How much sexual violence people admit depends on how the question is asked. Consider these examples from recent surveys:
About 5 percent of U.S. college women say yes to one of these three questions, the large majority of them to the third:
Since the beginning of the school year, have you ever:
Had sexual intercourse against your wishes because someone used force?
Had sexual intercourse against your wishes because someone threatened to harm you?
Had sexual intercourse when you were so intoxicated that you were unable to consent?
(From "Correlates of Rape While Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women," Meichun Mohler-Kuo, George W. Dowdall, Mary P. Koss and Henry Wechsler)
Less than 1 percent of U.S. women aged 18 to 24 say yes to Question E in the following survey or to a follow-up question intended in part to make it easier to say yes.
The first question: Has anyone attacked or threatened you in any of these ways:
With any weapon, for instance, a gun or a knife.
With anything like a baseball bat, frying pan, scissors or a stick.
By something thrown, such as a rock or bottle.
Include any grabbing, punching or choking.
Any rape, attempted rape or other type of sexual attack.
Any face-to-face threats.
The follow-up question:
Incidents involving forced or unwanted sexual acts are often difficult to talk about. (Other than any incidents already mentioned,) have you been forced or coerced to engage in unwanted sexual activity by:
Someone you didn't know before.
A casual acquaintance.
Someone you know well.
(From the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey Basic Screen Questionnaire)
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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