In 2016 there has been a number of politicians, activists and film stars claiming that ‘1 in 5’ women will be raped when on a college campus. This statistic has been repeated by third-wave feminists, Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and women activists alike, creating the claim that we live in a ‘Rape Culture’ (coined by feminists from the 1970s). Rape culture being that today’s society blames rape victims and normalizes male sexual violence (Wavaw, 2014).
American President Barrack Obama repeated this 1 in 5 statistic at the Grammy’s in 2015, when speaking about his “It’s On Us” campaign, which is about ending sexual assault on college campuses. Current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stated it on her campaign trail at Iowa University in her campaign “Hillary for Women”. Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet and Jemima Kirke from the television show ‘Girls’ star in a video campaign quoting the statistic 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted and urging people, especially women to ‘support, listen [and] take action’. The message is clear in each case that we hear, that there is a problem with male sexual violence against women and it needs to be dealt with. However, there has been plenty of information regarding, that this repetitive chant of rape culture and 1 in 5 statistic is misleading.
When dealing with such a significant and traumatic issue such as rape there is plenty of research provided that proves that this claim 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted on campuses is false and the references used to support this claim are not reliant. One reference comes from Westat with their Campus Climate Survey (found here), their own research found that not enough responses were made to adequately justify this claim of 1 in 5, also their term of ‘sexual assault’ is too broad, one could perceive an unwanted kiss on the same severity as forcible rape (Schow 2016).
To classify rape in the area of sexual assault is to put what ‘rape’ is on a spectrum, on one end is the differing examples of sexual assault all the way up to rape. Though this should not be, as rape is specific in its definition – the Oxford Dictionary defines rape as the “(typically of a man) force (another person) to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will” (2016). When public figures clump sexual assault and rape together there is blur on the message that is sent to the public. So there needs to be some clarity on the issue of the 1 in 5 statistic. Bretz claims that to talk properly about the issue of rape in classrooms is to talk to a class divided. Divided by thought and gendered assumptions based on experiences that may or may not have even happened. Feminists declare rape culture a problem on our campuses, the media and public figures repeat this issue, how can there be a meaningful discussion to clear the issue up when sides have already been drawn with a divided and divisive audience.
2014, What is Rape Culture?, Women against violence against women, viewed 9/08/2016, http://www.wavaw.ca/what-is-rape-culture/
2016, Rape, Oxford Dictionaries, viewed 9/08/2016 http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/rape
Bretz, A 2014, ‘Making an Impact?: Feminist Pedadogy and Rape Culture on University Campuses’, English Studies in Canada, vol. 40, no. 4, pp 17-20
Schow, A 2016, New sexual assault survey suffers same problems as other, Washington Examiner, viewed 9/08/2016 http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/new-sexual-assault-survey-suffers-same-problems-as-others/article/2572532