Writing in USA Today, criminologist James Alan Fox and sociologist Richard Moran question the often-repeated results of an “ill-conceived survey” concluding that one in five women are victims of sexual assault during their college years. The figure is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation’s colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, indicating a possible inflated prevalence figure, and its definition of sexual assault was too broad, the writers said.
They write, “Flawed data are sometimes worse than no data at all. Questioning the wisdom of an online survey does not mean that the problem isn’t serious and worthy of enhanced efforts to protect victims. On the contrary, colleges must do a better job of investigating allegations of sexual assault, while remaining sensitive to the traumatized victim; they must also be attentive to the due process rights of the accused.” They conclude, “Rather than waste resources on some misguided national survey of campus sexual assault, the government can and should evaluate and recommend model programs for educating young adults.”