category: feminism, category: media, category: politics

VOX touts questionnable rape statistic

In the wake of Rolling Stoneโ€™s UVA rape story implosion, liberal journalists and outlets rushed into damage-control mode. Most chose the bizarre route of placing the blame purely on Rolling Stone, accusing the magazine of throwing accuser Jackie under the bus (But didnโ€™t the magazine simply tell the story she provided?), while others decided to remind us of alarming rape statistics, lest rape-culture-advocacy suffer any setback.

VOX quickly published a post entitled: โ€œShow this graphic to anyone who says rape isnโ€™t a real issue in America.โ€ Notice the strawman aspect of the headline — no reasonable person doubts rape occurs and is a serious issue; what many of us doubt is whether it is the widespread epidemic that liberal orthodoxy would have us believe.

VOXโ€™s entire post is based on a single federal government study, conducted in 2011 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which purportedly found that 1.6% of American women are raped annually. VOX recaps that researchers called 7,758 women randomly (incorrect, actually: the researchers called more but only that amount participated โ€“ the survey had a dismal 33% response rate) and โ€œasked if they had ever been raped.โ€

Rather than simply typing out the resulting number of those who claimed to be have been raped, instead VOX dramatically delays the moment of truth, opting to post a female-figurine mural, visually representing the number, noting each symbol stands for 25 rape victims.

This does nothing apart from making the reader scroll endlessly, during which one is supposed to cry in horror (โ€œLook how much Iโ€™m scrolling! Each of these figures represents 25 women! Oh dear, Iโ€™m still scrolling!โ€) but all it does is make you think your computer has a virus and give you bad flashbacks of PAC-MAN.
Finally, upon reaching the end of the tedious graphic, we have our answer. โ€œAn estimated 1,929,000 are raped over [the course of] a year in the U.S., including 1,213,000 facilitated by alcohol or drugs.โ€

Sounds awful. Is it true, though?

Letโ€™s take a look at the CDC survey.
VOX

Looking at the actual tables, yes, 1% of female respondents experienced completed penetration that was โ€œalcohol or drug facilitated.โ€ This 1% is the basis of VOXโ€™s โ€œ1,213,000 [rapes] facilitated by alcohol or drugsโ€ mention.

Fair enough. But why does the CDC include penetration that was โ€œalcohol or drug facilitatedโ€โ€ฆ as rape, necessarily? While drugs and alcohol are sometimes used to rape, horribly so, rendering women incapable of consent, why the assumption that penetration under those circumstances is always rape?

Taking a look at the actual survey questions, the veracity of this finding becomes murky, to the say the least. Participants were asked:

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have everโ€ฆ
[emphasis mine]

Stop right there. Notice the way the โ€œor passed out and unable to consentโ€ is lumped together with other instances of being drunk or high but able to give consent. As scholar Christina Hoff Sommers noted, this prevents the respondent from being able to differentiate her answer between instances when it was consensual (vs non-consensual sex) under the influence. For instance, if someone had sex that year while drunk, but consensual, the โ€œyesโ€ answer would nonetheless be classified as rape.
Doubt it? Consider the instances noted in the question:

  • had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina} {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}.
  • {if male} made you perform anal sex, meaning they made you put your penis into their anus?
  • made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?
  • put their mouth on your {if male: penis} {if female: vagina}1
  • put their mouth on your anus?
  • made you put your mouth on their vagina or anus?
  • made you put your mouth on their penis?
  • put their fingers or an object in your [if female: vagina or} anus?
    [emphasis mine]

While a few of the sub-questions denote forced circumstances (e.g., โ€œmade youโ€), over half do not (e.g., โ€œhad vaginal sex with youโ€). A โ€˜yesโ€™ on any of these would result in counting the individual as having been raped.

Other federal findings, meanwhile, dispute the rape-is-common narrative, so the media dismisses those studies. As blogger Yuval Leventhal notes:

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) has been administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) since 1972. This survey interviews 49,000 to 77,400 households twice a year. The average response rate is 87%. This survey doesnโ€™t measure the lifetime prevalence but the yearly incidence. The question asked concerning rape and sexual assault is more straightforward, simply asking participants whether they have been raped/sexually assaulted or not.

The accumulated results for the 2011 surveyย are available online. On page 2, Table 1, for 2011, it was estimated that there were 243,800 total cases of rape and sexual assaultย combined.

When will the rape-culture media narrative begin to use sound stories or, at least, sound figures?

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