Hockey: the cure for rape?

Hi! Here’s a table of reported sexual offences for the city of Vancouver for a particular group of months.

Sex Offences in Vancouver (city), Apr-Jul, 2004-11

If you adjust the figures slightly for Vancouver’s population growth and look at the annual playoff progress of the city’s beloved Canucks, what you’ll find is that you can’t use these numbers to prove much of a link between NHL hockey and sexual violence. But if there is one, it’s probably negative. July is (at a high level of statistical significance) the worst month for sexual offences; it’s also the only one of these months in which hockey is never played. In months during which the Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, the rate of sexual offences was, on average, more than 20% lower than in other months. There were more sex offences in months with less hockey even if you correct for pure date effects, and the lockout year (2005) had a higher rate of sex offences than either the year following or the year prior.

If I took these data nuggets and attempted to argue from them that hockey prevents sexual violence, you would probably not be impressed. (Indeed, it would probably occur to you that reports of sexual offence are a poor proxy for the overall level of sex violence in the population.) Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning, even in much weaker and less rigorous form, isn’t a problem for Laura Robinson and the Winnipeg Free Press. (For fine details of the horror, see Tyler Dellow’s reaction to Robinson. For other examples of Wade Belak’s death being used irresponsibly in sociological arguments, simply pick up absolutely any Canadian newspaper at all.)

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