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


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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IMAGE: Kijkwijzer – Wikimedia Commons

Add to the Discussion

  • Campbell Stanley

    Dr. Carol Stabile: “45 percent of colleges report zero rapes on campus, which is bullshit.”

    I really would love to know where “Dr.” Stabile got her doctorate. I love this logic. If a given percentage is lower than what I expect it to be, can I just declare it to be higher? Can I now say that during the 2012 presidential election Mitt Romney only got 47.2% of the vote, so that is “bullshit”? Surely he should have gotten a higher percentage!! Could I then just declare Mitt Romney President of the United States because I think–with absolutely no evidence–that he should have gotten a higher percentage of the vote?

    I’ll just bet that “Dr.” Carol Stabile is a real scholar. Her methodological training is no doubt first rate. This is a case were delusion is a substitute for data.

    • Michael Becker

      I’ll bet it’s a doctorate in education.

    • wiier9l

  • AnneG

    Looked her up. PhD from Brown in English. Spent most of her time in women’s studies dept. You create a crisis to get grant money.

    • wiier9l

    • boboadobo

      you mean to say a basket weaving degree

      • banger377

        A more sinister version of basket weaving.

      • Charles Hammond Jr

        Say what you will about the people from Women’s studies… at least an honest basket weaver won’t falsely accuse anyone of rape.

  • Therese Desjardins

    Every (5) woman in my family (still living today) has been raped (except my youngest daughter). Some were not old enough to be in college. Does that mean their high schools were supposed to stop this? Who really is responsible for rape? Rape is a problem, but how does blaming universities help? Maybe they don’t really want to help. Maybe they just want to victimize the victims. Answer: 2nd Amendment.

  • Cenobite

    “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.”

    This is the statistics of small numbers. It’s tantamount to asking two boroughs of New York if traffic is a problem during rush hour, and then using the data to say that there is too much gridlock in all of the US.

    I predict based upon this article, and others that the legal industry will now open a new field of specialization. Call it, “Collegiate Civil Law,” where falsely accused male students will sue the institutions that destroyed their futures with less than legal boards of inquiry. Ultimately someone will point to the “dear colleague,” letter, and sue the government when enough students have been through the grinder to make a major class action suit worth it.

    I also would say that if the first prediction happens that somewhere along the line a couple of students will figure out a scam where one accuses the other. The other

    gets expelled, and labeled as a sexual predator. Then the first recants, and the second sues big time. After it’s done the two split the take.

    Furthermore, if the first prediction comes to pass I would not be surprised if colleges will need to start carrying new insurance to protect themselves from the law suits. So that will drive the cost of education up even higher. This trend will also start to impact the highly lucrative Collegiate sports programs. When one of the factors of considering a sports scholarship will become the number of men who have been falsely accused at that university. More dangerous than that is how it will impact the H1-b visa students who won’t want to come to your university for the same reasons the sports stars wont.

    However, the absolute worst thing about all of this is the “cry wolf,” effect it will have. So desensitized will some become that the real victims of actual rape will be lost in the noise. Just my 2 cents.

    • Doc Robotnik

      This is an interesting point. I think that prospective male grad students in my country need to be warned about the hazards of a US education. Perhaps they would be well advised to go somewhere where they are unlikely to have their lives destroyed by false accusations and presumed guilt.

      • Cenobite

        Agreed, I am told that it’s particularly nice around the large hadron collider, and access to the science there would be awesome for eduction.

    • larryj8

      It has already started. Several young men have sued their former university for discrimination under Title IX (which itself is wonderful irony) and some have won.

      • Cenobite

        It has indeed started, but there are few lawyers who as of yet specialize in these type cases.

        Here is a list:


        32 cases most still pending, 2 ruled against the male student that I saw at a glance. Most of the settled ones have confidential agreements, but some don’t, and some have pretty good chunks of change attached to them.

        • Mom

          There needs to be a list of lawyers specializing in this kind of thing. My son was expelled by a kangaroo court at school in SC. They would not even consider the video of her in an elevator afterwards, smiling at people and then waiting five minutes for her alleged rapist (3 hours worth, and she was unable to say no or anything else to him the entire time) to walk her to her car. She contacted him later that night saying she was attracted to him and wanted to get together again for lunch or something, and that was painted as her trying to fix it and him. Asst. dean of students was her mouthpiece while my son was left with his Dad. (We were told lawyers could not talk.. And we had no clue who to get, and we thought the truth would prevail!). A list of lawyers, etc. that at least have some idea of how to proceed would benefit all involved!

