Senate Democrats who have been trying to advance new sexual assault protections on college campuses are blasting columnist George Will for putting the phrase sexual assault in quotes in a recent piece.

In his June 6 Washington Post column, Will wrote about “the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. ‘sexual assault,’” and talked about the administration “riding to the rescue of ‘sexual assault’ victims.”

“It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults,” Will wrote.

That evoked a response from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

“You trivialize the scourge of sexual assault, putting the phrase in scare quotes and treating this crime as a socially acceptable phenomenon. It is in fact a spreading epidemic, and you legitimize the myths that victims and victim advocates have worked tirelessly for decades to combat,” the senators wrote.

“Your column reiterates ancient beliefs about sexual assault that are inconsistent with the reality of victims’ experiences, based on what we have heard directly from survivors. Your words contribute to the exact culture that discourages reporting and forces victims into hiding and away from much-needed services. For starters, your notion about a perceived privileged status of survivors of sexual assault on campuses runs completely counter to the experiences described to us.”

They called Will’s assessment “so antiquated, so counterintuitive and so contrary to anything we heard that we hope you will make an effort to hear the stories survivors bravely shared with us about the struggles they face in addressing what has happened to them – often with little meaningful assistance from authorities expected to help them.”

“In this instance, your writing, which purports to be based on accurate facts and figures, has not only shown a fundamental disrespect to survivors, but also includes a harmful rhetoric that has made addressing this issue so difficult,” the senators continued. “Your column questions the accuracy of statistics around this problem. Very few of our conversations with students included numbers; what we have heard are personal experiences – horrifying and tragic stories that show exactly why this problem must be addressed.”

“There is no acceptable number of sexual assaults; anything more than zero is unacceptable.”