Sexual violence statistics

May 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZb reports:

Advocates are questioning just how many horrific figures they need to show the Government before sexual violence is taken seriously.

The National Network of Ending Sexual Violence Together has reiterated just how major a social problem it is in this country, as Awareness Week has come to a close.

It says approximately one in four girls and one in eight boys is likely to experience it before the age of 16.

This stat made suspicious, as “sexual violence” occurring to one in eight boys under 16 and one in four girls seemed rather high. As far as I can tell this stat comes from the Youth 2000 survey of 2,000 or so secondary school students.

The term “sexual violence” is rather extreme, as the question asked in the survey was “Have you ever been touched in a sexual way or made to do sexual things that you didn’t want to do?”.  Slightly unfortunately the lack of commas means it could be interpreted as “touched in a sexual way” or “made to do sexual things that you didn’t want to do” rather than “touched in a sexual way that you didn’t want to do”.

A better question would have been “Have you ever been touched in a sexual way that you didn’t want, or made to do sexual things that you didn’t want to do”.

Even assuming everyone understood the question, the term sexual violence is a bit extreme. The definition used covers a one off kiss, where the recipient then tells the other party they are not interested, and nothing further happens. It is certainly unwelcome sexual contact, and that would have been the better term to use, rather than a term which suggests rape or sexual assault.

Also worth noting that the claim of one in four and one in eight by before 16 is incorrect. They are the stats for 17 year olds, not 15 year olds who are a few percent lower.

The survey asks the teens about their reaction to the unwanted sexual contact. 62% of girls and 82% of boys said it was “not bad” or only “a little bad”. Please don’t think this is suggesting that unwanted sexual contact is a good thing – of course it is not. But when we see blunt statistics claiming that 25% of girls and 13% of boys have sexual violence before they are 16, it is useful to understand what the actual survey found.

At the more serious end of the scale, 12% of female students and 3% of male students said the first time they had sex, it was unwanted. That is still far too high a prevalence. 4% of male students and 1% of male students said they had made someone else do something sexually they did not want to. If the survey responses are honest, that suggests in around two thirds of unwanted sexual encounters, the other party did not know it was unwanted (or did know, and isn’t reporting it in this survey – which is likely to explain some of the difference).

Just been searching further, and it seems there was a repeat of the 2000 survey in 2007, and the prevalence rates of unwanted sexual contact dropped to 20% for female students and 5% for male students. So the  National Network of Ending Sexual Violence Together is using statistics that are no longer the latest. This does not help their credibility. They used old out of date stats, they got the ages wrong and they mislabeled responses as sexual violence instead of unwanted sexual contact.

The group’s chair Kim McGregor says 99 percent of offenders are not held to account because of under-reporting and low conviction rates.

This stat is just as dodgy. Unless McGregor is suggesting every 14 year old who kisses someone and gets told to stop (and stops) should be charged and convicted.

I blogged in 2009 some very useful research from MWA on the attrition rate for sexual violation complaints. Only 13% end in a conviction, but the major attrition factors are 34% are not considered valid offences, 11% no suspect is identified, 24% are not prosecuted and 18% have not guilty verdicts or the charges are withdrawn. If someone is found not guilty, I don’t think one can use this as saying offenders are not held to account unless you believe every person accused is in fact guilty.

Any level of sexual violence in New Zealand is unacceptable, and sexual violence involving teenagers is even worse. The motives of  National Network of Ending Sexual Violence Together are highly commendable, but they do their cause harm, not help, by using incorrect outdated statistics, and mislabeling them, in an attempt to generate headlines. The actual true levels of sexual violence are bad enough, that they do not need exaggerating.

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17 Responses to “Sexual violence statistics”

  1. northern (44 comments) says:

    Thanks, David, for this helpful clarification and balanced analysis. Any chance of the mass media paying any attention to your important commentary?

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  2. Redbaiter (9,503 comments) says:

    This article is a good example of Critical Theory- the constant criticism of Western Society and its traditions and the implication that change is therefore needed, and that change is always a means to gradually introduce more Marxist ideology.

    Quote-

    The stuff we’ve been hearing about, – the radical feminism, the women’s studies departments, the gay studies departments, the black studies departments – all these things are branches of Critical Theory.

    What the Frankfurt School essentially does is draw on both Marx and Freud in the 1930s to create this theory called Critical Theory. The term is ingenious because you’re tempted to ask, “What is the theory?” The theory is to criticize.

    What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing. It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way, designed to bring the current order down.

    And, of course, when we hear from the feminists that the whole of society is just out to get women and so on, that kind of criticism is a derivative of Critical Theory. It is all coming from the 1930s, not the 1960s.

    Bill Lind

    Unquote

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  3. Ryan Sproull (7,259 comments) says:

    Sounds like Bill Lind’s study of Critical Theory didn’t progress beyond looking up the two words in the dictionary.

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  4. David Garrett (7,523 comments) says:

    This has unpleasant echoes of the “one in four girls have been sexually molested by their father” claim which was taken as gospel 20 odd years ago after being released by then self proclaimed expert on sexual abuse, Miriam Saphira. It turned out the “stats” came from a write-in survey to the Womens Weekly… When it finally emerged, Ms Saphira’s credibility was irrevocably damaged, but not before this bullshit stat was bandied around as “truth” and God knows what harm done as a result…

    At the risk (perhaps the certainty) of howls of derision, it also highlights that it is important to know the identity of the group or person promulgating any kind of stats, and what their personal bias or agenda might be.

