The NISVS 2010-2012 Report

The CDC released a new National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). The survey combines data from the 2010, 2011, and 2012 numbers. Readers may notice that the most current data is from 2012, putting a five-year gap between the survey data and the current year. The researchers do not explain the delay, however, it does appear that both the 2011 and 2012 took increasingly longer periods of time to complete.

There are several things worth noting about the survey. It appears the CDC listened to the complaints about how they reported their findings. Readers may recall that in the 2010 survey the CDC repeatedly cited the rape statistics for male victims despite the “made to penetrate” victims showing a much higher prevalence rate. This resulted in skewed reporting, making it appear as if males are never victims of forcible or violent sexual assault. The researchers changed this in the current survey. They instead cite the higher “made to penetrate” rate, although this creates same problem as before (I will explain that later).

The term “made to penetrate” remains. The researchers continue to separate it from “rape” despite no one else studying, researching, or prosecuting sexual violence against males doing so. It remains as inexplicable as it was in 2011, although to the CDC’s credit they did not add in any nonsense about it not counting as rape since it is done primarily males as they did before.

The CDC again found that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. As with the previous survey, there is a higher rate of “made to penetrate” than rape among male victims. From the survey:

Approximately 1 in 5 women in the U.S. (19.1% or an estimated 22,992,000 women) experienced rape at some point in life, and 1.2% of women experienced rape in the 12 months prior to taking the survey. […]

Rape was experienced at some point in their lives by 1.5% of men in the U.S. […] About 1 in 17 men (5.9% or an estimated 6,764,000 men) were made to penetrate someone at some point in their life. […] In the 12 months prior to taking the survey, 1.5% of men were made to penetrate someone else […]

As people noted with the original survey, the 12-month data shows that about the same number of men were “made to penetrate” as the number of women who were raped. The CDC estimates 1,473,000 women were raped and 1,715,000 men were “made to penetrate” in 2012. Just like with the previous surveys, the researchers make no note of the higher prevalence rate with male victims or that the estimates for the contact sexual violence for both sexes are almost the same, 4,282,000 men versus 4,804,000 women.

What makes it peculiar for the researchers to ignore this data is that the rate remained consistent in all three surveys. This lies in contrast to the claim made by several feminists that the 12-month numbers were outliers. It cannot be an outlier if it keeps happening in every survey. It is also peculiar that 12-month data shows such parity while the lifetime data does not. The researchers again ignore this, offering no explanation or discussion for why men seem so likely to report sexual violence in the 12-month period, but appear to report less during their lifetime.

It is improbable that more men are being sexually assaulted (proportionally speaking) now than in the past. Something must cause this difference in the numbers. In practical terms, the most likely explanation is that older men do not report their experiences. This could be true, however, these three surveys all show older men reporting assaults that happened during the 12-month period. It makes no sense that they would not report older experiences of assault.

The next possible explanation would be that men do not consider the older experiences unwanted or forced. While this is likely true in regards to the general numbers, it again makes no sense why this would not appear in the 12-month rate.

My unfortunate suspicion is that the researchers are responsible. As with the 2010 survey, the questions asked are rather neutral. This should get around some men’s hesitancy to report what happened to them, although it will still miss men who do not think they were made, forced, threatened, or coerced into doing something.

Yet men still reported incredibly low numbers of lifetime sexual violence. If one were to take the data showing just the instances of report rape (I am including “made to penetrate” in this number), then while almost 20% of women are victims of rape, only 7% of men experience rape. To put this in perspective, the CDC’s numbers imply that there are fewer male rape victims than there are GBLT people in the United States.

That comes across as pure absurdity when viewed like this, and makes me wonder what the researchers did to skew the data this way. The best explanation I can reach is based on the researchers stating that they attempted to replicate the population rates for sex, ethnicity, and sexuality in their data. The researchers excluded data until they reached the proper proportions. What is unclear is at what point they did this. They could have done it when they initially contacted people but prior to interviewing them, after the initial interview, or all the way up to receiving all the responses and simply choosing which ones they wanted to keep.

Another piece of withheld data is the completed versus attempted assaults. The researchers divide both rape and “made to penetrate” into these two categories and even ask specific questions about someone trying but failing to commit the acts. Yet when they present the findings in the survey, they combine the data, showing “completed or attempted” as one number. The only instance in which they report (or at least claim to report) the completed assaults is when reporting the rate of assault against minors.

The problem with combining data like this is that it is misleading. More people may have experienced attempted rather than completed assaults. This also goes back to the problem I mentioned at the beginning of the post. By splitting types of rape as the researchers did, it makes it appear that men are rarely victims of rape. More troubling is that the researchers may have excluded male victims in order to fit the population rate.

We unfortunately have no way knowing this because for the third time the researchers did not include any raw numbers of the respondents. They did not even include the methodology they used to create their estimates. We are again left with no means of knowing how they reached their estimates or how many people responded to their questions per category.

