if this debate triggered a need. Or if *anything else* triggered a need for care. Frankly, I think this “safe space” was a cynical, purely political attempt to paint an opponent’s viewpoint as so awful that students need to be “protected” from it.”

    You hit that right on the nail. Having a something in place already, like a health center that is capable of treating many medical or psychological emergencies on campus should be a must. It’s what will actually HELP people. Setting something up like this “safe room” for the occasional sexual assault debate, only enables the weak minded. The ones looking for an easy way out. Looking for sympathy, rather than finding the strength in themselves. I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist, but I’m certain one of their treatments is to get their patience to FACE their fear. Not run away and ignore them. And really? Cookies, coloring books, bubbles and Play-Doh? Are they there to find strength and bearings. Or are they there to play? Are they there to find help, or just be distracted?

  45. anonymous mom March 23, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I was horrified when I read this. I’m against college having designated “safe spaces” in general–you can leave an event if you need to. But when that safe space resembles a day care center for toddlers–and I can only hope that at least some of the 20 or so people who spent time in the “safe space” described were indeed toddlers and preschoolers who parents understandably thought the room was providing free childcare so they could attend the events unencumbered–then it moves beyond unnecessary to completely and totally inappropriate. I can’t help but think that any self-respecting sexual assault survivor would be horrified to be treated in such an infantilizing way.

    How could anybody ever take seriously a woman who sometimes, if things get too hard, needs to be showered with cookies, coloring books, and puppy videos? It is insulting to women to imagine that literally treating them like small children is sometimes what they need. Who the hell would ever elect a woman president if this is what women sometimes need? We should all just retire to our drawing rooms with our vapors and let the men do the heavy thinking for us, if this is the case. I hear too much thinking can divert blood from our uterus, anyway.

    And, this is bad “therapy.” As a person with panic disorder, I have never seen a therapist or read a book by a qualified person who claimed that avoiding situations that provoke anxiety is a good thing. It’s not. Anxiety will not kill you. You need to learn that you can cope with uncomfortable feelings. If you can’t–if you escape to your little fantasy room of puppy videos and cookies every time you feel upset–then you are simply reinforcing your own belief that you can’t handle life and you make your anxiety worse. Some of these young women need a good therapist, and others just need to grow the hell up.

  46. anonymous mom March 23, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    @Jennifer, sexual assault rates have declined over 50% in the last two decades. And, women in college are less likely (by almost half) to be raped as their same-age peers who are not in college. Rape does occur on college campuses, but there is no campus rape epidemic.

  47. Emily March 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    >>And if they are going to treat college students as toddlers in need of a nap, they should at least bring in actual frolicking puppies instead of videos. <<

    @Donna–They probably thought of that, but then figured that they'd need another alternative, dog-free safe room for people who are allergic to dogs. Actually, I'm surprised they didn't have an alternative, gluten-free safe room, free of Play-Doh, which could be harmful to people with wheat allergies or celiac disease. Seriously, some universities actually do bring in "therapy dogs" to calm down students who are stressed out during exam times, but I think that's okay, because EVERYONE has to take exams, and therefore, nobody who's faced with exams is a "victim," it's just part of university that everyone has to get through.

  48. ad March 23, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    On a slightly more cheerful note, I thought people might like this description of New Zealand:


    “7. Free range kids

    The kids have much more independence, and a much more outdoor lifestyle. When there isn’t so much traffic on the roads and there’s more empty space, they can play in it. My ten-year-old nephew was able to go out alone into the bush to look after his father’s possum traps (it’s considered civically responsible to take care of a few traps in the local bush, because possums and rats eat kiwi eggs). After school, kids would arrange to meet up, parent’s absent, and “jump off the wharf”….On enrolling our five-year old at her infants’ school we were pretty much immediately handed a piece of paper with details of the two-day camp that the tots would be going on. It’s a totally different world.”

  49. The Other Mandy March 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    I have been a “victim” of sexual assault on more than one occasion, and had PTSD after getting out of an emotionally abusive marriage, and the trend of safe spaces and trigger warnings is raising a bunch of weenies. I put victim in quotes because while what I experienced was undoubtedly something I’d like never to re-experience, I don’t feel like a victim. I feel like something bad happened, and it was a learning experience. Shit happens; get over it.

  50. Havva March 23, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    I’m not sure I can briefly convey my thoughts on this, suffice it to say that I have been through both being molested, and a fatal car accident.

    In the short term for numerous reasons the car accident was vastly worse. No one gave me grief for having issues with the car accident. No one suggested I needed a psychologist or that it was beyond the capabilities of any caring adult, or friend, to help me deal with all the multiple layers of trauma from the accident, at whatever moment they came up… even though at first I would suddenly collapse in tears for no apparent reason.

    The message I got from adults everywhere was: Yes, this sucks, you can tell me, I might understand I might not, but I will be understanding. And along side that: chin up, you can get past this. There were times I was handled insensitively, where my emotional limits were pushed. Some adults gave me more wiggle room than others. But they told me I could and would cope. And left it to me to figure out what I needed to create a ‘safe space’ if only in my mind.

    But how our culture handles molestation is altogether different. How our culture talks about rape is loaded with the same issues. The whole conversation is of victims as uniquely, monotonically, and permanently, damaged. My school district despite having counselors at every school had a ‘special counselor’ just for molestation. This trauma, of all traumas, was to be referred to a special counselor. As if teachers, the school nurse, and even the ordinary school counselors were too fragile to handle this unfortunately common part of life. And that made me afraid to seek help.

    Having other experience with trauma. I think the secretive, extra special handling of sexual assault is the most damaging part. Neither being the victim of a tragic traffic accident, nor being a victim of sexual assault, is as rare as we wish it were. So why can society deal with one of those traumas openly and in a way that encourages lasting strength? But not the other?

    I don’t mean that to say victims of sexual assault need to ‘suck it up.’ Everyone needs support in the wake of a traumatic experience. And because victims of sexual assault have been encouraged to only speak in special circumstances, and environments they don’t think we get the level of support that a person with a serious trauma needs. But I don’t think a special room is as liberating or as healing as feeling free just deal with it whenever, wherever, and with whomever is there when the issue comes up. And to deal with it as you feel best, not as the organizers of the special room feel best.

