After devoting a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials to highlight the “sexual assault crisis on American campuses,” Time helped reframe the debate by questioning statistics that illuminate the prevalence of sexual assault.
In September, Time ran three problematic pieces online questioning the validity of statistics that highlight the prevalence of sexual assault.
In a September 29 “Ideas” piece discussing sex crimes on college campuses, Camille Paglia argued that “claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses” have been “wildly overblown.” Asserting that most “campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault” are in fact “oafish hookup melodramas,” Paglia went on to blame the victim by noting that the assaults had arisen from “mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”
The rush to condemn the statistics and dispute the gravity of sexual assault previously made its way to Time in a September 17 online piece in which Cathy Young called statistics on sexual and intimate violence in the United States from the CDC “misleading” and “inflated,” claiming they were part of a “radical feminist narrative” that was unsupported by the data due to a broad definition of what constituted various acts of sexual violence.
A few weeks earlier, a September 2 online op-ed by the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Summers also asserted that the statistic showing one in five college women will experience sexual assault is a “feminist myth.” Hoff Summers called the one-in-five statistic -- reported by the National Institute of Justice's study on campus sexual assault -- a “statistical hijinks,” deeming the study flawed by an “overly broad definition of sexual assault.”
Time's recent ink questioning the validity is troubling given its earlier reporting. In May, Time Magazine offered a comprehensive look at the “sexual assault crisis on American campuses,” with a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials. Recognizing the pervasiveness of these crimes, their cover story explained that high instances of the rape at the University of Montana were no outlier among colleges in the United States:
Calling Missoula the rape capital is as misleading as it is ugly. The University of Montana isn't a bizarre sexual-assault outlier in higher education. Instead, it is fairly average. The truth is, for young women, particularly those who are 18 or 19 years old, just beginning their college experience, America's campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college.
By questioning the validity of sexual assault statistics, Time's most recent opinion pieces further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.