Different federal agencies define rape differently, and activists looking to make it look like there's a rape "epidemic" occurring across the country can take their pick of data related to those definitions.
The Government Accountability Office, in response to a request from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, discovered the disagreement among federal agencies of what is and is not rape. McCaskill herself is one of the biggest advocates for basing draconian legislation on of a broad definition that results in flawed statistics.
The GAO found "at least 10 efforts to collect data on sexual violence, which differ in target population, terminology, measurements, and methodology." It also found "23 different terms to describe sexual violence."
These definitions lead to vast differences in the number of victims of rape and sexual assault. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting system found 84,175 American rape victims in 2011, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — using a much broader definition in a self-reported survey — estimated there were 1,929,000 victims in 2011. That's a 2,200 percent increase.
While the FBI used actual reported crime statistics based on the legal definition of rape, the CDC used a definition so broad it included things like stolen kisses or merely "unwanted contact" that could have been the result of misread signals.
Of course, those pushing an agenda that sexual assault and rape — especially on college campuses — has reached "epidemic" proportions will use the broader definition, even if it is only backed by a self-reported survey. They use this information to promote bills like the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which insists all accusers be believed and takes steps to ensure accused students have no ability to defend themselves.
GAO watchdogs point out the problem with using various definitions, writing: "Because there is wide variation in the results, entities that use federal data on sexual violence have a choice of which data to use, and entities reported using data that best suited their needs."
This, says Independent Women's Forum Director Sabrina Schaeffer, is used for convenience.
"The GAO is correct that it is crucial to define sexual violence correctly and consistently," Schaeffer told the Weekly Standard. "Too often inflated figures and definitions drive alarmism and ultimately grow government in a way that fashions women as victims and men as abusers. Ultimately, the IWF wants to encourage a culture of responsibility among both men and women so that we can have a healthier and safer society with happier more stable relationships for everyone."
The broadest definition of sexual assault — used by the CDC — has created alarmism through a series of surveys that are all flawed in similar ways and continue to claim 1 in 5 college women as victims of sexual assault. These surveys lump everything from a stolen kiss to forcible rape into the category of sexual assault, even though the vast majority of women said they didn't report any incident because they didn't think it was serious enough.
The GAO recommended that federal agencies make their differing definitions public. This could help in the short-term, as it would force zealous officials like McCaskill to explain what they're claiming is sexual assault. A better solution would be for all federal agencies to use one definition — a serious definition tied to the one used in the legal system. Maybe then we won't be branding our young people as rapists just for kissing someone.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.