No means no.
September 22, 2015 7:00 PM   Subscribe

A survey of 150,000 college students across 27 high-profile universities supports previous studies that sexual assault and misconduct is widely prevalent on college campuses. Discussion of sexual assault within.
Responding to a survey commissioned by the Association of American Universities, 27.2 percent of female college seniors reported that, since entering college, they had experienced some kind of unwanted sexual contact — anything from touching to rape — carried out by incapacitation, usually due to alcohol or drugs, or by force. Nearly half of those, 13.5 percent, had experienced penetration, attempted penetration or oral sex.
The A.A.U. survey found that even in the most serious assaults, those involving penetration, almost three-fourths of victims did not report the episode to anyone in authority, let alone law enforcement. The reason victims gave most often for not reporting episodes was that they did not think the episodes were serious enough to report; others said they felt ashamed, or did not think they would be taken seriously.
Previously, on affirmative consent.
posted by telepanda (56 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am sadly unsurprised by this. But I'm sure there's some way people can blame this all on the women in question rather than on the rapists.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:30 PM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


This utterly appalls me.
posted by SPrintF at 7:34 PM on September 22, 2015


I didn't think this belonged in the post itself, but I'm interested in this topic in large part because I'm a member of that 13.5 percent. (Woo! I'm a statistic!)

I fully support the recent increased emphasis on disciplinary action and prosecution for cases of rape, where one party maliciously forces themself upon another; or takes wilful advantage of a seriously incapacitated person.

But I read that episodes aren't reported because the victims didn't think the episodes were serious enough, and I think back on what happened to me, half my life ago now, and can't help but think that something's getting lost in the increasing emphasis on formal reporting and discipline. Because even through adult eyes, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I genuinely don't believe that what happened to me rises to the level of a crime.

It was certainly confusing. It was certainly penetration, against my expressed wishes. I can't for the life of me decide whether it was forcible. I'd probably say yes, he'd probably say no. I jerked away and told him to get the hell out of my room, and he did, and I never spoke to him again except once, months later, to return a book he'd lent me back when we were dating. The underlying situation was consensual. He'd been drinking; I hadn't. Because he stopped when I protested, it never occurred to me to report it.

So I'm trying to think back what I wish had happened. I don't think he deserved the kind of righteous wrath that should come with a violent rape. I think, more than anything, I wish the university had made it clear that there was someone I could talk to about a sexual encounter gone badly wrong that didn't necessarily call for formal action. Maybe even an intermediate formal action mechanism that would have required him to attend some kind of counseling but wouldn't appear on a permanent record. Because it's not at all that I was trying to protect him at the cost of my own sanity. It just... didn't seem worth wrecking someone's college career over. But if someone had reached out to me, even through a poster, and said, "We can help you sort this out, and there won't be any consequences" I think it would have helped a lot, and would have saved me a few years of feeling conflicted afterward that spilled over into my next relationship.

Anyways, I'd never discourage someone who felt charges ought to be pressed from pressing charges. And fie on any university who tries to stage a cover-up. But I can't help but believe there are others out there like me. Maybe it would be productive to consider how to open up a middle ground for discussion of how things can go wrong and what to do about it, given that colleges are chock-full of adolescents figuring out how to navigate partnered sex and how to manage complex social interactions.
posted by telepanda at 7:36 PM on September 22, 2015 [75 favorites]


I wish the university had made it clear that there was someone I could talk to about a sexual encounter gone badly wrong that didn't necessarily call for formal action.

The rules at a given school (as well as nationally) about who is a mandatory reporter, and who is not, keep changing, and I hope that it is always clear to the students what that status is so that they can evaluate who to talk to, based on the possible outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:46 PM on September 22, 2015


Alcohol + Rape Culture is bad news. The culture at many college campuses especially those with a strong Greek tradition is incredibly toxic and produces a lot of events where extremely high level of intoxication is mixed with a competitive desire to have sex with as many people as possible even if those encounters are consensual. Because the behavior is so deeply rooted and if not actively condoned not exactly cracked down upon after all boys will be boys and campus police are often less than zealous in pursuing cases against students. The result is a normative set of behaviors where people that might not be willing to commit sexual assault in other circumstances basically feel like they get a pass on their bad behavior for the 4-5 years of college.
posted by vuron at 7:46 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope that it is always clear to the students what that status is so that they can evaluate who to talk to, based on the possible outcomes.

Oh, I'm sure if I had actively sought out help I could have found it. I attended an Ivy featured prominently in the surveys. I'm sure they have counselors. But as a confused freshman who wasn't sure what just happened, and with the shame that comes along with finding oneself in an unexpectedly bad sexual situation, I wasn't out searching for help. I was holed up in my room wondering what in the holy hell just happened.