  51. anonymous mom March 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    @Emily, I really don’t think therapy dogs at exam time is okay. Nobody is forced to be in college. Students who need help taking an exam can get reasonable accommodations for documented disabilities. Nothing beyond that should be offered. Exams? Not fun, and kind of stressful. Deal with it. That America’s most privileged white girls (i.e., the female students at these elite universities) need to be constantly affirmed, coddled, and protected from even minors upsets and stresses is just part of a long historical trend of the same.

    I teach at an inner-city public university. I have students–every single term–who have siblings, friends, and parents die. My students are statistically, due to their race and their class, far more likely to be victims of violent crimes–including sexual assault–than your average Brown student. And nobody is calling for trigger warnings, nobody is asking for puppy parties to cheer them up when they feel a little stressed, nobody is asking that they get to bring their llama to class with them at exam time because it brings them comfort. The fact that these things tend to be limited to elite universities makes it very clear to me that this is not about actual trauma or hardship, but about very privileged people–mainly women–who have been so coddled their entire lives that they have come to think that’s how the world needs to work.

    Most universities treat their students like adults. And, the students, who are adults, do just fine. I’m not sure when the daughters of the 1% (okay, maybe the 3-5%, if we’re talking about Brown) decided they were the most victimized people in all of society (or, perhaps, the whole entire world, as their specious statistics make being at Brown literally more dangerous for women than living in Bosnia at the height of the genocide), but I wish we’d stop playing along with it.

  52. anonymous mom March 23, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    @Havva, the discourse we have around sexual assault–that even the most minor forms of molestation will leave a person permanently damaged, a shell of a person, scarred for life, if not outright destroyed–is so damaging. Victims of sexual assault have NOT had their “soul murdered,” as I’ve often heard it described. They are not destroyed for life. They are not ruined. I mean, that is Taliban language, that women who are raped (or children who are sexually abused) are somehow forever damaged goods.

    I have good friends who have been raped. I have good friends who were sexually abused as children. And, they are as whole persons as anybody else. They live lives as fulfilled and meaningful as anybody else. We are not doing victims a service by talking about sexual assault as if it leaves a person uniquely, permanently, and irrevocably damaged. But, try saying that most places and you’ll be called a rape apologist or pedo-lover, because we are in the midst of a moral panic and have no ability to think with any care or rationality about these issues.

    I also think that the rhetoric we use–that abuse destroys lives and murders souls–gives far, far more power to rapists and sexual abusers than we should ever grant them.

  53. Chuck99 March 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    After having skimmed all the responses, I don’t see that anyone made the point that bothered me the most, so I”ll throw it out there.

    ““I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.”

    The problem is not that she used the safe room because of PTSD or flashbacks, but because people said things that challenged her beliefs!

  54. Emily Morris March 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    @anonymous mom,


    Now, I’m all for treating legitimate problems and trauma where one’s usual efforts just aren’t cutting it. We have professionals for that, people who study and train to help these people.

    But these civilian helpers who have no idea what they are doing but spouting out platitudes and cries of vicitimhood and destruction is helping no one.

    As far as therapy dogs, my brother is one of the head honchos of a university book store. One of the employees insisted he needed to bring his “therapy dog” to work so he could basically avoid work and pet the dog all day in order to treat his anxiety.

    My brother didn’t buy it. After several discussions with the guy, who wasn’t budging, my brother insisted on a certified letter from a psychiatrist explaining this need.

    Letter never appeared.

    We can all self-treat to a certain extent, but stay in your own territory and don’t claim what you don’t know.

  55. Emily Morris March 23, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    @Chuck 99

    Be aware that in our society, voicing an opinion is harmful and triggering and could bring about a repeat of Pompeii and the Titanic. Learning to deal with differing opinions takes away from one’s Special Snowflake Sticker Chart of the Soul and we can’t have that happening.

  56. Donald March 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    Rape is a touchy subject. Where do you draw the line? It’s damaging to belittle a persons feeling about the sexual trauma. However it can also be taken to the extreme. This also feeds the false reporting. I’m not talking about intentional false reporting. I’m talking of kids interpreting ridiculous things as rape because they have been instructed to be hyper-cautious of everything.

  57. BL March 23, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    “Seriously, some universities actually do bring in “therapy dogs” to calm down students who are stressed out during exam times”

    Hmmm. So if I don’t like an exam question, can I order the dog to attack the professor?


  58. Warren March 23, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    I just think that with trigger warnings, safe places, and all the other ways we avoid upsetting people that have been through something horrible, society is saying.

    “There, there. It is okay to stay a victim for the rest of your life.”

    When no it is not.

  59. Warren March 23, 2015 at 6:31 pm #


    Stressed out by the exam, so they get a therapy dog? That is utter crap. You stress out you do poorly you fail.

    I do not want a doctor, engineer, lawyer or whatever that cannot handle the pressure.

    If you cannot handle the pressure of the exam, then you are not going to be able to handle the pressure of real life.

  60. Emily March 23, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

    @Anonymous Mom–You may be right about the dog room during exam time at university. I’m a “dog person,” so I probably would have liked that during university, but yeah, it’s not necessary. If anything, I’d say it’s just a nice perk, like when we had Sundae Sundays in the dining hall (back when I was vegetarian, but not vegan). It was like, okay, the weekend is wrapping up, and we all have to go back to classes tomorrow, but we get to make our own sundaes at dinner. It was just a charming little ritual, like many others we had–for example, every September, the incoming class of first-year students would stand outside the principal’s house, and sing the school song. Anyway, I think the reasoning behind bringing in the dogs was because there was a study that said that petting dogs could decrease stress, and I’m thinking that a lot of the visitors to the “dog room” were students who had dogs of their own at home, but couldn’t go home to them, so these dogs were brought in as a stand-in. Again, I never said that it was necessary, but I don’t think it’s an altogether bad idea. They have a similar program at the public library here, where kids can read to dogs, and practice their reading skills without fear of criticism. Apparently, this is such a popular program that the kids actually have to sign up for 30-minute time slots, and they’re limited to (I think) one or two per customer per week. That may be considered to be “coddling” as well, but it gets kids reading, which is definitely a good thing. Back to universities, I’m sure that not every university does the “dog room” thing. I’ve never seen it in action, because it began after I’d finished university, and it wasn’t my alma mater that started the program, but again, I’m sure there are a lot of schools that haven’t jumped on the “dog room” bandwagon, because of allergies, or health and safety concerns, or staffing and logistics, or whatever. For the schools that do it, the people who think it’s a dumb idea can just choose not to visit the dogs.

