This is a guest post by Carla, which originally appeared on her blog Writing in Water, and appears here with her kind permission.
A favourite tactic of critics of sexual violence surveys is to claim they inflate their results by wording questions too broadly. Three surveys in particular have attracted their attention: Mary Koss’s 1987 survey of college students, NIJ’s 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Survey (CSA) and the CDC’s 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). The first of these, Koss’s survey—the original source of the “one in four” statistic—is now almost thirty years old, but it still looms large in the minds of rape truthers, who continue to try to debunk it. More recently, the White House’s focus on violence against women has drawn attention to CSA and NISVS. These surveys are the source of the White House’s claims that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college and that nearly one in five women will be victims of attempted or completed rape respectively.
Since critics of these surveys have mostly concentrated on questions asking about incapacitated rape or sexual assault, a prefatory note is in order. Rapists unsurprisingly favour the most vulnerable victims they can find. A woman incapacitated by drugs or alcohol—that is, a woman who is unable to resist—is a vulnerable target for a rapist. (This is in no way to blame women who drink to excess; rapists who target incapacitated women are as responsible for their crimes as those who use physical force.) In environments where drugs and binge drinking are common, such as on university campuses, it is not just unsurprising that a high proportion of rapes would involve incapacitation: we should expect that this would be the case.
Mary Koss’s seminal survey of experiences of sexual violence among female college students revealed shockingly high rates of sexual assault—12.1% disclosed being raped since the age of 14 and a further 15.4% disclosed being victims of attempted (but not completed) rape. Koss’s research was groundbreaking in the way it lifted the veil on acquaintance and date rape, which until then were not part of the national lexicon. In addition, her rigorous approach, with its detailed, explicit questions, revolutionised the way in which surveys of sexual assault are designed. Almost thirty years after it was first published, its validity has never (whatever Wikipedia says) been challenged by researchers in the field of sexual violence.
Koss’s research soon attracted negative attention in the media. One of the most persistent criticisms of her research has been the claim, originating in a 1992 essay in the journal Society,1 that the incapacitation question captured events that were not rape. This focus on the incapacitation question is misleading, because removing it from the survey does not alter the results substantially—the number of women disclosing rape or attempted rape falls from one in five to one in four. Nonetheless, criticism of these questions has helped convince many that Koss’s estimates of sexual violence prevalence are wildly inflated.
For reference, the question that Koss asked her respondents was:
Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?
The mention of drugs or alcohol given “by a man” may seem odd, but it was worded this way because it was designed to mirror Ohio law which, like many other jurisdictions at the time, only recognised incapacitated rape when the drugs or alcohol were administered by the rapist. (Since Koss did not ask about events where the victim drank or took drugs of her own accord, this is a highly conservative definition of incapacitated rape.) According to the Society essay, “as [it] stands it would require a mind reader to detect whether an affirmative response” to this question “corresponds to a legal definition of rape.” For example, “[i]t could mean that a woman was trading sex for drugs or that a few drinks lowered the respondent’s inhibitions and she consented to an act she later regretted.” We might think about what it means for someone to be sceptical about the scale of sexual assault uncovered by Koss’s survey while simultaneously believing that her numbers can be accounted for by women prostituting themselves for drugs or being unable to tell (or lying about) if they actually consented to an act or not.
However, we don’t need to guess if Koss’s survey participants were able to interpret the question correctly. Her rigorous testing of her survey questions (called the Sexual Experiences Survey, or SES) was one of the reasons why her research was so groundbreaking. None of Koss’s critics has found fault with the methods she used to test the reliability of her questions; the most they have been able to do is to imply—in an utterly unwarranted attack on her professional integrity—that she might be misleading the public about including the incapacitation questions in her testing (they were).2 At any rate, any question about the reliability of Koss’s questions should have been put to rest by the fact that more recent surveys using more explicit questions to ask about incapacitated rape have consistently yielded comparable results to her 1987 survey.
CSA surveyed over 5000 undergraduate women at two large universities. 28.5% of the participants disclosed experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetimes and 19.8% of seniors disclosed experiencing completed sexual assault since entering college.3 |4 Because CSA focuses on sexual assault, a figure for lifetime prevalence of rape isn’t given, although 3.4% of all respondents (that is, not just seniors) disclosed being victims of completed physically forced rape and 8.5% disclosed being victims of completed incapacitated rape since entering college (note that these figures are not mutually exclusive).
