A new survey of Rutgers University students reinforces the idea that one in four college women will be victims of sexual assault... but only if you don’t look at the study too closely. Zoom in and you’ll find the same problems that plague so much research about sex crimes on college campuses, from defining violence to include rude comments to failing to differentiate between an unwanted kiss and forcible rape.
The Rutgers survey—conducted by the school’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children at the request of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the Department of Justice—was carried out last academic year at the state school’s New Brunswick campus, attended by about 42,000 students. Around 10,800 students completed the online survey; the majority were undergraduates (80 percent) and women (64 percent).
Rutgers used definitions of sexual violence and sexual assault based on material from the White House task force. “‘Sexual assault’ and ‘sexual violence’ refer to a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient,” notes a school summary of survey findings, “and include remarks about physical appearance, persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient, threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior, as well as unwanted touching and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.”
Survey respondents were presented with that definition, then asked whether they had experienced sexual violence prior to starting school at Rutgers. Nineteen percent of all respondents and 24 percent of undergraduate women said they had.
That’s right. “Remarks about physical appearance” could constitute “sexual assault.” So could “persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient.” The latter are a form of harassment, and somebody in authority might need to tell the dork who does it to back off, but it’s absurd to call it violence.
Surveys like this are virtually always conducted by people with an agenda. Often, they are feminists who want to promote a narrative of men as evil oppressors. But often they come from campus bureaucrats who want an excuse for more programs and initiatives to justify more staff, a larger budget, and more power.
And of course, the two groups overlap.
Further, participation in these studies is typically entirely voluntary, and in this study fewer than 30 percent of the student population took the survey. Thus there may be a skew toward those who have been sexually assaulted (or have some grievance about some sexual encounter).
Things like this may explain why the very best survey of victimization, the National Crime Victimization Survey
, shows a radically lower level of campus sexual assault, and campus rape. It mostly limits the definition of “sexual assault” to things that people in the real world (outside college campuses) consider an assault, and the response rate is quite high (88%).
This survey shows the rate of sexual assault among college women as 4.3 victimizations per thousand.
Yes, per thousand
. That is the rate for six months, so for a college career, one might need to multiply it by eight. But it’s a little more complicated since college women are apparently less likely to be assaulted in the summer (when they are likely away from the party atmosphere of campus). On the other hand, some women take five years to graduate. But there is no way to get anywhere near the scary statistics the rape activists use.
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Where actual rape is concerned, the rate is two per thousand, and the rate for attempted rape is 1.5 per thousand (see Table 1 here
Further, rather than there being a rape crisis, the rate of campus sexual assault has been declining.
So what we have here is yet another case of college campuses being a Wonderland were hard empirical facts don’t matter, and the proper politically correct attitudes are all that counts.