    If I’d been attending Brown University (I didn’t go there; I went to Bishop’s University, then Western), and I’d attended the debate about sexual assault on campus, I know I wouldn’t have availed myself of the “safe room.” I would have either attended the debate, or not, and if I was bothered by anything that had happened at the debate, then I would have handled it myself, and either gone home, stepped out for some fresh air, or gone off to do something else. I would have found the “safe room” that was set up like a nursery to be ridiculous and infantilizing, but I wouldn’t have begrudged it to those who needed it. After all, not every trauma looks the same, not every person reacts the same way, and we’ve all had our moments. For example, during my first year of university, I took an acting class as an elective. At the beginning of each class, our prof had us lie in the dark with our eyes closed, and do visualizations. I had to explain to him, privately after class one day, that I couldn’t do this, because it triggered flashbacks of the night (just weeks earlier) that I’d narrowly avoided getting raped. He exempted me. Other than that, I participated in the class normally, and over time, I resumed doing the visualizations at the beginning of class, as I was ready. By the way, as an aside, it was somewhat awkward having this conversation with my prof, not just because of the male prof and female student dynamic, but also because he used to be the puppeteer for Basil the Bear from Canadian Sesame Street, and his Basil voice was his regular voice. Everyone in the class thought it was funny, that we couldn’t really separate the real person from the Sesame Street character, but the flip side was that the poor guy couldn’t turn his Basil voice off during “serious moments,” even if he probably wanted to.

  61. Bogeda March 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    Warren, I couldn’t have said it better. I even sat here & tried. Nope, you said it all.

  62. BL March 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    “That is utter crap.”

    Did you actually read my post? Or are you completely oblivious to humor?

  63. Nadine March 23, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Npr intelligence had a debate podcast named “are liberals stifeling intelectual diversity” and it was about all these college students protesting and requesting to banor disinvite all these speakers they dont agree with and how this is damaging universities as the free thinking debate hothouses that they should be.

    ideas and ideals should be challenged by reason and debate and everybody should be included in that even when that means dealing with someone loosing it. It can be good to bring the personal into it but lets not forget that these debates are not about personal experiences but general beliefs and opinions. Its a different playing field and it should be understood as such. If not we will not be able to debate anything ever again and it will end public discourse… “The cure to bad speach is more speach not less. So if that room is there to get students help to get through their haze of emotions and get back out there to make their point: great! That is empowering them. If it is just to hide from the mean world… Then its cuddeling them into silence and childischness.

    And it isn’t that the emotional need creats these rooms. It’s also that the rooms and institutional emphasis on the emotions create behaviour. Like a marketing add that is selling you something you never knew you needed.

  64. Emily March 23, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

    I’m surprised that nobody else has noticed that the Parents Magazine article that Lenore referenced here, is the same one that sparked mass outrage a few years ago, because it implied that a sleepover supervised by a single, divorced father was automatically “dangerous”:


  65. Emily March 23, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    >>I’ve never been a rape victim (yes, men get raped too). But 2 women close to me have. Both women say, one of the worse feeling for them, is feeling like a victim…everyday. They don’t like talking about it, because people start “infantilizing” them. Feeling sorry for them. They hate it. They hate being reminded that they are a victim. They want to move forward, strengthen themselves. So if these 2 women can feel like this, I’m certain there are many sexual assault survivors who do as well.<<

    This, so much. When I was getting over being sexually assaulted, my R.A. was great, but she also told the Residence Life Co-ordinator, who was a little over-bearing. She treated me like I was "broken," which was exactly what I didn't want–in the way she spoke to me, and also in the way she'd look at me with pity when she saw me around campus, and be surprised when I smiled and waved back. Finally, she asked me what I needed (good move), and I told her, "If you ask me how I'm doing, and I tell you that I'm fine, please, believe me." She said she "couldn't do that," so I just sort of distanced myself from her. I mean, my methods of "getting over it" didn't always look pretty–there were times when I drank too much (like any other university student), and there were times when I did things that looked strange to outsiders, like when I had a nightmare about the incident, and calmed myself by going over to the music building at about midnight to sing (I had a key), but these methods were mine, and I think that that's what helped the most of all. I ended up quitting counselling a few weeks in, because I really didn't need psychotherapy; I really just needed support while I figured things out for myself. My R.A. was able to do that–she was able to meet me where I was, both by helping me when I wasn't okay, and treating me like a regular person when I was.

  66. Beth March 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    Isn’t this somewhat why this country is the way it is right now? The Republicans can’t listen to anything that goes against their dearly and closely held beliefs. The Democrats can’t listen to anything that goes against their dearly and closely held beliefs. Fox News listeners can’t listen to anything that goes against their dearly and closely held beliefs. Rachel Maddow followers can’t listen to anything that goes against their dearly and closely held beliefs.

    There are no open minds, and no compromises. Starting at the college level, apparently, everyone protects and wallows in their dearly and closely held beliefs, refusing to consider any challenges to those beliefs, and that’s how we might end up with Scott Walker as President.

  67. Jenny Islander March 23, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    Huh. It sounds like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

    Let me explain. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic is a private, personally tailored, solitary self-treatment method. If a person feels unsafe and lost as an adult and felt safe in childhood, or feels sad because they did not receive affection or have loving rituals in childhood, they may, as it was explained to me, try to get that safe feeling from other people. The problem is that we can’t actually go back in time and be three or five or eight, when a grown-up really could make it all better (in the short term anyway). So whatever the other person does invariably falls short, and then the person who feels like a lost little kid may react like a let-down little kid, except for the part where they’re a lot bigger and louder and know many more hurtful words. Solution: Nurture yourself. Give yourself permission to have a Teddy bear, or read little kids’ books, or have hot milk before bed, or tuck yourself in with a nightlight on, or whatever will satisfy that longing that went begging when you really were three or five or eight. Eventually, when the time is right for you personally, you’ll find that you don’t need the Teddy Bear’s PIcnic anymore.

    Assuming that everybody who is dealing with some crap can benefit from the Teddy Bear’s Picnic and plunking them all down in a room full of random child stuff is not helpful.

  68. Puzzled March 23, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    This is why I’m on my way out of the teaching game. I can’t fight this trend, but neither can I live with it. Just reading this sentence is absolutely infuriating when I remember that we’re talking about a college.

