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The assumption is that some college students are committing sexual assault when they don’t intend to, and that many are more vulnerable to sexual harm than they ought to be.Either idea can be controversial, and focussing on contributing factors, such as drinking, rather than just on the bad acts of perpetrators, can seem beside the point.If I were asked by a survey to describe my experience with sexual assault in college, I would pinpoint two incidents, both of which occurred at or after parties in my freshman year.In the first case, the guy went after me with sniper accuracy, magnanimously giving me a drink he’d poured upstairs.Student activists weren’t satisfied: they wanted the deans who handled sexual-assault cases to receive additional training, and they wanted to know how many incidents were being reported.

The plaintiffs, advised by a recent Yale Law graduate named Catharine Mac Kinnon, argued that this was a violation of Title IX—the federal statute, passed five years before, that prohibits gender discrimination in educational institutions.

In college, everything is Janus-faced: what you interpret as refuge can lead to danger, and vice versa.

One of the most highly valorized social activities, blacking out and hooking up, holds the potential for trauma within it like a seed.

A rare combination of academic talent and initiative was then unleashed by the university, which may have felt the need to demonstrate its commitment to the cause, and this produced, after two years of sunup-to-sundown effort, the most rigorous, nuanced, and wide-ranging examination of the problem that has ever been carried out on a college campus.

“It’s better for universities if sexual assault is positioned as a matter of sexual health, rather than as a scary threat,” the journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, who published a book last year, “Blurred Lines,” about sexual assault on campus, told me.

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