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Sexual-assault reports by universities have credibility issues because definitions vary widely

We’ve all been told not to trust apples-to-oranges comparisons, so why do we give them authority on the subject of campus sexual-assault reports?

The Clery Act campus-crime reports that colleges and universities are federally required to publish every year just came out, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

While “most” of the 30 reports reviewed by the media organization are using the definition of “rape” from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, “there are instances of administrations making revisions,” it says.

The FBI definition of rape focuses on “penetration … without the consent of the victim”:

“When one person or school says ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault,’ it may be referring to something different than when someone else says it, so we aren’t comparing apples to apples,” said Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum …

According to Lukas, these divergences and the subjectivity of the term “consent” can be misleading to the public.

“For example, to some people consent is impossible when intoxicated, but not everyone,” said Lukas. “This graying of definitions drives the numbers, and that’s how we get statistics like ‘one in five'” [women will be the victim or target of sexual assault in college].


Universities with unusually high numbers of rape reports include Yale (24) and Harvard (27), but colleges “also accounted for incidents that were classified as ‘unfounded’ following investigation, meaning accusations deemed baseless or false,” WFB reports.

Lukas says institutions with high numbers of reports, just like those with zero reports, should lead the public to scrutinize them more closely.

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