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Journalists Are Condemning Flawed Campus Rape Science. Will Activists Do The Same?

New York Magazine weighs in on Reason's David Lisak series.

The Hunting GroundThe Hunting GroundA mainstream news outlet has taken notice of Reason’s investigative work on the misleading science undergirding The Hunting Ground, a work of anti-rape advocacy that greatly mischaracterizes the nature of sexual assault on college campuses. In a brilliant article titled “The Hunting Ground Uses a Striking Statistic About Campus Rape That’s Almost Certainly False,” New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal accuses Lisak of peddling “questionable research” that “leads people astray.”

Singal draws on Reason’s reporting to make his case:

Here's the short version: Miller and Lisak's data are drawn from surveys conducted of 1,882 men at UMass-Boston, a commuter school with no campus housing in which the men were asked if they had ever raped someone or attempted to rape someone. This was not a group of traditional undergraduates — the average age of those surveyed was 26.5, with the range running from 18 all the way to 71. "More than 20% were over age 30, and nearly 8% were over 40," the authors noted. Most of these men probably weren't full-time students, since UMass-Boston is largely oriented toward part-timers. Moreover, as Robby Soave ofReason reported in July, it's not even clear that all of the men surveyed were even students at all. Lisak and Miller didn't collect their own data, but rather adapted data that had been previously collected by other researchers for other purposes over a number of years prior to the publication of their paper. These researchers had handed out surveys at "main pedestrian traffic points on campus" at UMass-Boston (respondents who filled out a survey got a few bucks for their efforts) but, according to Soave's reporting, never checked whether the respondents were actually students, because for the purposes of the data they were collecting it didn't matter. 

Setting aside the fact that it's unclear how many non-students were surveyed, it's also hard, from the point of view of understanding campus rapists, to even interpret the rapes that were reported, given UMass-Boston's lack of campus housing and campus social life like the sort found at more traditional schools. If a 29-year-old part-time commuter student says that, yes, in his life he has raped someone, that obviously doesn't make the rape itself any less egregious, but it's difficult to assess whether the rape can be seen as connected to his life as a college student at all. It would be a stretch, in other words, to describe him as a "college" or "campus" rapist without knowing more. The authors themselves certainly seemed to understand that: "There is not a single statement in the paper about assaults taking place on or near a campus; there is not a single reference to the campus environment," wrote Linda M. LeFauve, who hasalso raised important questions about Lisak's research in Reason

Ultimately, Singal reaches many of the same conclusions as LeFauve and I:

In short, Lisak and Miller's study has very little to do with the conversation about sexual assault The Hunting Ground is concerned with. The respondents were older, differed in meaningful ways from "traditional" college students, and may well have been mostly reporting rapes that had nothing to do with college anyway. From a research perspective, it's often dangerous to extrapolate the results of a single survey to a broader population; in this case, to say the UMass-Boston numbers can be applied to college students on the whole is quite irresponsible, especially in light of the lack of other published findings that back up Lisak's serial-predator theory. "I am not familiar with any research that corroborates or replicates David Lisak's findings," Christopher Krebs, a well-known sexual-assault researcher at RTI international, said in an email.

And yet this baseless statistic caught on, spread like wildfire, and has been cited not just by the White House and the producers of The Hunting Ground, but by countless other activists and academics as well. As Yoffehas pointed out, Lisak has contributed to the misunderstanding by propagating the notion that his research can be extrapolated to the broader college population, despite the fact that he and Miller explicitly cautioned that their research "cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual and other acts of violence" on a campus or anywhere else because of the lack of a random sampling procedure. (Lisak downplayed this caveat to Yoffe as "a standard disclaimer for any study.")

It’s terrific that someone with Singal's platform has caught on to Lisak’s serial exaggerations. I have complained previously that few of Lisak’s defenders seem willing to address the undeniable shortcomings with his research. As far as I can tell, Lisak himself has only engaged Reason indirectly, as part of his criticism of a study that undermines his theory. But the more writers who question his credibility, the more likely it has that he will have to respond.