What I needed was to have been told loudly and explicitly during orientation (alongside the alcohol abuse and contraceptive discussions) was, "If you get in a bad sexual situation and you need somebody to talk to, this is where you can go." Followed up by flyers in the common room or something. It would need to have been that specific, but I think would be very useful to at least a sizable subset of students in this survey.
posted by telepanda at 7:55 PM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


The problem with making it where potential mandatory reporters can exercise judgement in deciding what potential crimes need to be reported to campus safety and the title IX administrator is really prone to abuse though. If you tell an RA and they tell you it's no big deal and don't report it because they don't want to cause waves that's deeply problematic.

I understand that there is a desire to allow people to come forward of their own accord and exercise judgement but who is to say that the borderline case of sexual assault won't be followed up with a more clear cut case. Could the second assault have been prevented by effective reporting of the first, etc.

I think the more discretion that people have to decide when and when not to report the more likely it is that people will err on the side of caution even though they are necessarily trained to investigate assaults. If anything I kinda wish that more campuses would be much more expansive in terms of who is and who is not a responsible administrator that abssolutely has to report any suspected cases of sexual assault to the campus security and Title IX administrator.

Otherwise you get a whole lot of underreporting in order to make the Clery statistics look good.
posted by vuron at 8:06 PM on September 22, 2015


Tangential but of course related to the topic of this post: the fact that it is illegal for most college students to be drinking alcohol, since the legal drinking age is 21 everywhere in the United States.
posted by twsf at 8:27 PM on September 22, 2015


When I was in college, I knew someone who was raped and extremely afraid to go to the police because even though they had lived in the US since childhood, they were an undocumented immigrant.
posted by aniola at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the annual Student Guide Issue of our local alt-weekly (in San Luis Obispo where Cal Poly U. is the town's single Biggest Deal), the lead story this year was all about campus sexual assault and consent, with the confusing title: "Empowerment revolution: Society's approach to sexual assault is morphing, and Cal Poly's ahead of the curve". And to make things weirder, the cover had a bunch of word balloons for most of the topics covered by the Student Guide: "How do I PAY for all this?" "Where should I HIKE?" "Where do I WASH my clothes?" "What about low budget FUN?" "NEVER do what in SLO?" "Consentual SEX is required!" "I need my COFFEE!" "Where should I go for HAPPY HOUR?" High scores for intent, but many points deducted for execution.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:11 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Criticism of the survey's methodology and the media's interpretation of it from female journalists at the centrist Daily Beast and the libertarian Washington Examiner
posted by Bwithh at 9:45 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to link to it, but there was a rebuttal piece today on some site (Daily Beast, maybe?) that was written by Lizzie Crocker, who claims that this whole sexual assault thing is way overblown. Her argument is that the percentages were off, and the study was flawed, and therefore college sexual assault (and, by extrapolation, sexual assault itself) is not as big of an issue as the current broad, mainstream conversation would make it out be.

There's a lot of pushback here, and elsewhere, against male voices that diminish and devalue women's arguments about the inherent struggles that come with being a woman -- such as, the risk of sexual assault in every day life. That argument is infuriating when it comes from those male voices, but it makes me absolutely apoplectic when it comes from another woman.

She hasn't experienced sexual assault. Presumably. Or maybe she has but she blames herself. Whatever. Anyway, good for her. But for her to think she is able to suss out the real scope of the issue based on her own (privileged) lived experience and her knowledge of the lived experience of others, and then publish that as fact on a relatively mainstream website that counts clicks like dollars?

To the wolves, I say. The only thing worse than the mansplainers who speak out against and try to diminish the very real problem of rape culture are the women-deniers who have been Stockholm-syndromed into believing that it's not a real problem.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:51 PM on September 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


On not previewing: Bwithh linked to the essay I'm referring to.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:52 PM on September 22, 2015


the libertarian Washington Examiner

Quoting from the piece (of shit):
While on paper forced kissing sounds bad, think of how this has been employed in movies without it appearing to be sexual assault. (Remember when Indiana Jones sexually assaulted someone? Neither do I.)
Apparently, "libertarian" means that hunky Harrison Ford types have the liberty to go around kissing whoever they want. No word on how this increases the liberty of those who receive the unwanted kisses, though. Maybe the Examiner will update their post?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:59 PM on September 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Hm, and it looks like Lizzie Crocker has been on the rape statistics truther and victim blaming beats for a while.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:05 PM on September 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Lizzie Crocker article is excellent. She points out the glaring problems with the study, most notably the non-response bias. If I get a survey in the mail asking if I've ever been abducted by a UFO, odds are I'm not going to bother if not, but if I have been abducted, you bet I want to be counted. That doesn't mean there's not a sexual assault problem, but this study is pretty useless.
posted by king walnut at 10:14 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Victim blaming?

