May 6 2014

About the White House's Sexual Assault Statistics...

Charlotte Hays

Move over phony wage gap statistic.

Now that significant progress has been made debunking the phony but politically valuable 77 cents gender wage gap, a new false statistic emerges into the spotlight: according to the White House, one-in-five women on campus has been a victim of sexual assault.

Before addressing this number let me say what should not need to be said: I recognize sexual assault is heinous. Indeed, rape and murder are at the top of the list of hideous acts that require the severest of punishments. It is necessary to state this because people who merely want accurate numbers likely will be accused of not caring about women.

The White House has embraced the one-in-five number as the cornerstone of its newly-launched White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and set in motions to “make sure victims know they are not alone,” according to a White House email. The White House has brought out the big guns: Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the Council on Women and Girls, has blogged on the campaign and there is a new website—NotAlone.gov.

A quote from President Obama is emblazoned at the top of the NotAlone site:

Perhaps most important we need to say to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We’ve got your back. I’ve got your back.

I’d like to believe that all Americans, and not just President Obama and his taskforce, are eager to help anyone “out there” who has experienced sexual assault. But we can be more helpful if we have accurate numbers. With phony numbers, we get phony solutions.

The one-in-five number is the product of what scholar Christina Hoff Sommers calls “advocacy research” in an installment of her Factual Feminist series. The statistic flies in the face of statistics in the figures from the Department of Justice’s Annual Crime Survey, the gold standard when it comes to crime statistics. It is the product of vaguely-worded surveys.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry has also taken a sober look at the one in five statistic and found it inaccurate. I urge you to look at his brief and clear item on the statistic. He concludes with a question more of us should be asking:

While even one sexual assault is too many and unacceptable, shouldn’t it also be unacceptable for the White House to spread false, exaggerated and misleading data about campus sexual assaults?

Meanwhile, the always brilliant and counterintuitive Heather Mac Donald has an important piece on sexual assault figures over at City Journal. It begins with a description of somebody who is often alone:

It’s a lonely job, working the phones at a college rape crisis center. Day after day, you wait for the casualties to show up from the alleged campus rape epidemic—but no one calls. Could this mean that the crisis is overblown? No: it means, according to the campus sexual-assault industry, that the abuse of coeds is worse than anyone had ever imagined. It means that consultants and counselors need more funding to persuade student rape victims to break the silence of their suffering.

If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years.

I urge you to spend your lunch hour reading Mac Donald’s piece. She explains how many studies were configured to arrive at the 20 to 25 percent rape figure. For example:

During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory had discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results—very few women said that they had been. So Ms. commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way of measuring the prevalence of rape. Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape. Koss’s method produced the 25 percent rate, which Ms. then published….

Koss’s study had serious flaws. Her survey instrument was highly ambiguous, as University of California at Berkeley social-welfare professor Neil Gilbert has pointed out. But the most powerful refutation of Koss’s research came from her own subjects: 73 percent of the women whom she characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped. Further—though it is inconceivable that a raped woman would voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her—42 percent of Koss’s supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants.

All subsequent feminist rape studies have resulted in this discrepancy between the researchers’ conclusions and the subjects’ own views. …

Campuses are required by federal law to report sexual assault statistics, and they actually endeavor to get the numbers as high as possible by including minor offenses, according to Mac Donald. A low number apparently would indicate that women are being raped but that the college overlooks this. Another strange aspect of the story: the feminist-promoted hook-up culture, which promotes casual sex, is sacrosanct.

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