The anti-rape activist community, as well as higher education policy makers—including members of the White House—must also reckon with the fact that they uncritically promoted Lisak and his theories; they turned him into the patron saint of rape prevention strategies. As The Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade wrote on Twitter, “I saw Lisak treated like a celeb at conferences.”

It’s long past time to reconsider Lisak’s status. The makers of The Hunting Ground haven’t expressed any interest in correcting their myriad errors thus far, but it’s not too late for the broader activist movement to prove it consists of people who care more about reducing rape than defending fabulists.

Read Reason’s series on Lisak herehere, here, here, and here.

Photo Credit: Hunting Ground

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Good work, Reason. Obviously, I will disavow this comment when confronted on social media and call you all rape apologists and you, Soave, specifically, the whitest person ever. But at least you're doing the journalism places like CNN refuse to invest the time into.

  • JW||

    Et-i-que-e-e-e-e-e-tte! /Klink

  • MokFarin||

    Journalists Are Condemning Flawed Campus Rape Science. Will Activists Do The Same?

    No, they won't. Like most activists, they cherry pick what suits them and drop everything else. It's only when the common person is about to watch them drown in the "Everything else" do they find a new subject to be activist about. And, since they lost the last one, they are more vociferous about their new endeavor, hoping to "Get real change!" before they drown in the everything else, again.

  • Sevo||

    Population Bomb!

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Jager Bomb!

  • GILMORE™||

  • Mr Lizard||

    Too soon..

    *crawls back into the shade to die a hungover death*

  • Jack Strawb||

    True.

    They keep propping up the corpse of "1 in 4" and "1 in 5" and zapping it with the juice of some new advocacy research.
    Even editors at The Atlantic keep flogging that tired horseshit.

  • Loki||

    Journalists Are Condemning Flawed Campus Rape Science. Will Activists Do The Same?

    No. They've invested too much time and effort creating THE NARRATIVE. They won't back off regardless of many people point out their lies.

  • Trollificus||

    Hahah!! Does this not provide validation of two of Vox Days' "3 Rules of SJWs"??

    "SJWs always lie." and
    "SJWs always double down"*

    {Standard "Vox Day Is A Vile, Racist, Homophobic, Sexist, Reactionary" Disclaimer Here}

    However, the vile, racist, homophobic, sexist reactionaries' rules do exhibit substantial predictive power and closely describe observed reality. If that still counts for anything.

    *-the third rule "SJWs always project" may or may not apply in this case, but it does.

  • Lee G||

    Science?

  • JW||

    Math doesn't seem to be activists strong suit. Or anything else requiring an objective reality, for that matter.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Using the bathroom all by themselves seems a stretch for most of them.

    I must admit, it is fascinating and quite funny seeing the interviews with any of these special flowers, the lack of self-awareness is truly staggering.

  • Microaggressor||

    Bathrooms are way too heteronormative.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    My bad....will voluntarily report to reeducation camp 457

  • Hugh Akston||

    Math doesn't require the existence of an objective reality. Neither does any field of human knowledge or endeavor, for that matter.

  • JW||

    I liked you better before the beard.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Yeah, but she does her job.

  • Zeb||

    This is true.

  • kbolino||

    Math is not empirical. But any field based on empiricism, which includes science, requires at the very least a reality whose rules are generally unchanging. Whether that constitutes an "objective reality" is subject to definition of "objectivity".

  • Zeb||

    I'd say the main thing required for empirical fields is a shared experience of reality that most people with the right tools can agree on. Whether or not that is objective reality doesn't matter too much.

  • JW||

    Lisak and Miller didn't collect their own data, but rather adapted data that had been previously collected by other researchers for other purposes over a number of years prior to the publication of their paper. These researchers had handed out surveys at "main pedestrian traffic points on campus" at UMass-Boston (respondents who filled out a survey got a few bucks for their efforts) but, according to Soave's reporting, never checked whether the respondents were actually students, because for the purposes of the data they were collecting it didn't matter.

