Why the fixation on the actual rate of campus sexual assaults?

Once again, the recurring debate about the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses has been renewed.  The Washington Post recently conducted a survey/poll and found that approximately 1 in 5 respondents reported that they had been the victims of sexual assault. This result appeared to give support to the commonly cited, and oft criticized, number that 1 in 5 college students are sexually assaulted. Not surprisingly, the survey’s methodology and results were quickly criticized.  The most common criticism was that the survey was too broadly constructed, particularly around the question of incapacitated (non-consensual) sex. Here is an example of one of the critical pieces about the Post’s survey and results.  What is interesting is how much of the campus sexual assault discussion has been distracted by the issue of the rate of campus sexual assault.  The true focus of this matter should be the development of best practices for addressing the issue of campus sexual assault (for example educational programming, prevention programming, and what conduct procedures are fair and equitable).  Sexual assault does happen, does the rate really matter?

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