          • Cenobite

            I do feel for you, in my post above is a link to a site called “A Voice For Male Students.” Johnathan the man who runs the site has extensive knowledge in this area. I cannot say that he knows of a list of lawyers outside of the one he has listed of lawsuits. There is a lawyer noted in that list in North Carolina one, “Rachel B. Hitch.” I would Google that name and see if she can help or point you to someone she knows.

            I also found this site which was a bit generic but one of their bullet points was specifically talking about expulsion.

            Can’t hurt to talk to them, and button up for battle. My best wishes, and hopes go with you, your family, and your son.

  • Jon

    2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study is much more suspect than the article suggests. First, the` study DOES NOT say that 1 in 5 college women have been assaulted! Even the Whitehouse has misquoted the study as saying this! It says that 19.0% of women surveyed reported at least one completed or attempted sexual assault. Only 13.7% reported experiencing a completed sexual assault. The study considers anything that involves physical contact (“forced kissing or fondling”) sexual assault, it is unclear what “attempted” sexual assault actually is. Is trying to steal a kiss, but stopping when your partner turns away attempted sexual assault?

    There are also many red flags that damage the credibility of the study. For example, most of the respondents the study marked as “rape victims” told the researchers they weren’t victims of rape. Even after specifically defining “rape,” when asking the survey takers classified as rape victims if they were raped the study found that only “64.6% of physically forced rape victims and 37.8% of incapacitated rape victims consider the incident to be rape.” This is especially damning because “incapacitated rape” was reported by the researchers as by far the most common type of rape and possibly (their report isn’t completely clear) the most common sexual assault. When the majority of survey takers disagree with the results of the survey, it should be obvious the survey is untrustworthy. It seems like the survey was designed to give researchers the results they wanted (sky-high victimization numbers that can be used for fear mongering), rather than the truth (which would actually help address the problem of sexual assault).

    Everyone should read the study for themselves:http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf
    A wiki summary/analysis of the study:https://reference.avoiceformen.com/wiki/Campus_Sexual_Assault_Study

    • Nathan

      I’ve seen definitions of ‘sexual assualt’ as loose as man asking a woman on a date, and her turning him down.
      Not repeatedly, but just one offer of a date.
      We really need to know the terms of the study, but it seems like there is a lot of room for error in them.

      • Jon

        The vagueness of terms like “sexual assault” and even “rape” is a huge problem in scholarship, politics and public discourse.

        The Campus Sexual Assault Study (CSA) separates sexual assault into two categories: sexual battery (“assaults involving sexual contact only, such as forced kissing or fondling”) or rape (“assaults involving entailed oral, vaginal, or anal penetration with a finger or object”). Sexual battery could be something sinister or it could be a stolen kiss, an awkward hug, a childish pat on the butt. Things get even murkier when you talk about “attempted” sexual assault.

        The key to all of these is how respondents were identified as victims. The published CSA report does not include a full list of their survey questions. What answers to what questions labelled a respondent as a victim? Did the survey ask direct questions (“Have you ever been sexually assaulted?”) or more indirect questions (“Have you ever been kissed by someone when you didn’t ask for it?”).

        Given how the survey misidentified a large number of respondents as victims of rape, the survey probably used indirect/misleading questions, identifying respondents who may not consider themselves victims as victims. Did misidentified rape victims still consider themselves victims of sexual battery or not victims at all? As with respondents misidentified as rape victims, did respondents identified as victims of sexual battery actually consider themselves victims? These are some of the questions the CSA researchers need to answer.

  • Smokeless

    One question I have is where in the rest of America is this crisis? Young women in college are only a fraction of all the young women in the US and they only spend 8 to 9 months each year on campus. So if these statistics (sic) are true what happens to the majority of women In the US when they are not being sexually assaulted on a college campus? Do women not got get drunk in a non-collegiate environment; are there no ill advised hook-ups or mixed signals or changes of mind in larger society? If 20-25% of all women say from puberty to cougars are sexually assaulted then the number of sexual assaults in the US is in the millions. But actual rape statistics don’t seem to represent but a tiny fraction of them. Maybe this is because only on campuses and among certain feminist circles do radical feminists have the institutional power to inflict this kind do ideological foolishness safe from a wider and saner world. This is no defense for rape as traditionally and legally defined, which is properly severely. Funny how the patriarchy has traditionally taken rape seriously.

