Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ashe Schow: Two White House Statistics on Campus Sexual Assault that Can't Both be True

Two White House statistics on campus sexual assault that can't both be true, October 22, 2014
By Ashe Schow

White House claims that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, and that just 12 percent report the crime, cannot both be true, according to American Enterprise scholar Mark J. Perry. 

In January, a White House task force made the two claims, but Perry — who is also an economics professor at the University of Michigan in Flint — did the math using sexual assault statistics from Ohio State University and found a major discrepancy. Perry originally noted this discrepancy in May, but has updated his statistics since OSU released its 2013 numbers. 

“Using actual reported crime statistics on sexual offenses at almost any US college and applying the White House claim that only 12% of campus sexual assaults actually get reported, we have to conclude that nowhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college,” Perry wrote. “Alternatively, if the ‘1 in 5 women’ claim is true, the percentage of sexual assaults that get reported to the campus police would have to be much, much lower than 12%. In other words, the claims that the White House uses don’t work together and they therefore both can’t be simultaneously correct.” 

Perry found that, using the most recently available data from OSU, there were 104 reports of sexual assault for the four-years between 2010 and 2013. These reports included a broad range of incidents both on- and near-campus. If these were just 12 percent of the total number of sexual assaults, then 763 would have to have been unreported, for a total of 867 sexual assaults occurring in that four-year period. 

“The Columbus campus of OSU has a total female student population of about 28,000. Dividing the 867 estimated sexual assaults over a four-year period into the 28,000 OSU female students would mean that only 3.1% of OSU women, or about 1 in 32.3, would be sexually assaulted while in college,” Perry concluded. “Certainly that’s still too high, but not even close to the White House claim that one in five (and 20% of) female students are sexually assaulted while in college.” 

Perry notes that his calculations assume that 100 percent of the sexual assaults on OSU were male on female altercations, none were filed falsely and none were reported by faculty or staff. If any one of those assumptions isn’t accurate (as in, any of the sexual assaults were same-sex encounters or filed falsely), then Perry’s 3.1 percent statistic overestimates the prevalence of sexual assaults. 

Alternatively, Perry notes, for the one in five statistic to be true for OSU, there would have to be 5,600 sexual assaults during that four-year period, or 1,400 every year or nearly 4 a day. This would mean, based on actual statistics from OSU, fewer than 2 percent of sexual assaults had been reported. 

Proponents of the one in five myth would probably respond that OSU is just one school (and possibly point out my own distrust of limited-scope studies). So I looked up the statistics for schools that have had some high profile rape or sexual assault cases in recent years. 

Let’s start with Duke University. For the same four-year period between 2010 and 2013, Duke had 47 reports of sexual assault on its main campus, hospital and medical research areas and marine lab. The reports include rape, fondling, incest, statutory rape, stalking and domestic and dating violence. 

If that’s just 12 percent of what’s reported, that means there would have been 344 unreported offenses for a total of 391. Duke has a total female population of about 7,446, meaning that 5.3 percent of the population has been victimized in a sex crime of some kind — far below the 20 percent statistic the White House is pushing. 

The numbers are similar for other schools I researched, except for Occidental College. Due to a broader category of sexual assault reporting adopted in 2013, the data there show that if only 12 percent of sexual assaults are reported, then about 73 percent of women on campus have been sexually assaulted. Perhaps Occidental is an especially horrible place — or more likely, the 12 percent number is false — or the new sexual assault reporting standard is so broad that most of its male students are being incorrectly labeled as rapists. 

The bottom line, from Perry: “Women and men attending college today, their parents, their college administrators and professors, and society in general, are all much better served by the truth about college sexual assault than by Team Obama’s misleading, exaggerated, and false claims about ‘1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college.’”