One in six MIT women say they've been sexually assaulted

WBUR reports on the details of a survey of MIT students - which also found most never report the assaults. The Tech reports the school's president is "disturbed by the extent and nature of the problem."



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    This is a little bonkers, no? Lumping in sexual harassment or having your fanny grabbed at a party with actual rape or assault seems guaranteed to produce pretty inflammatory results, especially combined with "they didn't report it..." It seems almost certain to end in a conclusion about "sexual assaults going unreported!" meme when in fact it's likely that most incidents went unreported because they were not worth reporting.

    I'm starting to feel that the actual serious cases of sexual misconduct are going to be taken less seriously because of all this vagueness and wide-net approach where every catcall is referred to as "sexual assault."


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    Sally, the 1 in 6 is sexual assault only. From the article:

    "unwanted sexual behaviors while at MIT involving use of force, physical threat, or incapacitation,” 17 percent of responding female undergraduate students said they had experienced such an incident. That compares to a widely cited national figure of 19 percent, MIT says. The survey further broke down such incidents into sexual touching or kissing, attempted oral sex, oral sex, attempted sexual penetration and sexual penetration."

    I don't believe catcalls would fall into this category.

    From the article, 35% of women reported sexual harassment AND sexual assault.

    What you quoted from the survey, supports Sally's observation...

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    Using the somewhat ambiguous category "unwanted sexual behaviors", concerns me. "Sexual touching" or "kissing" and things "attempted" should not be considered in the same category as the act of rape (sexual penetration) and women forced to orally pleasure a pud.

    Catcalls are not even mentioned in the survey or by Sally (who makes very good points, BTW).

    I disagree

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    I'm not trying to be a jerk, but Sally did say:

    "I'm starting to feel that the actual serious cases of sexual misconduct are going to be taken less seriously because of all this vagueness and wide-net approach where every catcall is referred to as "sexual assault.""

    which is why I referenced catcalls..

    I understand your point about kissing, but there's nothing in the survey that I could see about ass grabbing being included in this (I get that that was a hypothetical, but I think it's a disservice to the women and men surveyed to assume that unwanted touching is mostly ass grabs. Sadly most women in college would probably not even count that since it can be so common).

    Secondly, about "attempted assaults"--I think it's just as important and valid to know how often this happens. An attempted assault rarely means the perpetrator suddenly thought better of the act and stopped, but rather that the survivor was able to get away, through a mixture of ingenuity and luck.

    Harassment then.

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    And any unwanted touching etc is gathered under the 17% sexual assault figure.

    "[U]nwanted sexual behaviors

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    "[U]nwanted sexual behaviors while at MIT involving use of force, physical threat, or incapacitation" does not describe most catcalls, unless that catcall includes a threat.

    Read again.

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    44% of those say it involved being too drunk, high or asleep and most didn't think it was serious enough to report. Is there a woman who attended college who didn't have SOME kind if experience like this? And we survived. Again--I am NOT dismissing the seriousness of actual assault or raping someone who is passed out drunk, but this kind of catch-all survey seems to make for better headlines than useful information.

    I think this argument is

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    I think this argument is dismissive of the experiences of the women and men who were profiled in this survey.

    But basically you're saying there is a tier of rape. Actual assault or rape counts, but being digitally penetrated or fondled against your will is OK? They're all assault.

    Just because you or anyone "survived" this during your college means that any college student experiencing this should roll over and say it's OK. That's unfair to every young woman and man who has experienced any of these things. Why do you get to decide what's survivable and what's not?

    From your first sentence, it seems to me that you're saying that because a person was drunk or high they are culpable in their own assault or attempted assault, unless they're passed out drunk? I really hope I'm not reading that correctly.

    This isn't just headlines--we've heard statistics about college assault all over the country. Maybe MIT did their survey differently, but it doesn't negate that this is a real and serious issue that many colleges ARE NOT addressing.

    Um, no

    being digitally penetrated or fondled against your will is OK?

    Nobody said anything of the sort. Lose the straw man.


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    But being fondled against your will IS sexual touching, right? And that's what we're discussing, how that's part of the 17%. That's what I was referring to.

    I think part of the problem is that the survey does not define what sexual touching is, hence the discussions we're having about it right now. I assumed that digital penetration would be part of that definition, but it was an assumption and I shouldn't have made it.

    You make a whole handful of assumptions

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    in your post, mostly about me and my alleged opinions and feelings. Stick to facts and your own opinions in the future. And maybe try reading the actual survey--it may help clarify things for you so you don't have to leap so hastily to personal attacks and wild accusations.

    I did read the survey

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    Sally, I did read the survey and the WBUR article. I was trying to be civil in the beginning, but to be honest I found your comments about sexual assault extremely offensive, outdated, and dismissive, and therefore upsetting. (And to be honest, I don't believe disagreeing with someone's comments is a personal attack).

