Did you know April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Probably not. So, in that spirit, here’s some other information about sexual assault you probably didn’t know!
A major study in 1987 by Mary Koss found that 27% of college women had been victims of at least one rape or attempted rape. This is the source of the common “1 in 4 college women” rape statistic that tends to float around universities. And, it’s got (at least) 3 big problems with it.
First, is the common sense problem. If 25% of girls who go to college are raped, and this information is widely distributed, who the hell would send their daughter to college, and what reasonable woman would stay? Of course, the natural response from the feminist camp is to say that women have a right to go to college and rapists should not be able to scare them out. Well sure. But, imagine there was a really bad part of down, and if you walk down the street at night, you had a 1 in 4 chance of being just mugged. Would you go there, even though you had a right to? Probably not. You’d say “Muggers, you win, I’m going to go somewhere else, even though I have a right to walk down that street.”
If women really believed these statistics, we’d see calls for increased police presence on college campuses, maybe even the national guard. We’d also see the quick segregation of men’s and women’s universities because the demand for all-women’s schools would be huge. But, instead we just see calls for more awareness, which suggests that even that advocates don’t believe the problem is as severe as they claim. Bad, yes, definitely, will not argue there.
Rape is bad. Rapists should be punished. End of discussion on that.
But, that doesn’t mean we can throw facts and common sense out the window.
Still on the common sense objection to the 1 in 4 number, we have to ask who are the rapists? Do we really believe that 1 in 4 college men is a rapist? Doubtful. And actually, it’d be a higher percentage, because women are 60% of college students. So, for every 100 students, we’d have 60 women, 15 of whom had been raped. That means for the 40 college men, there are 15 rapes, or 37.5% of college men are rapists. WTF?! No fracking way. Even if we assume that there are a smaller number of serial rapists, we’d have a statistic along the lines of 1 in every 10 college men being on the FBI’s most wanted list. Seriously, call the national guard right fracking now.
Moving on the second problem, these studies rely on pretty dubious statistical inferences. A lot of them ask questions not about your entire life, but rather about a shorter period of time, often the previous year or the previous 6 months, and then they extrapolate trends from that data. If 5% of college women were victims of sexual assault in the previous 6 months, then 40% of women will be raped in their 4 years of college! It’s a little more sophisticated than that, but that’s the gist of it.
A better way of conducting these polls would be to ask two questions in place of this one; have you been the victim of a sexual assault since starting college, and how long have you been attending? Wondering what’s the difference?
Imagine you were asked whether you were the victim of a sexual assault in the past 6 months. And, 8 months ago you were raped by another student. Would you answer yes or no? Would you really sit there trying to make sure you remember the exact date it happened, and then count back the number of months to make sure it fell within the time frame, or would you just think yes, you’ve been raped recently. If you did do the math, and found your experience fell outside the time frame, would you simply allow your experience to go uncounted, or would you include it anyways?
If asking about the previous 6 months gets responses for the previous 8 months, then a positive response rate of 5% multiplied out to 40% should actually only become 30%. So, you can see how these numbers can get inflated extremely quickly. I imagine it’s actually quite worse than even what I proposed. If you asked me if I had been the victim of a violent crime in the last 6 months, I think I might actually consider the last year, maybe even a bit more. It pretty much just comes down to how big of an impact the event had on me, how fresh the memory is, how pissed off I still am about it, and how much I want my voice to be heard.
The final problem with these studies, and especially the Mary Koss study, is that they use an over-broad definition of rape. The studies don’t stop at asking conclusory questions, such as “were you raped?” They ask about other things, such as whether you had sex with someone while intoxicated, and then conclude that you were raped. Intoxication means you can’t consent, no consent means rape. Of course, they don’t ask things like whether the other person was also intoxicated (in which case you’re probably a rapist too, which makes no sense), or whether the person was your boyfriend and your normal weekend routine is to get drunk and screw, and you get drunk with that specific act in mind. Nope, what they do is take information which is ambiguous and draw improper conclusions.
In the Koss study, 73% of the women counted as rape victims did not label their own experiences as rape. The cry from the feminist camp is that this just shows women who are raped don’t always think of themselves as rape victims. Maybe they don’t understand that date rape is real rape, or they blame themselves, etc. What the feminist camp fails to consider is that maybe the studies include things that aren’t rape. Do we really think that 73% of rape victims don’t know they were raped? Do we think women are that stupid?
Odds are both things are happening. Some women who were raped don’t recognize the crime for what it is, and some women who really weren’t raped are counted as victims. Any way to get an idea of how much from each group we’re getting? Actually, there is!
In the Koss study, 42% of the women counted as rape victims subsequently dated and had sex with their supposed attacker. Now maybe some women don’t count getting drunk and being taken advantage of as rape, but they still know it’s bad, and I can’t imagine many of those women are going to date their attackers after the fact. I think we have to assume that virtually all of this 42% were not raped, but are rather reported by Koss as false positives. This means that of the 73% who said they had not been raped, more than half of those women were correct. If you said you weren’t raped and the Koss study said you were, odds are you were not and the Koss study is wrong.
And of course, it doesn’t stop there. Some women will have voluntarily gotten drunk with the intention of having sex, but then didn’t date and have sex again with the same person. That’s right, women are just as capable as men of having one night stands. No idea how many, but we’re talking about college here, so it’s probably not an insignificant number. I think it’s pretty safe to say that adding these women in with the 42% who did have sex again with their supposed rapist, we can conclude that over half the women counted as rape victims in the Koss study were not raped.
Just to make sure there’s no confusion here, sexual assault is bad. Rape is bad. People who commit these acts should be punished. But, awareness means facts.