"To be clear, neither the video nor Sulkowicz’s mattress performance undermine her alleged experience of being sexually assaulted and the trauma that she suffered."
posted by king walnut at 10:21 PM on September 22, 2015


While on paper forced kissing sounds bad, think of how this has been employed in movies without it appearing to be sexual assault. (Remember when Indiana Jones sexually assaulted someone? Neither do I.) Again, on paper this seems bad, and we can all imagine a scenario where a forced kiss is indeed sexual assault, but it seems absurd to assume that all of them are.

This is so stupid.

Forced kissing is battery: it is illegal. Fictional characters on a screen are not going to be arrested by real-life cops (shocking, I know), but that doesn't make it not illegal and wrong when it happens to real people in real life. The douchebags who do it are committing a crime.
posted by rtha at 10:27 PM on September 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


While on paper forced kissing sounds bad, think of how this has been employed in movies without it appearing to be sexual assault. (Remember when Indiana Jones sexually assaulted someone? Neither do I.)

Yup, that's rape culture. In the movies, normalizing non-consensual sexual contact by protagonists. Indiana Jones (and those other 20,000 movies, especially 'romantic comedies') are so very much part of the problem.

These are the movies that many folks grew up with, with no one there to tell us that's absolutely not okay. Those movies literally taught multiple generations.

The fact that this author uses this as an example is actually an example of the problem (thanks Spielberg).
posted by el io at 10:35 PM on September 22, 2015 [37 favorites]


Oh god, this isn't funny, but I can't help it. The "forced kiss looks bad on paper" thing is hilarious. Remember that time someone broke into your home and stole $100 from your wallet? It may look bad on paper, but it might have been just borrowing without disclosure. Again, on paper this seems bad, and we can all imagine a scenario where someone invading your home and taking money without your consent is indeed "burglary," but it seems absurd to assume that all of them are. Maybe the person taking the $100 thought you wouldn't mind, or might even enjoy it? Maybe you had agreed to loan them $5 at an earlier time? Maybe you never explicitly said, "do not steal my money"; how could they know it was unwelcome? Wanting money is a natural urge, and if you have some currency, it seems naive to get all upset when someone tries to take it. Also, a lot of movies show attractive people stealing money. What about George Clooney or Brad Pit in Oceans 11? Or 12? Or 13? They stole a whole lot more than $100, yet we don't condemn them. Ask yourself why.

Next up: organ harvesting or organ donation? Are they really that different?
posted by taz at 1:21 AM on September 23, 2015 [54 favorites]


If I had a college-age daughter, this study would have me losing my mind. Since I don't have a college-age daughter, I'm merely sick. I've known too damn many women who have been hurt. And it just keeps going...
posted by bryon at 2:23 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


king walnut: "The Lizzie Crocker article is excellent. She points out the glaring problems with the study, most notably the non-response bias. If I get a survey in the mail asking if I've ever been abducted by a UFO, odds are I'm not going to bother if not, but if I have been abducted, you bet I want to be counted. That doesn't mean there's not a sexual assault problem, but this study is pretty useless."

The Lizzie Crocker article is terrible. She fixates narrowly on the statistical question of how non-response bias might impact on the point estimate of the incidence of sexual assault, without attempting to give a serious statistical treatment to the problem. Quite apart from the fact that amateurish nitpicking at statistical questions is a dead giveaway that one's primary goal is rape apologia rather than serious concerns about methodological adequacy, the non-response bias "criticism" in the form that it is usually raised fails to note that:

(1) Sometimes non-response bias is irrelevant. Unless there is cause to believe that non-response bias systematically differs across institutions or across demographics, it is perfectly sensible to compare rates of sexual assault across different universities or subgroups of women, and to make policy recommendations on that basis. The study is very useful from that perspective, and you can find out what it says on these topics by reading as far as page 3 of the report.

(2) Sometimes non-response bias means that things are worse than they appear, not better. For instance, one of the findings is that about half of the women who indicated that they had been assaulted did not report it to campus authorities. Non-response bias is an issue here too: my intuition is that people who were sexually assaulted and did not respond to a survey are much less likely to have reported it to authorities than those who did respond to the survey (i.e., if you're a non-responder to an anonymous survey, you're pretty damn likely to be a non-responder with respect to a highly public reporting process). So the implications for reporting rates are probably much worse than they appear if you ignore non-response bias.

