“There are three kind of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain
Here we go again. Like other faulty or incomplete statistics that get thrown around relentlessly by left wing pundits and student activists, in the wake of the UVA ‘gang rape’ controversy, the ‘1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted on campus’ cliche is in regular use again.
But before I begin with the debunking, if you want an alternative/more complete explanation of the statistic’s problems, (as well as some other data on this issue that might be more trustworthy) check out this article on Politifact, and this one from the Washington Post. Both were helpful in writing the content below.
This ‘1 in 5’ statistic comes from a study done by the Department of Justice. More specifically, the National Institute of Justice underneath the department’s umbrella. The study has three primary issues that Politifact and the Washington Post made clear:
1. When surveying women, ages 18-25, they used a web-based survey with a low response rate. That is all anyone who has taken a statistics course needs to hear.
2. The survey was conducted exclusively with two unnamed, large, public universities. One in the South, and the other in the Midwest. So why is this at issue? Trends at one school do not necessarily translate to others. For example, does anyone think the males who go to one university are equally as likely to be rapists as the males who attend another school? Schools have differing student bodies in terms of everything from their region of the country, to incomes, to demographics, to Greek life, to gender balance, to academic strength, and so forth. Who would expect different campuses to have the same rates of criminal activity? The two universities could easily have higher rates of sexual assault than other schools, given that they are large public universities, as opposed to say small liberal arts schools which may or may not have different rates. Therefore, you can’t use this data from two universities to represent American campus life as a whole.
3. Different people might have different definitions of sexual assault. When people think of it, they tend to picture rape, or various forced sexual acts. Among other things, forced/unwanted kissing was included as sexual assault in this study. I agree that this is sexual assault, and have no problem including that in the definition. I only point this out because it clarifies that not all instances of sexual assault are necessarily traumatic rapes. So my only point here is to make sure we all understand what we are talking about when we say “sexual assault.” It’s potentially a broad spectrum.
The surveys results found that roughly 19% of women (the 20% comes from rounding up) “said that they experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college. The actual breakdown was that 12.6 percent experienced attempted sexual assault and 13.7 percent experienced actual sexual assault. (There was some overlap.)” – From the Washington Post article linked above.
So, to be clear, 13.7% of women, in a survey that some (again, NOT MYSELF) might find to stretch the definition of sexual assault, using bad sampling, and a web-based survey with a low response rate, answered that they had experienced sexual assault. Certainly a different picture than what is being repeated.
Wow now! Actually, I am doing more to advance the issue than your sensationalism does. You see, if your side of the policy argument gets a bad reputation for lying or deceiving, or at best being ignorant of the real data, then people won’t take you seriously. That is why this Rolling Stone story did so much harm to victims of rape. Men get REALLY angry about false rape accusations, and rightfully so. It’s the modern day equivalent of screaming “witch.” Life = over if you have that on your record. So please, use good data, be sure the stories you use as anecdotes to get your point across in the national media are, you know, accurate, and maybe you can actually accomplish something. Otherwise, you will probably do more harm to sexual assault victims than anyone else, besides their assaulters themselves.
On a happy note, you can look at data from the FBI here, that looks at violent crime on a national level. The good news is that rape, like all violent crimes, are less frequent today than they were 20 years ago. By a large margin too.