  • Tedd

    Without access to the actual study we’re all talking through our hats here. But a lot of people who are attacking the study’s methodology are, ironically, making essentially the mistake they accuse Dr. Stabile of: Drawing too firm of a conclusion from insufficient data. There is no statistical reason that a study of 5-thousand-odd students at two colleges could not provide sufficiently small error bars to make a statistic like 1-in-5 alarming, if adequate care was taken to ensure randomness.

    A more likely explanation for the larger-than-expected result would be that the criteria used to determine “sexual assault” in the study is out of line with what most people would consider actual sexual assault. Even in a statistically valid study, if you shift the categories a bit you can often radically alter the resulting numbers. Also, some degree of self-selection in the respondents could be a contributing factor. Neither of those things has anything to do with the size of the study, per se. Those who are talking about a small-number problem are only demonstrating that they don’t understand statistics, themselves.

  • Henry Chapman

    If one in five women are at risk for being raped on a college campus, as liberals would have you believe, then not only should colleges permit students to carry firearms, the colleges should be issuing them to students at orientation, along with ammo.

    • larryj8

      More to the point, why would any parents allow their daughters to go to college if the sexual assault rate were so high? Since the female to male ratio at many colleges is approaching or even exceeding 60/40, if young women are scared away from college, many of the schools will close.

      • ray

        Parents of daughters are the foundational force behind Feminist America. They get a two-fer from this endless anti-male hate and hysteria. They get to pretend that their Perfect Princess is constantly under threat by the Evil Patriarchal World, while simultaneously (as they have for four decades) scooping up ALL the scholarships, grant monies, campus jobs, and other benefits and privileges that obtain at America’s gyno-campuses.
        It is the maintainence of this hate-hysteria that PERMITS and RATIONALIZES the malevolent treatment of those horrid rotten males . . . all of whom are crouching in the bushes, just WAITING to rape their Perfect Snowflake Princess. The endless hysteria and lies are foundational to the totalitarianism on campus, in courts, government, etc.

        • CSM-1000

          Ironically, it is this very overbearing push itself that is making America less safe for their daughters, not more. There is no better way to create a male enemy for life than to blatantly and viciously crush him in his youth. Instead of fostering social equilibrium and amity, as would any civilized and mature people, these misguided white knights of the supreme variety are actually creating a special kind of hell for all of their descendants to eventually partake in equally. Well done indeed.

          • ray

            Seems obvious, doesn’t it? The entitlement and overprotection of their daughters results in a culture of violence, destabilization, and early promiscuity outside marriage. Males not only are alienated, but openly mocked as a ‘class’.

            Unfortunately most folks, especially materialistic moderns, think/act selfishly and in the moment. And feminism is a broad-based phenomenon, offering many benefits, perks, and solaces to wide elements of America . . . including to the parents of girls. But the offered apple is poisoned, as we’ve seen.

            Worse, many elements of this destabilization are deliberately malevolent, serving agendas counter to the legitimate interests of the nation.


  • David

    A great read on this topic is Heather MacDonald’s “The Campus Rape Myth.” http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_1_campus_rape.html

  • TPH

    “This atmosphere is anti-intellectual and the opposite of progress”

    Yes, there’s also another term for what’s going on at college and university campuses: A Witch Hunt.

    • JohnnySocco

      shouldn’t that be Warlock Hunt?

  • You know what you call a theoretical physicist who insists that the experiment was done wrong when it fails to substantiate his theory?

    A crackpot.

    • Spiny Norman

      Or a climate change researcher.

  • iggy

    The rapidly declining male student enrollment will continue, as will lawsuits against colleges for false rape claims. Essentially the feminist special interests group has made college and universities a hostile environment. Just like ‘Grasseaters’ in Japan, and MGTOW in the US, young men are simply walking away from the institutions that want to paint them as evil rapists in waiting. Where are all the mothers protesting the vile claims against their sons at these universities? How about we see a few ladies ‘women up’ and start to contest these harmful and false claims made against their sons.

    • Nathan

      I want to know what feminists are doing to correct declining male enrolements at colleges?

      • GetItGoing

        Absolutely nothing, of course. In the name of “equality”, right?

