College campus rape rate 10 times higher than Detroit’s? Don’t believe everything the Justice Department tells you

As college students poured back into classrooms this week, ABC Nightline breathlessly reported (and other news outlets and blogs echoed): “A recent study from the Department of Justice estimated that 25 percent of college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period.”

The short statement is enough to make parents think twice before sending their daughter to college. Despite the seriousness of the claim, the hook is riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations — not least of which is the actual statistic.

Indeed, nearly 50 percent of the “rape victims” referred to in the report said they had not been raped.

The document in question, “Acquaintance Rape of College Students,” by attorney Rana Sampson, is not a study but rather a report combining and relying on several studies — the largest of which remains problematic.

Sampson released her report more than four years ago and though the Justice Department provided her with some funding, she was not a Justice Department employee. “The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice,” the report disclaims.

The one-in-four statistic, according to footnotes, is derived from a study conducted in 2000 called, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women” (SVCW), by Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen and Michael G. Turner.

Dr. Neil Gilbert, a professor of social welfare at University California, Berkeley, told The Daily Caller that the SVCW’s numbers are severely inflated due to the study’s broad definition of rape and the manner in which subjects were questioned.

According to Gilbert, the SVCW study results found a rate of rape that was 10 times higher than when the methodology for the National Crime Victimization Study (NCVS) was used. Namely, “the National Crime Victimization study had a check to make sure that the codes [or definitions of rape, force, etc.] of responses reflected the interviewees precise description. The SVCW study did not use this type of control on coding,” Gilbert explained.

In the SVCW study, researchers asked subjects to explain what happened to them and then decided, using their own definitions, what was and was not rape. The study defined rape in exceptionally wide terms: “Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.”

The inclusion of the phrase “psychological coercion” as part of the definition greatly increased the number of “victims.”

In an interview with TheDC, Sampson made no distinction between violent rape and regret after seduction. “Rape is rape is rape,” she said. “I think that the kind of harm that one experiences during rape is not something we want to belittle.”

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  • Willys

    “…nearly 50 percent of the “rape victims” referred to in the report said they had not been raped.”

    Has Justice confirmed with the Honorable Ms. Whoopsi Goldberg that the incidents in question were actually ‘rape rape’?

  • comatus

    So, after correction, campus rape rates are really only equal to Detroit?
    Invoking the “D” place must be the new corollary to Godwin. Be good, or we’ll send you to…

    The trouble with ten-year-old statistics (and ten-year-olds in general) is that things change. “The Market” has solved the problem, for both Detroit and the campus: the males have been removed.

    Still waiting for Wayne State and UD to weigh in. I’d stay off their lawn.

  • gregbo

    Wanna ban transfats? Change the definition of obesity. Need to show a huge increase in autism? Reclassify “retarded” kids as autistic. Wanna get increased funding from a rape on campus scare? Redefine rape.
    Young adults are biologically driven to hook up, always have and always will if the race is to survive. It’s not always “true love” and there are always users, abusers and losers in the marketplace but most of us survive our poor decisions without lasting harm as the “victim” responses above indicate. Yes, there are evil predators out there that need to be locked up but conflating consensual sex with rape reveals the underlying misogynistic hatred of men and puritan morality of the radical feminists who currently dictate policy at our universities. Our daughters are not stupid or weak nor are they victims of the choices they make.

  • Sluggo_f16

    As a father of 4 daughters (1 grad, 1 Junior, plus 2 high schoolers), I see this a shoddy research. My girls have told me repeatedly about the girls who use the Rape charge or threat of it to get out of trouble. Get caught drinking underage, claim it is a guys fault and that you were sexaully assaulted. No proof, you don’t get into trouble and they terrorize the boys. Anybody who says that a women would never falsely cry rape is absolutely full of it. But, the women’s studies folks at the school would have nothing to do if the truth was preached vice the Campus Rape Myth!

  • ghost

    I doubt that Sampson et al would ever bring themselves to claim that these women are victims of the libertine philosophy of the Sexual Revolution. That is too sacred a cow.

  • thephranc

    Indeed, nearly 50 percent of the “rape victims” referred to in the report said they had not been raped.

    So despite not saying they were raped these people are calling them rape victims anyway. Doesn’t this cheapen actual rape victims?

    • radishthegreat

      I don’t know if I’d use the word “cheapen” but you’ve got the right idea. Some actual rape victims (force/drugs were used) are ambivalent about reporting their rapes because they think they won’t be taken seriously, since so many high-profile “rapes” turn out to be “had a few drinks, agreed to have sex, regretted it a few days later” after all the facts are in. Treating “committed an act you didn’t want to do because you wanted a guy to like you” with the same seriousness as “had an act committed to you with a knife held to your throat” harms women who have experienced real violence.

      File it under “feminists” and “progressives” hate women. It’s a big file.

  • johno413

    Could this simply be another opportunity to find victims? In no way do I want to downplay the seriousness of rape or even attempted rape. However, the suggested exaggeration must point to some motive. And from this article I don’t find a lot of evidence that the reporting, and the studies for that matter, are driven by a large number of abused women calling for the effort. So, could this be a push to re-supply the victim narrative? Surely it serves not only campus women’s centers, as the author suggests, but also the media as a storyline to draw a lot of eyeballs while following numerous reports. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor should it be a ratings football.

    And on a side note, are we now arriving at a place in our history where we will allow people who allege rape to use the “I was seduced” defense? That’s valid? Really? That changes the entire mating game, from cave-man onward. Perhaps Sampson advocates that only the female in a male-female encounter should initiate the sex act. Good grief.