    Sur-VEY SAYS!

    ::ding::

    RAPE!

  • Mr Lizard||

    NOON BOTHER SURVEY STEVE SMITH. STEVE SMITH FEEL UNREPRESENTED.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Read Reason’s series on Lisak here, here, here, here, and here.

    I would take story seriously, but this magazine has a libertarian slant that is anti-regulation, so I am going to dismiss it.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Has anyone really been far as decided to use even go want to do look more like? All this RAPE science has my doublethink sensors all befuddled.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    That first sentence. I recognize all the words separately - but.....together....

  • Swiss Servator||

    I thought I had sustained a concussion when I read that...

  • GILMORE™||

    I see no what complain about you are sensible is English plain.

  • Sevo||

    Perfectly cromulent to me.

  • soflarider||

    I love Jumbles but have never done it with whole words.

  • Marshal||

    I saw a CNN link yesterday claiming 1 in 5 freshman women are raped, linking to the below (I can't run it). Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier they surprise you.

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/20/.....new-study/

  • Loki||

    As I said above, the activists have invested too much effort creating this narrative of college campuses as rape factories. They won't back down, if anything they'll double down. First it was 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their 4 years of college, not it's 1 in 5 will be raped their freshman year of college. Un-fucking-believable.

    The only way that's even remotely "accurate" is if you define rape as any heterosexual encounter, which of course is exactly what they want. The irony is that by doubling down on this non-sense they're doing more damage to their own cause by discrediting themselves in the eyes of anyone with half a brain.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    if anything they'll double down

    So - TWO in five girls women have been raped?

    Man, I gotta re-enroll in college....

    #HalcyonDays

  • Loki||

    Man, I gotta re-enroll in college....

    #HalcyonDays

    Figures you'd feel that way, you cis-hetero shitlord!1!!!11!!!!

  • SugarFree||

    No, 1 in 5 are raped twice. Geez, it's like you don't know how to math.

  • Loki||

    Once during their freshman year and then once during the other 3 years on campus. That way both stat's are "true".

  • SugarFree||

    See, Al? That's math!

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Two, two, two mints in one!

  • GILMORE™||

    "They won't back down, if anything they'll double down"

    This is correct. And this is what they've already done.

    When one 'study' begins to be discredited, they'll find someone else to conduct a similar piece of 'research' which provides the same conclusions, and declare that 'despite some technical questions about the former' there is no doubt about the basic validity of the theory they advance.

    They already did this with the 1-in-5 claim. No matter how many times you point out that they achieve this mainly by diluting the definition of 'sexual assault' down to meaninglessness, and never using the term "rape" in their own surveys ...etc.

    (because less than 1 in 10 actually self-report that they've ever been "raped" - instead, the studies rely on the researchers to decide on 'victims' behalf what constitutes rape; e.g. ever having sex while drunk, telling their boyfriend not to touch their butthole, etc.)

    If any single sources of 'evidence' start to lose their luster, its a trivial matter to reach into their bag of tricks and find some other study to deliver the desired results. They have enough fellow travelers in academia that they can drum up new 'data' every semester and avoid ever having to defend their previous 'Bombshell' findings. Unless the media is willing to endlessly play proof-reader.... they'll simply beat people down with boring repetition.

  • dan'o en barrel||

    When regret=rape, the numbers are going to be inflated. One also has to wonder how many SJWs are happy to lie because the end justifies the means.

  • GILMORE™||

    "One also has to wonder how many SJWs are happy to lie because the end justifies the means."

    Its not "lying" when its in the service of a Moral Crusade (*which, completely coincidentally, gives the crusaders more money, prestige, and power in their little university bubble-world ecosystem)

  • MSimon||

    the end justifies the means

    Front end? Back end? Mouth? Other appendages?

  • Trollificus||

    All of them.

    (God, month-old threads...)

  • Jack Strawb||

    And on the right hand menu cnn has "Trump sticks to 9/11 story." If he throws in a few celebratory jihadi rapes, he's golden.

  • Wizard with a Woodchipper||

    OT: I smell a future Reason article here!

    Clinton: Stances against refugees could hurt law enforcement

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/pol.....653062.php

    "Hard-line stances against admitting refugees to the United States are a mistake because they hurt law enforcement's ability to build ties within Muslim communities, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    he and Miller explicitly cautioned that their research "cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual and other acts of violence" on a campus or anywhere else because of the lack of a random sampling procedure. (Lisak downplayed this caveat to Yoffe as "a standard disclaimer for any study.")

    Unfuckingbelievable. If I were advising a doctoral student who attempted to attempted to explain away the threat to the external validity of his research through use of a nonstochastic sampling method as "a standard disclaimer", after I was through with him he would be lucky if he could successfully defend a kindergarten show-and-tell much less a research proposal. Listen, Lisak, I'm sorry you were molested as a child, but using the cloak of "empirical research" to mask your ideological axe-grinding is poor scholarship that has no place in the academy. It is shameful that not only has your study not been retracted, but that your institution's review board saw it fit to allow it to be conducted under their aegis in the first place.

  • AFSlade||

    + 1 Law of the Instrument

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's important to differentiate between facts and statistics. Certainly, you have to get your facts straight before you can start understanding (much less using) statistics.

    The fact is that men are misogynists, whites are racists, and Christians are homophobes. What's even worse, people over 40 are glad they're white, male, and Christian--and it's that latter fact, especially, that needs to be combated with statistics. How can you really understand how the statistics should be interpreted until you understand the facts?

    Also, free speech in the First Amendment is objectively racist, the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment is homophobic, the Second Amendment is racist in outcome, and the Fifth Amendment, especially as it pertains to rape cases, is both misogynistic and pro-rape.

    Only when you accept these facts is it possible to start interpreting the statistics that support them.

  • Loki||

    THIS IS WHAT PROGTARDS ACTUALLY BELIEVE

  • Ken Shultz||

    It really is.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    All who love science feelz this !!!1!

    - prog derp

  • ||

    Only when you accept these facts is it possible to start interpreting the statistics that support them.

    Which is why I think it would be cool to bring the fathers of modern statistics, Galton, Fisher, and Malthus, back to life today and see what they think of their 'science'.

    I'm pretty sure Fisher would probably find something else to do and/or develop an anxiety disorder, but I think Galton and Malthus would double-down and, somewhat literally, move on to the business of slitting throats.

  • MarkLastname||

    To be fair, it isn't "their" science. The people conducting these studies not on;y aren't statisticians, but probably have never taken even an intro statistics class. Most social scientists haven't; I'd guess your average social scientist doesn't even know what multiple hypothesis correction is, a fact which should automatically disqualify someone from doing research without the consultation of a statistically competent person.

    Fisher's work was most;y geared toward biology. Of course, biologists fudge statistics all the time, but for the more innocuous reason of wanting to get published, rather than promoting a political agenda.

    The worst people in all this may be the journal editors. If you put a disclaimer on your study saying 'population isn't randomized, sample is not representative", a journal editor in any field that purports to be a science says: "Glad you pinpointed the problem; step 2 is throwing out your results and starting over with a properly randomized sample population." That is not a disclaimer. That's an admission that your conclusions are horse shit; and it means what you produce isn't science so much as an anthology of short stories.

  • MetalBard||

    Ok how does one major in campus rape science? Asking for a friend.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    I see you finished your joke before I did.

  • Mr Lizard||

    STEVE SMITH GIVING YOU STOOOOOPID LOOK!

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Rape science? Can I be one of the researchers?

    ...is what I would say if I liked telling truly tasteless jokes.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Besides that, "rape science" is a loaded term. And rape isn't funny.

    Please report to the Disciplinary Committee at the Office of Student Affairs.

    The preferred term on campus is "Women's Studies" or, more broadly, "Gender Studies".

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Ken, please report to the "Black and Chicano Studies" Disciplinary Office and report your failure to address issues of "white privilege" during your microaggresson against Notorious UGCC.

  • Loki||

    And YOU report to the "Asian and Far East Studies" Disciplinary Office, you othering micro-aggressor!

  • See Double You||

    The broadest (ha!) term for it is "studies" because every college class unwittingly contributes to campus rape.

  • Zeb||

    And rape isn't funny.

    As George Carlin said, if you don't think rape can be funny, try picturing Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.

  • Anomalous||

    Would Porky tell him to squeal like a pig?

  • Zeb||

    With lots of stuttering and dithering.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo||

    Besides that, "rape science" is a loaded term. And rape isn't funny.

    You said "rape" twice.

    There...I just proved you wrong.

  • sarcasmic||

    Someone who promotes a narrative that gives people in power an excuse to pull a bunch of draconian bullshit is treated like a celebrity? Are we talking about John Maynard Keynes?

  • dantheserene||

    I thought we were talking about Jonathan Gruber.

  • Old.Mexican||

    Journalists Are Condemning Flawed Campus Rape Science. Will Activists Do The Same?


    How DARE you obsess over accuracy when there is a higher truth to be observed?

    /An activist.

    And yet this baseless statistic caught on, spread like wildfire, and has been cited not just by the White House and the producers of The Hunting Ground, but by countless other activists and academics as well.


    Just like many other baseless statistics have been touted by a partisan White House, like the mythical 77% wage gap between men and women or the 97% of scientists who think Man-Made Climate Change is proven science.

  • SugarFree||

    His numbers while wrong, tell an underlying truth. Unless you deny the underlying truth the numbers were presented to prove, what the hell difference does it make that the numbers were not completely accurate?

    Care to guess who said this?

  • Loki||

    I was lurking in that thread for a bit yesterday. Red Tony was in rare form.

  • SugarFree||

    If they are not denying it, why does Reason think this matters? His numbers right or wrong are not at odds with the truth. The only reason they would be a big deal is if they created a false impression and reality was the opposite of what they implied. Here, reality is exactly what the numbers in implied.

    Yeah, it would have been better if his numbers were right. But since they conveyed the underlying truth of the matter, who cares? Either Reason is denying that truth or they are saying nothing.

  • Old.Mexican||

    Re: SugarFree,

    His numbers right or wrong are not at odds with the truth.


    And what is the truth? That he is the Kwisatz Haderach?

  • SugarFree||

    I don't see why I can't assume they are saying something here beyond "Lisak's aides got some bad but not particularly deceptive numbers".

  • Microaggressor||

    YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH

  • EvilWayz||

    "And what is the truth? That he is the Kwisatz Haderach?"

    Check and mate!

  • LynchPin1477||

    John said that?

  • SugarFree||

  • Swiss Servator||

    Dan Ratheresque.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'd say I'm surprised, but I'd be lying.

  • Citizen X||

    It's pretty awesome how Michael Hihn showed up 8 hours after the thread was over to do his little commentary thing in it. He's a peach of a guy.

    Also, apparently, he's like in his 70s or something.

  • Zeb||

    Yes. And then he accused Reason of always avoiding mentioning the fact that most murders of black people are committed by black people.

    I guess he needs to find some new things to be crazy about since gay marriage is pretty much over with as a subject for pointless arguments.

  • MarkLastname||

    Tony got out-Tonied.

    We should really start giving out awards called the Tonies in the comments sections for the most... ontologically challenged comments.

  • sarcasmic||

    Red Tony was in rare form.

    Yes he was.

  • AFSlade||

    "Red Tony"? Now THAT is fucking funny.

  • MarkLastname||

    If only Tony were John and John were Tony, you could call him Red John, like the antagonist from the mentalist.

  • sarcasmic||

    It feels true so it must be true, regardless of the facts!

