Why is the Data Misleading in School Reports of Campus Sexual Violence?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Feb 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

Another article in a student newspaper tries to make sense of sexual misconduct allegations on campus but misses the mark. In this case, like in many of the others before it, undue attention is paid to reported allegations of sexual offenses. While the writers acknowledge that there might be multiple causes for an increase, they fail to recognize how small their data set is.

DePaul Campus Newspapers Breaks Down Sexual Violence Stats

The article appeared in The DePaulia, the campus newspaper for DePaul University, a college of 15,000 in downtown Chicago, Illinois. In it, the writers break down the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education report for 2019 – a report required under Illinois state law. That report included numbers from 2018, the most recent year that the data have been collected.

According to the report for DePaul University, allegations of stalking had increased from 11 in 2016 to 26 in 2018. Over the same period, domestic and dating violence had dropped from 57 to 52, and allegations of sexual violence went from 105 in 2016 to stunning 274 in 2017, only to drop back down to 93 in 2018.

Better Reporting or More Sexual Violence?

The authors of the article correctly question whether the increase in reports of stalking indicates “a rise in occurrence or in reporting.” The question is a huge one in Title IX law throughout the country, as more and more is being done to advocate for victims of sexual misconduct, only for the stats to come back and show that more and more people are filing complaints.

The question is whether those new complaints are because it is easier for alleged victims to come forward, or because there are more victims.

The Problem With Small Data Sets

What the article does not recognize, though, is that the number of alleged incidents is too low to provide very much information or form reliable trends, especially when you consider the very real possibility that increases or decreases can at least partially be explained by reporting procedures.

The stalking numbers at DePaul provide a great example. They went from 11 in 2016 up to 26 in 2018. In a mere two years, the numbers were up 236% – more than double. But even ignoring the high possibility that those 15 new incidents were not the result of students who are more aware of what stalking is, who to go to for help, and how to make an official report, it still just means that there was only one more incident every three weeks. Even if the increase was only a single stalking incident, raising the number from 11 up to 12, that would be a 9% increase – enough to sound like it should be the cause for alarm.

Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer and national Title IX advisor. He knows that the sexual violence statistics being reported by schools should be taken with a grain of salt, and are frequently used to misrepresent the extent of the problem.

Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he has sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address school-related issues and concerns anywhere in the United States.


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