NISVS 2011 released: Increased male victimization and rape is still not rape

On September 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that summarizes data from the second year of data collection from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). They’ve also released a fact sheet for the NISVS 2011 data. The NISVS 2010 Summary Report, which I’ve written several blog posts about, reported on data collected during 2010, while this one reports on data collected in 2011.

Rape Is Still Not Rape

“Being made to penetrate” still isn’t defined as rape or a subcategory of rape in this latest report, despite the CDC’s homepage still defining rape as (my emphasis):

a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape)

A completed nonconsensual sex act (in other words, rape).

A completed sex act is defined as:

contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object.

Despite the CDC stressing the importance of using a consistent definition, they are still deviating from their definition in the NISVS reports.

Comparison of Findings for Rape and “Being Made to Penetrate”

Victims Victimization Lifetime numbers Last 12 months
NISVS 2010 NISVS 2011 Δ NISVS 2010 NISVS 2011 Δ
Men Rape 1.6% 1.7% 0.1
Women Rape 18.3% 19.3% 1 1.1% 1.6% 0.5
Men Being made to penetrate 4.8% 6.7% 1.9 1.1% 1.7% 0.6
Women Being made to penetrate 0.6% 0.6

 Sources: Tables 2.1 and 2.2 in NISVS 2010 and Table 1 in NISVS 2011.

The high numbers for male victims of “being made to penetrate” clearly weren’t a fluke for the 2010 period as some have suggested when dismissing the finding that 1.1% of men have been made to penetrate someone else during 2010. What we have is a sharp (~50%) increase of up to 1.7% of men having been made to penetrate someone else during 2011.

 

Comparison of Findings for Perpetrators of Rape and “Being Made to Penetrate” (Lifetime)

Victims Victimization Female perpetrator Male perpetrator
NISVS 2010 NISVS 2011 Δ NISVS 2010 NISVS 2011 Δ
Men Rape 6.7% 20.7% 14.0 93.3% 79.3% -14.0
Women Rape 1.9% 1.0% -0.9 98.1% 99.0% 0.9
Men Being made to penetrate 79.2% 82.6% 3.4 20.8% 17.4% -3.4
Women Being made to penetrate

Numbers in black are those given by the NISVS reports, while I have calculated those in red (assuming that non-male perpetrators are female and that non-female perpetrators are male).

Sources: NISVS 2010 (page 24) and NISVS 2011 (pages 5-6).

Here we see a pretty large increase in the ratio of female perpetrators against men and a smaller increase in the ratio of male perpetrators against women.

Impact on Prevention Efforts

So, we have an increase in the number of male victims and an increase in male victims who report female perpetrators. I wonder what the latest report says about prevention efforts?

Prevention efforts should take into consideration that female sexual violence and stalking victimization is predominately perpetrated by men and that a substantial proportion of male sexual violence and stalking victimization (rape, unwanted sexual contact, noncontact unwanted sexual experiences, and stalking) also is perpetrated by men.

No mention at all about any prevention efforts toward female perpetrators.

The “made to penetrate” and “sexual coercion” categories that both have predominately (>80%) female perpetrators reported by male victims are conveniently left out from the considerations that prevention efforts should take.

I am getting the distinct impression that the CDC clearly doesn’t give a shit about male victims of female perpetrators.

Questioning the Numbers from the Last 12 Months: Telescoping

This time, the CDC addresses the numbers from the last 12 months in a general way. They state:

Fourth, self-reported data are vulnerable to recall bias because respondents might believe that events occurred closer in time than they did in actuality (i.e., telescoping), and this type of bias might particularly affect 12-month prevalence estimates.

This sounds like an attempt at downplaying the high victimization rates in the last 12 months—in particular for male victims. The CDC did not have any problems with referring to the “last 12 months” numbers for female rape victimization in their fact sheet.

The CDC, however, are also imprecise in their use of the term telescoping, even though they really should know better. Telescoping not only includes forward-telescoping (which is what the CDC describes above), but it also includes backward-telescoping, which is when people think an event occurred further back in time than it did in actuality. Events older than three years tend to be backward-telescoped, while events more recent than three years tend to be forward-telescoped. Women are less likely to telescope (backward and forward) for some subject matters, while men are less likely for other subject matters. I haven’t been able to find any research into gender differences into telescoping (forward or backward) on the subject matter of sexual abuse victimization.

The CDC have done some right things in order to minimize the telescoping effect: using a clearly delimited time period (last 12 months) in the question as well as asking specific questions are points mentioned as methods to minimize telescoping.

According to ‘reverse record checks’ (surveys of people known in official records to have been victimized), surveys underestimate the actual experience of physical force. While there is some exaggeration of victimization in the past year because respondents ‘forward telescope’ their answers (e.g., recall events that occurred more than a year ago as having occurred within the past year), there is more non-recall or ‘failure to reveal’ than forward telescoping. […] In summary, the combination of non-recall and backwards telescoping of assault is more common than forward telescoping.

Neither non-recall, “failure to reveal,” nor backward-telescoping and how any of them may affect the NISVS findings is mentioned by the CDC.

