May 6, 2014

The hidden epidemic of rape on campus

Filed under: Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:34

I recently saw a claim that nearly one in five US women attending university are subject to rape or sexual assault during their academic careers. If the situation is that dangerous, why haven’t the universities and campus police done something to crack down on this crime wave? That’s because it’s not actually true: only by merging a whole range of unwelcome or unwanted contacts (or even post facto “regrets”) in with genuine criminal activity do we get to a number close to 20% of the female student population. This is not in any way to minimize the seriousness of actual rape, but conflating everything from “microaggressions” through sexual harassment all the way to sexual assault in the same category is a terrible way to help those who are the actual victims of crime. In Time, Cathy Young discusses the recent White House report on campus sexual assault:

The administration’s effort, which made headlines last week with a report by the White House task force on campus sexual assault and new Department of Education guidelines, has an indisputably noble goal. Unfortunately, it is marred by flaws, including alarmist statistics, fuzzy definitions and a polarizing ideology of presumed guilt.

One of the foundations of this crusade is the staggering claim that one in five female students are sexually assaulted while in college. This figure comes from the 2005-2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study [PDF], which, as Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler has noted, was conducted at just two schools, with a fairly low response rate. Moreover, the survey’s data for “drug- and/or alcohol-enabled sexual assault” (about 70% of the incidents in the study) lump together unconsciousness or incapacitation with intoxication that may cloud one’s judgment and affect consent. Notably, despite widespread sexual assault awareness programs, two-thirds of the college women whom the study counted as victims of drug- or alcohol-enabled rape did not think they were raped, and few felt they had suffered psychological harm.

University of Michigan economist Mark Perry also points out that, if you take police records from university campuses and factor in the White House estimate that only about 12% of campus sexual offenses are reported, you don’t get anywhere near a one-in-five victimization rate over the course of a woman’s college attendance — more like 1 in 20 or 1 in 30.


  1. The problem is that the media, or perhaps the courts, have taken the actual words or “rape” and “sexual assault” and altered them. Any story that talks of rape or sexual assault must be scrutinized to determine what actually happened. For the most part we are left not knowing what actually happened. A pat or pinch on the ass, once seen as a pass, is now “sexual assault” and can land someone in court. Usually this involves a male groper and a female gropee, but it could be the other way around now with all the pajama boys out there! It may not actually land someone in jail, but it can ruin their reputation. Likewise, as you point out, rape isn’t necessarily the act that most of us understand it to be, but something that includes all forms of unwanted attention and possible penetration.

    Comment by Dwayne — May 6, 2014 @ 09:26

  2. That is compounded by the reluctance of school administration to leave the situation for the police and the courts to sort out: at least then, the alleged victim and alleged attacker have the protection of legal counsel and an impartial hearing. Universities are becoming more likely to deal with allegations of sexual assault as non-judicial matters, where the alleged perpetrator has no right to legal counsel or to a fair hearing or even to any sort of due process. University inquiries are also not required to determine proof of wrong-doing and can settle on a less-stringent “preponderance of evidence” criteria.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 6, 2014 @ 09:47

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