Taking their cue from criticisms of Koss’s research, critics of CSA have claimed the question about incapacitated sexual assault is so broad it captures all sexual encounters under the influence of alcohol. For example, an article in USA Today described the incapacitation question as including any “sexual encounters while intoxicated,” while one in the National Review characterised it as “broad and ambiguous” and “includ[ing] questions about sexual contact that occurred in cases where someone was ‘drunk,’ not only in cases where the person was ‘incapacitated.’” According to another critic, “What might be dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup is now felony rape.” One critic goes even futher, claiming that not only does the incapacitation question capture people who are “just drunk enough to go along with something he or she wouldn’t do when sober,” but that the questions asking about physically forced sexual assault are “worded so ambiguously that they could refer to a clumsy attempt to initiate sex, even if the ‘attacker’ stops once rebuffed.”
Most critics avoid quoting the actual question on incapacitated sexual assault. Its wording is in fact very explicit. The question is in two parts. First, respondents were asked:
Has someone had sexual contact with you when you were unable to provide consent or stop was happening because you were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep?
Positive responses to this question then prompted the respondent to be asked if the “sexual contact” included:
*Forced touching of a sexual nature
*Sexual penetration with a finger or other object.
This question plainly does not ask about any and all sexual encounters where the respondent was intoxicated. It asks about sexual contact that occurred when respondents had been drinking so much that they could not consent or stop what was happening. In other words, it captures people who were incapacitated. It strains credulity that a reasonable person would interpret this as including consensual drunken sexual encounters, particularly given its context in a survey explicitly asking about unwanted sexual activity and its position immediately after a question on physically forced sexual contact.
The question about physically forced sexual contact, incidentally, begins with the following preamble:
The questions below ask about unwanted sexual contact that involved force or threats of force against you. Force could include someone holding you down with his or her body weight, pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you.
Respondents were then asked:
Has anyone had sexual contact with you by using physical force or threatening to physically harm you?
Has anyone attempted but not succeeded in having sexual contact with you by using or threatening to use physical force against you?
Finally, they were asked the questions listed above describing specific sexual acts.
The idea that this question is “worded so ambiguously that they could refer to a clumsy attempt to initiate sex, even if the ‘attacker’ stops once rebuffed” is baffling. Perhaps for some a crisis of inept men whose attempts at seduction cannot be distinguished from attempted physically forced rape is more plausible than a crisis of sexual assault of young women.
Unlike the previous two surveys, which focused on college students, NISVS surveyed women in the general non-institutionalised population. It had a sample size of almost 10,000 randomly selected women, of whom 18.3% disclosed completed or attempted rape over the course of their lifetime. Broken down further, 12.2% reported completed forced penetration, 5.2% reported attempted forced penetration and 8.0% reported incapacitated rape (note that these categories are not mutually exclusive).
NISVS has attracted less attention than the other two surveys. Many critics of it (see, for example, here, here and here) actually seem to be unaware that it is an entirely different survey from CSA. Most other critiques of NISVS rely on a 2012 Washington Post article in which it is claimed the survey defines sexual violence in “impossibly elastic ways” and, more specifically, that the question about incapacitated rape includes all “sex while inebriated.”
The actual wording of the incapacitation question in NISVS is slightly different from CSA. First, the respondents were read the following preamble:
Sometimes sex happens when a person is unable to consent to it or stop it from happening because they were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out from alcohol, drugs, or medications. This can include times when they voluntarily consumed alcohol or drugs or they were given drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or consent. Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.
They were then asked:
When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have ever had [vaginal sex etc. with you]?
Significantly, the Washington Post article quotes only the second part of the question; the implicit claim is that the question could be interpreted as asking about four separate scenarios that include being 1) drunk 2) high 3) drugged and 4) passed out and unable to consent. But this is obviously not how the question is supposed to be interpreted. As this blogger points out, the preamble makes it clear that the phrase “unable to consent” is supposed to modify all four of the adjectives “drunk,” “high,” “drugged” and “passed out.” What’s more, as with Koss’s survey, we know this is how respondents were likely to interpret it because, like all the questions in NISVS, it underwent cognitive testing to ensure it was interpreted correctly. It’s simply fanciful to suggest that the (admittedly shocking) rates of rape revealed by this survey are the result of misunderstanding of the incapacitation question. After all, anyone determined and creative enough can find alternative interpretations for almost any question, but that doesn’t mean people actually taking the survey are likely to do so—otherwise we might as well give up administering surveys altogether.