(3) If you actually give a shit about the statistical inference problem non-response bias raises, you might want to consider possible solutions to that problem. People who raise these lazy methodological objections often consider themselves to be rational reasoners, invoking statistical giants like Bayes and Laplace in the process. And yet, on the basis of literally 2 minutes thought, it occurs to me that there is a natural Bayesian formulation to the problem. If the goal is to infer the true rate of sexual assault, where the concern is that the response rate is non-homogeneous, then even a second rate Bayesian statistician uses their knowledge of the constraints of the problem to induce a sensible prior over the response bias, uses Bayes' rule to infer a joint posterior distribution over the incidence rate and response bias, and discusses the implications of this posterior distribution for policy. An even more competent Bayesian might give the problem another 2 minutes of thought, and realise that almost every reasonable choice of prior leads to the conclusion that the incidence of sexual assault is appallingly, unacceptably high. Even under the completely absurd assumption that literally none of the non-responders had been assaulted you still end up with 4% as your answer. A sexual assault rate of 4% of the student population is still WAY too much shit in the milkshake for any decent person to be comfortable with (much less a university administrator with a legal duty of care obligation), and of course a reasonable person is going to end up with a much much larger number than that. There is no way that a competent analyst would start with this data set and produce conclusions that justify ignoring the study.

tl;dr: It is statistically incompetent or grossly mendacious to suggest that you can wave the magic wand of "non-response bias" over the data set to dismiss the concerns that it raises. Either way I'm pretty comfortable ignoring everything that the Lizzie Crocker piece has to say about this study.
posted by langtonsant at 3:26 AM on September 23, 2015 [54 favorites]


Colleges constantly tell women, "don't accept drinks from strangers", "don't walk home alone at night", "don't dress like a slut." I don't need no fucking study. And based on the messaging put out by colleges, neither do they. They know.
posted by dry white toast at 4:10 AM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


My friends and I made it through undergrad and we bear out those statistics. Sexual assault, domestic violence, both men and women: these statistics are part of the stories of our late teens and early twenties. Now I am in grad school and teaching Undergrads and crossing my fingers for every single person in my classes. It's exhausting, being a person who cares about this in a college setting where I get to know students, and where I see the consequences of sexual violence in terms of students who disappear, who check out, who contact me via Student Advocacy to say that something challenging is going on and they can't make it out of bed to come to class or they need to be excused for a judicial board hearing... but not being able to sit down and HELP people. It diminishes all of us.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:01 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


The school where I used to work isn't on the list for this study, but they did their own sexual assault/domestic violence/stalking study this year. It was fairly extensive, and interestingly, there was no way for students to skip it. They literally could not register for classes unless they filled it out.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:20 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was actually impressed, I'm getting a second bachelor's at CUNY and I got an email just yesterday about being "strongly encouraged" to participate in sexual assault seminar, it's online and takes about an hour.
posted by KernalM at 5:20 AM on September 23, 2015


I'm at Ohio State - one of the schools surveyed - and we got a similar e-mail yesterday morning about the results of the survey and encouragement to take this online course. OSU has 60,000ish students, including 8,000 female grad students. I took the "seminar" last night around 9 PM waiting for my boyfriend to get home and was the first female grad student to take it in the entire university. I really can't imagine that the participation rate for say, male undergraduates at Ohio State, is going to be much higher than for female graduate students. I hope people get something out of it, but I thought it was pretty simplistic and not particularly useful.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:31 AM on September 23, 2015


Rape culture is systemic. For a horrifying look at how the institutional portion is currently working at the high-school level, John Oliver's recent piece is a good start.

I seriously don't even know what I'm going to do as a parent of a daughter. It is so unbelievably depressing.
posted by odinsdream at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. If your observation is essentially "oh hey, this is all easily solved with one simple trick: women, don't be drunk or be around a drunk guy!" please reconsider. We've been over this ground in hundreds if not thousands of comments before.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


Non-response bias: Harvard had a 53% response rate and one of the higher total incidences of unwanted sexual contact. Even if you figure that every single 'yes' responded, and every single person who didn't respond was a 'no' (*cough*bullshit*cough*) that's still 13%. Which is a whole hell of a lot of people.

