The Truth Behind that 1-in-5 College Women are Raped Statistic

by Stephen Edwards - Furman University on July 28, 2014

OPINION

The oft-cited statistic that “one in five women is sexually assaulted by the end of her college career” has become a battle cry for those pushing for strict and severe sexual assault campus policies.

The statistic that 20 percent of all coeds will be sexually assaulted or raped before they leave college was taken from a 2007 study conducted by the Justice Department, and it paints a truly horrifying picture.

The problem is, the statistic is flimsy and unsubstantiated at best – and maliciously manipulated as a means to an end at worst.

The study was a web-based survey of 5,446 undergraduate women at two large public universities. Yes, the survey pulled from all of two universities, both of them large public schools.

To hear Vice President Joe Biden and others promulgate this statistic, one would think that it applies equally to all colleges across the land, regardless of size, geographic location, or any other factor. Indeed, many scholars have pointed out that the statistic suggests America’s campuses have a higher violent crime rate than urban cities across the nation.

Clearly the study does not represent the experience of every woman at every college or university in the nation.

Yet it was the basis for sweeping new federal mandates that allow campus leaders to prioritize sexual assault claims above students’ civil liberties and due process rights, and lowers the bar for finding guilt in such matters.

Adding to the hysteria, feminists eager for reform and patriarchal retribution have taken this data and run widely with it. A particularly disturbing outgrowth has been a “Schools of Shame Map.”

According to Fembot, the site at which the map is hosted, the project uses Google Maps to lay out every college in the U.S. that “needs help addressing sexual violence,” adding that “all of them” are in need of help.

The map compares the actual number of reported sexual assaults at each college with what the number would be if the 1 in 5 statistic was applied to its female student population. In other words, the authors of the map multiplied the number of female students at SOSmapuniversities by .20, and made a conclusion about how many sexual assaults they believe are probably occurring on these campuses.

They intend to “shame” schools with low numbers of reported assaults, because in their minds low numbers only mean not all the victims have come forward.

Dr. Carol Stabile, one of the map’s authors and the director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society at Oregon University, said “if you have really low reporting, then you know there’s a problem at that institution.” She made the comments for an article on Jezebel.com headlined: “45 percent of colleges report zero rapes on campus, which is bullshit.”

The Schools of Shame map takes the shaky Justice Department data as fact, and concludes that any institution whose number of reported assaults is fewer than what the study alleges is worthy of scorn. What’s more, anyone who dares question the figure is also tarred and feathered.

Just ask Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and commentator George Will, who dared question the statistics. In a June 6 column in The Washington Post titled “Colleges become the victims of progressivism,” Will took on the notion that one in five women is sexually assaulted during college, yet only 12 percent of assaults are reported.

“Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous,” Will stated, adding:

“Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.”

After the column was published, Will faced extreme backlash. His column was dropped from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and “tens of thousands contacted The Washington Post urging them to drop Will’s column for excusing, if not encouraging, ‘rape culture’ at American universities,” the Daily Caller reported.

But in a debate strangled by emotion and the feminist agenda, such irresponsible use of facts is typical. Just look at the “Schools of Shame Map.”

The current discussion surrounding sexual assault on college campuses resembles a familiar old adage: “All heat and no light.” The intense emotions that have been poured into the issue have had a stultifying effect on honest, reasonable discussion.

In the eyes of many who care deeply about this matter, the world is comprised of two camps: the victims and the villains. The victims, of course, are the young (mostly) women who have suffered some form of sexual assault. The villains are any persons who stand in the way of recently proposed changes to the way colleges and universities approach sexual assault.

This atmosphere is anti-intellectual and the opposite of progress.

College Fix contributor Stephen Edwards is a student at Furman University.

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