Greetings Governor Jay Inslee,
and Washington state board of education members Deborah Wilds and Peter Maier
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I am in the Seattle area and I usually read the local news on local news websites. In the last week, two articles were in local news websites which mentioned or directed persons to a video which has been recently put up or produced, apparently at Tumwater High School.
The goal of the video now found on youtube and other sources is to promote awareness of, caution about and perhaps discussion of the sexual assault of girls in high school.
For whatever reasons, it appears that the facts used or cited in the video are false and/or fabricated. A normal person, doing basic fact-checking or his own best peer review, would catch the fact that the leading statistic cited is based on some distortions, misunderstandings or otherwise lacks any support from a meaningful study.
The video begins its use of statistics by stating predictions to the effect that 1/4 of the girls in Tumwater High School will be sexually assaulted before they are finished with high school. This statement is then repeated in a slightly more accurate form as 1/4 girls in high school will be or will have been sexually assaulted before they leave high school. You are welcome to view the video on youtube; it is up as of April 21, 2015. To find the video, search for THS no more on youtube.
When I heard about the video, I emailed Todd Caffey the counselour at Tumwater as well as other counselours and the school principal. I asked for a link or information about any credible study which has found or makes the claim being used. Neither Caffey nor others have emailed me back with such a link or information about any such study.
A simple search of the studies on this subject on the Net reveals that there are no credible studies by trained professionals making this claim.
The study which one might consider to be the closest to the claim being used at Tumwater appears to be the Adverse Childhood Experiences study done with participants recruited in the 1990s, and cited by the CDC. That study appears to have found that 25% of girls by the age of 18 had been sexually abused.
This study cannot be used to establish the claims being made at Tumwater High School for the following reasons:
1) The definitions used for sexual abuse and sexual assault, though overlapping, are different in significant ways. The definition used for sexual abuse in the ACE study includes consensual experiences with adults or older persons which are not considered assaults. Moreover, of those who are over 16, such consensual experiences are often in fact both “not assaults” and “not illegal.”
2) The rate of sexual assaults against teens have fallen significantly in the last 20 years. Even if it were true in 1995 that 1/4 girls had been “sexually assaulted” by the time they were 18 (and it was not), the rate of sexual assaults against teens has fallen by more than half from 1993 to 2008, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. The fall in sexual abuse rates and sexual assault rates are in fact confirmed by a number of independent measures and studies. A person may read about the studies and the fall in sexual assault rates at the article written by David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones and published by the Crimes against Children Research Center.
The data found by the National Crime Victimization Survey is suggestively confirmed by the similar surveys done by the Minnesota Student Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth, as well as FBI rape statistics, so far as they relate the rate of sexual assault of minors.
Please note that the CDC regards the National Crime Victimization Survey as the the primary source of information about criminal victimization in the US. The “National Crime Victimization Survey” is not some fringe, heretic group practicing alternative social science. A person may read the view of the CDC about the reliability of National Crime Victimization Survey at http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/datasources.html
3) The National Survey of Adolescents did a national study in 2005 and their findings were that the lifetime sexual assault rate for girls was 11.5%, which is obviously substantially different from the 25% rate apparently being alleged by the counselour and students at Tumwater.
I am supplying you with a copies of the report published by the Crimes against Children Research Center.
I could be wrong, but I assume that Tumwater counselour Todd Caffey is paid in some way by the state and/or by tax dollars and that the principal of Tumwater High school is paid in some way by tax dollars. I also assume that the time and resources put into creating the video found at youtube was produced in whole or in part by tax dollars.
May I ask that the video which is spreading falsehoods be completely pulled by its creators and/or replaced by information which is truthful, accurate and not misleading?
Or, if there is a study which finds the findings alleged at Tumwater, I’d be happy to read it and to be informed of where and how I can read it.
Failing these possibilities, would you pull the credentials of the principal who apparently is ultimately responsible for falsehoods being spread by his school?
You are aware that the state of obliged to provide for the education of all children living in Washington state. The spreading of falsehoods being engaged in at Tumwater constitutes miseducation, not meaningful and helpful education.
Of course, even if the statistics being used at Tumwater were replaced by truthful statistics about the rate of sexual assault of minor girls, those truthful statistics would still be misleading to many members of the public. The reason is that the definition used legally or in social science for sexual assault includes such incidents as 5th to 8th graders swatting the butts of others in school hallways. Though such incidents are counted as sexual assaults, many members of the public, men and women, would be reluctant to use the term sexual assault to describe those incidents, for they consider them as not crimes or so slight as to be not properly considered in the same category as attempted rape or rape.
However, even if all that the people at Tumwater do is to produce a video with truthful statistics, they and the state would be better off . . . I do believe if they wish to produce a video with the 11.5% rate of sexual assault or some other similar number produced by a credible study, they might also make themselves available for interviews on the subject of what portion of the rate of sexual assault of girls is the result of 8th grade butt swatting or bra strap snapping.