## Wednesday, April 30, 2014

### Why People Should Know Math

When you know math you can tell when your politicians are lying to you and pandering to others who aren’t as smart as you are:
Team Obama is now aggressively targeting campus sexual assaults with a new White House Task Force led by Joe Biden, see news reports from the Washington Post, the LA Times and NPR. Unfortunately, it’s another White House effort with good intentions – to help women (and get their votes) – but is a campaign that is based on inaccurate, misleading and false data about the frequency of campus sexual assaults...

But there’s a big problem here. Taken together, those two claims above from the White House, if both are accurate, mean that nowhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college...

So let’s do some math using actual crime statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the four years from 2009-2012 (summarized in the table above) and the White House’s under-reporting assumption of 12%. Over that four year period, there were 137 reports of sexual assault on the Madison campus, in university residence halls, on nearby non-campus property, and on public property adjacent to campus. We’ll assume that 100% of the sexual assaults victims were female. Using the White House claim that only 12% of sexual assaults get reported, there would have been slightly more than 1,000 unreported sexual assaults at UW during that period, bringing the total number of sexual assaults (reported + unreported) to 1,141 (see table).

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a student body of 43,275 students, of which 51.6% are female. Dividing the 1,141 sexual assaults over a four-year period by the 22,329 UW female students would mean that only 5.1% UW women (or about 1 in 20) would be sexually assaulted while in college. Certainly that’s still too high, but nowhere close to the White House claim of one in five female students being assaulted while in college.

An analysis of crime data from the University of Michigan shows a similar 1-in-18.5 chance (5.4%) of a female student being a victim of sexual assault during four years in Ann Arbor. At the University of California-Berkeley, crime data suggest that the chances over four years of a female student being sexually assaulted are only 3.1%, or one in 32 women. Do the math yourself (and share with me if possible) with crime statistics from any other college campus, along with the White House under-reporting assumption of 12%, and I’m confident that there’s no college campus in America where anywhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college.
What possible reason could the president have for repeatedly offering such bogus numbers?  And why would any woman go to college if there truly were a 1 in 5 chance of such an attack?

I guess if you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough...

Mike Thiac said...

Darren, keep this quiet, you ain't in the script! :<)

Anonymous said...

The definition of rape has been watered down to include having sex a regretting it later. That's how they get the 1 in 5.

maxutils said...

What's the point? There should be NO sexual assaults. If you need to exaggerate to help that, I'm fine with bad math here. I have a very good friend who has been a victim ...twice. I'm not sure how that compares to lightning strikes, but this is one case where the end justifies the means. Your math is spot on ... but I if the purpose was to call attention of sexual assault ... I guess it would be nice if the numbers were accurate, but if wrong numbers help call attention to it? I can live with it.

Darren said...

If the problem isn't important enough to tell the truth about it, it isn't that important.

And anonymous is correct.

maxutils said...

Having sex and regretting it later isn't sexual assault. That in no way has become part of the definition of rape ... legally. Have people been accused? Sure. Convicted? Probably and wrongly. Accuracy is a good thing. But, the focal point should be that women don't get raped. This one is personal for me. My friend will never be the same. Anything that helps ... I really don't care. Maybe hypocritical, but I honestly don't care -- rape isn't about mathematics. It's about harm to innocent victims. I guess I just let that get exceptionally personal. But ... I don't see how overstating sexual assault charges has a downside. Convicting someone innocent, sure. Expanding the definition of rape to where Anonymous suggested? Sure. Having a statement that promotes not raping people, even if it isn't accurate ... I have no problem. I guess I'd rather have accuracy, but in this case? It's important.

pseudotsuga said...

But...but...Rape Culture! Patriarchy! War on Wimmins! sorry, I got a little ahead of myself there.
The problem with wrong numbers, maxutils, is the lie of good intentions.
Nobody denies that sexual assault exists, or that it is bad. That way lies madness. But to overstate the actual numbers just to make a point or raise awareness creates an environment like that of the Duke Lacrosse team which was determined to be guilty before any evidence was reviewed, because "campus rape culture" was so high, as the doctored numbers indicated. We can surely do better than lying with good intentions in mind.

Darren said...

Max, when you lie about things and create a drumhead environment, you get all those "sure" points you made near the end of your post.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--when it comes to crime I'd rather set a hundred guilty people free than convict one innocent person. THAT is the value I place on personal freedom, and that's the burden I'm willing to place on society and law enforcement.

maxutils said...

You're on the way to convincing me. The problem though is ... my friend didn't press charges either time. The sad part about about these cases is that frequently, the ones that make the headlines aren't really sexual assaults ... and the ones that are real go unreported. I agree with you Darren ... one innocent convicted is too many. However, letting rapists go free is also bad ... and the more people speak of it, the more likely is that victims will speak up.

Darren said...

They can speak of it without lying. The truth is bad enough--no decent person condones rape or sexual assault, so telling the *truth* about it is enough to raise any necessary awareness that hasn't already been raised.

maxutils said...

You did convince me. You're right.