    I do wonder, though, if it might be the case that a young man raised to a sense of entitlement is more likely to sexually assault a classmate. I mean, we all can identify “girls never date nice guys…those bitches” as an expression of entitlement, or of ‘woman as prize,’ and it’s pretty easy to see how that can turn to assault when your ‘prize’ refuses to play along.

  69. Emily March 23, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    >>“I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    This is why I’m on my way out of the teaching game. I can’t fight this trend, but neither can I live with it. Just reading this sentence is absolutely infuriating when I remember that we’re talking about a college.<<

    That's actually why I didn't become a teacher. They expected us to blindly follow everything they said, verbatim. Instead, I listened to what I was told by my profs, and the teachers at the high school where I did my Practicum, and what the students said and did, and what they liked and disliked, and I thought about it, unpacked it, and made my own decisions going forward. This was considered to be "disrespectful" and "insubordinate," and it was part of what got me kicked out. There was a lot of talk about "critical thinking," but they didn't really mean it.

  70. sexhysteria March 24, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    The wounded little child inside me told me to say this: people like KATHERINE BYRON are the most dangerous adults in America.

  71. AmyO March 24, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Although I think the “safe space” in this story is ridiculous, I’m ambivalent to it. If college kids want to sit in a room and play with toys and watch puppies, whatever.

    What I don’t understand is the need to provide a service because someone, somewhere, is going to have a debate about a topic. There was no requirement to attend, they weren’t blasting a live feed on speakers and screens around campus, there was no reason for anyone to even be a part of this. How do these people put on the news, or read a paper, or go outside ever, if even the idea of discussion is so upsetting?

    Jennifer– one word: alcohol. Okay, another word: drugs.

  72. E March 24, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    @Beth, “safe room” and its contents aside, it’s pretty harsh to talk about a 20 year old rape survivor on a college campus and compare her to partisan politics. We don’t know what she was responding to since we weren’t there to hear the discussion she found troubling. We don’t know who recently she’d been raped..we don’t know a lot of things. We do know her quote was perfect for the angle that the column being written.

    I can agree with a lot of the viewpoints expressed here, but I do have a little trouble comparing a 20 year old violence victim to someone who has a political agenda.

  73. SKL March 24, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    I agree with the person who said this was more of a political / bullying move than anything else.

    I am a person who had several jerks do / try stuff with me at various stages of my life. Some of them could pass for pretty traumatic. A couple would be considered “rape” by some definitions. (Certainly by the people who organized that “safe room.”)

    I remember the stuff and I wouldn’t want it to happen to my kids. It affected my views of men and my opinions on here about whether sex offenders should be punished beyond a slap on the hand. But no, it did not turn me into a crouching, blithering victim. It did not render me incapable of existing in the same room as opposing opinions. I’ve never needed a “safe room.” It didn’t stop me from my accelerated education and career path. It didn’t lead me to overprotect kids / young people in my care. It didn’t make me believe that young females are incapable of making reasoned choices and taking responsibility for them. (Or that young men somehow have more responsibility than young women.)

    I agree with the person who said that if women on campus are making a big statement that our sex is too fragile to handle diverse opinions, they might as well put up a big sign saying “women are incompetent.”

    And if they feel women are so incompetent, I guess that includes them, and they should withdraw and go home. Because what is the point of college if one is too incompetent to live in the real world?

  74. Brooks March 24, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    I feel the same way when a kid, unfortunate as it is, dies in a car accident or other tragedy. The first thing the schools do now is dispatch a small army of “grief counselors” to help the students deal with it. Trauma happens. Learning to confront it is part of life. Pretending that it can be fixed in a 15 minutes counseling session with someone gives people a false sense of reality.

  75. E March 24, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    @Brooks — wait, you actually think that having grief counselors at schools is a waste of time? We, thankfully, have never head a reason to have grief counselors at my children’s school but I think having people there to be available for staff (as well as kids) would be a good thing. Not every person is identical. Some might have needs or be willing to take referral information.

    I have seen counselors for other reasons and found it’s helpful to process difficult situations in a calm setting.

  76. Beth March 24, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    I wasn’t exactly comparing, but I can see why it would look that way. But when colleges are now involved in making sure that no one has to listen to any beliefs other than theirs, it’s an indicator in general of why our country is the way it is.

  77. Angela March 24, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    I had a thought a few days ago that seems to parallel this.

    Way back when, part of a child’s home education was self-defense. Children were taught to defend themselves with whatever tools were available – guns and swords, farm implements and fists, whatever. How many forms of fighting have been identified, developed by local peoples, the masters of which were revered – ninjas and knights, Viking berserkers, cowboys (at least the ones that became famous) and Indian chiefs.

    They were not taught to go get help because, to quote the argument I often hear about police now, ‘when seconds count, help is only minutes away.’ Parents in the past acknowledged this and taught their kids to defend themselves as best they could when they themselves could not be there.

    Now, yes, not having to worry about your six year old being snagged by highwaymen or eaten by wolves is a plus to the development of the first world. Also, I acknowledge that there will be rare situations that cannot be planned for; that cause someone to fall apart so that they do need help – time, support, etc. – to pull themselves back together. But swinging the pendulum all the way to, as Warren puts it, “You are weak and we will take care of you. There, there.” can only be detrimental. There are still dangers out there. Some have become less likely and new dangers have been created. Children may need new tools to combat the dangers they see in the world today, but self-defense is more than being taught how to throw a punch or shoot a gun – it is also about recognizing truly dangerous situations, having a readily available toolkit of skills to deal with it and the strength to stand up for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to save you or put you back together. Preparedness breeds confidence and combats fear.

    I was scared stiff – completely unresponsive – the first time I was faced with a situation where I should have… done some damage. I believe going through that experience made me a stronger person and was likely why I understood in my later martial arts class that I was practicing to defend myself and if I didn’t want to be too scared to act at the time – again – I needed to go all out, feel the pain, make my reactions instinctual. When we sparred, everyone else took things easy, especially with the women; there was only one guy – an Elvis impersonator of all things – that wasn’t scared to leave bruises. After all, if I was afraid of getting bruises how would I defend myself if stuck in such a situation again?