Of course, no survey is perfect and getting people to disclose sensitive events like sexual assault is particularly challenging (although perhaps not for the reasons that critics of sexual violence surveys imagine). Questions should be, and are, tested, refined and improved. It’s distressing, however, that people with no expertise in sexual assault research are given public forums to make baseless claims about the methodology of these surveys. Yes: it’s shocking to learn that sexual violence is experienced by so many women. It may defy our personal sense of what is reasonable or believable. But it is precisely these preconceptions—our desire to believe that the world is a certain way—that should force us to be critical, especially when confronted with laypeople purporting to debunk established, peer reviewed research.
- Gilbert, N (1992), ‘Realities and Mythologies of Rape,’ Society 29.4: 4-10. [↩]
- Gilbert 1992. [↩]
- This sentence has been corrected. Originally it said “19.8% of seniors experienced attempted and completed sexual assault while at college,” but it should have said “completed assaults” only. [↩]
- An addendum from Carla: [CSA researcher] “Chris Krebs also told me that when you take out sexual battery (that is, you only measure completed rapes) the number falls from 1 in 5 to 1 in 7.” [↩]
I think this essay makes some good points. I am curious about this sentence, though:
As a response to criticism of the question “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” this doesn’t seem to understand those criticisms.
1) The first suggested interpretation (“that her numbers can be accounted for by women prostituting themselves for drugs”) is that some women could have consented to sex in exchange for alcohol or drugs. Guest Writer Carla is free to cast aspersions on women who choose to have sex in exchange for drugs or alcohol (although that sounds like slut shaming of sex workers), but if her point is that when women consent to sex in exchange for some kind of goods they are still being sexually assaulted, then it sounds like she is making the point that the critics of sexual violence surveys are trying to make: that is, that the surveys define sexual assault so broadly that their definition includes (at least some) consensual sex.
2) Her insinuation that a woman who answers “yes” to that question must either be lying or a victim of sexual assault implies that a woman cannot consent to sex which she doesn’t really want to have; again, that seems to be either misunderstanding the criticism or underscoring the point of the critics: if you are saying that any time a woman consents to sex even though she doesn’t want to have sex then she is being sexually assaulted, that sounds like exactly the point that someone who says that the numbers are inflated is trying to make.
None of this is to say that people are not sexually assaulted while they are incapacitated; I just don’t think that Carla was effectively making the point that she was trying to make in that section. Did I miss something?
The issue is one of simple numbers. Do those who claim that it is suspect that > 5% of women are raped while incapacitated by drugs or alcohol believe that it is likely that > 5% of women have prostituted themselves in exchange for drugs or alcohol? That seems like a wildly unsupported claim.
For the rest of it, about whether “didn’t want to” means “consented but wasn’t into it”, you seem to have missed the next paragraph, in which Carla explains why that is a tendentious misreading of the question that is not supported as how women given the questionnaire actually interpreted it, and that subsequent surveys that used even clearer language came up with equivalent results, so searching in the wording of specific questions from Koss’s survery for gotchas is pointless:
By the way, nice use of accusations of “slut shaming” as a card to play rather than as an actual concern, when you write:
Carla did not cast any such aspersions, so that is just some nonsense you are (at best) misreading into her text.
You appear to be approaching this from an argumentative standpoint. I’m not trying to debate with Carla (or with you, or with Koss). I’m just reading a critique of a type or range of criticisms, and I’m trying to analyze what appears to be an illogical statement.
I understand that these are sensitive issues, and I don’t fault anyone for that. But if your instinct is to be snarky or to assume that I’m acting in bad faith, perhaps you’re being unfair.
Carla implied that a woman who interpreted the question the way that the critics interpreted it (as in, consenting to sex that you didn’t really want) could be lying.
That is an odd way to respond to that criticism; it seems logical that a woman could honestly answer the question and interpret it to be asking whether she consented to sex that she didn’t want to have.
Maybe I missed it–can you tell me specficially how Carla dealt with that in the next paragraph? Perhaps I need to know more about the SES, which isn’t really explained.
Remember earlier what I said about assuming that I am acting in bad faith? You are doing it here.
This action doesn’t seem consistent with answering “yes” to the question, “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” It’s a bizarre interpretation and I have a hard time understanding how you get there from here.
