1 in 5: Rape Statistics

By now, you've probably heard the statistic that 1 in 5 women in college will be raped. You've probably also heard that's false. I've heard a lot of backlash against feminists recently for "falsifying statistics."

So where did the 1 in 5 number come from? Well, feminists didn't make it up, it's a real number that got misconstrued. It was a survey done among senior undergraduates at two universities, not a national study. The survey found that 1 in 5 (19.8%) women has experienced rape or unwanted sexual contact, like forced kissing or groping (things that constitute assault). If we ignore the sexual assault, the number of women that've been raped drops to 1 in 7 (14.3%), and only counts completed incidents (not attempted). Before you jump all over that number, let's remember that this is a survey, it had a mediocre response rate and it's possible people weren't truthful. (1)

So what are the actual statistics? Let's look at the 2013 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The rate of rape or sexual assault for female students between 18-24 years in 2013 was only 4.4 out of 1000 (compared to 4.3 for non-students of the same demographic). That's a HUGE difference from the 1 in 5 claim. That study also found that on college campuses, the rapist was more likely to be a male (in 97% of cases, compared 91% for non-students), and victims were much less likely to report it (only 20% did,  compared to 32% of non-students). Now let's say these numbers are perfectly, flawlessly true (they aren't), and let's say we can generalize these numbers to an entire population (we can't). Even though it's significantly less than 1 in 5, is it acceptable that 10,416 female students were raped or sexually assaulted on college campuses in 2013? Absolutely fucking not. (2)

If we just focus on women in college, we're ignoring a much bigger picture. So let's broaden our focus a bit and consider the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the CDC in 2010. Now we're getting closer to the 1 in 5 number again. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) of women have been raped (including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and drug facilitated forced penetration) at some point in their lives. Nearly 1 in 2 (44.6%) have experienced some form of sexual assault (including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and unwanted sexual experiences). (3) That's fucking horrifying. 

Let's just review that one more time. The CDC found in 2010 that nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%). That's almost 22 million women. THAT'S HORRIFYING.

Look, the prevalence of sexual assault is decreasing (to be specific, sexual assault has fallen by 49% in recent years). That's awesome. But it's not enough. There are 293,066 victims (age 12 or older, male and female) of rape and sexual assault each year. 98% of rapists will never get jail time. Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer from depression, PTSD, abuse alcohol and drugs, and contemplate suicide. (4) None of this is ok.

So will 1 in 5 girls be raped during their time at college? No, probably not. Does that mean that rape isn't a problem? Absolutely not. Do not use the 1 in 5 statistic to end a conversation about rape. Because firstly, if you're honestly more bothered by inaccurate statistics than rape, you need to reevaluate, and secondly, it's not as far off as you think.

1. http://time.com/3633903/campus-rape-1-in-5-sexual-assault-setting-record-straight/
2. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf
3. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf
4. https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims