Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Does 1 In 5 Come From?

12/15/14 Inside Higher Education reports on the origins of the claim that 1 in 5 college women have been raped:
That’s because the statistic comes from a 2007 study that is based on a survey of just two colleges. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, the "Campus Sexual Assault Study" summarizes the online survey results of male and female students at two large public institutions. Nineteen percent, or about one in five, of the female respondents said they had experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault since starting college.

Defining Sexual Assault
Other critics have focused not so much on the limited scope of the survey, but rather its broad definition of sexual assault, which includes kissing and groping. The study's definition of sexual assault includes both rape -- described as oral, anal, and vaginal penetration -- and sexual battery, which was described as "sexual contact only, such as forced kissing and fondling." Some argue that an unwanted kiss should not be conflated with other kinds of more severe sexual assault or rape.

Laura Dunn, executive director of sexual assault prevention group SurvJustice, said the fact that some people still balk at the idea of unwanted kissing being considered sexual assault is a result of the criminal justice system frequently focusing on only the worst kinds of sexual violence. It’s caused a particular image of sexual assault to form in people’s heads, she said, and it's an image denies a much broader expanse of offenses.
“People who deny this issue don’t believe something like an unwanted kiss is harmful, but it is,” Dunn said. “I think there’s an idea in our society that says if a man’s not using a gun or beating a woman, then it’s O.K. to be pushy and aggressive, or to wait until she’s drunk. We really think of some sexual aggression as really not that bad, and that mentality extends to the survivors as well. In these surveys, if you use broader legal terms, you actually get less reporting.”...

Despite the Campus Sexual Assault Study’s shortcomings as a national barometer of the issue, other research has yielded similar findings – though with some caveats. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that the rate of women who experience sexual assault is one in five, though that rate is for all women in instead of just those going to college. That survey, too, has been questioned for its classification of having sex while intoxicated in any way as a sexual assault.

Then there’s the statistic that gives John Foubert’s organization its name: one in four. That comes from a Justice Department survey of 4,000 college women in 2006 that found that nearly one-quarter of college women have survived rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, a figure that doesn't account for sexual assaults that are not rape. While the study is of college women, the rape could have occurred at any point in their lives.

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