    I think we just won't agree on this so it's probably best to end the conversation here.

    Here's an assumption for you

    It is all inappropriate and violating.

    It is all wrong.

    It is a bad message to say "this is only sortof not okay, but this is really not okay" when it comes to NONCONSENSUAL TOUCHING.

    Bottom line: no consent, no touch, or face consequences. Period. Your "well, it isn't THAT bad" is patronizing, demeaning, and obfuscating. It is all bad. Full stop.

    I've raised two boys who know this and get this. It isn't rocket science. It is not a matter of degree. Keep your hands to yourself unless you are invited. No ambiguity there.

    Again--I love being quoted on things I never said.

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    "Well, it isn't that bad?" Remind me when I said that again?

    Honestly, as a woman and the mother of a college student, I find many of the posts here just horrifying in their inability to deal with facts and in their hysterical, witch-hunty attitude. It makes me despair.

    And yes--glad you've schooled your boys in sexual etiquette. I'm sure they're now prepared to face every romantic and/or sexual encounter they'll ever experience without confusion, ambiguity or questions. Feel free to report back when they've been out in the world for a couple of years.

    Oh, come now.

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    "hysterical"? "witch-hunty"? Get specific. You've called out the study, so you won't mind taking a dose of the same medicine. Specifically what "many" posts are "hysterical" and "witch-hunty"?

    I think you're inferring something that isn't there, which is exactly what you've accused others of. Again, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    I would if I were you.

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    Since you allege such idiocy as the notion that I think "being digitally penetrated against your will is OK" (WTF?) that students should "roll over and say it's ok" and that I'm "saying that because a person was drunk or high they are culpable in their own assault"--again WTF? You seem to have the reading comprehension of a dull-witted second grader and an astonishing ability to overlay your own ideas over someone else's at the expense of understanding them.

    To be fair...

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    I think I'm the one with the "reading comprehension of a dull-witted second grader", not Swirly Grrl. (And by the way, I would classify that as a personal attack).

    But that is the point

    Universities are starting to get the picture that male and female students need education about CONSENT. People who are wasted are not able to give proper consent and therefore should not be taken to bed. The new rallying cry is Yes Means Yes. " She didn't say no " isn't good enough.

    A university culture that recognizes the need for women to be respected (and this includes not being sexually harassed or date raped or whatever) is on the right track, in my opinion.

    Sure, women don't usually die from being raped or sexually harassed but that doesn't mean we should put up with it.

    You have got to be kidding me

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    44% of those say it involved being too drunk, high or asleep and most didn't think it was serious enough to report. Is there a woman who attended college who didn't have SOME kind if experience like this?

    Yes. There are a lot of us who didn't have that experience. If you are "too drunk, high or asleep" then you cannot give consent and I'm a bit disturbed that people think this is not assault or worse.

    Did I have encounters while I was drunk or high? Well, since I spent most of my college years in those states, I'll have to say yes. Was I too drunk or high not to realize that something was happening that wasn't right? No.

    Just read the survey, OK?

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    Honestly--this is starting to become a textbook example of how hysteria and misinformation start. Read it. Do your own thinking and analysis and then draw your own conclusions. We are talking about "unwanted sexual contact" which covers a wide, wide range of behavior--there's no reason to assume that every incident described is assault or rape. Unwanted drunken grinding at a dance, groping, propositioning...these would all fall under that category.

    I also can't even understand from your comment whether you did or didn't have these experiences--you seem to be completely contradicting yourself.


    That seems to be what you are spreading here, regarding "well I THINK it is not that bad as long as it isn't REAL rape ... according to ME real rape, that is".

    being bumped against on the dance floor is NOT RAPE

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    ...and it's an insult to people who HAVE been raped to say it is.

    There is a very clear definition of what rape is.
    The study used a very broad definition of sexual assault.
    It is now being taken as "1 in 5 women at MIT have been raped!"

    The same thing happened with the famous "1 in 4" study, which used an even broader definition of sexual assault.

    Nonconsensual touching

    Is still nonconsensual touching.

    The problem with "well, I get to decide what sexual assault is" garbage is that it is very much beside this simple point. You don't get to decide that there must be "some line" that must be crossed such that nonconsensual touching is okay. Where the line is: you do NOT get to touch other people without their consent, and you don't get to say "well, it isn't rape unless (terms conditions legitimate rape bullshit etc.)".

    You don't get to move the goalposts until you are comfortable.

    Nobody said anything about incidental body contact. Grow up, please.

    Allow me to clarify

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    Did I have consensual encounters while I was drunk or high? Yes.

    Did I have encounters when I was so drunk or high that it was legally impossible to give consent? No.

    Your comment above my original one seems to say that the second one is ok because so there aren't that many

    who attended college who didn't have SOME kind if experience like this?