    I know I’m rambling but my point is, you can choose to hide or you can face your fear and grow. Just know that each is a path that will lead to more of the same. When I tell people of my past trauma and how I worked through it someone always tells me, “Not everyone is strong enough to do that.” No, not everyone is. I wasn’t at the time. However, everyone is capable of strengthening themselves and it is up to them to do it.

  78. E March 24, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    @Beth — I have no problem with a student walking out of a debate that they no longer found helpful to them. It wasn’t a class, it was a completely optional event. I might wonder about the content of the “safe room”, but I don’t begrudge the university for having a place where victims could find some like minded people — they were a victim of a crime. For most of us, that place is probably your family or home, but these kids are on a college campus.

    I’m not even opposed to what the content of the OpEd is (it’s beyond just the situation at Brown) and find it good food for thought (though admittedly, I don’t think a lot about self-infantilization trends and had never even heardt he term), but I also know that myself at 20 is different than the adult I became…and that’s without being a victim of a crime.

  79. Kimberly March 24, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    The sad thing is — we have created a culture in which society is telling us that if we are uncomfortable with something, then we are a victim.

    I work as a waitress at one of the newest “hot spots” in my area, owned by a two-time Michelin rated chef. During our training, the HR department came in to do all the paperwork and give us the standard sexual harassment speech that has started to become a requirement.

    To say the lecture was shocking is an understatement. We were told to never compliment someone — no “I like your haircut” or “That’s a great shirt, where’d you get it”. Touching someone was forbidden — in any circumstances.

    We were literally told that if someone stumbled or fell in front of us that we were not to reach out and try to help them. That the appropriate response would be to offer them a hand up. We were also told to not “tap” another server when moving past them, that the best alternative would be to wait patiently until they were done doing whatever it was they were doing. All of this because someone might take offense or feel uncomfortable at being touched.

    In no way am I saying that I’m the best judge of what is or is not appropriate in the workplace. After all, what might be offensive to someone else might not be offensive to me. However, what happened to having a voice? We are turning everyone into a victim while telling them that they don’t need to have a voice.

  80. hancock March 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Can’t handle controversial view points? If you are a completely incompetant, imature moron, who jumps and shrieks in fright at shadows, and can not think critically about your own or anyone else’s viewpoints, or even look at facts objectively; we have just the place for you. COLLEGE!

    Stress is so yesterday. Competence and self confidence are the fashions of last spring. Victimhood is the new heroism! Hurray! Come to our party, complete with crayons, and play-doh (trigger alert, play-doh contains gluten)

    “Safe rooms” like this tend to trivialize genuinly traumatic experiences. It makes people who really have been violently assaulted or who suffer long term stress disorders seem like cry babies and liars. It’s cruel and only serves to make it even harder for people to cope with trials, or seek justice, or even be taken seriously.

  81. E March 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    I think what Kimberly outlines is probably a bigger issue than what a post-rape support group might do on a college campus. Or a bigger impact on how people think and react.

    If you get “trained” to not do this, not do that, not respond in a perfectly normal manner, does it empower people to think that if those things occur, than something is “wrong”? That we have been “wronged”?

    We can quibble about what should be available to rape victims on a college campus or what it should look like, but we’re still dealing with a population of people that were victims of a crime. But training a work force is much farther reaching and is discussing normal human behavior, not post-crime recovery.

  82. Reziac March 24, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Overprotection in childhood means that *everyone else* is responsible for your safety, and that you have NO responsibility to look out for yourself. This translates all too well to adults blaming others whenever they fail to watch out for their own safety.

    As to “safe spaces” and triggers, that’s fine if you want to *ensure* that you will NEVER get better, NEVER get past it, NEVER be able to cope with it…. and even get *worse*, because the whole idea of “safe spaces” feeds the fear that everywhere else is “unsafe”, and that if anyone so much as discusses whatever, that will re-assault you.

    I’m a pro dog trainer, and one thing I’ve learned across 45 years in my profession is that ANY time you let past trauma dictate today’s actions, that *reinforces* the trauma — it actually says to the dog (or person) that remaining traumatized will rewarded… with safety, treats, sympathy. Which encourages staying traumatized and even exacerbates it (because dogs and people both gravitate toward rewards), rather than encouraging recovery.

    You want to get better, you get back on the horse that threw you. You don’t run away screaming every time someone mentions a saddle.

  83. Havva March 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Your comment reminded me of the class speaker my college graduating class picked. We were a small group and we had one student that the professors (one quite vocally) were sure would washout. But he didn’t washout.

    Our classmate chose to speak about tenacity. Starting with a childhood story where he missed a catch and got hit in the face with a baseball. When his dad came to pick him up after the game he was crying. His dad comforted him until he found out what the problem was. Then his father told him that it was okay to be upset about things, but it wasn’t okay to be afraid. And his father, instead of taking him home, took him back out on the field and made him catch balls until he quit flinching when the ball came at him. He thanked his dad for that lesson. And gave his dad, and that lesson, credit for getting him through a very tough school that was almost out of reach. He told us all to face our fears.

  84. JJ March 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    I can’t get that babyish statement out of my head since I read it Sunday. I am ashamed to say it but I am guilty of this kind of thing. Take this site for example. When someone expresses an opposite view I tend to tune them out or react. When people espouse different political views than mine about social or economic issues I admit I tend toward fight or flight. I don’t want to listen or rationally debate. To hear it expressed that way in this article really shines a light on the ridiculousness of not wanted to hear all sides of an issue. I need to do better.

  85. Donna March 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    “I do have a little trouble comparing a 20 year old violence victim to someone who has a political agenda.”

    She sounds very much like someone with a political agenda. A political agenda extends beyond running for office. Many young people have political agendas and many victims develop political agendas so the fact that she is a 20 year old violence victim doesn’t negate the possibility of her having a political agenda.

    “you actually think that having grief counselors at schools is a waste of time?”

    This wasn’t directed at me, but yes, I do think grief counselors in school are generally a waste of time and money. There are certainly extraordinary situations where help should be called in (e.g. Columbine, Sandy Hook), but they don’t need to come in every time a kid in the school dies. The regular school counselors should be prepared with a referral for the person to seek help on his/her own time and dime should such be needed after a routine (for lack of a better word) death, but the school doesn’t need to go to the expense of grief counselors. And I say this as someone who had a friend who died in a car accident in high school.

