The Math on College Sexual Assault

If you ask a college student if they know a rapist, don't be surprised when they say "yes."

"I am positive that most college students know a rapist," a fellow, recent University of Michigan grad told me, "Even if they aren't aware. There are MULTIPLE people who even I am not totally sure if they are rapists [or not]. Like, I've heard stories, and I can't even really decide what to think. It's everywhere."

When we got into a conversation about the Stanford rapist case he told me, "I am scared to think what would have happened to this case if they were found in a bedroom. He was caught IN THE ACT in the back of a building behind a dumpster, and was given six months, possibly weeks, with good behavior."

I personally know three rapists -- one of them being my own -- all recent graduates of the University of Michigan.

I personally know a dozen survivors, and this is just a matter of people who have chosen to confide in me.

Those are personal statistics. These are the University of Michigan's. In June 2015 it was estimated that, "more than 20 percent of University of Michigan female students have been sexually assaulted on campus."

Ready for some math?

43,625 students attend the University of Michigan.
49.1 percent of U of M students are women.
21,420 students at U of M are women.
20 percent of those women have been assaulted.

That's 4,284 assaulted women in one year at U of M alone.

I can't even name 4,284 people.

Sexual assailants are different than other felons, because as my fellow grad put it, "unlike the very black-and-white crime of shooting someone or robbing a bank, there are ways for them to avoid that classification in their own heads with these lame justifications of 'I was sure. It was blurry. It was a misunderstanding.' Assault is one of the only crimes that the assailant, even when faced with evidence, can claim total ignorance of."

Could you imagine if 4,284 women were murdered at U of M each year? It'd probably decrease the assault stats because there would be less women around because, you know, they'd be murdered.

This past year U of M's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) released 97 balloons, each representing 50 survivors assaulted at U of M this year. (Oh, and here's the math on SAPAC's site of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence report for 2007).

Their estimate was closer to 4,850 women, so just slap an extra 500+ assaulted women on my math for 2016.

You know what? I'm terrible at math. I'm not even 100 percent sure that I did that math correctly. I probably didn't. Let's say I screwed it up. Let's say I'm off by a hundred -- hell, let's say I'm off by a thousand. Let's just go easy and say at least 3,000 women are assaulted every year at the University of Michigan. Good, just 3,000. The relief I feel... there's just so much of it.

By now we've all seen this, this, and this article about one of the rapists at Stanford (I promise you there are more), and this deserving, powerful letter from the survivor. Everyone has been appropriately freaking out because of his slap-on-the-wrist sentence, and the way he's been treated in headlines. I'm not going to sit here and recap them all, you can read them for yourself.

If a case with as clear of evidence as this has failed to see appropriate justice, what hope do the rest of us survivors have coming forward?

In her letter she states, "I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt." Irreversible means there's no going back. This is not something that happened. Rape is something that is happening. That's present progressive tense people. Rape lives on through PTSD. It does not leave you. It's irreversibility is what makes it truly horrifying. Being raped is contracting a sexually transmitted mental disease.

Let's do some more math, yeah? Let's do some Stanford math.

Stanford's math is a little trickier. They released this delightfully descriptive campus climate survey in Oct. 2015 (the same time U of M's). They filled their results with fancy, narrow definitions.

According to Stanford:

Sexual assault "[includes] a nonconsensual sexual act -- involving intercourse, digital penetration, oral sex or penetration with a foreign object -- accomplished by use of force, violence, duress, menace, inducement of incapacitation or knowingly taking advantage of an incapacitated person."

Sexual misconduct "includes nonconsensual penetration or oral sex that occurs without the condition of force, violence, duress, menace or incapacitation that is involved in a sexual assault under state law and Stanford policy. Sexual misconduct also includes acts of sexual touching without consent and some acts of clothing removal without consent."

I'm going to go ahead and say both of those definitions are describing sex crimes, even though Stanford ran around being like, "Look at all the rapists we don't have cause we chopped up the statistics!"

Here's the breakdown:

16,136 students attend Stanford.
1.9 percent of students (male & female) reported sexual assault.
14.2 percent have additionally reported some other form of sexual misconduct.
That's 1.9 percent sexual assault + 14.2 percent sexual misconduct = 16.1 percent of students have been assaulted (by my calculation after digging through their bullshit.)

That's 2,533 sexually assaulted students in one year at Stanford.

There are conflicting statistics out there too, that think these numbers are wildly inaccurate. Oh, here's some more.

Stanford currently has the most sexual assault case investigations under review in the country as of this month, which leads me to believe something must not be right with their math - and that's not even all the math that's out there. This is just a math appetizer, or a mathetizer per say.

This is math without the other math. The other math that includes every student - not just the ones who took the surveys -- the math we'll never get that includes all the survivors out there who will not speak up -- especially on a school-administered survey -- and the math that doesn't accurately include male survivors.

Why are schools skewing the statistics? "Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school," the University of Virginia put so bluntly. They're not wrong either. There is fear to post the accuracy of the horror that is going on around us, but we need to stop rewarding schools for blurring the truth.

I wish if you were a criminal and committed sex crimes you'd immediately turn blue. I wish that survivors never had to tell their stories in the pursuit of justice and progress, so that we would never be humiliated and shamed. As a society we'd just have to say, "look that guy turned blue, get him boys!" and a couple of British cops from the 30s would pop out of nowhere singing in four-part harmony. Then, with wooden police batons, they'd bonk the blue people on the head and haul em' off to prison forever and ever.

But rapists aren't going to turn blue, and we're going to have to keep speaking up.

I'm so tired. I'm exhausted. I don't have an answer today. Today I just have math (math, and some terrific imagery of British cops).

Please take the pledge to intervene in situations where you can prevent sexual assault. We all have a responsibility here.

If you're looking for more information, please visit or your school's sexual assault prevention center.