Hide the kids! There’s another college rape survey out.
On Friday, The Washington Post published the latest study aiming to prove that one in five college women face the risk of sexual assault. And this brand new survey even landed at an exact 20 percent number. What a coincidence.
WaPo’s poll — conducted along with the Kaiser Family Foundation — asked 1,035 individuals who had attended college in the last four years if they had experienced unwanted, attempted or “suspected” sexual contact while a student.
As The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Blake Neff has pointed out, this survey follows the path of previous studies in having a very broad definition of what constitutes sexual assault. Forced kissing, the “dance” known as grinding and fondling are all labeled as unwanted sexual contact. While the Post declares that the 20 percent of female respondents who said they had experienced one of these activities were sexually assaulted, the paper’s survey failed to ask the respondents whether they felt it was sexual assault. (RELATED: Are 20 Percent Of Women Really Assaulted In College?)
There’s also the problematic role alcohol has in causing these incidents. Two-thirds of the respondents who reported they experienced unwanted sexual contact said they couldn’t grant consent because they were “passed out, drugged, or drunk, incapacitated, or asleep.” Neff notes the issues in how WaPo addressed this question:
[T]he question’s wording means it is an imperfect guide to the actual assault rate. Simply being drunk, even very drunk, is not sufficient to make consent impossible from a legal standpoint.
Legally, one must be so incapacitated from drugs that they are unaware (or unconscious) of what is happening. Oddly, or perhaps intentionally, the poll does not offer this clarification, inviting respondents to believe they may have been assaulted simply because they offered genuine consent for sex while drunk or high.
The Post also asserts, with virtually no evidence, that the “the circle of victims on the nation’s campuses is probably even larger.”
Even with all these issues, the WaPo report could be fine. It could be a legitimate issue that one in five college women are tired of grinding with drunk dudes at frat parties. But that’s not the way sexual assault is treated by the article. Instead, we get language and imagery that conjures up rape — not bad makeout sessions or inappropriate dance moves.
Furthermore, the report doesn’t specify what incidents constitute an attack until midway through, leaving the reader with the impression that 20 percent of college women have been raped. Whether or not it’s the article’s intention to convey this notion, the idea that they face rape and not forced kissing leaks into the mainstream and becomes an accepted fact.
For example, take a look at the poster for “The Hunting Ground” — the inaccurate, yet popular documentary on campus rape. The tagline reads “For 1 in 5 women, their dream school will become their nightmare.” The scene depicted resembles the famous poster for “The Exorcist” and shows a woman ascending a creepy university stairway at night. The danger implied here is not that this woman is going to have an unpleasant dancing experience at the end of the stairs, but that a man is lying in wait to forcibly assault her. (RELATED: New Rape Documentary Relies On Myths, Not Facts)
The imagery and tagline base themselves on traditional notions of rape to inspire fear in the viewer. But the problem is that the one-in-five statistic is composed mostly of incidents of unwanted sexual contact that do not meet the standard definition of rape.
It also doesn’t help the cause of those demanding aggressive action against campus rape that the one big story about violent assault turned out to be a hoax. The Rolling Stone “A Rape on Campus” debacle was a major setback for the movement and made some wonder about the veracity of the whole idea that universities are suffering from an epidemic of sexual assault.
Since then, another stat has become popular in the media: only between two and ten percent of rape claims are false.
This stat is utilized to argue that the UVA gang rape hoax and Columbia’s Mattress Girl are not the norm and the vast majority of rape claims are true. The number was even deployed in the independent review that eviscerated Rolling Stone’s rape story.
But like the one-in-five number, there’s more here than meets the eye.
National Review reports that the cited study for the fake claim stat states that this is the number of provably false rape claims, which are accusations that were disproven by such means as a foolproof alibi on the part of the accused or the purported victim’s recanting.
Under this meaning, it doesn’t appear that either the UVA hoax or Mattress Girl would fit into this category. The Charlottesville police investigation of Jackie’s rape fabrication didn’t result in the department ruling it a false rape claim. While the police chief said his detectives found no evidence that the Rolling Stone source was sexually assaulted at the Phi Kappa Psi house, the law enforcement official stated at the press conference announcing the investigation results, “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie. . . . We’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”
Because nobody can prove a negative, and because the police chief wouldn’t call Jackie a liar, Jackie’s fabricated claim falls into the 45 percent of college sexual assault claims that “did not proceed” (for several reasons including insufficient evidence, the accuser refusing to cooperate or that the event did not fulfill the legal standard for assault). Emma “Mattress Girl” Sulkowicz’s rape claim would probably fall in this category as well since it is a classic case of “he-said she-said” — except for the fact the accused has text messages that support his claim their sexual encounter was consensual. (RELATED: The Text Of The Mattress Girl Lawsuit Will Shock You)
Additionally, National Review points out that another 14 percent of unwanted sexual contact “could not be categorized due to lack of information.” Counting in the academic study’s finding that nearly 6 percent of college assault claims are provably false, that leaves a little over than 35 percent of accusations that led to charges or punishment for the alleged assailant.
Thus, the number of false sexual assault claims could be a lot more than the given “two to ten percent” figure.
Nonetheless, like the one-in-five assertion, this figure will continue to be pushed out into the public and more people will accept it as a matter of fact. What is so troubling about this is not the use of misleading data — it’s the perverse fantasy that thousands of women will be raped at some point during their college years.
The genuine belief in this notion leads to the perpetuation of inaccurate figures and an unyielding faith in outlandish stories about sexual assault. On top of that, more innocent men will find themselves accused of these crimes and see their lives ruined by a culture that nurses and refuses to punish false rape accusations.
Why this sick idea is so firmly held to is beyond me. But it doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon.