Campus sexual violence has garnered unprecedented national attention in the last few years. While sexual assault on campus is a serious problem, there’s been widespread disagreement between sexual violence prevention advocates and critics on how prevalent the issue really is.
One stat that gets cited repeatedly by the news media and government officials is that 1 in 5 women in college are victims of sexual assault. That number is from a 2007 study that used data collected for two universities, and even its author says that it should never be treated as nationally representative.
Over the years, other studies have arrived at different numbers to provide a snapshot of how serious the issue is, but their results have also been disputed.
Why is it so difficult to come up with a national statistic?
Christopher Krebs, Senior Research Social Scientist at the North Carolina-based research institution RTI International. He is the co-author of the 2007 “The Campus Assault Study,” which found that “1 in 5” women on two university campuses were victims of sexual violence