Don’t believe every statistic you hear.
The media has been focusing on the statistic of 20%– the number of women who will fall victim to sexual assault during their college careers. While this number may not be fully accurate, it seems that the media is missing the bigger picture. And that picture is 60%– the number of instances where sexual violence goes unreported.
According to panelists at the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., it is very likely that rape culture statistics have been blown out of proportion in the United States, and that this is largely a product of the media’s focus on rape and sexual assault.
According to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, 1 in 5 women will fall victim to sexually violence during their time in college. Conservative columnist George Will’s recent questioning of this statistic caused tremendous uproar.
In the column, the Washington Post writer claimed that colleges are purposely inflating rape statistics and pokes fun at the “coveted status that confers privilege” to victims of sexual violence. These remarks caused Will to be removed from various newspapers, such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Will went on to question the evolution of the 1 in 5 statistic. This is the part of his column that may even be agreeable to his opponents.
According to feminist author and resident fellow at the America Enterprise Institute, Christina Hoff Sommers, the 1 in 5 statistic came from a web-based survey that polled from two major universities in the United States.
Of those surveyed, there was a very low response rate — only 42 percent. Of those who responded, 19% responded affirmatively that they had experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college. In the survey, “sexual assault” can be anything ranging from forced kissing to rape. Sommers claimed that this definition is too wide and that the survey is thus inaccurate.
“Research on sexual assault is notoriously hard to conduct, and very hard to do it right,” Sommers said.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a similar survey to the White House task force’s in order to gather mandated data on the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence and rape. Sommers claimed that this survey only dealt with the “more serious” instances of sexual assault, and had an 88 percent response rate. This survey found that only 1 in 40 respondents had experienced instances of sexual assault.
“Let me say now that sexual assault on college campuses is a problem no matter what the statistic,” Sommers said. “I don’t believe that the 1 in 5 statistic is reliable. Inflated statistics lead to ineffective policy.”
Sommers also added that she believes ”that the rape culture is overinflated and turning ugly.” She cited examples of Boston University banning a Robin Thicke concert because the song “Blurred Lines” was deemed a “rape anthem.”
“We are in an era where paranoia and false accusations flourish,” Sommers said.
Contrary to what Will stated in his Washington Post column, not everyone believes that this 1 in 5 statistic is what the public should be focusing on.
“The number that we should be focusing on is 60 percent. Sixty percent of of all rape cases in the United States are not reported,” the former director of the Office of International Women’s Issues at the State Department for the George W. Bush administration, Andrea Bottner, said. “This needs to change. This is obviously a real problem.”
Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the country — especially on college campuses. This often has to do with what will happen once the crime is reported, as there is often not a standard protocol for dealing with the various types sexual assault.
“For every person who walks into a rape center, we have to remember than there are many who will not walk through the door,” Bottner said.