One in five women will be raped while attending college. It's one of those statistics that illustrates that if you repeat something enough times, people will believe it. This oft-cited statistic comes from the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault study. It might sound fancy, but it comes with some major flaws: 1) only two colleges were surveyed, 2) there was a large non-response rate, thereby inflating the figures, 3) the definition of "sexual assault" was very vague, and included such actions as forced kissing, and 4) the survey questions were also vague, thereby leading them open to interpretation where one could assume the worst.
Aside from shoddy statistical analysis, I bring this up because the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a much more thorough study earlier this month entitled "Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013." The BJS uses both longitudinal and cross-sectional data to determine rates of sexual assault. What did they end up finding? Looking from 1995-2013, the number of women raped is not 1 out of 5, but rather 6.1 out of 1,000 women, which is 0.03 out of 5 women. That's an exaggeration of thirty-three fold! And it's more egregious when you figure that the rate of sexual assault on campus has had an overall decline since 1995 (Figure 2).
Is this to say that we should condone this piggish behavior? Of course not! Sexual assault is inexcusable, as are the times when campus tribunals sweep sexual assault under the rug to artificially bolster their campus safety statistics. Forcing someone else to have sexual contact against their own will is a blatant violation of the nonaggression axiom. "No" means "no," and that's no less relevant when we're talking about college students getting drunk at a frat party or if the woman is scantily clad. Alcohol only fuels a man's propensity towards randiness, and it doesn't excuse deplorable behavior. The underreporting that the BJS points out (p. 1) makes a sad statement of the stigma attached to sexual assault, and that should be addressed so more women report when they are sexually assaulted. Nevertheless, 0.03 out of 5 women being sexually assaulted is a far cry from 1 in 5 women.
If the premise behind feminism is gender equality, then colleges should be promoting responsible behavior for both sexes instead of encouraging segmented gender roles that exacerbate the issue. We should help women without knocking men down. There's a fine line between holding men responsible for their misdeeds and demonizing men in a "guilty before proven innocent" mob mentality because believing that women would never lie about something lie this is "politically correct" (FYI: Although it's rare, there are moments when women report false accusations, as was infamously illustrated with the Duke University case back in 2006). Not only is sexual assault lower on campuses, but it has experienced quite the drop since the 1980's. It would be nice to live in a world without sexual assault, but it should still be noteworthy that the problem is nowhere prevalent as we thought, and that it has been on the decline, much like we see with rates of domestic violence and rates of other violent crimes in general. This is something that we should all celebrate, but I anticipate that the hardcore feminists will still advance the idea of a "rape culture," regardless of what statistics or even the people over at the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual-assault organization, have to say about there not being a "rape culture." As RAINN points out, "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community to commit a violent crime...[Blaming it on 'rape culture'] has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions."
We should take rape and sexual assault seriously, but bemoaning "rape culture" is not the way to go. Whatever colleges decide to do, what we should stop doing is giving credence to the "rape culture" myth because as Cathy Young over at the libertarian Reason Magazine point out, the anti-"rape culture" movement is one that has "capitalized on laudable sympathy for victims of sexual assault to promote gender warfare, misinformation, and moral panic. It's time for a reassessment."