Rape is getting a lot of attention lately, especially rape on colleges. That’s a good development in itself. But this serious topic does not benefit from false sensational reporting.
An example of that was a study that was being picked up by media with headlines like “A Third Of Male Students Say They’d Rape A Woman If There Were No Consequences, A Study Reveals”. Or: “Study: 1 in 3 men would rape if they wouldn’t get caught or face consequences.” Admittedly, we’re talking about Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan respectively, but still. And even Christian organizations are tweeting these links or referring to them.
The problem is that this study is anything but scientific and the results don’t prove anything. Let’s look at the facts:
The study was done amongst only 86 students. Of these 86, only 73 results were actually used in the study because the researchers didn’t use participants who hadn’t answered all questions and dismissed one man’s answers as confusing. Obviously, 73 guys are not a representative group and you can’t draw any statistically relevant conclusions from such a small sample.
All of these guys were students at the same university, the University of North Dakota, and they received extra credits for participating in the study. With North Dakota not being known for its diversity, most likely most participants were white. Plus, they’re from, you know, North Dakota. It’s not like white guys studying in North Dakota are representative of the general male population in American colleges all over the country.
Only 13.6% of these guys flat out admitted they’d rape a woman. That’s nine guys people. Nine guys at a University in North Dakota. Hardly worth the sensational headline, right? Plus, there’s a difference between saying you would do something and actually doing it. Granted, saying you would rape is worrisome as it is, but that doesn’t mean these guys would actually do it.
But from a research point of view, there was an even bigger problem. The premise on which the study was based was the often-cited statistic that one in five women will get raped in college. But this statistic itself has been proved to be a myth. The actual numbers are way, way lower. A study that is based on a myth is not likely to results in scientifically sound results.
A serious issue like rape does not benefit from sensational headlines, over-blown statistics, repeated myths, or studies like this that don’t even deserve to be called scientific. Rape is a grave problem for women, with traumatic results that often last a lifetime. I am in awe of the many young women who have come forward recently with their heartbreaking stories of what happened to them. It takes incredible courage to step forward and admit to having been raped.
Rape doesn’t need the fake sensational headlines, because the real problem is bad enough as it is. Confusing the facts does not honor the victims in any way, nor does it provide a solid starting point for discussion, or prevention policies. Yes, we need to talk about rape and I am glad the media are doing that at least, but we need to start with facts, not myths.