The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?
The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?
They did it the old fashioned way. They cheated. It’s not that they simply made up numbers, that would be too easy. They did it by using tricky questions in interviews and with bias in their conclusions of what people were telling them. For example, anyone who said they’d had sex while inebriated was counted as a rape victim. If a few drinks before sex counts as a rape there is no one on the planet who has not been raped. Another trick was to ask subjects if anyone had ever pressured them to have sex by telling them lies or making promises they had no intention of keeping. Every woman and few men would likely give an affirmative answer to that one, and all those were counted as criminal acts. The men who gave that answer were probably lying. Sommers concludes that, “The CDC effectively set a stage where each step of physical intimacy required a notarized testament of sober consent.”
Why did the CDC do this? Sommers explains:
…the study fits into the [Obama] administration’s effort to apply the advocacy agenda of the women’s lobby to rape research. That would explain how feminist theory found its way into the report. But why would CDC officials, who are experienced in resisting political pressure, cooperate?
Perhaps they felt the study would draw needed attention to the genuine problem of sexual violence. That is an understandable but recklessly misguided conclusion. Faulty studies send scarce resources in the wrong directions; more programs on sexism, stereotypes and social structures, for example, are unlikely to help victims of violence. Defining sexual violence down obscures the gradations in culpability that are essential to effective criminal law, and it holds up a false mirror on our society. The CDC should recall this study.
Of course there could also be the plain old fashion sorts of reasons at work here also. The CDC gets more money in its budget the louder it raises the alarm. Just proves what I tell everyone who says they ignore politics because they hate it. When everything is politicized you have a problem; it’s difficult to ignore everything.
The CDC should concentrate on its real reason to exist, which is fighting real diseases.