"But it's not really sexual assault": Actually this is a thing that I think bears deeper consideration. As I said above, I am absolutely in favor of making it easier for students who have been assaulted to report that, and to enforce repercussions for their assailants. But I really genuinely think we do students a disservice by requiring that everything be categorized into "ASSAULT" and "TOTALLY OK NO PROBLEM HERE". I think there is in fact a large gray area, where one or both parties can make impulsive or poorly informed decisions that lead to a lot of bad feelings and regret and pain. The problem is, it's a veeeeeeeeeeery slippery slope to victim-blaming, and I think that's part of why we really want to make it a bright line. But then, conversely, you end up basically negating the experiences of people who felt violated but not assaulted (and this is borne out in the survey results). Either you were assaulted, or it didn't matter. Speaking for myself, I wasn't assaulted* and it DID matter. There's no way in hell I would have told a mandatory reporter - still wouldn't - but then the only option I could see was to keep quiet, and I suffered for that.

A lot of the complaints about rape culture are true. But it's also true that college campuses probably contain the widest spectrum of sexual experience levels (from those who've already had a bunch of partners in high school, to those who are having their first sexual experiences). And there can be a lot of very fine, very individual hair-splitting as to what's ok and what's not as people are first figuring out their body and their sexuality. It actually seems kind of insane to expect every teenager to understand that level of nuance every time, as they're adjusting to their first largely unsupervised environment. These are pretty complex interpersonal situations here.

Now, the storied history of sweeping sexual assault on campus under the rug makes it really hard to advocate for less reporting. That's part of what makes this such a thorny issue. But (in my magic fantasy land) there would be some form of HEY NOT COOL YOU CANNOT TREAT PEOPLE LIKE THAT that isn't actually criminal.

The last thing I wonder is: you ask college students if they've been subjected to nonconsensual sexual contact and huge swaths say yes. I wonder how many would say yes if you asked them if they'd subjected someone else to nonconsensual sex. Probably not that many. I wonder if these mostly guys ever go on to look back and say to themselves, "yeah, that was actually pretty problematic." I think that would be a good first step - would make it easier to talk nuance with our college-aged sons and daughters and younger siblings. (My little brother got one hell of a talk from me about consent and not ever making assumptions about what his partners would be ok with. The stakes are too high to be cavalier about that.)

*(I stand firm in that analysis. If he hadn't stopped it would have been a different story. He made an impulsive, shitty, entitled, wrongheaded bad decision, but he stopped when I called him on it. If he'd held me down and kept going, that would have been a whole other level of horror and I would have absolutely reported it)
posted by telepanda at 6:55 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wonder how many would say yes if you asked them if they'd subjected someone else to nonconsensual sex. Probably not that many.

Actually there was a study of guys where this question was posed, and if I recall correctly, an unsettlingly-high percentage did self-report.
posted by odinsdream at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2015


The links to the studies odinsdream mentions have been linked here many times and might even have been the subject of an FPP. It is disturbing reading, though complex in terms of how widespread some bad behaviors are while also confirming that a small number of serial perpetrators commit the vast majority of acts.

This study, though, is not about the mostly male perpetrators, but rather is looking at the mostly female and trans victims who largely do not report the assaults they disproportionately suffer.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2015


Actually there was a study of guys where this question was posed, and if I recall correctly, an unsettlingly-high percentage did self-report.

You're probably thinking of David Lisak and Paul Miller's Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists [PDF], where they observed that between 6 and 15% of men will admit to behavior that meets the legal standard of rape, as long as you don't call it rape.

Something that unsettles me more than almost anything in the world is when regular old non-MRA men latch onto anything written with an overt goal of "debunking" a report about sexual assault in order to hold it up as an exemplary case of unbiased journalism and solid research. They might hesitate when another dude did the writing, because that doesn't look good at all, but when it was written by a woman? She's like a golden ticket into the world of being able to openly admit that you believe other reporting about sexual assault to be deeply suspect, too, if not all of it. So something I would like to ask men who feel the need to do that is: Whose interests are you serving? And do you think those interests' ideological alignment with the current patriarchal power structure (a/k/a rape culture) is just a coincidence?
posted by divined by radio at 7:38 AM on September 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


So I have a friend who is at Harvard, and I'm at UT Austin. Both of us got university letters about this survey, since both our institutions participated, and we were chatting about the letters the other day. The difference between the two university letters in how the two administrations responded was pretty astounding: Harvard's basically went "You guys, SEXUAL ASSAULT IS TERRIBLE. I was SHOCKED, SHOCKED at the findings, and we should have a campus dialogue to get rape survivors to speak about their experiences in public! Also, you shouldn't underestimate the effect that reading this email will have on OUR EFFORTS TO FIGHT RAPE." Which doesn't actually allocate any resources beyond the Title IX office (about which, more below) to solving the problem, and puts all the emphasis on making rape survivors talk about a traumatic experience out in public so that people can pick their experiences and emotions apart in public. Plus, apparently MRAs showed up to the last public forum Harvard had on rape survivors, which I expect is real enticing for the women they're trying to get to speak publicly about their experiences. Words are cheap.

