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October 2 2014

"Rape Culture" Update: U of Michigan Shows Drastic Decline in Sexual Assaults

Charlotte Hays

The supposed “epidemic” of sexual assaults on campus has grabbed a lot of attention lately—Barbara Boxer, Katie Couric, and the White House have all promoted the idea of a “rape culture” on campus.

However, Mark Perry looks at the recent figures from a large university and sees a downward trend in sexual assaults. Perry examined the data for the crime and safety reports at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

UM crime reports are comprehensive, Perry notes, because they report assaults that took place both on and off campus. Students are encouraged (but not required) to report assaults to the police. 

UM campus assaults have been declining for a decade (a chart is included). For last year, for example, there were 35 sexual assaults on campus reported, a bit more than half the assaults reported in 2004 (64.)

Perry writes:

I realize that this is just one campus, but it’s pretty obvious that the trend at UM can’t possibly be described as an “epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses” that the media and politicians suggest is a nationwide crisis. Also, remember that the White House claim that “1-in-5 women are sexually assaulted while in college” was based on a survey of students at only two (undisclosed) universities and then extrapolated to the entire country, and is now the basis for the national hysteria that recently motivated passage of a historic college rape law in California.

Importantly, the downward trend in sexual assaults at UM over the last decade is consistent with the downward trend in the national incidence of rape, which has fallen by 45% over the last 20 years, from 42.8 per 100,000 people to 23.6 per 100,000 last year (see chart below).

Bottom Line: If there’s a “rape epidemic” in America, it certainly isn’t supported by the FBI national crime data, and if there’s a “college sexual assault epidemic” it’s certainly not supported by the declining trend in sexual assaults at the University of Michigan over the last decade.

The notion of a "rape culture" on campus is essential in justifying the Obama administration's new policies for dealing with sexual assault on campus. Particularly troubling is a move to further reduce the legal right to due process of the accused. We at IWF regard any sexual assault as heinous, but we believe that policies must not be designed around inaccurate numbers.

To pursue this subject further, I refer you to IWF’s “Straight Talk: An Honest Discussion about Rape Culture and Sexual Violence” on campus that featured Sabrina Schaeffer, Christina Hoff Sommers, Cathy Young, Stuart Taylor, and Andrea Bottner.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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