new analysis of crime data by the Department of Justice has poured cold water on the activist narrative that American college campuses are hotbeds of sexual assault.
In fact, collegiate women are less likely to be assaulted than their non-student peers, and their overall victimization rate is closer to one in forty than the oft-cited one in five.
The report, compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), relies upon years of data collected in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), a national survey of tens of thousands of households that seeks to measure the frequency of American crime, both reported and unreported.
The data spans the period from 1995-2013, and looks at females from the ages of 18 to 24, dubbed “college-age.” Over that period, the average number of sexual assaults suffered annually by college-age women not attending school was 65,700, while for those attending school it was substantially lower, at 31,300. After adjusting for the different number of people in each group, women not attending college were almost 25 percent more likely to be victims of assault, although in 2013 there was no difference in victimization rates between the two groups.
The figures are a major blow to activist narratives which assert that a large-scale “rape culture” on college campuses leads to as many as 20 percent of women in college experiencing a sexual assault. According to the BJS, the actual annual rate is about 0.61 percent. Even multiplied over four years, that suggests only about one in forty collegiate women will suffer an attempted or successful sexual assault.
The one in five statistic, which was based on a far more limited study in 2007 at only two universities, has been a recurring talking point for American left when pushing for major revisions in how colleges and state governments address sexual assault. Journalist Ezra Klein, for instance, cited the figure to justify his support for California’s controversial affirmative consent law, even though he admitted the law was “terrible” and would imperil many wrongly accused men. Even the White House has accepted the figure uncritically, with President Obama using the statistic to explain the creation of the White House-driven “It’s On Us” media campaign against sexual assault.
The BJS data did confirm, however, that sexual assault has a low reporting rate, as only 20 percent of collegiate women claiming to have been assaulted ever took the incident to the police. Their major reasons for staying quiet included a fear of reprisal, the belief the matter was a personal one, and, in 12 percent of cases, the belief that the incident was simply too minor to be worthy of police attention. Collegiate women were significantly less likely to report than those not attending college, a fact sexual assault activists have already cited to argue that college administrations are discouraging women from reporting their assaults.
“I think the counsel they get from staff plays into a lower reporting rate,” Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network told Bloomberg.
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