        • Nathan

          If it truly is a movement for equality, rather than inventing false campus rape statistics, I’d expect them to be addressing declining college enrolements and the declining school performance of boys.
          Since they aren’t, and aren’t even talking about it….says something about their equality movement, doesn’t it?

  • j Ray

    Advice to any male falsely accused of rape at college.

    IMMEDIATELY file a law suit against the university/college and the chancler/oresident. personally for deprivation of civil rights. And file a defamationh suit against the woman involved, Then go after the feminist groups/individuals pushing for punishment.

    Don’t waste time or effort trying to fight it in the campus kangaroo “court” that considers all men guilty – and always finds them so.

  • K Pow

    Carol Stabile is a bigot – plain and simple. My sons will not go to the University of Oregon.

  • Jerry W.

    There are 17MM college students in the U.S., of which 57% or about 9MM are women. These statistics can be verified at U.S. Dept. of Education websites. If 20% are raped during their college careers, this would be about 1.8 MM or about 450M per year. Total rapes reported by the F.B.I. in 2010 for the entire U.S. was about 90M. Draw your own conclusions.

  • mikee

    I read an article in Ms. magazine about the 1 in 5 number, and the 12% reporting rate, and since my daughter is in her third year at an enormous state university, I immediately pulled up the Clery report of sexual crimes reported to police by the university for the past three years. Less than dozen of the female population of the college, some 20,000 women, reported sexual crimes against themselves to the local police each year.

    Amazed, I went to my alma mater, a redneck enormous state institution, and found an even lower number reported. Then I looked at Harvard, which includes “unwanted fondling” among its reported crimes to police, and the entire California university system. Both had way, way less than 1 in 5 reported sexual crimes, even with the 12% reporting factor factored in..

    So either the stat is BS or the women aren’t reporting to the police in numbers I find to be incomprehensible.

    So I called my daughter. She has not been sexually assaulted in her three years, despite being cute as a button and in an engineering program that is heavily loaded with the opposing gender. She also knows no women among her large cohort of acquaintences that has been sexually assaulted.

    I also called my son, at my redneck alma mater. Same result.

    So the data I have indicates strong support for the conclusion of BS, not under reporting.

    • Sean G.

      Most news, studies, and surveys are propaganda used to scare the masses in surrendering more freedoms and liberty each day. Your analysis is more believable than any government funded study or private survey. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jon

      Thanks for pointing that out. There is a huge difference between the low victimization numbers reported by the government through Clery and the ludicrously high numbers reported by these “1 in 5” studies!
      The Clery data is free online for everyone to check themselves: http://www.ope.ed.gov/security/
      Keep in mind that Clery records individual reported incidences, not convictions and false reports are not an irregular occurrence on college campuses. Also, Clery doesn’t record “rape” but “sex offenses – forcible” (“Any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent”) and “sex offenses – non-forcible” (“Unlawful, non-forcible sexual intercourse”). These terms may be interpreted very differently by each school.

      Defenders of astronomical “1 in 5” figures will clam that sexual assault/rape is incredibly under-reported. However, as I pointed out in an earlier post, most of the CSA study’s “rape victims” actually told the researchers they weren’t raped. A similar thing happened with Mary Koss’ infamous 1982 study that claimed 1 in 4 college women have been raped, but in fact 73% of these “rape victims” said they had not been raped and 43% of the alleged victims continued to date their alleged rapists: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/04/21/rape-scandal-turns-sympathy-into-skepticism/

      Defining non-victims as victims lets researchers make the argument that rape/sexual assault is not only epidemic but also under reported since their “victims” (who didn’t actually feel victimized) didn’t go to the authorities.

  • Ole Einar Bjørndalen

    The “1 in 5” statistic will continue to be paraded around by democrats like the similarly disproven “77 cents” figure. Progressives and uninformed women, sadly, will believe these lies and think the dems actually have heir best interest at heart. I cant imagine how much Hilary plans to harp on these non issues.

  • John1838

    In addition to the obvious problem of citing a thoroughly unscientific survey as authoritative, the whole discussion of the problem(s) of sexual assault on campus is tainted.
    For example, this article’s headline says “raped” while the lede says “sexually assaulted.” Furthermore, the definition of “sexually assaulted” has been so broadened that even innocuous activity, such as a joke overheard (eavesdropped?) by a third party, has been scooped into the fray.
    We cannot find common ground to work toward solutions if we cannot find common ground on what we’re talking about. But finding common ground or solutions does not seem to be the objective.