I mean, if you want to win a game of interpretive semantics where the winner is the one who is technically correct but practically so rare as to be non-existent, sure. As such, it’s really difficult for me to take such a criticism as being serious and/or in good faith. But, as always, YMMV.
Jake, I’m not sure who your comment was in response to. Was the “you” addressed in your comment the author of the National Review article?
“You” is anybody who uses Phil’s description of the first suggested interpretation.
When you accused Carla of casting aspersions at sex workers and engaging in slut shaming, you failed pretty badly at reading charitably and went straight to arguing with straw feminists.
As to “or being unable to tell (or lying about) if they actually consented to an act or not”, Carla is not accusing the imaginary women who are supposed to have answered the incapacitated by drugs question as though it described regrettable drunken sex of being liars, she is referring to the often implicit and sometimes explicit claim that the survey question is too broad because it opens the door to women describing regrettable drunken sex as rape. She is referencing a trope, not making an accusation. I can’t point you to where she spells that out in detail, but it is pretty obvious in context. The following paragraph makes clear that the two scenarios she has previously described are bullshit interpretations of the question in Koss that were in fact not the interpretation taken by any significant number of women who actually answered the survey.
I want to point out a “big picture” concept: When physicists want to really find out what the speed of light is, no one has an agenda on either side. They really want to find out what the truth is.
With these sociology issues, it is absolutely clear that one side wants to present rape statistics that are as high as possible. There is absolutely no doubt, because the higher the statistics, the more funding and the more credibility with the general public.
Even beyond biases in statistics, I have seen lots of feminist websites misuse even the agenda-driven statistics. If a researcher finds that 1 out of 4 college women have some sexual imposition on them, some feminist websites will state that 1 out of 4 college women are brutally raped and cite that agenda-driven study.
This website only wants to present one side, which is cool because I do that too for things I have an agenda with. But let’s not give the pretence that there is an objective search for the exact speed of light. I don’t have a particular pony in this race, other than being a taxpayer who doesn’t necessarily want to have my hard-earned money wasted on initiatives that may not be based on the full truth.
Jake Squid –
That interpretation–which Carla quoted and cited–comes directly from an article published in the journal Society in 1998.
That article also states “Koss assumes that a positive answer signifies the respondent engaged in sexual intercourse against her will because she was intoxicated to the point of being unable to deny consent (and that the man had administered the alcohol for this purpose).”
I don’t think the second part of that quotation is relevant; that is, whether Koss assumed that the respondents who said yes had been administered alcohol “for that purpose” does not matter today, because we generally* understand that rape has occurred when a person is too intoxicated to deny consent no matter how they got intoxicated. Carla suggests that Ohio law has changed to reflect a more modern understanding, and I think we have moved, culturally, toward such an understanding as well.
*(I understand that there are people who do not share this understanding, but I doubt that any of them are commenting on this discussion.)
I agree with Carla that the criticisms of the CSA survey strain credulity.
Mea Culpa. It is possible that Carla meant to use the phrasing “woman prostituting themselves” in a value-neutral way, and I should have been more open to that interpretation.
SWA, I disagree. Physicists do not just want to find the truth. They want to find interesting truths, in specific ways and using specific techniques they champion, in order to advance their own career goals or that of their students so they can keep getting funding and/or promotions to do science, or win the respect of their peers, or whatever. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re looking for truths, of course–but even the hardest sciences aren’t some Platonic search for enlightenment.
Similarly, people who study the incidence of rape do often have their own expectations for what the results will show and their own desires for the results to be one way or another depending on what interventions they would like to support. I don’t dispute that. I do dispute that this is in some way qualitatively different from what the hard sciences are doing. The main difference is that the external (ie not purely information-finding) motivations for social scientists sometimes line up with common political dogfights in the US, and the hard sciences don’t.
I don’t mind people wanting to keep track of where people’s biases come from–that’s important for any discipline for understanding and interpreting results. I do very much mind the implication–or the outright statement–that this problem is unique to social sciences, or to social sciences which interact with advocacy.
(I mean, you want to talk funding as a possible source of bias? The National Science Foundation’s budget request for FY 2016 is $7.7 billion. The Department of Energy adds between $1.5 and $2 billion, mostly in physics and high-performance computing. In comparison, RAINN spent about $3.5 million in FY 2013, which was the data I found most easily; they’re not the only organization working with this kind of issue, of course, but I think it’s easy to say there aren’t 3000 organizations with the budget of RAINN doing the same kind of work.)
