Why sexual assault must be clearly defined

February 4, 2012

By Teri Stoddard

Kudos to The Post for publishing Christina Hoff Sommers’s eye-opening op-ed on the challenges of defining rape [“A false portrait of U.S. sexual violence,” Sunday Opinion, Jan. 27]. Ms. Sommers revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey is “wildly at odds with official crime statistics,” reporting 70 times the number of sexual crimes as the gold-standard National Crime Victimization Survey.

Loose definitions of sexual assault increase false accusations of rape, similar to the problem of false allegations of domestic violence. One in 10 respondents in a 2011 national phone survey conducted by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments reported being falsely accused of domestic violence, child abuse or sexual assault.

The CDC’s overly broad “alcohol/drug facilitated penetration” turns many sexually active adults into unwitting victims and perpetrators of rape. Expanding definitions and the resulting false allegations deprive true victims of limited resources, services and credibility. Victims of partner assault should hail Ms. Sommers’s conclusion: “But survivors of sexual violence would be better served by good research and sober estimates — not inflated statistics and sensationalism.”

Source: Washington Post