The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
Begins Christina Hoff Sommers (resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Her books include “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys”) in today’s Washington Post.
She goes onto site the vast difference between CDC numbers and those by other government sources:
The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?
She goes on to question the very methodology of the survey questions and the resulting data, by making sexual violence a definition that is hopelessly “elastic.” According to Sommers things like sex while drunk are, according to CDC, sexual assaults when in everyday practice most married couples have sex while drunk on a pretty regular basis.
Many, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have hailed the CDC data as making clear for the first time the magnitude of the impact sexual violence on millions of Americans. Sommers offers up a different motivation for the CDC data, government funding of programs to address an overstated problem.
I’m not here to minimize the impact of sexual violence–on women nor on men. But if Sommers is correct in her analysis of the CDC methology, as well as the seemingly incredible gap between the CDC and the actual crimes reported from other sources, there does seem to be something fishy going on here.
It would sure be nice to get real data on sexual violence outside the political motivations of all involved. And while we are at it we might want to look a lot more closely at the violence in which men are victims not the perpetrators. That doesn’t mean minimize female rape, just give a full and accurate picture. Something that apparently the CDC report failed to do.
Photo: What Makes a Man?