The researchers do provide the total number of respondents and explain, in theory, how they excluded certain responses (see Appendix B), but without the raw numbers it proves useless. We have no means of seeing exactly what they are counting. In the follow-up post, I will show how this becomes a problem with the veracity of the data.

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10 thoughts on “The NISVS 2010-2012 Report

  1. I have a theory on the 12 month/lifetime discrepancy. It’s based on this study:

    https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2012/09/your-memory-is-like-the-telephone-game

    Every time you remember an event, you put it back changed, based on the biases and perceptions at the time of recall. This is why surveys closer to the event are more accurate than later ones. So, here’s my theory:

    Men are taught they are never victims. Ever. To be a victim is to sacrifice your manhood. Therefore, every time the event is recalled, it drifts further from “rape” and further toward “conquest” or at least “consented”.

    Women, on the other hand, are taught they are perpetual victims. Every time she recalls the event, it drifts further from “consented” or “conquest” towards “rape”.

    We really don’t remember things that well. This could easily explain the 12 month/lifetime discrepancy. No malfeasance required.

  2. You would hope that our government would know better than to fudge statistics for political ends. This was done in the former Soviet Union so that people could survive Stalin’s purges and it got to be a habit. In the late sixties and early seventies, American economists went over there to try to persuade them into honest reporting of economic numbers so that sound decisions could be made. I don’t think it ever worked and the Soviet Union is no longer in business. I am now beginning to doubt the numbers coming from the US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Statistics too.

    As for the shift up in men reporting, this may be a reflection of women overall behaving badly and it must look like an exponential curve on a graph.

  3. The Dunedin Longitudinal study asked people about their first sexual experiences as young people and the same people 15-20 years later. The young respondents said it was awkward, uncomfortable, etc 15-20 years late they had a much more positive view of it. It shows how recollections can change significantly over time.

  4. Steve:

    Every time you remember an event, you put it back changed, based on the biases and perceptions at the time of recall. This is why surveys closer to the event are more accurate than later ones.

    This is true, although the researchers for this survey appear to either dismiss or disavow the 12-month data when asked about it. As for your theory, it is undermined by your next point:

    Men are taught they are never victims. Ever. To be a victim is to sacrifice your manhood. Therefore, every time the event is recalled, it drifts further from “rape” and further toward “conquest” or at least “consented”.

    One would expect this to apply to all males, not just older males. So in regards to the 12-month data, one would expect that men would underreport for that period as well as the lifetime period. Yet it appears they report at a higher rate during the 12-month period.

  5. Iain:

    The Dunedin Longitudinal study asked people about their first sexual experiences as young people and the same people 15-20 years later. The young respondents said it was awkward, uncomfortable, etc 15-20 years late they had a much more positive view of it. It shows how recollections can change significantly over time.

    That is a potential theory, and it fits with the way men reported feeling trauma. Of course, it is also possible that this would occur because of the social norms regarding sexual violence against males. Perhaps male victims convince themselves the experiences were harmless or positive as a means of avoiding the stigma of being a victim.

  6. Pingback: The NISVS 2010-2012 Report – Continued | Toy Soldiers

  7. There’s another factor that may be impacting the discrepancy between the 12 month and lifetime statistics: survivorship bias. Unfortunately literal in this case.

    It is commonly reported that 33% of rape survivors contemplate suicide and 12% actually commit suicide. I have never seen a male/female breakdown of these percentages. I would imagine that male victims are also at higher risk for murder, accidents, and imprisonment.

    Is it possible that 50% or so of the male victims appear to be dropping out of the long term data because the victims themselves begin dropping out of the general population after a year? This would be heartbreakingly tragic, but not entirely surprising.

  8. Adding support to my previous comment, it is not just suicide that may cause male victims to fall out of the sample:

    “NISVS is a random-digit-dial (RDD) telephone survey of U.S. non-institutionalized English- and/or Spanish-speaking persons aged 18 years and older. ”

    In other words, if you are presently in jail, homeless, active duty military, or otherwise difficult to reach on a telephone, than you are not represented in this survey. All of those excluded groups contain a disproportionate number of men, and a disproportionate number of rape victims.

    Quite frankly, this is an obvious flaw in the methodology that would be apparent if the researchers were even trying to reach male victims.

  9. Peter:

    Is it possible that 50% or so of the male victims appear to be dropping out of the long term data because the victims themselves begin dropping out of the general population after a year? This would be heartbreakingly tragic, but not entirely surprising.

    While I suspect the suicide rate for male victims is significantly higher than female victims, I doubt that male victims kill themselves so frequently that it would drastically affect a study’s findings.

    That said, the suicide rate, along with other forms of self harm, are worth noting considering that when asked males reported feeling less traumatized. If ever there was evidence that the men were underreporting their trauma, the higher rates of substance abuse and risky behavior among male victims would be it.

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