October 24 2013
There is a widespread belief that campus rape is on the upswing. So protests such as this one, described in the opening of a must-read piece by Caroline Kitchens, are ordinary:
A group of 100 protesters – including many topless women – recently marched the streets of Athens, Ohio chanting, "Blame the system, not the victim" and "Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape." Organized by an Ohio University student organization called "f*ckrapeculture," the protest was designed to bring attention to what the founders believe is a toxic culture of sexism and sexual violence infecting their campus.
F*ckrapeculture cofounder Claire Chadwick explained to the campus newspaper, "The name of our organization and the statements that we've made are loud. But it's because we need to be heard."
Just one problem—as Kitchens, a recent Duke graduate and researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, points out, the statistics don’t back up the idea that there is a rape culture on American campuses. Kitchens writes:
Statistics surrounding sexual assault are notoriously unreliable and inconsistent, primarily because of vague and expansive definitions of what qualifies as sexual assault. Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute explains that the study often cited as the origin of the "one in five" factoid is an online survey conducted under a grant from the Justice Department. Surveyors employed such a broad definition that "'forced kissing" and even "attempted forced kissing" qualified as sexual assault.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' "Violent Victimization of College Students" report tells a different and more plausible story about campus culture. During the years surveyed, 1995-2002, the DOJ found that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year. Across the nation's four million female college students, that comes to about one victim in forty students. Other DOJ statistics show that the overall rape rate is in sharp decline: since 1995, the estimated rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations has decreased by about 60 percent.
Of course, there are still far too many college women who are victims of sexual assault. But there's little evidence to support the claim that campus rape is an "epidemic," as Yale student activist Alexandra Brodsky recently wrote in the Guardian.
Bolstered by inflated statistics and alarmist depictions of campus culture, advocates have been successful in initiating policy changes designed to better protect victims of sexual violence. Duke, Swarthmore, Amherst, Emerson and the University of North Carolina are among the many institutions that have recently reviewed and revised their policies. It is not clear that these policies have made campuses safer places for women, but they have certainly made them treacherous places for falsely accused men.
Read the entire article.