Ah, okay. I failed to recognize that it was specifically the phrase “women prostituting themselves” that you were objecting to. That has always seemed like a value neutral phrase to me, but I realize that it is not generally heard that way, particularly by sex workers.
SWA: When physicists want to really find out what the speed of light is, no one has an agenda on either side. They really want to find out what the truth is.
This is a particularly bad example, given the history of measurement of the speed of light. Michelson and Morley, in their experiments on light, were actively trying to prove the existence of the aether, which is why their result was considered as a catastrophe for physics.
Why is that a “particularly bad example”, Ben? I don’t even know why you mentioned that, other than to show us your knowledge of physics.
Michelson and Morley were expecting a particular result and a particular set of data, but when that didn’t appear, the results that did appear actually provided some confirmation of a new, upcoming idea. Particularly because they DIDN’T let their biases get in the way. They reported the data exactly as measured. They weren’t trying to cover up the fact that women attack men in domestic violence situations more frequently than previously thought. Or trying to drive the campus rape statistics up as high as possible.
It’s also just a side note, because the new ideas like relatively were mainly developed from a consideration of Maxwell’s equations in relative moving frames. “Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” and all that. As a further side note, instead of “aether” in this context, we prefer a “non-co-moving inertial frame” :)
So yeah, unbiased confirmation of a deeper view of reality.
That is in contrast to the social sciences today. Whether they once had integrity, I don’t know, but I don’t believe it today. It’s mostly agenda-driven, and – with a nod to Harlequin’s point of view – I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. It’s no longer worth it to try to find a few small diamonds in the big buckets of crap.
So, ummm, carry on.
I am disappointed that there’s no mention of the criticism against Koss for failing to acknowledging male rape victims of female perpetrators both then and now as well as in both the original SES as the revised SES (2007).
I think that’s a fair criticism of Koss – not that her particular study isn’t about male victims (not every study has to be – nor every blog post), but that (as I understand it) she’s taken a line that men by definition cannot be raped.
I’ll take the liberty of expanding upon the criticism of Koss (and also the SES and the revised SES) for not including many male victims. Although some may consider it off-topic for this post I find it related since it basically is a criticism that the questions on these survey in fact uses a too narrow definition of rape and sexual assault.
Koss does acknowledge male rape where the male victim has been penetrated.
As for men who have been made penetrate? Well, as she wrote in her 1993 paper on prevalence research methodology:
That was in 1993. She has since co-authored papers looking at male victimization. One example is this paper published in 2012 which contains a section bemoaning that men who report forced or coerced sex with a woman (where the man is the penetrating part) is included and counted as rape and advocates the use of the revised SES in order to properly categorize these men. The section also suggests that men who categorized their experience (where they were the penetrating part) as being victims of ‘forced sex’ are mistaken – they are given too much leeway in their perception of what constitutes ‘forced sex’:
Note that the revised SES questionnaire has no question regarding whether the respondent has been forced or coerced into penetrating someone vaginally or anally and thus men experiencing this type of victimization will not be captured at all by the revised SES – despite the creators of the revised SES statement saying this in their 2007 paper:
In a radio interview earlier this year Mary P. Koss was asked explicitly about men being made to penetrate without their consent. After Koss asked how such a thing would happen the radio show host asked Koss what she would call it if a man were drugged and woke up to a woman sitting on top of him with his penis inside her – all without his consent – and he felt traumatized. Koss answered “I would call it ‘unwanted contact'”. The radio host sounds taken aback and asks:
“Just ‘unwanted contact’ period?” and Koss answers “Yeah.”
It seems like this erasure of male victims are about to change. FBI has acknowledged in an answer to a direct questions that made to penetrate is included in their new definition of rape (which took effect in 2013), but so far they haven’t followed the suggestion that they make this inclusion explicit in the guidelines for the reporting law enforcement agencies.
Researchers like Lara Stemple who last year published a paper looking at the data from 5 federal studies (NISVS included) and found that almost as many men as women report sexual victimization and that a large number of male victims report female perpetrators.
The Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) has acknowledged to me that their survey questions does not capture men made to penetrate (even though that is explicitly listed as a crime punishable with up to life in prison in the Sexual Offences Act of 2003). The Official for National Statistics who conducts the CSEW has promised to amend the questionnaire to include these victims.
