Obama and the fiction of ‘rape culture’

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, “Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-age Females, 1995-2013,” should be an early Christmas present for President Obama.

{mosads}On Jan. 22, 2014, Obama established a special White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. He stated, “It is estimated that one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there. … It’s totally unacceptable.”

The BJS data released on Dec. 11 finds the actual rate of sexual assault for female students to be 6.1 per 1,000 per year or 0.61 percent; this is the mean for the years 1995 to 2013. The rate of general sexual assault for males was 1.4 per 1,000.

Sexual assault has been declining for the last 15 years, with attacks on females falling by nearly 25 percent. From 2007 to 2013, the mean annual rate of female assault was 4.7 per 1,000. If a student attends university for four years, then multipying by four renders an approximation of the overall risk: 20 per 1,000 or one in 50. Of these assaults, the BJS says one in three is a completed rape. That means there is a 1.6 per 1,000 or 0.16 percent risk of rape per year. The overall risk is 6.3 per 1,000 or 0.63 percent.

The good news keeps coming. It is common these days to view campuses as bastions of “rape culture” where assault is epidemic. But the rate of assault is lower on campuses than off, with female non-students experiencing 7.6 sexual assaults per 1,000 per year (1995 to 2013). Females are safer on campus.

Where, then, does the “one in five” figure come from?

The BJS compares its methodology to that of other studies. For example, the BJS’s expansive but reasonable definition includes actual, attempted and threatened rapes and sexual assaults. By contrast, “[t]he NISVS [National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey] uses a broader definition of sexual violence, which specifically mentions incidents in which the victim was unable to provide consent due to drug or alcohol use; forced to penetrate another person; or coerced to engage in sexual contact (including nonphysical pressure to engage in sex) or unwanted sexual contact (including forcible kissing, fondling, or grabbing); and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences that do not involve physical contact.” [Emphasis added.]

Noncontact sexual experiences also include behaviors such as harassment or telling lewd jokes. This sort of broad and vague definition is what leads to the one-in-five figure.

More specifically, the one-in-five statistic comes from a 2007 online survey of two universities. Survey respondents were offered a $10 gift certificate to participate. Some equated sex while drunk with rape. Others equated a man trying to steal a kiss as sexual assault. The lead researcher, Christopher Krebs, has publicly stated that the survey cannot be generalized to a national level or even to other public universities. But, of course, that is what happened.

The good news is unlikely to be greeted as such by Obama or “rape culture” zealots who are demanding draconian measure to combat campus rape. The new rape hearing procedures virtually destroy due process for an accused who is almost always male; for example, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard (99 percent certainty) is replaced by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard (51 percent) in order to adjudicate guilt. The accused has no right to the presence of an attorney or to cross-examination of witnesses.

The BJS data will not be greeted because it casts doubt on the existence of rape culture — a concept that is central to gender feminist campaigns sweeping American campuses. The new procedures for campus rape hearings are so blatantly unjust to males that they must be sold as a response to a crisis; gender feminists need the rape culture to have their solution to it accepted. Nor will the data be welcomed by Democrats who need liberal and female voters to retain whatever power they have left. To them, the BJS report is bad news because it contradicts policies aimed at pleasing their voting base.

The data raise an awkward question. What if the rape culture does not exist? What if it is a political construct used to impose gender policies and cement voting blocks?

Those who use the issue of rape as political leverage will dismiss or ignore the BJS report. They will repeat “one in five” as a mantra because “one in 50” is 10 times less effective in achieving their objectives.

McElroy is a research fellow at the Independent Institute.

Tags Bureau of Justice Statistics Campus rape rape culture Sexual assault
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