The Public Interest

The phantom epidemic of sexual assault

Neil Gilbert

Spring 1991

NEWSPAPERS and television broadcasts have recently reported that a plague of sexual assaults is sweeping the country. Detailed accounts of this problem appear not only on Oprah and Geraldo and in the National Enquirer, but also in steadier sources such as Time, the New York Times, and network newscasts, all of which claim that we are in the midst of a “silent epidemic.” The epidemic is said to be silent, in part, because it involves a wide range of behavior that is not yet understood to be abusive. The feminist movement seeks to eradicate it by advancing programs that teach and enforce radical prescriptions to alter intimate relations between adults and children, and between men and women.

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