Who needs facts and statistics when you have a good narrative?
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., during an interview reported by Chuck Raasch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, indicated that she was not happy about disputing statistics regarding campus sexual assault.
“Frankly, it is irritating that anybody would be distracted by which statistics are accurate,” McCaskill said.
This coming from a senator who has rallied around the one-in-five statistic and featured it in her own report about campus sexual assault. Now that new evidence suggests the incidence of campus rape is closer to one in fifty women over four years than to one in five, statistics suddenly don’t matter.
In mid-December, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report eviscerating the oft-repeated claim that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their college years. That report, which was more expansive and had a higher response rate than the studies that found a higher rate of sexual assault, has been dismissed chiefly by those wanting to believe otherwise.
Statistics do matter when policies are being created around the belief that American college campuses are as dangerous as the Democratic Republic of Congo. That mistaken belief has led to badly thought-out, panic-induced policies that believe all accusers by default, assume the guilt of the accused and make it nearly impossible for them to mount a defense.
If that statistic and belief is wrong, then the draconian response to it should engender deep skepticism. That’s not to say we should do nothing about combating sexual assault, but whatever reforms are enacted should be based on science, to guarantee they don’t cause more harm than good.