  86. E March 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    @Donna — okay, I guess we just disagree on comparing the two, partisan politics and post-violent crime victim. Does she have an agenda? I guess so, as much as anyone who has an opinion does. They quoted a 20 year old victim for a story that had an angle. I got approached by the media for a local story about commercial development. When I told them my viewpoint, they said thanks and walked away to find someone else. They found the soundbite they wanted and used it. Maybe she was raped recently. Maybe she’s a long way from home. Maybe she’s none of those things and just wants group think to match her way of thinking. At least it’s based on personal experience rather than a partisan party line.

    As far as school counselors…I guess I think normalizing the use of available counseling is a good thing. There is much talk about mental health and teen suicide (even here at FR Kids), so removing any stigma about wanting or needing help works for me. I had kids in HS for 7 years and don’t recall any use of “grief counselors” happening fwiw.

    Or maybe I just don’t see the negative side of making those services available if the school staff thinks it would be helpful in given a situation. I’m not going to try to dictate what those would be.

  87. Warren March 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    I am with Donna on the grief counselors. Sandy Hook type events………..sure go for it. One child dies in a weekend car accident………..nope. Between friends and family they should be able to handle it.

    Actually bringing in counselors can have a negative effect. It can be telling the next generation that they cannot handle things without help. That even a death of someone they do not know is something they need help with.

    There is something to be said for
    That’s life.
    Get over it.
    Move on.

  88. Donna March 24, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    E – You originally said “political agenda”, not “partisan politics.” Those are two completely different things. I absolutely do believe that she has a political agenda. The pushing of the existence of a “rape culture” is absolutely a political agenda. While that stance is very left-leaning, I don’t think that it is one exclusively tied to the left nor do all of us on the left buy into it.

    The point that Beth was making was not about political parties specifically, but about the general political climate where nobody wants to listen to anyone who disagrees with their agenda, which may be partisan or may be a particular topic. This is a prime example of it. These women, both of them mentioned in the article, have a political agenda of forwarding this “rape culture” notion. The very idea that someone will contradict that agenda apparently causes them to revert to toddlerhood and need a litter of puppies to play with.

    And if this “sexual assault peer educator” isn’t a good bit of time passed her assault, the university is doing a great disservice to rape victims by allowing her to occupy that role. That is not something you should be doing until you have yourself well together; certainly not something you should be doing in the aftermath of a recent assault. If they had just grabbed some person using the room to interview, I would agree with you about the political agenda, but this was a person with a formal role in promoting rape education on campus.

    And I don’t have a problem with schools having real counselors (as opposed to the “counselors” we had which were really just class and college application advisors) on staff. I think that is a great idea. I don’t think they need to bring in special grief counselors and treat it like something that requires counseling when a student death occurs. And many schools do. Ours don’t to my knowledge, but I’ve heard of it other places.

  89. E March 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    @Donna — this is the first sentence in my post in response to Beth:

    “@Beth, “safe room” and its contents aside, it’s pretty harsh to talk about a 20 year old rape survivor on a college campus and compare her to partisan politics. ”

    yes, later I used the term “political agenda”, but I had already used the phrase “partisan politics” in my opening sentence. I don’t think it’s an accurate comparison when I was replying to Beth about Dems and Repubs.

  90. Beth March 24, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    Yikes….If I’m the “she” that’s supposed to have a political agenda because of my post, I don’t. Unless, that is, it’s an agenda that I wish people in general and lawmakers/leaders in specific would listen to the opinions and ideas of others, and compromise when said compromise would provide the best possible outcome for the most people.

  91. Birch March 24, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    So I have PTSD not related to assault of any kind. And yes I’m an adult and I saw a counselor (still do when it gets to be a problem) and generally deal with it.

    But I’m not 18 and I’ve never had anyone I trust question my experience, or the world bombard me with images I can’t escape and still participate in society.

    I see very young adults trying to be good adults, and we’re bashing them for not doing a good job. I can see the logic of “this is something I’m interested in but it will likely upset me. It may upset other people. OK what can I do to help.” And then it got ridiculous. Because these women are 20. I tell you I did some stupid things when I was 20.

    They’re doing the 20yo equivalent of falling off the monkey bars. And we’re pointing and laughing.

  92. Maxine March 24, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    I’m glad you came around to the self-infantalizing part because having not read the article I thought the writer was promoting this avoidance of any possible “triggers.” The same attitude is leading to censorship in campuses and schools, avoidance of difficult topics in class, and worst of all, COMEDIANS will no longer play college campuses because everyone is offended by something. The pendulam has GOT to swing toward common sense or we will be caring for these child-adults into our dotage.

  93. Havva March 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    The grief counselors is an interesting tie in. The concept seems like such a good idea. But what I went through with them, I don’t think any of you would chose to put your children through.

    The boy who sat next to me in a middle school English class was murdered, along with the rest of his family, by his father. The father then committed suicide. This happened a week before Thanksgiving. Their bodies were discovered over Thanksgiving break. Most of us had worked through it by the time we got back to school sharing wisdom offered by our families including critically that it was of no use to hold on to anger against a dead man.

    By the time we got back to school most of us, who weren’t too close to him, had processed this event and were more or less okay. Our teacher offered hugs and rearranged the class seating. It was a good start to getting things back in order. Though she warned us the grief councilors had ordered her not to rearrange the class for the rest of the school year. Then the grief counselor took over the class for the day, and shattered the sense of peace most of us had developed. She gave us a gory blow by blow account of how the family died. Told us what each person was doing, what they were wearing, who resisted, how they got trapped, right down to the entry and exit wounds, and how long it took for each one to bleed out. … Material so gory the news didn’t see fit to share it with the public.

    Leaving this gruesome lecture would have gotten us in trouble, though I was too stunned to think of it. After painting a picture so vivid I wouldn’t be able to push it from my mind for a week…she opened the floor to “discussion” with “doesn’t that make you angry?” Well yes it made me angry. It made me angry that she forced me to listen to that. Thankfully the first classmate to pick her jaw up off her desk and speak, was one who had discussed the futility of anger over break. She said how we should remember our classmate for who he was, not for how he died. And offered a happy memory, concluding with “I think we were all lucky to have known him, however short that time.”

