College sexual assaults: Let’s get the numbers right so we can offer real solutions
Tragically a young women who had been a student at New Jersey's William Paterson University took her own life last year. Her mother has filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that there was not enough done to protect her daughter.
The story begins a couple months before her death when the young women had attempted to take her own life and then reported to the school's victims services coordinator that she had been raped.
Unfortunately, we may never know the validity of her claim but it does bring up several questions. First of all, there is a growing trend of false accusation against men on college campuses helping perpetuate the false narrative of the so-called "Rape Culture."
That's right, false. Just last year at the same university all charges were dismissed against several men accused of rape and kidnapping. Now some of them are suing the University as well. This is a part of dozens of other lawsuits filed by men falsely accused. Part of the challenge with the issue is that the stats that are cited by the crowd clamoring about the "Rape Culture" are completely false. It’s become accepted to use inflated and false numbers which can be traced back to an article in MS magazine published in 1987 claiming that "One-quarter" of college women will be sexual assault victims. The more current number cited originated from an online survey where participating women were given a $10 Amazon gift card to participate. The conclusion in this study was the "real" number was actually one in five.
Not exactly scientific.
Perhaps the most comprehensive look at sexual assault comes from a Department of Justice study covering student and non-student victims between 1995 and 2013. According to the numbers, which includes attempted assaults, the rate of student sexual assault is 6.2 per 1,000 women. The number for non-students is actual higher at 7.6 per 1,000. Even if you accept the number of rapes that are not reported which according to the National Institute of Justice is 66% the rate would be 18.2 out of 1,000 among students and 22.4 out of 1,000 among non-students. These numbers show that in fact the campus setting may not be the most dangerous place for women. Clearly the data shows that the crime stats are not even close to one out of five.
For some perspective take a look at crime in one of New Jersey's most dangerous cities, Newark. Rapes occur at a rate of 49 per 100,000 people. or 49 per approximately 50,000 women. Strictly by the numbers, it would appear that a young women would actually be safer walking the streets of the South Ward in Newark than on a university campus. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to be encouraging my daughter to venture out alone in Newark anytime soon. She will, however, be returning to college this week.
Of course even the real crime stats, although lower than the propagandists claims, are still too high for us to accept in a civilized society. Even a conservative estimate of the numbers clearly show a higher risk on campus than on the streets when using the Newark example. Although when using the overall numbers the campus rates are lowers. What’s the real number?
The answer is, it doesn’t matter. We need to ask the question, "how do we keep young women safe?" Sexual assault and rape are horrifying crimes that should not be tolerated. The important conversation we should be having is how we can best protect women from predators? As far as the streets outside of the college campus, many departments are adopting “quality of life” policing” that is having a very positive impact. In other areas, women are carrying firearms for self-protection. But given the high rate on college campuses, what’s the answer?
It’s somewhat disconcerting to note that a disturbingly high number of women were reported to be drunk at the time of their assault. One study reported that 82% of "incapacitated sexual assault victims” reported being drunk before the assault.
With so many assaults happening while victims are drunk and false statistics perpetuating a myth that women are being hunted on campus, it's increasingly difficult to focus resources on the actual crime and victims. Here’s a thought...let's hold universities accountable for underage drinking for starters.
Then let's have an honest discussion in America about lowering the drinking age so the kids are less likely to binge and get out of control the first minute they're on their own. It might also be helpful to understand that every drunken escapade resulting in sex should not be placed under the banner of sexual assault and rape. If the one in five number were to be true, that would mean close to a quarter of men on campus are would-be rapists. These numbers don't correlate to any real crime stats anywhere...even if you include the crimes not being reported.
Let's stop perpetuating a culture of blame and fear among young people. Serious crimes of assault and rape should result in aggressive prosecution and lengthy imprisonment. Seems to me that resources spent on responsible alcohol consumption and mental health services would be a good first step. In the meantime, we pray for the family of the young woman from William Paterson University who took her own life. But let’s deal in real numbers so we can begin to offer realistic solutions to a very serious issue.
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