The truth about sexual violence statistics

More ways to lie with statistics.  From an article by Christina Hoff Sommers:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?

The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” . . .

The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?

It found them by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault. Consider: In a telephone survey with a 30 percent response rate, interviewers did not ask participants whether they had been raped. Instead of such straightforward questions, the CDC researchers described a series of sexual encounters and then they determined whether the responses indicated sexual violation. A sample of 9,086 women was asked, for example, “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?” A majority of the 1.3 million women (61.5 percent) the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced this sort of “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.”

What does that mean? If a woman was unconscious or severely incapacitated, everyone would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape — indeed, a nontrivial percentage of all customary sexual intercourse, including marital intercourse, probably falls under that definition (and is therefore criminal according to the CDC).

Other survey questions were equally ambiguous. Participants were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by “telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?” All affirmative answers were counted as “sexual violence.” Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by “repeatedly asking” or “showing they were unhappy” was similarly classified as a victim of violence.

via CDC study on sexual violence in the U.S. overstates the problem – The Washington Post.

Perhaps the CDC researchers are sensing that all extra-marital sex has an element of exploitation about it, but since moral absolutes must be left out of the equation, they are instead trying to employ secular legalisms and the feminist ideology that says women are always being oppressed by men.  But that does not excuse  “constructing” data like this.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    It’s just propaganda issuing forth from an agency with a political agenda of some sort. Pretty common, I think. Just the other day I heard a similar emotional plea on the radio claiming that in America, 1 out of 4 children are “at risk of hunger.” Meanwhile we have other emotional pleas about how American kids are suffering an epidemic of obesity (must be the other 3 out of 4).

    I’m tellin’ ya… We need to DO SOMETHING, NOW! (either send money or pressure your congressman to make laws to take your money).

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    It’s just propaganda issuing forth from an agency with a political agenda of some sort. Pretty common, I think. Just the other day I heard a similar emotional plea on the radio claiming that in America, 1 out of 4 children are “at risk of hunger.” Meanwhile we have other emotional pleas about how American kids are suffering an epidemic of obesity (must be the other 3 out of 4).

    I’m tellin’ ya… We need to DO SOMETHING, NOW! (either send money or pressure your congressman to make laws to take your money).

  • Med Student

    So if both parties are drunk, then they’re guilty of violating each other? If the girl’s sober and the guy’s drunk, is she guilty of violating him?

  • Med Student

    So if both parties are drunk, then they’re guilty of violating each other? If the girl’s sober and the guy’s drunk, is she guilty of violating him?

  • kerner

    This is one of the reasons I am very suspicious of statistical analyses comparing crime rates of today with eras senturies ago. How a crime is defined and when it is likely to be reported varies within our present culture, and it must vary even more widely across centuries of cultural change.

  • kerner

    This is one of the reasons I am very suspicious of statistical analyses comparing crime rates of today with eras senturies ago. How a crime is defined and when it is likely to be reported varies within our present culture, and it must vary even more widely across centuries of cultural change.

  • Joe

    “Lies, damn lies and statistics”

  • Joe

    “Lies, damn lies and statistics”

  • formerly just steve

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that since the CDC could never conduct the same type of interview in the Congo the data is necessarily the result of guess-work. I haven’t read the article but it’s long been known that the CDC plays fast and loose with statistics when it comes of trying to influence some sort of social policy.

  • formerly just steve

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that since the CDC could never conduct the same type of interview in the Congo the data is necessarily the result of guess-work. I haven’t read the article but it’s long been known that the CDC plays fast and loose with statistics when it comes of trying to influence some sort of social policy.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    “guess-work” is a very polite way of saying that the CDC was pulling numbers out of parts unknown and comparing them with real data of another type.

    This is what you get, I guess, when you can get a PhD without ever darkening the door of a logic class (and many do).

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    “guess-work” is a very polite way of saying that the CDC was pulling numbers out of parts unknown and comparing them with real data of another type.

    This is what you get, I guess, when you can get a PhD without ever darkening the door of a logic class (and many do).

  • Purple Koolaid

    And the lamestream liberals blame Bristol Palin for getting pregnant as a teen. Meanwhile, she describes herself as drunk during their sexual encounter. Even Dr Drew Pinsky tells her that would be rape in the state of California.
    I suspect that had she been the daughter of a liberal politician… her boyfriend would be in jail, instead of the toast of the town and Kathy Griffin’s date.

  • Purple Koolaid

    And the lamestream liberals blame Bristol Palin for getting pregnant as a teen. Meanwhile, she describes herself as drunk during their sexual encounter. Even Dr Drew Pinsky tells her that would be rape in the state of California.
    I suspect that had she been the daughter of a liberal politician… her boyfriend would be in jail, instead of the toast of the town and Kathy Griffin’s date.

  • Michael B.

    At some point there needs to be a discussion on here about “moral absolutes”. Morality is simply a system that maximizes the well-being of humans and other conscious creatures. Morality is complex, but then so is medicine, and we use absolutes in medicine all the time. (i.e. it’s unhealthy for a person to take arsenic.)

  • Michael B.

    At some point there needs to be a discussion on here about “moral absolutes”. Morality is simply a system that maximizes the well-being of humans and other conscious creatures. Morality is complex, but then so is medicine, and we use absolutes in medicine all the time. (i.e. it’s unhealthy for a person to take arsenic.)


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