On the other hand, UT--which is by no means a perfect university and regularly pisses me off--pleasantly surprised me. Their email, paraphrased, basically stated that this is a problem, explained some findings from the study, and explained where UT ranked on some of the metrics (and boasted a bit about UT being relatively low on the prevalence rankings, which, fair). The email went on to point out some of the existing campus initiatives working on this, reaffirmed its commitment to those initiatives, and announced an additional pilot survey to try and get a better perspective on the problem on UT campuses. It was... much less dramatic, as emails go, but it mentioned much more in the way of actual financial investment in the reduction of sexual assault on campus. Again, I was pleasantly startled.

It reminds me a little of the way that I always wind up comparing my experience, and the experience of other grad students in STEM, to the experiences of grad student friends of mine in humanities. STEM definitely has problems with being inclusive to women, but at least it knows (collectively) that it has a problem. From what I have heard of academia in humanities disciplines, it.... hasn't acknowledged similar problems at all.

On a related note, Tenure, She Wrote posted an article about actually trying to use Title IX as a resource to report harassment or rape last week. It was.... not inspiring, and matches up pretty well with the experiences of friends of mine who have tried to bring complaints about harassment or assault in the past.
posted by sciatrix at 8:05 AM on September 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Can someone clarify the mandated reporting requirements for colleges? I had understood that the Clery Act required reporting aggregate statistics, but not names, and that the only mandated reporting would be for minors who were assaulted or if the victim reported an assault to campus security/police.
posted by jaguar at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2015


divined by ratio: So something I would like to ask men who feel the need to [admit that you believe [...] reporting about sexual assault to be deeply suspect] is: Whose interests are you serving? And do you think those interests' ideological alignment with the current patriarchal power structure (a/k/a rape culture) is just a coincidence?

I know these are rhetorical questions, but I'll bite. First off, yes, I am deeply suspicious of the reporting in many US media outlets about the extent of the problem of sexual misconduct on US campuses. I am a faculty member at a mid-sized public university in Washington state, so I have a professional interest in this issue. (In my criticism, I am not referring to the scientific studies, but rather how they are reported in the US media.) Let me be brutally honest and state some of my reasons:

* The definition of "nonconsensual sexual contact" is very broad - anything from giving someone a kiss without their explicit prior consensus to rape by a stranger is included. All of these are problems, but they vary immensely in scope. In fact, the study in the link reports:

When asked why the student did not report an incident, the dominant reason was it was not considered serious enough. This is also consistent with prior research (e.g.,Fisher et al., 2003). Even for penetration involving physical force, over half (58.6%) of students gave this reason. This reason is highest for those events that had the lowest overall rates of reporting to an agency
(cited by 78.6% of those who experienced harassment, and by 75.6% and 74.1%, respectively, of students who experienced sexual touching due to physical force or incapacitation).


In addition, the very puritanical attitudes in the US mean that some people are extremely sensitive to anything that may be conceived as "sexual". The sexual harassment prevention training I've had reinforced this impression.

* I'll get a lot of flak for this, but it's frankly not helping that two of the highest profile cases I followed fairly closely (Emma Sulkowicz and the Rolling Stones article about a campus rape which turned out tobe essentially fabricated) are deeply problematic. (Emma Sulkowicz's accused rapist is German and the story was reported very differently in Germany, with many details that cast serious doubt to on Sulkowics's description of the events.)

* I have not encountered any mention of this on my campus.

Now to divined by ratio's questions:

Whose interests are you serving?: I am not consciously serving anyone's interest. I realize that my opinions are somewhat convenient to me in the sense that a large scale campaign against "rape culture" would mean some kind of additional work for me.

And do you think those interests' ideological alignment with the current patriarchal power structure (a/k/a rape culture) is just a coincidence? I agree that our society is still very patriarchal, but I'd disagree with the characterization "rape culture". I'm not sure what exactly you're asking. I think I would likely have a more nuanced opinion if I was female.
posted by tecg at 11:02 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"mandated reporting" here refers to the increasing number of schools that require all staff members to report any incidences of sexual misconduct relayed to them to the school's Title IX officer, no matter the wishes of the student who told them or the nature or recency of the incident. There's a fair bit of objection to these policies. The Clery Act covers what must be reported to the government on the other end, after a Title IX office has learned of a crime.
posted by kelseyq at 11:07 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Argh, by "government" in the last sentence I meant "public"
posted by kelseyq at 11:14 AM on September 23, 2015


I agree that our society is still very patriarchal, but I'd disagree with the characterization "rape culture".

