There’s been a lot of ill-informed speculation about “dubious” rape statistics on college campuses lately. Here’s something to consider regarding our national understanding of rape: police departments continue to undercount and miscategorize rape allegations, the result being that for decades the actual counts of cases of sexual assault have been and continue to be suppressed.
Earlier this month, a 911 dispatcher in Ohio was recorded telling a 20-year-old woman who had just been raped to “quit crying.” After she provided a description of her assailant, the caller went on to say, “They’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.” This incident had its viral moment, sparking outrage at the dispatcher’s lack of empathy. But it also speaks to the larger issue of how we are counting rapes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of police departments surveyed in 2012 said that dispatchers like this one, often with little training, are authorized to do the initial coding of sexual assault crimes.
That’s important, because miscoding of such crimes is masking the high incidence of rape in the United States. We don’t have an overestimation of rape; we have a gross underestimation. A thorough analysis of federal data published earlier this year by Corey Rayburn Yung, associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, concludes that between 1995 and 2012, police departments across the country systematically undercounted and underreported sexual assaults.
Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.
That’s more than 1 million rapes.
How are police departments undercounting sexual assault? (See details for all points below here in this piece in The Nation.)
- One of the primary ways is that officers discount victim testimony, categorizing complaints as “unfounded” or reclassifying allegations of rape as “noncriminal” minor offenses.
- Second, police departments have been found to destroy records and ignore or mishandle evidence, which leads not only to undercounting but dismissal of cases. Many of the jurisdictions showing consistent undercounting are also, unsurprisingly, those with rape kit backlogs (there are more than 400,000 untested kits in the United States). After being publicly shamed for having abandoned more than 11,000 rape kits, the Michigan State Police began testing them, identifying 100 serial rapists as a result.
- Third, police departments continue to ignore rapes of women thought of as “fringe,” including prostitutes, runaways, transwomen, drug addicts and people considered transient. Women of color in particular face difficulties. For example, for years, women repeatedly went to the police in Cleveland to report that Anthony Sowell had raped, beaten or otherwise violently assaulted them at his house. Little was done until 2009, when police finally found eleven decomposing bodies of women there.
- Fourth, people making complaints are often harassed out of pursing them. In 2012, the police department of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, was held liable in a case in which police accused a reporting victim of lying during her interview, at one point telling her, “Your tears won’t save you now,” and failing to pursue the investigation. In St. Louis, victims were strongly urged by police to sign Sexual Assault Victim Waivers absolving police from responsibility to investigate or report the crime as a rape to the FBI. Victims of sexual assault routinely encounter hostility, doubt and aggressive questioning. When they do not conform to officers’ preconceived ideas about how rape victims “should” act, officers’ implicit biases come into play and, as a result, victims often feel they are the ones being investigated. These issues are often compounded by racism. Native American women, who suffer the highest rates of sexual assault in the country, describe being questioned about mental illness, drug use, alcohol abuse and more when reporting assaults. While some jurisdictions have substantially improved their policies, with many women reporting compassionate treatment by police, many others continue to report the opposite.
Police officers display the same implicit biases as the general public, a tendency also evident at colleges and universities, where campus police are often more focused on investigating the credibility of victims than in whether or not their vulnerability was exploited in a predatory way. Interestingly, the longer an officer has worked in a sexual assault unit, the less likely he or she is to believe in false claims.Here’s what’s very interesting:
- A majority of detectives with between one and seven years of experience believe that 40 percent of claims are false—in some cases that number is as high as 80 percent.
- But among officers with more than eight years’ experience, the rate drops precipitously, to 10 percent. On campus or off, these beliefs persist, despite the fact that rates of false allegations of rape are well understood by criminologists and other social scientists to be between 2 percent and 8 percent, in line with false allegations of other crimes.
In the meantime, as Yung puts it, “the sheer magnitude of the missing data…is staggering.” Of course, we need far more than improved police work, and undercounting is only part of the problem. Even when cases are properly recorded and investigated, the patterns evidenced in Yung’s analysis and the PERF report are reproduced in courtrooms, where rapists in most states still have the right to sue for custody of the children born of their assaults. And only 3 percent of rapists are ever imprisoned—that’s a crime we aren’t talking about.
Yung believes that these statistical distortions have significantly altered the nation’s historical record and understanding of rape in America.
Yung’s report, by the way, is titled “How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America’s Hidden Rape Crisis.”
- 2 weeks ago
- 1 month ago
- 6 months ago
A man is 631 times more likely to become an NFL player than to be falsely accused of rape.
"We end on a serious note. Because 1 in 33 men will be raped in his lifetime, men are 82,000x more likely to be raped than falsely accused of rape. It seems many of us would do well to pay more attention to how rape culture affects us all than be paranoid about false accusers.”
that last paragraph
A short paragraph about why MRAs are full of shit and don’t even care about men’s rights.
- 7 months ago
"Sex offenders minimize their number of victims. Speaking with 99 male sex offenders, court records showed 136 victims between them, but later during treatment, they eventually confessed to 959 victims between them."
huh weird so rapists are, like, lying about the number of people they’ve raped but all we can focus on are those damn hypothetical lying women who lied about being assaulted? lying liars lying all the time damn women lying. there’s a bigger lie in our midst, it would seem
HEY LOOK ITS ALMOST AS IF ABUSERS ARE A TERRIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR ABUSE MINDBLOWING
- 9 months ago
"Perhaps to some teaching “rape is wrong” seems silly—don’t we all know this already? The truth is we don’t—as a country, we don’t really even understand what rape is. In Steubenville, a student who had learned that drunk driving was wrong—he took car keys away from an inebriated friend—looked on while an unconscious girl was penetrated because “it wasn’t violent…I thought [rape] was forcing yourself on someone.”"
