The Feminists’ Bogus Rape Statistics
The activists cite a 2000 Justice Department report as showing that a quarter of American college women have been victims of rape. The study, of course, is online, and can be easily analyzed — at least by somebody used to the labyrinthine structure of reports like this.
The authors struggle mightily to jack up the numbers of women who have been victimized by rape, but end up far short of the numbers they need.
The report claims, for example, that 1.7% of college women had (as of the time of the survey) been victims of rape since the beginning of the school year. They then add another 1.1% who had been victims of attempted rape. Of course, attempted rape is a bad thing, but not nearly so bad as a completed rape. We would not like to be the victim of an attempted murder, but . . . well, you get the point. (See page 11 of the report.)
So the authors, by combining the two numbers, get 2.8%. They then note that this is for a period of (on average) 6.9 months and the extrapolate and say that this is really 4.9% per year, and that with five years (on average) needed to finish college, “the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.” (p. 10)
But of course, their own report admits that women in college are more likely to be raped than women who are not, and it seems questionable to assume that over the summer months, when many women are working, living with parents, away from the party atmosphere of the campus, etc. that they would face nearly the same threat of rape (or attempted rape, remember). The report concedes:
College campuses host large concentrations of young women who are at greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women in the general population or in a comparable age group. (p. iii)Yet another problem is that multiplying the yearly victimization numbers by five makes sense only if no woman is a victim more than once. If particular women are victimized in the first year, and again in the following years, you have fewer new victims, and the total number of women who have been victimized is not so high as it would be if each woman had been victimized only once. Indeed, the study admits:
Consistent across the models, it was found that four main factors consistently increased the risk of sexual victimization: (1) frequently drinking enough to get drunk, (2) being unmarried, (3) having been a victim of a sexual assault before the start of the current school year, and (4) living on campus (for on-campus victimization only). (see page 23)We might add dating frequently, dating scummy guys, and going to venues where the guys view the women as sexual prey.
But even worse, the authors do a comparison study, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, and find that the rate of rape to be only 0.16% for completed rape, and 0.18% for attempted rape (see page 14).
The massive discrepancy between the two studies should create huge skepticism.
In the main study, women where asked why they did not report the rape (95% did not report it). A broad range of possible answers were suggested, most of them plausible and reasonably socially acceptable — for example “did not want other people to know” or “afraid of reprisal by assailant or others.” Yet 65.4% of the victims of “completed rape” and 76.5% of the victims of “attempted rape” said that they “did not think it was serious enough to report” (pp. 24-26).
Among the 86 incidents that the researchers classified as “completed rape,” the women, when asked “Do you consider this incident to be a rape?” answered “no” 48.8% of the time (p. 15).
Worse, the authors report that “Victims in the sample generally did not state that their victimization resulted in physical or emotional injuries.” (p. 22)
These findings suggest that the definition of rape used by the researchers was too broad. We can’t imagine results like this among women victimized by real rapes.
Findings like this ought to make any social scientist hesitate to make any strong assertions about the exact incidence of rape. But latching onto an outlier that produces the highest possible incidence of rape (but still not high enough to support feminist claims) is not responsible.