“the number of women disclosing rape or attempted rape falls from one in five to one in four.”
This seems to be a thinko.
The CSA survey, which is as the source of the claim by the White House (and many others) that one in five college women “will be victims of attempted or completed rape,” concluded that one of five women in the survey pool were the victims of “sexual assault.”
It then defined “sexual assault” to include any type of unwanted sexual contact, including touching through clothing.
The questionnaire is explicit about this: the women taking the survey were instructed that any unwanted touching, including through clothing, was to be reported.
So – a woman filling out the questionnaire was instructed to answer “yes” to the key question if a man had ever put his hand on her hip or bottom or breast, or had pressed himself against her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
This is the source of the data that one in five college women has been the victim of “rape or attempted rape.”
The Washington Post/Kaiser poll, in the Post on June 15, 2015, similarly reported that “Twenty percent of young women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted.”
Like the CSA survey, the actual questionnaire instructs that non-consensual touching through clothing is to be reported.
There is no way, in the data reported in this survey, to separate the women who reported being non-consensually touched through clothing from those who were sexually penetrated by violence or during drug or alcohol-induced incapacitation, or who escaped such penetration by fighting off their attacker.
Would the ordinary reader understand that the “one-in-five” figure defines “sexual assault” to include the man who puts his hand on the clothed hip, breast or bottom of a woman he is talking to or dancing with? Obviously, the White House didn’t understand this when it characterized these figures as referring to “rape or attempted rape.” Touching through clothing is legally an assault, but it is not”rape or attempted rape.”
Without belittling the discomfort and humiliation of unwanted touching – particularly in public places like a bus or subway – inclusion of unwanted touching through clothing in the same category as violent or drug-enabled penetration or attempted penetration is bad social science. It’s too coarse-grained provide useful data as a basis for policy.
And it’s not a very good source for guidance of behavior. Try these for warnings:
“If you go to that frat party, you might be raped.”
“If you go to that frat party, an annoying guy might put his hand on your butt.”
Which is the proper take-away from surveys like CSA and the Post/Kaiser poll? It’s impossible to tell.
Correction: not “one-in-twenty,” – one in five, or twenty percent. I hope this is obvious from context.
[Correction made in Max’s previous comment. –Amp]
You are right that the Post survey correctly includes non-penetrative sexual assault in the definition of sexual assault, but you are wildly wrong to claim that having someone touch your ass on the dance floor would meet the specifications in the Post survey on whether you have been sexually assaulted.
Here is the questionnaire with results:
Scroll on down to question 52on page 18 and read the header to the preamble to the section: “… Sexual Assault by Fore or Threat of Force”. Then read the preamble statement, which includes examples of force and the threat of force. Now ask yourself whether your scenarios fall under that description.
The answer is No.
Charles- I followed your link to check out what everyone is talking about. Presumably Max G is referring to question 50 on page 17, not question 51 on page 18, as question 50 on page 17 matches his description.
Patrick – I assume you mean the preamble to question 50, not question 50 itself. And yes, I agree, that’s what Max was referring to. Here’s the preamble to question 50:
So they refer to “forced touching,” but at this point in the survey they haven’t defined what they mean by “forced.”
But answering “yes” to questions 50 through 51a would not cause someone being surveyed to be categorized as having been sexually assaulted or coerced. Only the answers to questions 52 to 56 would do that – so the preamble statement Charles pointed to, defining what they mean by “force,” is extremely relevant, and I don’t think Max G can reasonably ignore it.
According to Max, this study “defines “sexual assault” to include the man who puts his hand on the clothed hip, breast or bottom of a woman he is talking to or dancing with.” (Max’s wording falsely implies that the survey assumes assailants are male and those experiencing sexual assault are female. In fact, the same questions – with slight variations for anatomy – were asked both women and men.) Here’s the prelude to questions 52 and 53 that Charles indicated, in which the survey identifies what “force” means for the purposes of the sexual assault questions:
So yes, this question would include unwanted touch through clothing – if the person used force or threat of force, such as “someone holding you down with his or her body weight, pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you” to accomplish the unwanted touching. In which case, including the incident in the general heading “sexual assault” seems reasonable.
Can you give a link for the White House quote you use here? In the official White House report (pdf link), the quote you cite to them does not appear; they do say, citing the CSA, “1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college.” (Which is technically wrong, because not 100% of women have been to college, but I think we know what they meant. Oy vey, proofread, people.)
