Friday, September 25, 2015

The latest big sexual assault survey is (like others) more hype than science

Stewart Taylor Jr., an author,  journalist and Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow, is writing a book with KC Johnson about the alarm over campus sexual assault. Taylor disagreed with the conclusions of one of the largest surveys of sexual violence and misconduct on campus and the way it was reported by the media

“Survey: 1 in 5 women in college sexually assaulted.”

This headline, on The Washington Post’s long Sept. 21 article about a large survey of students at 27 public and private universities across the country college, is false.

Although the survey, by the Association of American Universities (AAU), was itself deliberately designed to exaggerate the number of sexual assaults on campus, even the AAU said that “estimates such as ‘1 in 5′ or ‘1 in 4′ as a global rate” across all universities is [sic] oversimplistic, if not misleading.”

This is not to suggest that The Post misrepresented the AAU survey’s findings any more than did most major news media. Such advocacy-laden surveys on campus sexual assault — and breathless media reports overstating their already exaggerated findings — have become the norm in this era of hysteria about the campus sexual assault problem.

The problem is no doubt serious, if shrinking. But it has been vastly exaggerated by the Obama administration, anti-rape activists, their media allies and universities pandering to them. It’s no surprise to see the AAU joining this chorus.

Below are three ways in which the 288-page AAU survey report is grossly misleading, as are others like it and the credulous media coverage of them all.

First, the extraordinarily low response rate of students asked to participate in the AAU survey — 19.3 percent — virtually guaranteed a vast exaggeration of the number of campus sexual assaults.

Even the AAU acknowledged that the 150,000 students who responded to the electronic questionnaire were more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the 650,000 who ignored it because “non-victims may have been less likely to participate.” [...]

A more reliable estimate came in 2014 from the Justice Department’s annual National Crime Victimization Survey: No more than 1 in 160 (0.6 percent) of college women per year — or 1 in 32 (3 percent) over five years — are sexually assaulted.[...]

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