  • sarcasmic||

    Science deniers!

  • See Double You||

    You know who else engaged in flawed science and rape?

  • Old.Mexican||

    Dr. Wilhelm Reich?

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Every white person on the planet ever ? - proggie

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Dr. Frank N. Furter?

  • straffinrun||

    Anthony Michael Hall?

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH and Warty?

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    That pigfucker Kermit the Frog?

  • Mr Lizard||

    Barron Harkonen?

  • Sevo||

    Uncle Joe!

  • Citizen X||

  • Old.Mexican||

    But the more writers who question his credibility, the more likely it has that he will have to respond.


    And he will respond with the usual Marxian Ad Hominem which is "your criticisms are born from the fact that you're part of the problem."

  • sarcasmic||

    Any criticism of the left is born from bad intentions.

  • Loki||

    Something something... false consciousness mumble mumble... check your privilege...

  • SugarFree||

    So, I am left with the question of why did Reason bother to make a post of of this? More importantly, why did they make a post out of it and from what I can see never mention the fact that the numbers while not accurate, they are pointing to a real problem.

  • ||

    The Poe is strong in this one.

  • Jordan||

    He's mocking John who defended Trump's bullshit crime stats yesterday.

  • ||

    Yes, I got that. Parody is my bestest friend.

  • Old.Mexican||

    Re: SugarFree,

    never mention the fact that the numbers while not accurate, they are pointing to a real problem.


    Bad statistics or a badly-made survey tends to obfuscate the "real problem", S, whatever the "problem" may be. If your research exaggerates the prevalence of X, then people will overreact to X to the point where people will overlook X in the future, thinking X has been solved. Or people will mistrust any new research on X that purports to measure X more accurately. In any event, the truth WILL be obscured.

  • Swiss Servator||

    +1 Fake but Accurate!

  • straffinrun||

    Was he stretching the data to force his agenda down our throats?

  • SugarFree||

    I don't think that that number is totally made up. I think it is mislabeled.

  • straffinrun||

    Maybe. Maybe he doesn't know what consent looks like.

  • straffinrun||

    *NSFW

  • Loki||

    WARNING: NEITHER ONE OF THE WOMEN IN THAT STORY ARE PEOPLE ANYONE WITH ANY TASTE WOULD ACTUALLY WANT TO SEE IN ANY STATE OF UNDRESS.

  • Sevo||

    Put it ON! Put it ON!
    PLEASE put it ON!!!

  • sarcasmic||

    Was he stretching the data to force his agenda down our throats?

    If it isn't packed with emotional platitudes, obfuscated data, and a call for government "do something," then it isn't science.

  • Loki||

    stretching... force... down out throats

    Uhm, phrasing?!

  • Swiss Servator||

    STEVE SMITH APPROVE PHRASING!

  • straffinrun||

    Literally only 1 in 5 of you caught that.

  • MSimon||

    Teh gay?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Between the current Red Guard insanity and these statistics, progs are establishing the perfect case for a right wing assault on higher education. I mean, clearly spending money on student loans is basically providing the candy that colleges are using to lure America's young women into their metaphorical van. Yes, keeping people from attending college is unfortunate, but if it saves just one rape victim...

  • MSimon||

    I used to get college girls to rape me.

    "Sleep with me naked. No sex. I like the feeling." Then - I sleep with them naked - no sex. You could see in a lot of the girl's eyes and body language that they had resigned themselves to sex. Surprise honey.

    About 3/4s came back gagging for it. I got told by one what she was thinking. "Is he gay? Is there something wrong with me?" The second point being the most important motivator.

  • Jack Strawb||

    "Will Activists Do The Same?"

    Robby is shitting us.

  • salliewilson514||

    I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that's cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,

    www.OnlineCash9.Com

  • Michaelinva||

    Sorry for asking a basic question - but is there any credible research on the prevalence of campus rape? If not, could Reason sponsor some? I'd be happy to chip in to help fund it...

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