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  5. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    Mrs Redbaiter never used to complain. She always just laid there and thought of England.

    At least she did, until those damned western-civilisation-hating marxist feminist leftist progressives got to her and started giving her strange ideas…

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  6. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “This article is a good example of Critical Theory- the constant criticism of Western Society and its traditions and the implication that change is therefore needed, and that change is always a means to gradually introduce more Marxist ideology.”

    Spot on comment!

    It is always essential to question anything disguised as “studies” and “statistics” from the Liberal establishment.

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  7. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “Sounds like Bill Lind’s study of Critical Theory didn’t progress beyond looking up the two words in the dictionary.”

    He’s right though. In practice Critical Theory operates in Academia exactly as Lund says. I see this constantly myself.

    A good example is the claim by some academics that there was no child abuse amongst Maori prior to arrival of Europeans.

    This claim is obviously absurd, and its agenda clear.

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  8. Nichlemn (63 comments) says:

    At the more serious end of the scale, 12% of female students and 3% of male students said the first time they had sex, it was unwanted. That is still far too high a prevalence. 4% of male students and 1% of male students said they had made someone else do something sexually they did not want to. If the survey responses are honest, that suggests in around two thirds of unwanted sexual encounters, the other party did not know it was unwanted (or did know, and isn’t reporting it in this survey – which is likely to explain some of the difference).

    Or that many sexual assaulters are serial offenders.

    [DPF: Good point]

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  9. jims_whare (403 comments) says:

    Another difficulty is young teenagers have many different motivations and interpretations for stuff they say. Often this has no correlation to facts and truth.

    I remember dealing with a case as a cop where a young girl (13 from memory) made a complaint that a male friend (similar age) had touched her up.

    Had a whole bunch of hysterics/crying sobbing/another girl mate crying sobbing/mum crying, angry, sobbing.

    I took a statement that had a whole bunch of allegations against the boy.

    When interviewed the boy said yeah they had mucked around but that she had wanted to.

    Turned out the boy was correct but the girl had made up the story as she was scared of what her mum would think when she found out.

    Sometimes finding gold in the ground is easier than truth in minor sex complaints

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  10. Brian Smaller (4,024 comments) says:

    Have you ever been touched in a sexual way that you didn’t want

    Yes – Her technique involved using her teeth way too much. I feel abused now.

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  11. Redbaiter (9,503 comments) says:

    You should have asked her to take them out.

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  12. Brian Smaller (4,024 comments) says:

    You should have asked her to take them out.

    In today’s PC climate that might have been misconstrued and then both of us could have been victims of abuse in the same encounter.

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  13. JC (969 comments) says:

    For years I bookmarked stats on false rape in NZ and the US (both countries seem prone to this sort of thing).

    In study after study plus comments from cops the low figure for false rape accusations was 15% rising to as much as 50%.. so I’m always dubious about claims of a sexual nature.

    What is required is a new type of sexual education.. one which allows the victim to more objectively rate the seriousness of the offence.

    JC

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  14. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    This:

    Only 13% end in a conviction, but the major attrition factors are 34% are not considered valid offences, 11% no suspect is identified, 24% are not prosecuted and 18% have not guilty verdicts or the charges are withdrawn.

    and this:

    If someone is found not guilty, I don’t think one can use this as saying offenders are not held to account unless you believe every person accused is in fact guilty.

    and this

    Another difficulty is young teenagers have many different motivations and interpretations for stuff they say. Often this has no correlation to facts and truth.

    That last one, especially.  A rape accusation to cover consensual but later embarrassing (or otherwise regretted) sexual activity is still common and is almost never prosecuted when the truth comes out.  It sometimes seems that we would prefer to have false accusations than risk ‘victims’ not coming forward.  Having seen men remanded in custody for lengthy periods of time (and understand that the cops almost invariably oppose bail in rape cases) as a result of false accusations, I tend to be a bit more even handed.

    That is not to defend rape in any way. It is a horrible, violent act that should have no acceptance from anyone.

    I must say that it is also, in my opinion, the toughest type of case that you can do as a criminal lawyer, either prosecuting or defending.

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  15. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    It is unclear how many false allegations of rape/sexual abuse are made in New Zealand. However, research by Jan Jordan suggests that the numbers could be significant. Jordan examined 164 police files from 1997, files which contained allegations of rape and sexual assault. Police categorised the allegations as follows:

    1. Genuine Cases – The police believed the complainant was telling the truth that she had been raped or sexually assaulted.

    2. Possibly Genuine Cases – The police were unsure if the complainant had been raped or sexually assaulted. There was typically insufficient evidence to conclude that rape or sexual assault had occurred.

    3. False Cases Determined By Police – The police believed the complaints were false.

    4. False Cases Declared By Complainants – The complainant admitted their complaint was false.

    Jordan reports that the numbers for each group were 34 (21%), 62 (38%), 55 (33%), 13 (8%) respectively. In other words, only 21% of files that were examined by Jordan were determined by police to be genuine rape complaints, though there were possibly other genuine complaints which could not be substantiated. Even if all cases that were possibly genuine were accepted as genuine, it is apparent that 41% of complaints were considered to be false.

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  16. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    The reference for Jan Jordan’s work is:

    Jan Jordan, Beyond Belief? Police, rape and women’s credibility. Criminal Justice, 4:1 (2004), 29-59

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  17. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    > The group’s chair Kim McGregor says 99 percent of offenders are not held to account because of under-reporting…

    Of course this stat is dodgy. If rape is under-reported or unreported, how does Ms McGregor know about all these cases?

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