Sexual assault myths: Part 2 | FACTUAL FEMINIST

The United States is not a rape culture, but it is a gender propaganda culture. We are overwhelmed by false information about men and women, and nowhere is this more true than in the area of sexual violence. A new Bureau of Justice Statistics study has the latest numbers, and the Factual Feminist does some fact checking.

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Partial transcript:
As I said last week, the United States does is not a rape culture, but it is a gender propaganda culture. We are overwhelmed by false information about men and women, and nowhere is this more true than in the area of sexual violence. So let’s do some fact checking. That’s next on the Factual Feminist.

We often hear that “female students are at greater risk of rape than their non-college peers.” But this is just not true. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, females enrolled in college experience lower rates of rape and sexual assault than their non-college piers. Senator Gillibrand, and others who repeat this canard, they have to stop.
“If you are a young woman who attends college today, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted than those who don’t.”

Now where does the claim come from? The original source appears to be a 2000 study by Bonnie Fischer and her associates. Well a reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education recently contacted Fisher to ask what data she used to justify her claim that female college students are most at risk. Well according to the reporter, Fisher could not answer. She was confused. Later, she responded: “That was probably the current state of knowledge or belief at that time, given the research available.” But the data were no different in 2000, and they were available. In a recent New York Times op-ed, University of Colorado Denver researcher Callie Marie Rennison pointed out that our fixation on relatively privileged college women has distracted us from the far greater vulnerability of poor and less educated women.  Rennison found, for example, that “Women without a high school diploma are sexually victimized at a rate 53 percent greater than women with a high school diploma or some college.” Poor women are at greater risk but they have been lost in the current panic over sexual assault at places like Yale, or Swarthmore, or the University of Wisconsin.

Let’s consider another damaging myth. Almost every college employee who receives training about campus rapes will learn that campus rapes are committed by 6 percent of males on campus. And these men tend to be ruthless and incorrigible repeat offenders. This is known as the predator theory of college assault and it’s is taken very seriously by university officials, and they use it to justify cutting back on due process and expelling anyone implicated in a campus date rape. Now this is understandable: deans and college presidents don’t want to keep sociopaths around. Now the theory was developed by a researcher, David Lisak, retired from the University of Massachusetts Boston. In 2002 he and a colleague published a study on campus sex offenders, and for the study they analyzed questionnaires distributed to male passersby in a busy pedestrian area at UMass-Boston. According to Lisak, of the nearly nineteen hundred men who returned the survey, one hundred and twenty respondents – about 1 in 16 – admitted to committing acts that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. And more than half of this group admitted to raping more than once and they also confessed to a range of other heinous violent crimes. Well in her excellent critique of Lisak’s study, Slate’s Emily Yoffe points out that the participants were hardly typical. I mean most college students are age 18-24. Lisak’s subjects were 18-71. Now UMass Boston is an urban commuter school with no campus housing and a four-year graduation rate of 15 percent. I taught there in the early 1980s. Things may be different today, but at that time most of my students were adults with full-time jobs and more than a few had been in jail.

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