    The counselor sputtered and demanded “aren’t you ANGRY?” After my friend refused to oblige, the counselor tried to get someone else to do the angry routine. But the class went full on rebellion against the grief counselor by continuing to share happy memories while she sputtered futilely “but aren’t you ANGRY?” “Tell me about your anger!” Over and over again, as our teacher shushed her and encouraged us. Finally the counselor told us it was time to write letters to our classmates grandparents… I can’t imagine what other classes wrote to the poor grandparents who parented his murderer. But I have an idea. Because the end of the school year poetry contest, nearly 6 months later was full of anger at a dead man. Three were also a lot of references to how hard it was to study while constantly staring at his empty chair (he sat near the front in most classes). I was lucky to be in the class that rebelled. Many students carried that imposed anger for a long time after.

  94. Warren March 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    One of the things about these grief counselors coming in, is the huge assumption that every kid in the class is in need of counseling, and that the parents cannot handle it.

    My youngest daughter had someone in the same grade, but different class die in a car accident. Grade 4. My girl told me about it when she got home from school. Said she was, didn`t really know her.

    Now my oldest, wow, 6 yrs old, on her first sleepover, Dad gets up to go to work, pops a blood vessel while brushing his hair, drops dead, at 32. We got the call at 6 in the morning went and collected our daughter and their kids. Guess what, 20 yrs later, not one nightmare, not one trigger. She processed, laughs about it now, and life goes on.

    Kids can take a lot more than adults can. Why…………………because we constantly over think things.

  95. Warren March 24, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    One other thing. These grief counselors are part of the new movement, that expects us to mourn anyone who dies.

    Sorry, if they are not someone I know, not in our circle so to speak, there is nothing to mourn. Yet today people call you cold, insensitive or you are in denial. No I am in reality.

  96. Nicole March 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    Wouldn’t going into a hallway or stepping outside for a few minutes to get away from the debate be safe enough? Must a person who is raped also be treated like a small child who will feel better if they just have a few cookies and a coloring book? Life doesn’t come with labels, warnings, and safe rooms- it comes with terrible tragedies that you have to develop the strength to drag yourself to the other side of, even if you left your bag of preschool-appropriate props at home that day.

    On the other hand, with the presidential election coming up, I’ve decided to declare my kids’ craft table as a safe space when the political discourse on the internet becomes too much to bear.

  97. Donna March 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    Beth – No, I don’t think you have a political agenda. I think Katherine Byron, the person who started all this, and Emma Hall, who made the comment have a political agenda. It may just be a school-level political agenda, but they are clearly trying to cause certain official courses of action rather than simply stating their own opinions on a subject.

  98. Puzzled March 24, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    In EMS there’s an insistence on CISM, and it’s still done. It’s not based on any science, and Dr. Bledsoe has pulled together plenty of studies showing it is harmful. I suspect grief counselors for young children are in a similar position.

  99. Emily March 24, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m a bit shocked at the idea that “just one child dying” is a “routine” occurrence in a school setting, and that bringing in a grief counsellor for that would be excessive. I mean, okay a team of grief counsellors may be too much, and shoving the grief counselling down everyone’s throats, like what happened at Havva’s school, is obviously way too much, but I don’t see the harm in just quietly letting the students know that there’s a grief counsellor available, for anyone who’s feeling particularly affected by their classmate’s death.

  100. Mike March 25, 2015 at 2:20 am #

    I have a feeling that this issue is overblown, and is not taking place on most campuses. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing.

    Even so, I couldn’t help but make this association:


  101. E March 25, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    @Beth, the person (who did/did not have an “agenda”)I was referring to was not you, but rather the 20 yo rape victim quoted in the article, Emma Hall. I thought she had a viewpoint. Her entire quote above is:

    ““I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    She really doesn’t mention the safe room at all, just her feelings on the debate/presentation.

  102. E March 25, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Correcting myself…I do see that Ms Hall art of the organization of the safe room.

    Anyway — maybe it’s because I have kids in that age range and I see (thank god) a big difference in their maturity almost year to year, I am willing to give a 20 yo rape victim a little leeway.

  103. Emily B March 25, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    This is terrible, really. I agree with so many of the comments, but I wanted to write mine too because so many of them are along the lines of “I haven’t been a victim of sexual assault but surely…”. And I wanted to say, yes, you’re correct.

    I have been a victim of abuse and had difficulties getting over it, but I have. One of the key things for me was not being a victim, and not having what happened to me as a defining point of who I am.

    I understand some things can be difficult to deal with. That some issues are hard to talk about, and some viewpoints can be difficult to talk about. When something feels so personal, it can hurt more.

    But it’s really important to recognise that though your emotions are legit and you have every right to feel them, they are not necessarily balanced or true for everyone. Your awful experience doesn’t mean you know about everyone else’s awful experience. Your awful experience doesn’t mean you know how everyone else should live and behave.

    For me, ‘trigger warnings’ are BS. What happened to me is upsetting, and sometimes I read or see something that really resonates with me & my experience, and it’s quite upsetting. Why would I hide from that? Isn’t it part of being human? Recovery means that when that happens I can shed a tear or take a quiet moment, remember who I am today, take a deep breath and go right on enjoying my life.

  104. Wendy W March 25, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    On Tues, March 24th, Rush Limbaugh discussed this issue on the radio. One thing he brought up that I have not seen elsewhere is that the feminists of the 60’s and 70’s fought long and hard to give women the freedom to make their own choices, take their own risks, and bear the consequences like normal adults, NOT fragile little females that must be protected at all costs by their daddies and husbands. While I don’t agree with much of the feminist movement, this aspect is one I fully embrace. Along with that freedom comes the responsibility to make choices that are not stupid- walking alone late at night, getting falling-down drunk at frat parties.

    The current crop of feminists is turning this progress on its head by insisting that we are ALL fragile little humans, and we must all be protected from every conceivable threat to our peace of mind. I guess that since it now applies to both genders, they still feel we are keeping the genders equal. They want us to have all the “freedom” to be stupid, but without taking responsibility for our own choices. Any mention of that responsibility is labeled as “blaming the victim”.

  105. E March 25, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    @Wendy — you kind of are going back and forth between 2 issues aren’t you? I can understand that blowback on the safe room as coddling or whatever. I get that.

    Where you lose me is the “blame the victim” stuff. Yes, do we all make choices that (supposedly or literally) make us safer each day? Yup. If someone breaks a law and violates us or our homes because we forgot to lock a door, or walked across campus at night? If you say a crime was a “consequence” of someone’s choice, aren’t you blaming the victim? I would guess that anyone using 20/20 hindsight would wish they hadn’t done action X that was a prequel to crime Y, but no one else needs to judge anyone for doing that.

