Here (pdf) is the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report on Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013.
Some highlights (all statistics are for women aged 18–24 unless otherwise noted):
This is much lower than the 1–in–5 statistic that is widely bandied about by those who think there is an epidemic of rape on American college campuses. Even if we multiply 6.1 by five (for five years in college), the rape rate in American colleges is 3.5%.
A few years ago Chad Hermann crunched the numbers of reported sexual assaults at three Pittsburgh Universities, applied a 10X multiplier for 90% of sexual assaults being unreported, and came up with a number of the same order of magnitude (1 in 44, assuming a four-year college career).
I ran the numbers for my alma mater, which has had two alleged sex offenses reported every year for the last three years, and has about 2,190 female students. That’s a rate of 0.91 reported sexual assaults per thousand female students. If we assume that 90% of sexual assaults go unreported and multiply by ten, we have 9.1 sexual assaults per thousand female students per year, and if we multiply by five years we have a 4.5% chance that a Rice woman will be sexually assaulted during her five years at Rice3
That “90% unreported” assumption is probably not valid, though. The BJS report found that 20% of “sexual assault victimizations” were reported to the police by college women. If instead of 10X we use a 5X multiplier, we have 4.6 sexual victimizations (reported or otherwise) per thousand female Rice students per year. The reasons victimizations went unreported were:
- Reported to other official, 4%;
- Personal matter, 26%;
- Not important enough to respondent, 12%;4
- Police would not or could not do anything to help, 9%;
- Did not want to get offender in trouble with the law, 10%;
- Advised not to report, <0.5%;
- Fear of reprisal, 20%; and
- Other reason, 31%.5
(The first six of these, covering 61% of cases, seem to me like reasonable reasons not to report sexual victimization as defined by the study (including attempted rape,6 grabbing, and fondling) to the police, but fear of reprisal should never stop anyone from reporting a crime—that’s just bad policy.)
Nonstudents, by the way, report 32% of their sexual victimizations rather than 20%. They are also are 20% more likely to experience rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, or the threat of rape or sexual assault. And those victimizations are 50% more likely to be completed sexual assaults.
Breaking down the student/nonstudent differences even further,
18-to-19-year-old nonstudents are 1.6 times as likely to experience sexual victimization as students are.
White nonstudents are 1.4 times as likely to experience sexual victimization as students are.
Northeastern nonstudents have the lowest rate of sexual victimization, followed by rural students and southern students.
Midwestern nonstudents (the group with the highest rate) are about 130% more likely to experience sexual victimization than southern students (with the lowest rate).
Men are, as you would expect, raped at lower rates than women, but male students are four times as likely as nonstudents to experience sexual victimization.
The “one in five” number will probably never go away. It’s been challenged and debunked before, and still it gets trotted out as gospel truth. But the actual numbers are much smaller and would be smaller still if respondents got to define “sexual victimization” themselves.7
“Rape is the unlawful penetration of a person against the will of the victim, with use or threatened use of force, or attempting such an act. Rape includes psychological coercion and physical force, and forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender. Rape also includes incidents where penetration is from a foreign object (e.g., a bottle), victimizations against males and females, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.” ↩
“Sexual assault is defined across a wide range of victimizations separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks usually involving unwanted sexual contact between a victim and offender. Sexual assault may or may not involve force and includes grabbing or fondling. ↩
But realistically, who can afford five years at Rice anymore? ↩
Some victimization! ↩
Miscellaneous is always the largest category.
— Walter Slovotsky, The Warrior Lives by Joel Rosenberg ↩
Question: If you define rape to include sex by psychological coercion, does that make trying unsuccessfully to convince someone to have sex “attempted rape”? ↩
What the studies have done is said, in effect, “sexual victimization includes an unwanted come-on,” defining sexual victimization more broadly than people define it in everyday life. “[I]n a comparable survey, the federally sponsored 2007 Campus Sexual Assault study, two-thirds of the women classified as victims of drug- or alcohol-induced rape and 37 percent of those counted as forcibly raped did not consider the event to be a crime.”
Here is where most people would put in obligatory mealy-mouthed statement to prove their anti-rape bona fides, but my readers are smarter than most. ↩