Phi Beta Cons

Mac Donald vs. Koss on the Prevalence of Campus Rape

Researcher Mary Koss defends her statistic that 20-25 percent of college girls will suffer “rape” before graduating, which Heather Mac Donald had attacked in an article I’ve previously blogged about. Mac Donald replies in usual must-read fashion here, devastating a study Koss cites to back Koss’s own:

The 2000 Department of Justice study of campus rape found that those women whom the researchers characterized as rape victims “generally did not state that their victimization resulted in physical or emotional injuries.” . . . Moreover, 65 percent of those whom the researchers called “completed rape” victims and three-quarters of “attempted rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report”—a judgment inconceivable from a real rape victim.

The most strikingly absurd comment from Koss is this one:

Men are supposed to know that just as you would not have sex with a dead body or an unconscious person lying on the street, it is equally wrong to have sex with a woman who is unable to consent due to intoxication.

First of all, the comparison is ridiculous and irresponsible for a credentialed researcher. Also, in many of these cases the men are drunk too, so why are they the rapists (or even near-necrophiliacs)? And some women get drunk with the intention of having sex with strangers; do women not have the right to make this choice? If women can make this choice, how is a man supposed to know whether she got drunk with such plans, or if she’s only acting that way because she’s not thinking straight? More to the point, why does getting smashed relieve a woman of all responsibility for her actions?
Here’s a close runner-up:

Studies show that whether or not a woman acknowledges her “unwanted sex” or “regretted sex” or “promiscuous sex” as rape, she suffers equal emotional distress to women who view their experience as rape.

I definitely accept the idea that promiscuity has emotional consequences, especially in women, but trauma on par with rape?
Also, on the number itself, I took the time to look it up in the National Crime Victimization Survey (PDF). Note that this is not a measure of reported crime — it’s a survey of a cross-section of Americans about crimes they’ve experienced, whether or not they reported them to police. Per 1,000 women 12 and older, 1.4 said they’d suffered rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault in 2005. Looking at the age of the victims, those in the 16-19 group had it worst, with 3.2 2005 rape victims in every 1,000 respondents. (The latter includes men and women, so the female rate is probably around 6 per 1,000.) The 20-24 group’s rate isn’t statistically reliable, but for what it’s worth, it’s 1.1.
These numbers aren’t directly comparable to the one-in-four number, which purports to tally rape incidence over many years. But if, in a group of 1,000 women, six different ones were assaulted each year, it would take 33 years for 20 percent of them to have been victimized, and almost 42 years for a quarter of them to suffer.
Koss claims that about 25 percent of college students are raped between age 14 and graduation, and 20 percent of them suffer rape in only the four years on campus. At the very least, if both the NCVS and Koss are correct, women who don’t go to college are remarkably safer from rape than those who do. Or, Mac Donald could be right, and Koss’s definition of “rape” is twisted beyond all recognition.

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