    I mean, isn’t that part of what FR is about? Less blame when bad things happen to innocent people? Less judgement if parents continue to allow kids freedom in spite of headlines? My friend/co-worker was raped jogging one morning in a nice neighborhood (that happened to be near a “sketchy” neighborhood). Attacked by men who had partied all night and were on bikes. Some might say she was “too close” to that neighborhood I guess. I mean, everyone’s personal line of “I wouldn’t do that” is going to be different.

    I think feminism is a word that covers SO much ground, that it’s hard to discuss without specific context. For example, both of the women speaking on the panel we’re discussing self-identify as feminists (with the websites to go with them).

  106. Puzzled March 25, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    Mike – it may be that most campuses do not have safe-rooms with bubbles and puppies (via video) every time a libertarian speaks, but the attitude expressed by “I was overwhelmed by ideas I disagree with” (paraphrased) is, I’m afraid, becoming prevalent throughout the university world. This is happening in a number of ways – student advocates shouting down (via university channels) dissent, professors clamping down in their classrooms (mostly out of fear of the aforementioned reprisals), the use of student association money and its denial to shut out viewpoints, etc. The view that there is not a crisis on our campuses, or challenging the 1 in 3 claim, is thoughtcrime. Using a homosexual couple as an example to illustrate the impact of lifestyle on time preference, in an economics class, is thoughtcrime. Opposing gay marriage is thoughtcrime.

    For what it’s worth, by the way, I don’t accept the 1 in 3 claim, but I do believe that we have a rape culture, not just on campuses, but nationally. I think it’s a serious problem, although perhaps less in need of immediate attention than our police state and revenue-farming. I strongly support gay marriage. I’m not complaining because these are my viewpoints – I’m complaining because I want even viewpoints I disagree with to be expressed and debated.

    This is not a 1st amendment issue, in my opinion – universities can, for the most part, make their own rules; they’re not putting people in jail. It’s an issue, for me, about what universities are supposed to be and do. If they advertise themselves as ways to get better jobs, and do not allow for open academic discussion, they are vocational schools, not universities in the classical sense – not places for freedom of thought or for radical inquiry. That’s fine, I suppose – I just want nothing to do with it, and I’d hope others would agree. Combine that with ‘everyone should go,’ though, and you get absurdity. Everyone cannot be a manager or supervisor, and if colleges are now to be training places for better jobs…you see the problem here.

  107. Amber B March 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    IMO most of the students who used the “safe room” were taking advantage of the free cookies and not trying to hide from anything.

  108. SKL March 27, 2015 at 3:49 am #

    That’s a good point that Wendy made. I am old enough to remember when it became “offensive” for a man to hold a door open for a woman, because it supposedly implied that women were essentially children. In college, I had to read “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir. Its feminist theme was how girls are raised to think of themselves as objects (vs. subjects) and as children. (I didn’t buy into all of it, but there were some interesting points in there.)

    Basically it was seen as really damaging to teach girls/women to view themselves as an incomplete person whose identity is more about what others do to/for her than about what she has the power to do.

    So yeah, I think the earlier feminists would be rolling over in their graves if they observed the trend back to “protect the fragile women from harsh reality.”

  109. Emily March 27, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    >>IMO most of the students who used the safe room were taking advantage of the free cookies and not trying to hide from anything.<<

    @Amber B–That's a really good point. The article says that about 24 people (or, "a couple of dozen people") used the safe room, but it didn't say WHY each person went in there. So, some of the "safe room users" might have just been stopping in for a snack, and others might have mistaken the safe room as being a childcare room, so that students with young children could drop their children off in that room and attend the debate (because, after all, it had a lot of the same things a childcare room would have). So, when you factor in the people who misunderstood the purpose of the safe room, and the people who just wanted a free cookie or two, the number of people who used the safe room for its intended purpose is pretty small. Even if all 24 people who went to the safe room were using it for its intended purpose, that's only 24 people out of the 8.619 students who attend Brown University, according to Wikipedia. So, that works out to be less than 3% of the students at Brown who used the safe room at the debate. The rest, I'd imagine, either went to the debate with no problems (or needed to step out, but went somewhere other than the infantilizing "safe room" that Katherine Byron had organized), or didn't go, for whatever reason, because they were busy with something else, not interested, or didn't even realize it was happening. I bet some of the non-safe-room-users might have also experienced sexual assault, but didn't attend the debate because they didn't want to fixate on it. I mean, if you've experienced something like that, and you have option of going to an event that'll remind you of the experience, or just having a regular day at university, then "regular day at university" often looks like the more appealing option.

  110. Ron Skurat March 29, 2015 at 1:09 am #

    As a survivor of the late-80s/early-90s political correctness weirdnesses, I wonder I might address the “proud of this fragility” point, because I think that’s a big part of it for some people. No doubt there are people (yes, men too) at Brown who genuinely are disturbed, possibly even triggered, by discussions of rape that aren’t entirely sympathetic. If I were teaching a film class and wanted to show Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” a trigger warning for rape victims would be completely in order.
    But part of the strident PC performances of 20+ years ago was the subtext “I’m more considerate & thoughtful than you.” There’s a biography I read years ago, I wish I had written down the title etc, about a guy from shortly before WWI who fell out of a tree at age 7 and knocked himself out, and who was groggy for about a week & then was fine – probably a mild concussion, who knows. Well his upper-class family decided he was ‘delicate’ and essentially kept him under house arrest for the next five years, and even when he was tearing around the house, eating like a horse, he was still ‘fragile’ and had to have someone by him at all times. He makes the point in his autobiography, and my jaw dropped when I read it, that most High Victorian familes had at least one child who was delicate because that way the Good Families could establish that they were so well-bred, so good at caring for their children, so much more evolved than those ruffians across town.
    So I wonder how many of those who agitate for trigger warnings, while genuinely being troubled by troubling topics, also have some narcissism in the mix along with their entitlement. Maybe the safe space should’ve had a fainting couch as well, with smelling salts available at the lecture hall? Or maybe, as others have suggested, people bothered by the lecture could gather at Starbucks on Thayer & talk it out, or go to a movie together at the Avon instead & forget about the whole thing.