Campus sexual assault: Bad statistics don’t help victims | FACTUAL FEMINIST

Campus sexual assault: Bad statistics don’t help victims | FACTUAL FEMINIST

September 25, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


For years, we have heard that that 1-in-4
or 1-in-5 college women are victims of rape or sexual assault. But the studies behind
the statistic tended to be agenda driven and unscientific.  But now, according to hundreds
of news stories, there’s a new, more comprehensive survey that confirms epidemic levels of sexual
predation on campus. Could these researchers be right? That’s coming up next on the Factual
Feminist. Last month, the Association of American Universities
released the findings of its massive new report on campus sexual assault. The authors surveyed
students at 27 colleges across the US and found that 23 percent of female college seniors—nearly
one in four—reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact since entering college. First, the survey was offered to 780,000 students,
but only 150,000 students filled it out. That’s a response rate of only 19%. The authors caution
in the study that estimates may be too high because of “non-response bias”—that
is, because students who have been sexually assaulted may be more likely to fill out a
survey about sexual assault than those who have not. The authors also warn that their
findings are “not representative” and should not be extrapolated to anything outside
their frame.   Like past surveys on campus sexual assault,
respondents were not asked whether or not they had ever been raped or sexually assaulted.
Such direct questions are known to yield low numbers of victimization. Instead, the authors
asked if students experienced a range of behaviors from forced penetration to kissing to unwanted
touching or grabbing. If someone rubbed up against you in a sexual way at a party—that
could count.  Using such definitions, the authors calculated the rate of college females
experiencing unwanted sexual contact at each of the schools surveyed.   The authors warn
that it would be “over simplistic” or “misleading” to conclude that 20-25% of
students are victims of sexual assault nationwide according to their findings. Well, that didn’t
stop the media . “Unwanted sexual contact” became “sexual assault”—and the journalists
were off to the races. But Jennifer Freyd, a professor at the University
of Oregon and an expert on “trauma betrayal” defends  the study. She rejects the idea
that the sample of students who responded was biased toward victims. Wrong, says Freyd—
“those who were sexually assaulted are more likely to avoid the survey. In fact, she says,
survivors of sexual violence know that avoidance is a hallmark of post-trauma response.”
She could be right. But there is another factor that undermines the report that she is forgetting–call
it advocacy bias.  At nearly every college in the country there are impassioned rape
culture advocates deeply invested in the outcome of such surveys. My guess is that these activists
would fill out the survey with the same fervor that they carry out their protests. It’s far from perfect, but the best data
we have on sexual assault comes from the Justice Department, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
It find that approximately 1 in 53 women will be victims of rape or sexual assault while
in college. That is still too many victims—but it’s vastly different from 1 in 4.   And
according to the latest data from the FBI, the US rape rate fell to a 41 year low in
2014.   And even though politicians, journalists,
and celebrities are fixated on the supposed campus rape epidemic, females are who are
not enrolled in college are actually more likely to be victims of sexual violence than
college women. The Factual Feminist verdict? As its own authors
admit, the new campus rape survey is flawed, it asked vaguely worded questions to a non
representative sample of students who chose to participate. It is also likely to suffer
from advocacy bias.  Rape culture politics have not only brought panic to the campus,
they may have made it impossible to carry out meaningful research. This is unfortunate,
because even though activists often exaggerate the numbers, sexual assault on campus is a
serious problem. There are victims on campus who need protection.  We badly need better
policies and practices. Misleading research undermines that effort. Do you think I am right to suggest that activists
might use the surveys as a political weapon to advance their cause?  Let me know in the
comments. And if you found this video useful, please show your support by subscribing to
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