    . It's not ok. It's never ok.

    Sadly, i see this often

    People are incensed by the very idea of questioning survey methods when the survey reported the results they wanted to see. The poorly defined "sexual behavior" as basis for the question almost entirely invalidates any useful conclusion. But because you pointed that out, people seem to think that means you support rape. A bunch of idiots, if you ask me, both because they can't see the obvious flaw, and for then shooting the messenger.

    I'm not a lawyer, but just

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    I'm not a lawyer, but just from my experience with the laws of Massachusetts I would say it's not entirely bonkers. They are lumping "ass grabbing" in with sexual assault because the definition of the law allows it. I'm pretty sure that Massachusetts breaks sexual assault into two categories: Indecent assault and battery and Rape.

    Indecent assault and battery does include ass grabbing. My interpretation is that since it's a subcategory of sexual assault is why it's included in the report.

    Also, some people might just blow off some scumbag grabbing there ass at a party. Another person might not be able to handle it in the same manner. Even though one person is able to blow it off, and feel it doesn't warrant being reported, it doesn't change the fact that it's still an indecent assault and battery.

    I don't know the exact wording of the law, either...

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    But if the MA law breaks sexual assault into two categories, then why is MIT giving "ass grabbing" the same weight (is it?) as rape, in the matter of its survey?

    My point being is that when you start lumping everything (bad, off color humor told in bad taste by the opposite sex, catcalls and other thoughtless remarks, ass grabbing, breast rubbing, annoying texts from guys you don't want to date, et. al), under the category of "sexual assault" one really does a disservice to those women who have been raped, just to name one example, sometimes brutally, and, at times, at a loss of their lives.

    I agree that getting one's ass grabbed (by someone you did not want to grab your ass) is disconcerting and can be disturbing but it is not in the same category as having someone rip off your clothes and force himself on you, no?

    I think MIT is giving it the

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    I think MIT is giving it the same weight as rape because it's a legitimate problem. And given that it falls under the definition of the law they are able to include it in the survey.

    So I'd say the person indecently assaulting someone now is worth addressed before they actually rape someone. If someone can't control themselves eniough that they have to unwantedly touch people, who is to say that won't escalate to rape?

    Also, I'm not in any position to tell a woman or man that's been indecently assaulted that their assault is any less concerning than a victim of rape. They are all victims of predators, should not really matter the degree of physicality. That's just my view of it.

    I think you've reached that point

    I think you've reached that point where the best thing to do is to step away. At least one of your antagonists has offered to "agree to disagree," and even though someone on the Internet is wrong, you aren't going to change their mind.

    Remember, this is self-report

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    And there's tons of research to show that people vastly underreport sexual harassment and sexual assault.

    I don't think a statistically significant number of people are reporting something like, say, sitting there holding hands and having an intimate discussion, someone puts their hand on the other's ass, the owner of the ass moves away or gives a disapproving look, the owner of the hand doesn't try it again, and everyone's fine. The owner of the hand could have maybe been more savvy in seeking consent, but pretty much no one is going to call this a sexual assault. Most people wouldn't call it an "unwanted ass-grab" on a survey. In a RESPECTFUL relationship, one is going to see it as a miscommunication, much like how in a healthy marriage, one person might initiate some contact, other person is like, hey, I don't want to be touched like that right now, initiator is like, OK, cool, sorry, what would be better right now?

    Now, someone coming up to someone in a work-type setting and grabbing someone's ass, I would call that a sexual assault. Or someone riding by on a bike and grabbing someone's ass who's walking. Do you see how these ass-grabs are totally different, and are going to feel totally violating?

    It's because of context. Not because of the mistaken idea that if someone is engaging in one type of intimate behavior, that means they're willing to engage in more -- it's because there's already been reciprocal and respectful intimate interaction, and one person is suggesting taking it a step further, then is backing off when the offer is declined. Similarly, consider how you'd feel if you're a) on a date with someone, it's going really well, and they ask if you want to have sex, and you say no and they're fine with that, versus b) you're standing there minding your own business and someone comes up and asks if you want to have sex. One of these is likely to feel like you were respected as a person and someone was wanting to share intimacy with you, and the other is likely to feel like someone is objectifying you and viewing you only as someone to have sex with.


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    That's 340 women.

    These questions included

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    These questions included
    commonly used terms, and did not define these terms [...], allowing respondents to apply their own interpretations.

    The information

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    is spelled out pretty clearly in the WBUR article--is this really that mysterious, except for the very blurry lines drawn here between "unwanted sexual attentions" and rape.

    The national statistic

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    I heard was 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted. One in six isn't bad in light of that.


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    not that bad unless you are the women numbered 1 thru 4, right?

    bright spot!

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    men and women were both almost as likely to hear sexist comments almost equally about women and men...what a great leap for social progress.