- 10 months ago
possibly triggery, so trigger warning for sexual assault?
good links about the difference between men and women when it comes to rape culture: the original essay is here (it’s about proto-rapists and the insidiousness of rape culture and it is fantastic), but this anecdote in the comments section stood out for me:
Not surprisingly, I have a story? It’s pretty long, and I’m sorry.
This is long but you should read it anyway. And then read it again.Source: captainawkward.com
- 10 months ago
- 10 months ago
"A friend of mine was recently cornered in her building doorway, late at night, by a total stranger who “just wanted to take her out for a drink”. She said “No” several times, in increasing alarm, and finally he grabbed her arm and asked “Why not?”. She said, “Because you’re obviously not listening when I say no right now, so I can’t expect you to listen to anything else I say no to.”
To her total shock, he looked appalled, let go of her, apologized, and left. As far as she could tell, it had not occurred to him that cornering a stranger, grabbing her arm, and insisting she go get a drink with him might be seen as the sort of thing a rapist would do."
This happened to me a few months ago at 8AM on a Sunday while I was reading and had both sunglasses and headphones on. I counted the times I implicitly (“I’d just like to read my book”) or explicitly (“please just leave me alone, I don’t want to talk to you”) told him no, and I reached EIGHTEEN before I decided to jump on a train that wasn’t even mine to escape him because he kept trying to touch me even when I said very firmly ‘don’t touch me’.
See? It’s not always because we don’t say ‘no’ clearly enough - sometimes they just don’t want to hear it.
He followed me onto the train. He sat down next to me, kept trying to talk, and with a train full of people (mostly men) I told him loudly and firmly to ‘leave me alone’. He didn’t, no one said anything, no one looked up, in fact I’m pretty sure they were trying to look anywhere else. He asked why I was being such a bitch, why I wouldn’t agree to just go out for a drink, why I thought I was ‘pretty enough’ to just ignore him. Feeling close to hysterical I shouted at him “I’ve said ‘no’ about forty fucking times and you’re still forcing yourself on me - are you a rapist-in-training or just a massive cunt?”
He said I was crazy, that I was probably on my period, and got off at the next stop. No one asked me if I was okay, no one helped me, and the only people that looked at me were giving me those ‘why did you have to ruin my train journey with all that noise?’ looks.
Men who get upset with women who are ‘rude’ when you try to hit on them - THIS IS WHY.
THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THANK YOU!!!
I work with a guy who’s younger than me but taller than me. He found out that I was ticklish, so he decided to tickle me as a form of greeting. Every day. For seven weeks. Every single time he tried to tickle me, I said no. I said stop. I said go away, I don’t like being tickled, because guess what, I don’t like being tickled unless A) You are family or B) We are going out. Despite my many, verbal, physical, and otherwise obvious protests (“Stop” “Go away” “No”), he continued.
He only stopped when a male friend of mine intervened. But the moment my friend left, he would continue tickling me. The tickling escalated from mildly annoying to frightening, because he just wouldn’t fucking stop. He did stop at last though when I confronted him yesterday. In the middle of him tickling me, I shoved him away, and said, “Stop tickling me. I seriously hate it. I have told you a million times to stop, and you haven’t. If you don’t stop, I will never speak to you again, and I will report you to my supervisor.”
That got him to stop. The tickling wasn’t life-threatening, and I doubt he tickled me out of malicious intent, but what truly bothered me was how he thought I was joking or not serious all those times I told him to stop. What truly bothered me was how he continued tickling him, even when I told him to stop.
Boys are taught from a young, young age that girls play “hard to get,” and that if we say no, we really mean yes. This is rape culture.
- 1 year ago
During the time that we have been members of the tumblr community we have seen you all band together to change people’s lives in big and small ways. You’ve helped someone get a fluffy chicken and you’ve donated to make sure people you’ve never even met don’t become homeless or can get the medical care they need. You’ve created movements and petitions, made phone calls and written letters to fight injustice and bring light to issues that the rest of the world seems to be ignoring. We have been so happy to be part of a community that has done so much, and now we need your help.
With less and less funding coming from the federal and state governments to support organizations like ours we have been struggling like many other Rape Crisis Centers, however it’s gotten a lot worse for us in recent weeks. Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee’s recent grant losses and budgetary strains have combined into a financial crisis. Although we have made every effort to conserve money and have cut back in every conceivable area we are still unable to meet some of our financial obligations and keep up with operating costs.
We are calling on anyone who supports our mission to help us in any way they can. We have served rape and sexual violence victims, survivors and their families in East Tennessee for forty years, we are the second longest running rape crisis center in the nation, and our goal is to continue on for forty more. With your help we can. SACET serves 15 counties in East Tennessee, we never have and never will charge survivors or their loved ones for our services.
We are seeking donations both large and small and we want you to know that 90% of any donation we receive goes to direct client services which include nursing care, legal and personal advocacy, therapy, and community education. The other 10% helps up fulfill administrative operating costs.
As always we are deeply grateful for the support of our community and the individuals who share in and support our mission to help victims heal from and bring an end to sexual violence.We don’t have a lot of followers on tumblr but those we do have are a truly amazing group. We know not all of you can afford to donate and would never ask you to stretch your own finances thin for us, but please spread the word if you can.
You can donate on our website here, call 867-558-9040 to donate over the phone, or by check to SACET 6215 kingston Pike, Suie A, Knoxville TN, 37919.
Reblogging for the night crowd-
This is a great center that helps a TON of people in my area and a big chunk of surrounding areas. There is literally nothing else here to help survivors if the center can’t operate.Source: sacet