The campus rape crusade, which yielded positively Orwellian “consent rules” at some institutions, was driven in part by an oft-repeated, jaw-dropping statistic that one in five women are victimized by sexual assault during their time at college. The Justice Department just published a study on the matter, and they found the actual figure to be not one in five, but rather 6.1 per thousand. In other words, the percentage of coeds exposed to sexual assault is 0.61 percent, not 20 percent.
That is, to put it mildly, a huge discrepancy between political contrivance and statistical reality. The DOJ report goes on to note that college women are significantly less likely to be assaulted than non-students. About the only element of campus-rape hysteria to retain a measure of validity was the higher percentage of student victims who did not report their assaults – 80 percent, versus 67 percent for non-students.
This is not to say that campus sexual assaults are a non-issue, or that they’ve reached entirely acceptable levels, although of course the crusaders will howl that any questioning of their sacred factoids is tantamount to such callous dismissal. In an age where great value is placed upon appeals to authority and SCIENCE!!!, it’s no surprise that just about every social crusade marches under a banner emblazoned with dubious sound-bite-friendly statistics. They can prove highly resistant to debunking, as with phony claims about how many cents on the dollar women earn compared to men. As I’ve noted before, fishy statistics and questionable marquee narratives can be more useful to crusading activists than indisputably accurate facts would be, because they want to goad heretics into challenging their shibboleths.
(However, when a useful narrative is punched full of as many holes as Rolling Stone’s story about the University of Virginia, it can become difficult to use for even the most shrill rallying purposes. Notice how that story had to be positively riddled with holes before feminists started giving up on it. Some of them still haven’t.)
Whatever else is going on with young men and women on college campuses, the hysterical politically-driven crusade against “rape culture” has long since gotten so out of hand that it’s become a crisis in its own right. It’s no surprise that there’s keen interest in teaching young women to think of themselves as victims, and young men to see themselves as beasts. That agenda found fertile ground in a neurotic groupthink culture that has lately taken to demanding a cocoon of “trigger warnings” around any idea that might make them so upset they can’t function, and demanding time off from important coursework to deal with the emotional fallout from controversial news stories. It would be far more useful to teach young people not to abandon their critical faculties even when dealing with the most sensational claims of crisis.