Here is the beautifully thought out email from Candace, a listener who works in feminist research and social work:
I absolutely love your podcast. As a life-long feminist I was devastated when Trump won the 2016 election and felt betrayed by everyone, but particularly the women who voted for Trump. Your interviews have really helped me to understand and have empathy for the reasons women voted that direction and heal from the trauma that comes with having sexual violence perpetrator for president.
I am reaching out to you about Episode 3 Part One with Ashley Rollo. I conduct research on issues related to sexual violence and I was quite shocked by the findings you presented in your voiceover insert about the Stemple and Meyer 2014 study. I read through the Stemple/Meyer article and I have a few points of contention with how the findings from this research have been extrapolated to core, empirical understandings about who is victimized and who is perpetrating sexual violence.
1. The Stemple article critiques how the CDC minimized sexual violence perpetrated against males in how they presented the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) results. This is a legitimate criticism.
2. Stemple and Meyer present results from the NISVS 2010 Survey illustrating that roughly the same numbers of men and women reported being raped/made to penetrate, sexual coercion, and unwanted sexual contact. These results are from the past 12 months.
3. I checked the 2010 NISVS full report to compare the numbers. The NISVS clearly shows that 18.3% of women have experienced rape and 1.4% of men have experienced rape; 44.6% of women have experienced other forms of sexual violence (made to penetrate, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact) and 22.2% of men have experienced the same forms of violence (as well as being made to penetrate). These results are from a lifetime of experiences with sexual violence.
4. Measuring rates of sexual violence over the period of 12 months is very different from measuring over the course of a lifetime. Bottom line: If we look at rates of sexual violence over the course of a lifetime, women are victimized far more than men.
5. Stemple and Meyer do mention that the NISVS survey results show that. The NISVS survey reports that for female rape victims, 98.1% the sex of the perpetrator was male and for 93.3% of male rape the sex of the perpetrator was male. For other forms of sexual violence 92.5% of female victims said the perpetrator was male. Indeed, regarding other forms of sexual violence male victims stated that the majority of perpetrators were women. This is an important finding and worthy of examination. However, given the lifetime differences between the number of female versus male victims, males are overwhelmingly the predominant perpetrator of sexual violence.
6. I also think it is important to acknowledge that in spaces that are traditionally dominated by men, e.g. college campuses or the military there is no disputing that women experience sexual violence at much higher rates than men. For the former, check the Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation College Sexual Assault Survey, and the University of Texas CLASE Survey Results. For the latter check the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military by DOD service Members from the 2014 RAND Workplace Study and an article by Rough and Armor (2017) titled Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military: Trends and Responses (I can send you a copy if you can’t find it for free). Of note, more men than women do report experiencing sexual violence in the military, but there are more men in the military. The proportion of women that experience sexual violence is greater than the proportion of men. Also, most of the people perpetrating the violence have been identified as men.
7. It is also important to critique the research methods used to gather data about sexual violence. Gathering data via survey does not provide any information about how the victim perceived and experienced the sexual violence. Due to social stratification that posits all things masculine as dominant and all things feminine as submissive, when a man perpetrates sexual violence against a women it promotes and maintains that gendered social stratification. When a woman is victimized by sexual violence it reifies the sexist microaggressions she has experienced her whole life and it reifies the macro-level inequality that exists between the genders. When women perpetrate sexual violence against men (while abhorrent) it does not reproduce and maintain gender inequality the same way it does when men perpetrate against women. Stemple and Meyer acknowledge this point as well: “We recognize that when it comes to the impact of sexual victimization, men and women may indeed experience it differently” (p. e23).
8. Let me say, none of this writing is intended to dismiss the fact that many men are survivors of sexual violence and that researchers need to respect and value men as survivors as much as any other gender. However, the reasons feminist researchers have focused primarily on the experiences of women is that we have centuries of discourse on violence that has been slow to acknowledge the significance of gender inequality and power differentials in the etiology of violence directed towards women (Heise, 1998).
9. Bottom Line: Stemple and Meyer made an important contribution to the discourse on sexual violence victimization and perpetration. The NISVS survey, the Inmate Survey (2011-2012), and the National Survey of Youth in Custody Survey (2012) do report data that challenge myths about the actual number of men that are victimized by sexual violence and myths about women acting as perpetrators. However, the findings presented by Stemple and Meyer were not representative of the vast body of research that has been done on this topic. The bulk of the research on the prevalence of sexual violence (and this includes research more recent than the NISVS 2010 survey) shows that women are victimized more than men and men are predominantly the perpetrators.
Candace [last name redacted], Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Social Work