New Study Once Again Debunks Right-Wing Media's Favorite Myths About Campus Sexual Assault Statistics

A newly released study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)  found that more than one in four undergraduate women have experienced sexual assault, further debunking right-wing media's repeated assertions doubting the the frequency and severity of sexual violence on college campuses.

The January 20 BJS report found that on average “21 percent of female undergraduates at the unnamed colleges and universities told researchers they had been sexually assaulted since starting their higher education,” while "[o]ne in four female seniors reported being sexually assaulted in their undergraduate years." Huffington Post senior editor Tyler Kingkade wrote that the results of this latest study are “similar to the results of earlier research” and confirmed an earlier “survey of 300,000 collegiate women in 2007 that concluded 5 percent were raped annually, and 13 percent were raped before college or by the time they graduated.”

Kingkade wrote that researchers believe the study to be “a major advance in the research about sexual assault on campus” and quoted John Foubert, a researcher at Oklahoma State University, who said that “the study is well done” and researchers “have many excellent reasons to trust the results.”

This latest study once again rebuts conservative media's campaign of misrepresenting and outright rejecting studies demonstrating the frequency of campus sexual assault, casting previous, similar findings as "ridiculous" or "bizarre and wholly false." In December 2015, Fox News host Martha MacCallum criticized the earlier statistic that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, claiming that “other studies contradict that finding,” and that "[n]o one really knows for sure." National Review's Rich Lowry previously alleged that studies documenting the severity of campus sexual assault are “bogus” because the measure “is based on a survey that includes attempted forced kissing as sexual assault.”

The BJS study is just the latest in an increasing trend of research confirming the high rates of sexual violence occurring on college campuses. As Kingkade summarized:

  • Among female sexual assault victims, only 12.5 percent of rapes and 4.3 percent of sexual battery incidents were reported to any official, defined as a university administrator, law enforcement or crisis centers.

  • A majority of women who experienced sexual assault reported only one incident happening to them, while about one-third said they experienced two incidents.

  • An average of 21 percent of female undergrads had experienced sexual assault since entering college, and 34 percent had experienced it in their lifetime.

  • An average of 7 percent of men said they had been sexually assaulted since starting college, and 11.2 percent experienced it in their lifetime.

  • Those who identified as LGBT or non-heterosexual reported sexual assault at higher rates than their heterosexual classmates.