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How accurate are the college rape statistics?

At colleges around the country, campus advocates have demanded that change is needed in the way schools respond to reports of sexual misconduct. While it is true that rape is a horrible crime, dubious statistics and unjust campus judiciaries have played their roles in forming the "rape culture" that both victims and the accused must deal with.

The one-in-five furor

The statement that has achieved the most public notice and stirred up campus activists is that "one in five women" will be raped during the time spent at college. Is this accurate? The staff at the American Enterprise Institute say that this factoid came from an online survey that polled participants from two U.S. universities. The survey was conducted with the help of a Justice Department grant, but pollsters employed a broad definition of sexual assault, using terms such as "forced kissing" or "attempted forced kissing."

Different results

A report entitled "Violent Victimization of College Students" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics puts forth the results of a survey taken between 1995 and 2002. The findings were that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand annually among the four million female college students in our country. This equates to about one assault for every forty students, considerably different from the contention of "one in five." Still, campus activists have used the inflated statistics to convince administrators that students require better protection from sexual violence, and many universities have revised their policies. Whether these policy changes have made university life safer for women is still up for debate. What the changes have done, however, is to make campuses into slippery slopes for falsely accused males.

Campus judiciaries on trial

In a court of law, there are procedural safeguards to ensure due process. Many campus judiciaries, on the other hand, hold to an astonishingly low standard of proof with respect to sexual assault cases. A judicial panel might only consist of three students, and those might be volunteers who are not necessarily impartial fact-finders. In 2011, the Department of Education made a switch from its long-time "clear and convincing" standard to a "preponderance of evidence" outlook to be used in hearing sexual abuse cases. In short, this meant that if a majority of judiciary members felt that sexual abuse was more likely than not to have happened, they must side with the accuser.

Seeking help

Sexual assault on college campuses is vastly underreported. It is a horrific crime against women, but men who are falsely accused also suffer. In both instances, lives will likely be forever changed, and because there is so much at stake, those involved would do well to seek legal counsel.

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