News and Commentary

CDC Violence Survey — Partial Success

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2012: CDC Survey


CDC Violence Survey

UPDATE: CDC director Thomas Frieden replied to our letter in February 2012. Frieden dismissed our concerns, and did not did not address any of the flaws outlined in the complaint. However, subsequent versions of the NISVS modified the definition of “alcohol/drug facilitated penetration.”

Just as importantly, subsequent versions modified the wording of questions designed to elicit the experience of male sexual victimization, emphasizing use of the term, “made to penetrate.” These changes were highlighted in articles published in the American Journal of Public Health and in Aggression and Violent Behavior. Nonetheless, CDC reporting of sex-specific sexual victimization still tends to downplay the extent of male victimization.

In late 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a controversial report on intimate partner violence and sexual assault. The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, designed to be conducted on an annual basis, gets creative with its definitions, claiming that if a woman drinks too much alcohol before having sex — even if she consents beforehand – that’s rape!

The CDC calls it, “alcohol/drug facilitated penetration.” Based on this loopy logic, the CDC is now claiming 18% of American women have been raped during their lifetimes. Here’s what columnists are saying:

CDC also “slices and dices” the data, presenting male and female victimization rates in separate tables. This makes sex-specific comparisons more difficult and the overall report harder to interpret.

You can read our initial analyses of the CDC report here and here. On January 4, 2012 we sent a letter to the CDC detailing the many problems with its violence survey.

The Centers for Disease Control needs to recognize that overblown definitions undermine the credibility of real rape victims.