I'd humbly recommend looking into the matter a bit. When I first was exposed to this phrase a few years ago, it sounded a bit over-the-top as well. But after spending some time (a year or so) paying attention to what people meant when they said this, and seeing so many (countless it seems) examples of rape culture, I've turned around entirely.

The wikipedia entry includes the following "Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these."

I think it would be hard to objectively claim that these behaviors aren't widespread in the US. I'm more than certain you know more than one victim of rape. Chances are very high that it was unreported (to authorities). Rape culture is a large part of this (and thus allowing the offenders to re-offend).

I can understand if you want to distinguish between the patriarchy and 'rape culture' (but certainly rape culture is a symptom or part of the patriarchy as we know it).

I mean no offense, but I would submit that being ignorant of rape culture is being part of the problem. Much like being unaware of overt racism is being part of the problem of racism.
posted by el io at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


Shame and embarrassment are devastating things. It can kill you in nature if you refuse to prepare for bad weather or refuse to admit you’ve lost direction.
It can kill you if you don’t go to the doctor (colon or prostate cancer). And it can perpetuate sexual assault and rape.
Unless the silence is vigorously confronted along with the crime, it will remain dangerous, widespread and potentially lethal.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2015


I was discussing this article with friends yesterday and here's a thing I haven't seen mentioned much: It may or may not be overcounting due to methodology, but it is also absolutely undercounting. I am very far from alone among people of my acquaintance who had experiences during college that they did not have the framework or emotional wherewithal to categorize as sexual assault at the time, but who look back with the experience and knowledge of years and go "Holy shit, that thing that happened was super fucked up and I absolutely was not a consenting participant."

If you'd asked me as an undergrad if I had experienced sexual assault I would almost certainly have said no unless maybe you asked very specific questions about very specific situations. If you ask me now, I will tell you that I had multiple experiences of nonconsensual sexual contact. So these statistics would have left me out and I know I'm not alone in that. I would be very interested in knowing what the numbers would look like if you polled current undergrads and then alumni perhaps five or ten years down the road.
posted by Stacey at 1:41 PM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


tecg I think you're hitting at the heart of something I've been trying to say in this thread, but simultaneously missing the point a bit.

You say: The definition of "nonconsensual sexual contact" is very broad - anything from giving someone a kiss without their explicit prior consensus to rape by a stranger is included. All of these are problems, but they vary immensely in scope. In fact, the study in the link reports:
When asked why the student did not report an incident, the dominant reason was it was not considered serious enough. This is also consistent with prior research (e.g.,Fisher et al., 2003). Even for penetration involving physical force, over half (58.6%) of students gave this reason.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it is neither prudish nor puritanical to object to someone forcibly shoving $appendage in your $orifice. Not OK. Period. Even if there are circumstances.

In addition, the very puritanical attitudes in the US mean that some people are extremely sensitive to anything that may be conceived as "sexual". The sexual harassment prevention training I've had reinforced this impression.

Full disclosure, I hate the sexual harrassment training at my university too, but that's a red herring here. Puritanical attitudes cut both ways. Were my own story discussed with the general public, the predominant response would most likely be, "Aha, but you CHOSE to be in bed naked with him; what did you expect?," and everyone would feel all smug. For reasons outlined in posts above, I actually do feel that I in some ways contributed to the situation, I'm quite confident that I'm not victim-blaming myself, and I feel strongly that what happened to me was not rape. But it was unwanted, somewhat forcible penetration, it was very much not okay, and it had very real downstream consequences. For me. Not him. I never told anybody about it (certainly not any male professors!) because it "wasn't serious enough".

"Not serious enough" to warrant formal and public accusations of rape is not the same as not serious enough to be a problem. I fear that by failing to include that in the discussion we devolve to, "But it wasn't really rape." Which, in some cases, maybe not; but that doesn't mean it wasn't mean, selfish, entitled asshattery which a decent society shouldn't condone.
posted by telepanda at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


langtonsant: "If you actually give a shit about the statistical inference problem non-response bias raises, you might want to consider possible solutions to that problem."

Oh hey, look at all these statistics papers on non-ignorable non-response models! It's almost like serious statisticians have thought about this problem in the past and that people raising this as a "concern" are just trolling. Also, I hate you so much langtonsant-from-yesterday. Why do you force me read all these cool stats papers? I have stuff to do. Jerk.
posted by langtonsant at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


langtonsant: If you'd bothered to look at the paper, you'd have found that there is some analysis of the nonresponse bias problem in Appendix 4. The upshot is that

The best evidence from these analyses suggests that survey estimates of selected types of victimization may be too high. It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of this possible bias because the survey does not have direct observations of the non-respondents.

