That would seem to be the conclusion from this report about the incidence of sexual assault in Vietnamese clothing factories. That the level of abuse is even worse than that in American colleges:
Female factory workers producing clothing and shoes in Vietnam – many probably for major US and European brands – face systemic sexual harassment and violence at work, the Observer can reveal. Nearly half (43.1%) of 763 women interviewed in factories in three Vietnamese provinces said they had suffered at least one form of violence and/or harassment in the previous year, according to a study by the Fair Wear Foundation and Care International out on Monday. The abuse – which ranged from groping and slapping to rape and threats of contract termination – sheds a light on working conditions endured by women in some Vietnamese factories with as many as 20,000 employees, said Dr Jane Pillinger, a gender-based violence expert and author of the study.
Note the definition there. This is not only rape being included. Nor even just sexual abuse. This is also violence – and violence does not need to be gender based. And there’s more than that too. Contract termination? A threat of being fired is included there.
So, to ask Thomas Sowell’s question, compared to what?
Many college women say their experiences after being sexually assaulted — often in date rape situations — illustrate a culture of indifference and denial that results in one in five young women being assaulted during their college years.
Note again the definition. That’s not rape, that’s all sexual assault. And if we knock off violence and contract termination threats then we are at least in the same sort of ballpark, aren’t we?
While the rate of violent crime against higher education students aged 18–24 in the United States declined significantly from 1995 to 2002, the rates of rape and other sexual assault largely remained the same. Estimates of sexual assault, which vary based on definitions and methodology, range from 0.61% of female students sexually assaulted annually to 19–27% of college women and 6–8% of college men sexually assaulted during their time in college.
It’s that variation on definition that matters, obviously enough.
Of course, one rape is one too many, sexual assaults are not something we encourage, far from it. Yet we don’t believe those higher estimates of college assault for the simple reason that American parents keep sending their daughters to college. Something that wouldn’t be happening if there really were levels of sexual violence more associated with war-torn Congo than anywhere else. Or the Red Army’s invasion of Germany in 1944/5. The definition of sexual assault being used is so wide as to become meaningless in those college numbers. Not quite but damn close to he looked at me funny and there are certainly those who would – and do – argue that being asked for a date can be an assault.
Which gives us a guide to those Vietnamese factories. It’s the definition that matters. Contract termination being lumped in with rape? Treat these numbers as the colei* they are.