 

Impact of Violence

The NISVS 2011 Summary Report states:

Consistent with previous studies, the overall pattern of results suggest that women, in particular, are heavily impacted over their lifetime. However, the results indicate that many men also experience sexual violence, stalking and, in particular, physical violence by an intimate partner. Although there are relatively smaller differences in the overall prevalence of physical violence by an intimate partner when comparing women and men, there is greater differentiation between women and men in terms of the prevalence of negative intimate partner violence–related impact. This suggests the need to look beyond the overall prevalence estimates when comparing the total burden of men’s and women’s intimate partner violence victimization.

One contributing factor for the difference in impact of sexual violence between men and women is the fact that one or two of the 13 categories of impact of violence were only asked of women.

The survey asked only women if the sexual violence resulted in a pregnancy. As we have seen in a recent case, there certainly is a potential for a negative impact for the male victim if a child is conceived as a result of them “being made to penetrate.”

According to Figure 2 in the NISVS 2011 Summary Report, the question of whether the victim contracted any sexually transmitted infections was only asked of women during the 2011 survey. The document containing the questions for the 2011 survey does not include that set of questions, but the questionnaire for the 2010 survey does—and in that questionnaire it seems that both female and male respondents are asked the question about STDs. Figure 2 may have a typographical error or the CDC may have changed the questionnaire even though there is no mention of this change. I lean toward the former, as one would expect them to realize that men are not immune from STDs. Then again, forced vaginal intercourse isn’t always rape, according to them.

 

The Fact Sheet

The fact sheet does not mention male victims of “being made to penetrate” at all, nor does it mention that male victims are predominately victimized by female perpetrators.

Under the heading “Women are disproportionately affected by IPV, SV, and stalking,” the following findings are listed:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women (19.3%) and 1 in 59 men (1.7%) have been raped in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 1.9 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
  • One in 4 women (22.3%) have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men (14.0%) have experienced the same.
  • One in 6 women (15.2%) have been stalked during their lifetime, compared to 1 in 19 men (5.7%).

Their concern for the “last 12 months” numbers didn’t prevent them from using the “last 12 months” prevalence number for female rape victimization.

The “being made to penetrate” victimization is nowhere to be seen on the fact sheet, but if victims of “being made to penetrate” were included, we would have bullet points saying:

  • 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate a perpetrator, while 1 in 160 women have been made to penetrate a perpetrator.
  • Approximately 1.9 million men were made to penetrate during the year preceding the survey.

If the CDC had categorized “being made to penetrate” as rape or as a subcategory of rape, we would’ve seen the following bullet points:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women (19.3%) and 1 in 15 men (6.7%) have been raped in their lifetime (lowest estimate); or
  • 1 in 5 women (19.9%) and a bit more than 1 in 12 men (8.4%) have been raped in their lifetime (highest estimate).
  • Just as many men as women were raped during the year preceding the survey—approximately 3.8 million victims.

 

Media Impact

Again, we can see that the CDC categorizing “being made to penetrate” as not-rape and how it’s excluded from the fact sheet as well as from any statements on impact on prevention efforts is yet again setting the stage for male victimization to be overlooked and ignored.

Here are articles on NISVS 2011 in mainstream media that I found searching Google News at the time of writing this post:

The Washington Post: Male victims of being made to penetrate are completely overlooked. They even erased the category itself when explaining what sexual violence other than rape is:

Sexual violence other than rape includes sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences.

Jezebel: Male victims of being made to penetrate are completely overlooked.

Salon: Male victims of being made to penetrate are completely overlooked. They even erased the category itself when listing the other forms of sexual violence CDC looked at:

The CDC estimates looked not only at “completed forced penetration,” but also at other forms of sexual violence including attempted rape, unwanted sexual contact, non-contact unwanted sexual experiences (such as being flashed or forced to view explicit images) and sexual coercion.

New York Magazine: Does mention made to penetrate, although they don’t cite the prevalence number (6.7%/1.7%) for that. They do refer that men being made to penetrate reported predominately female perpetrators, although they don’t cite the percentage (82.6%).

TIME: No mention of male victims at all.

USNews: Although the article is firmly focused on female victims, they included the chart showing male victimization for all categories as well as the chart showing female victimization.

VOX: The article makes no mention of male victims at all. They do, however, report in their chart that 0.6% of women report having been made to penetrate someone else.

Cosmopolitan UK: Mention male victims of rape and how many men have been victims of  some other form of sexual violence, including unwanted sexual contact.

The Wire: Mention male victims of rape and how many men have been victims of some other form of sexual violence apart

Most articles focus on female victimization and only mention male victimization as far as the CDC has mentioned it on the fact sheet. I couldn’t find any articles questioning the CDC categorizing “being made to penetrate” as not-rape.

 

Minor Changes in Methodology Between NISVS 2010 and NISVS 2011

I’ll just wrap this post up with a minor point about some minor changes in the latest survey’s methodology. The CDC stated that some questions that combined several acts were split into two. For instance, the question asking whether the victim was made to put their mouth on another person’s (if male: penis, if female: vagina) or anus was split into one question asking whether the victim was made to put their mouth on another person’s (if male: penis, if female: vagina) and a separate question asking whether the victim was made to put their mouth on another person’s anus.

Based on what I’ve read, more explicit questions increase accuracy and reduce telescoping.

The questionnaire for 2010 can be found in this MS Word document titled: “2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Surveillance System – Revised Study Questionnaire (October 18, 2010).”

The questionnaire for 2011 can be found in this PDF document titled: “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) 2011 Victimization Questions,” which can be downloaded from this page on the CDC website.

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