Again, the issue is not the report itself - the authors took care to do some proper statistical analyses, but rather the way the media is reporting on this.
posted by tecg at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2015


Well, I didn't want to derail the thread with a statistics discussion but since no-one else is commenting anymore I think it's probably okay. As it happens I did skim over the analyses in the appendix. I would have analysed the data slightly differently to the authors (I kind of prefer models like this one) but the basic approach they've taken looks sensible to me. But I think we're talking at cross-purposes. My point is that articles like the Lizzie Crocker piece are disingenuous: it's not okay to point to non-response bias and pretend that the study can be ignored, not when there are perfectly good tools available for addressing the issue and when the authors of the study actually did think a bit about the issue. I don't disagree with the point you quoted, namely that estimating the magnitude of the censoring effect is hard. But that does not justify taking any actions that would downplay the importance of the study.

As you seem to be someone who has an interest in statistics, I'd suggest a decision theoretic interpretation of the issue. There is a latent variable p corresponding to the proportion of women on campus who have been subject to sexual assault. A naive estimate of p - assuming the ignorability of non-responders - gives an answer of 23%. The lowest estimate of p - assuming that the rate of sexual assault among non-responders is zero - gives a point estimate of 4%. What actions follow from each possible point estimate? Well, speaking for myself, if the true value of p is 23% I would be very angry and hope to see major policy changes. If the true value of p is 4% I would be very angry and hope to see careful consideration of the data to see if there are policy changes that can be made. There is no possible level of non-response bias for which I am not pissed, no possible level of non-response bias at which I think a university administration shouldn't care about what the data say. So, as much as I'd like to have a good point estimate of p to satisfy my curiosity, the action I expect to see university administrators take is invariant: they have to care, and they have to look to see if there's anything they can do.

As for what action I can take - as a random dude on the internet with a passing knowledge of statistical theory and no relevant personal experience of sexual assault - I can think of three possibilities. I can (a) loudly and angrily point out that articles like Lizzie Crocker's are rubbish, in the hope people will pay attention to the data and not to her (b) I can complain about non-response bias and the failure of the New York Times to discuss non-ignorable non-response models, knowing that people will use my complaints as an pretext to ignore the study, or (c) I can shut the hell up. Choosing (a) or (c) I can totally understand, and today I choose (a). I have no idea why anyone with a shred of kindness to them would choose (b).
posted by langtonsant at 1:03 AM on September 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


"as a random dude on the internet with a passing knowledge of statistical theory and no relevant personal experience of sexual assault - I can think of three possibilities. I can (a) loudly and angrily point out that articles like Lizzie Crocker's are rubbish, in the hope people will pay attention to the data and not to her."

Hats off to you random dude on the internet with passing knowledge of statistical theory...

They say the pen is mightier than the sword and a better world we would have if more were to use this great power they possess in such times of need.
posted by xarnop at 12:31 PM on September 24, 2015


Emily Yoffe, Professional Rape Skeptic, has weighed in.
posted by chaiminda at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2015


Crocker, now Yoffe... I guess the Bat-Signal hasn't been strong enough to be picked up at whatever underground lair Katie Roiphe is lurking in these days, but it's probably only a matter of time.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:33 PM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shhh, don't invoke her name, there's still a chance she's slumbering beneath the sea with the other eldritch horrors and might sit this one out.
posted by Stacey at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, that Slate article is absolutely fucking blood-boiling and it is a perfect illustration of the following:

1) yes, but was it really rape?
2) if it wasn't rape it doesn't matter.

Once more, for the (broken) record: Yes, it's possible to have a penis rammed into you after you said not to, not report it, AND STILL OBJECT. There's a very good reason they didn't use the word 'rape' in the survey; it's far too loaded.

Maybe someone should just wallpaper all the bathrooms on college campuses with signs saying, "Make sure the other person actually wants your dick inside them, mmkay?"
posted by telepanda at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]




Wait, that last link refers to a Crank tv show? When did that come out? There wasn't any rape in the movie as far as I can recall. Yeah, I know, a bit offtopic.
posted by I-baLL at 9:18 PM on September 24, 2015


It's a reference to the movie, and I assume the sex scene where they are outdoors and she says no but ends up liking it, though not liking all the onlookers at the end. Not that Crank is a great movie or anything, but it is definitely a dissonant scene in an otherwise fine B movie.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:33 PM on September 24, 2015


I like that Yoffe mentions that women who are not in college are at a greater risk for rape, and then still suggests banning alcohol from college campuses as though alcohol is the only thing causing rapes to happen.
posted by chaiminda at 6:51 AM on September 25, 2015




New post on Kate Harding's work on rape culture.
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


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