How accurate are these campus rape statistics?

Campus rape has been presented as a serious problem at American universities but do the statistics reflect the truth?

Many people in Silver Spring have probably heard the statistic that one in five female university students will be the victim of a sexual assault. The New York Post points out that this statistic has been quoted by President Obama as well as others. However, are the statistics accurate?

Flawed studies

The statistic quoted above was derived from a study that was only conducted at two large universities by the National Institute of Justice. The researchers, themselves, stated that "the 1-in-5 statistic is not a nationally representative estimate of the prevalence of sexual assault." The number of women who participated in the study was fairly low compared to the number of enrolled students.

Furthermore, sexual assault was separated into two parts. One part asked women if they had experienced sexual penetration that was against their will, while the other focused on the touching of body parts or forced kissing. If the statistic is pertaining to only rape, the one in five statistic actually rises to one in seven, but would only be accurate for the two universities in the study.

Another study that is often quoted and used as a guide by schools, activists and federal agencies was conducted in the 1990s at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. However, even that study was flawed. The average age of males who were surveyed for this study was around 26 and sexual assault on a college campus was not mentioned in any of the questions the 1,882 men were asked.

The official statistics

A 2014 announcement from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that nonstudents had a higher risk of being sexually assaulted than students. It was reported that the number of students victimized was at 6.1 per 1,000 students while 7.6 per 1,000 nonstudents were victimized. The report also stated that nonstudent assaults were likely to be reported to law enforcement than student assaults were, although it did not indicate why that was. The report was taken from a National Crime Victimization Survey.

Blurred lines in definition of campus rape

Part of the bigger picture when looking at the subject of campus rape is that there are blurred lines when it comes to defining what campus rape is. U.S. News & World Report states that for some studies, sexual assault includes unwanted sexual touching while others focus only on penetration. Some even seem to have different ideas of what defines forced touching and how alcohol or drugs plays a role.

Male students often assumed guilty

The widespread attention that these statistics are attracting have created systems on college campuses where male students accused of sexual assault are automatically considered guilty and are often suspended. U.S. News & World Report states that these campuses use judiciaries that are not legal courts and that are not trained in these matters. Some panels are created by students while others may be faculty members. None appear to have members with a judicial background and many are quick to condemn the male student even if the evidence presented does not back up the claim. Such systems leave male students with little recourse and even when they have been proven innocent, colleges often are in no hurry to reinstate them.

A rape charge is a serious offense and comes with harsh penalties. Therefore, people in Maryland who are facing such charges may find it beneficial to meet with a defense attorney.