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August 31 2018

Debunking Misleading Stats on Sexual Assault on Campus

by Charlotte Hays

We've already taken note of the likely outrage that will follow the Department of Education release of new guidelines for dealing with sexual assault on campus.

The new guidelines will restore due process for the accused, which, believe it or not, is controversial in some quarters. (Find what's in the leaked draft here.)

Ashe Schow realized immediately that some of this opposition will take the form of spouting false and inflated statistics. She has debunked these false stats before and now does it again.

First off, just to be clear, Schow doesn't play down the seriousness of sexual assault. Quite the contrary. She writes:

Rape and sexual assault are serious offenses, and shouldn't be watered down to create a narrative that America is somehow the rape capital of the world, nor should we pretend that non-offenses are offenses. That hurts real victims.

We will be told again that one in five women is the victim of sexual assault on campus. There is a problem with the way this stat was obtained:

Studies purporting to find such an astronomical amount of sexual violence on college campuses (numbers thousands of times higher than war-torn Congo or Detroit, America’s most dangerous city) suffer from many of the same flaws. They are often not nationally representative, produced by women’s organizations determined to find women as oppressed victims in America, and are self-reported – a notoriously unreliable form of data.

The studies are often voluntary, meaning response bias could play a role, as those who believe they are sexual assault victims (rightly or wrongly) may be more inclined to participate than those who don’t think the survey is about them.

Instead of asking direct questions, in many instances, researchers asked broad questions and then over-interpreted the answers.

Eliminating due process is based on the notion that women must always be believed because they never make false accusations. Schow writes:

The truth is, we don’t know how many accusations are truly false, and even if we did, one can’t walk into an investigation assuming they already know the answer.

We’re often told that “just” 2% to 10% of rape accusations are false. College administrators are told this when “trained” on how to handle accusations of sexual assault. The implication is clear: Women just don’t lie about rape, so nine times out of ten, you’d be safe in assuming the accused is guilty.

But that statistic is wildly misleading, as it only applies to accusations made to police that are proven false. Proving a negative is often impossible, especially in a “we had sex but it was consensual” situation. On college campuses, there is no punishment for a false accusation, and thus no fear, as there is with lying to the police.

Schow debunks other statistics that have been used to eliminate due process.

I urge you to read the piece.

You'll be hearing these stats in the days to come, when DOE releases new guidelines, and Schow addresses them succinctly..

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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