Could you please link and quote the exact words in which the questionnaire explicitly says this? On page 108 (AKA page A1) of this pdf file, you’ll find the exact wording of the CSA’s sexual assault questions asked of women. (The wording seems mostly identical to the Post survey’s wording.) It refers to “forced” touching, not “any unwanted touching.”
This seems like a flat-out lie, unless I’m missing something. Please quote the exact words from the CSA survey in which the “woman” (in fact, the CSA sample included both sexes) “was instructed to answer “yes” to the key question if a man had ever put his hand on her hip or bottom or breast, or had pressed himself against her in a way that made her uncomfortable.”
I just found a more complete copy of the CSA questions about sexual assault. Unlike the later Post survey, the CSA survey of male students doesn’t ask them about being forced to put their penis in someone else; so in that way, the Post survey questions, while based on the CSA questions, are an improvement on the CSA.
Nonetheless, after reading this more complete copy of the questions, I think all my criticisms of Max’s comments stand. Although the phrase “unwanted sexual contact” does appear, the questions that were used to calculate rape prevalence are introduced like this:
And “force” is defined like this:
So I don’t think Max’s concerns are justified.
The White House cite comes from the OP. I’m willing to assume s/he was telling the truth. If you doubt it, ask him or her for the source.
From the CSA study questionnaire that you to (which was not difficult to find, it would have been nice if you’d read it before calling me a liar):
“These questions ask about [if B0=male, fill “four ”, if B0=female, fill “five”]
types of unwanted sexual contact:
 forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes) …..”
So “unwanted sexual contact” includes touching through clothes. The Post study uses the same definition, but is even worse, in that it doesn’t differentiate between unwanted sexual contact and sexual assault. You are right that a woman has to conclude that she was “unable to provide consent” due to drunkenness in order to put an event into the assault bucket, but what does it mean to be unable to give consent? And the questionnaires do not distinguish between a woman who is touched through her clothes while she is drunk and one who is held down by force or kicked and punched.
So, in both studies, a woman reports that a drunk and obnoxious frat boy touched her on the butt through her clothes when she was also drunk, and that goes into the same bucket as gang rape by force with full penetration. By the time the White House gets to it, the drunk frat boy is a rapist.
It’s true that Carla’s original post included those words; it’s not true that she put them in quotation marks and attributed them to the White House, as you seemed to do. But let’s just say that you were quoting the OP, and I misunderstood you as attributing the quote to the White House. That’s fine.
But you still mangled things. Here’s the relevant sentences from Carla’s post:
And you wrote:
But Carla didn’t write that the CSA is the source of “nearly one in five women will be victims of attempted or completed rape respectively.” She wrote that the NISVS is the source of that statistic.
The text of the question: “Has someone had sexual contact with you when you were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated, or asleep?”
Contrast that with what you claimed (emphasis added by me): “The questionnaire is explicit about this: the women taking the survey were instructed that any unwanted touching, including through clothing, was to be reported.” And you added: “So – a woman filling out the questionnaire was instructed to answer “yes” to the key question if a man had ever put his hand on her hip or bottom or breast, or had pressed himself against her in a way that made her uncomfortable.”
So you claimed that the survey explicitly instructs the respondents that any unwanted touch should be reported, and was then counted as sexual assault. That’s simply not true. The CSA questions used to measure sexual assault only asks about times respondents experienced unwanted touch under very specific circumstances. It does not say that “any” unwanted touch “ever” should be reported in those questions. It doesn’t even imply it, much less saying so “explicitly.” Your claim was blatantly untrue.
It’s annoying that you’re consistently softballing what those questions are asking about. Someone being involuntarily groped through their clothes would only be counted if the respondent said the groping happened when they couldn’t “consent or stop what was happening because [they] were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated, or asleep.”
Do you think it’s acceptable, if you see an attractive person who is so drunk that they can barely stand and aren’t capable of objecting, to go grope them through their clothing? Of course you don’t. Because it’s disgusting behavior, and a form of sexual assault.
And yes, a survey measuring sexual assault does put it in the same bucket as gang rape when measuring sexual assault prevalence – just as a survey of stolen property could put a stolen $5 and a stolen car in the same bucket called “stolen property prevalence.”
Do you have any citation to back up this claim? As far as I can tell, the WH never used “rapist” to talk about the results of the CSA study.