Critics say survey figures inflate threat of on campus rapes
DECEMBER 9, 2014 LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2014, 12:07 AM
BY HANNAN ADELY
STAFF WRITER |
The alarming government statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college has been cited by the Obama administration and in frequent news reports as it has become a rallying cry for changes on campus.
But critics claim the assault figure — taken from a survey that includes questions about acts that range from forced kissing and touching to rape — is inflated and unrepresentative, and is leading to panic and hasty decisions by college administrators who need to address a complex problem.
“It’s not a question of whether the university needs to address this,” said Samantha Harris, director of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates for students’ rights at colleges and universities. “It is allowing a moral |panic to prevail and preventing clear heads from crafting a |solution that is fair to every-|one involved.”
Experts say that getting accurate findings on rape and sexual assault is challenging and depends on how the crimes are defined and measured.
Despite that, other large studies have found similar rates of rape and assault among women. Advocates for women say that even if the statistic is inflated, the problem is real and that takes away nothing from its significance.
The one-in-five number, gleaned from a 2007 survey by the National Institute of Justice, a division of the Justice Department, was at the forefront of a report issued in January by a White House task force on sexual assault. The statistic was highlighted in news coverage of two reported rapes at Ramapo College and William Paterson University in Wayne in the past three weeks that resulted in the arrests of 10 students.