Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies, And Rape Statistics: How David Lisak's Misrepresentation Fueled A Moral Panic

Reason's Robby Soave has a devastating two part series of articles outlining how sociologist David Lisak has misled just about everyone on the subject of campus rape, repurposing statistics from other surveys that have nothing whatsoever to do with college campuses or students, and then trying to extrapolate from there. In much the same way that Mary Koss's work claiming 1-in-5 women in college will be raped during their stays there. Lisak's work is foundational, purporting to uncover serial rapists as the cause of the huge majority of campus rape.
Lisak has cultivated a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on sexual assault, and his thinking undergirds the most vexingly anti-due process policies currently mandated by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. His authority on the subject is so uncontested that even critics of draconian anti-rape policies feel obligated to grapple with his assertions, according to Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who described Lisak’s work as foundational "in the movement to curb campus sexual assault."

President Obama’s January 2014 memo announcing the creation of a White House task force to address campus sexual assault repeatedly cites Lisak. His research provides evidence of the notion that "campus rapists are often serial predators" who perpetrate a "cycle of violence" unless stopped, according to the memo.
But as it turns out, Lisak's survey study relies on data that comes from other sources, which in turn made no effort to ensure their survey respondents were actually college men. Lisak compounds his error if not actual fraud by misrepresenting his own role in the studies:
Several other interviews and news articles about Lisak imply that he extensively interrogated the subjects of his 2002 study. He also told LeFauve during his conversation with her that he had interviewed "most of them." And yet when LeFauve asked him to explain how this was possible—given that most of the surveys he relied on were anonymous—he hung up the phone.
... Lisak’s 2002 study falls well short of proving that this approach is justified. His surveyed perpetrators weren’t traditional college students. It’s possible that some of them weren’t students at all, since the surveys had no mechanism for ensuring this. What the study did find was a small proportion of the UMass-Boston community—perhaps but not necessarily students—had a history of violence. This violence may or may not have happened in proximity to campus. It may or may not have happened to students. It may or may not have happened to children, spouses, or the elderly. 
Shoddy research behind hysterical claims about the necessity for ending due process for men accused of rape? Imagine. And yet, tomorrow, a huge one-sided push in the Senate for the horrible Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) in which a who's-who of rape activists will get to air their grievances — and none other.

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