Monday, December 22, 2014

A Victory for the Truth: Sen. Gillibrand's Sexual Assault Resources Website Drops the 'One in Five' Myth

A victory for truth: "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped an increasingly disputed sexual assault statistic from her website. . . . Gillibrand’s sexual assault resources web page no longer includes a sentence citing the National Institute of Health Campus Sexual Assault Study, which concluded that one in five college women will be subject to rape or attempted rape." Sen. Gillibrand is one of the leaders in the war on college sexual assault.

Senator Gillibrand's staff is to be applauded for acknowledging reality, a rarity in the loopy world of college sexual assault politics. The one in five stat isn't reliable, but it's constantly used to scare people into believing there is an epidemic of rape on campus when there isn't. Rhetoric -- truthful and untruthful -- molds the public's perception, the public's perception molds public policy, and public policy is used to hurt innocent young men. The infamous one in five stat became a rallying point for anti-rape advocates pushing draconian government policies that are marked by a hostility to due process for college men accused of sex offenses. See, for example, here.

The change on Sen. Gillibrand's website comes in response to a new DOJ study that shows that the real number isn't 1 in 5, it's 1-in-52.  It isn't 20 percent of all college women, it's 1.9 percent. See herehere and here.  (And even that is being overly generous because, among other things, it credits every assertion of sexual assault -- defined, incidentally, in an overly broad manner -- as an actual sexual assault despite the fact that when sexual assaults are actually reported, investigated, and tested against competing evidence of innocence, the majority can't be said to be actual assaults or non-assaults.) We suspect that if no one bothered to publicize the new study, Gillibrand's website would not have been changed. Many sites, including this site, made much of the new study, and it's our guess that Gillibrand's staff simply decided that, in order to have credibility, their resources page can't rely on a dubious stat.

The one in five stat has long had its critics, and for good reason. The lead author of the one-in-five study, Christopher Krebs, recently told Emily Yoffe that it simply is not a representative statistic that can be relied upon when discussing American college women in general. Even before that, the Washington Post said the stat couldn't be relied on as representative. The New York Times says the stat is "flawed." Scott Berkowitz, head of the national advocacy group RAINN, says the 1 in 5 stat "is probably too high."

Last September, a writer for the Huffington Post wrote: "It's estimated that between one-quarter and one-fifth of college women experience sexual assault . . . ." Then, after the new DOJ study came out, that same writer penned a column that declared statistics are "not the point."

Here's the point. The sexual grievance industry exaggerated the prevalence of sexual assault in order to foment a public outcry. They succeeded, and the public outcry they created led to public policy solutions that are unjust to presumptively innocent male students. In the criminal law context, Innocence Project guru Prof. Mark A Godsey has explained that "the risk of wrongful conviction is the highest when there’s public outcry. Most of the exonerations and wrongful convictions have occurred in rape cases."  Exactly how unjust were the laws and policies promulgated as a result of the panic of a rape epidemic on campus? Among many, many others, twenty-eight (mainly liberal) Harvard law professors have decried the policies, as have law professors at Yale and George Washington University. The American Association University Professors has critizized the "Dear Colleague" letter. Even Brett Sokolow, the head of NCHERM and the foremost advocate for rape victims on American college campuses, says colleges are treating men unfairly when it comes to sex charges.

Sen. Gillibrand's nod to reality is a good start. All persons of good will need to go on a full-scale offensive to discredit any reliance on the one-in-five statistic.