I attended a rather liberal college in the 90’s, years which might be the high water mark for feminist thought in America. It was a cozy supportive environment that gave people the chance to – maybe, in a very safe environment – talk about the things that we do not talk about. I showed up for protests and even organized some, but I missed plenty and would never have heard about an event called Take Back the Night! except that my girlfriend at the time dragged me to it. Women and their supportive male friends marched around campus for a few hours letting people know that they were not afraid to walk around campus in large groups. Or something. To be honest I got bored in a hurry.
The thing that might make my campus unique is that the march ended up in a little plaza with a mic and some rented speakers set up. Everyone settled down and after a minute or two someone walked up to the mic and told her story of being raped. Then another student stood up and told hers. A half hour passed and people had formed a sort of line for the mic, and those were only the people forward enough to step up and not wait for a quiet moment or a gentle push from a friend. Some talked about boyfriends. Some (many) talked about relatives. Others talked about hookups gone incredibly bad or strangers at a party or friends of friends. Men and women spoke.
The event left me speechless and crying. It was not so much any single story (those were bad enough); it was the numbers that killed me. It was a small campus and I could never imagine how many people whose faces I knew had the cast iron stones to stand up and tell it to strangers. How many people came but chose not to speak, and how many people could have come but did not, certainly represented an order of magnitude more.
A few years later I saw a play called Hysteria. Dr. Freud, it argued, in fact discovered how truly prevalent sexual abuse was in the Austria of his time, but the implications scared the shit out of him so he came up with elaborate alternatives (penis envy and so on) as a comfortable, bogus framework to explain away his obvious but dangerous observations. It would sound silly except, after what I heard that night, christ, I believe it.
All of which is to say that I doubt this new survey will surprise many people who have experience talking with their friends about the things we do not talk about.