Warning: The following discusses rape, victimization, and dehumanization. Read at your own discretion.
The following are statistics reported by the National Crime Victimization Survey for 2010:
- In 2010 there were 188,380 reports of rape and/or sexual assault in the United States.
- More than half of rape and sexual assault crimes take place between 6pm and 6am.
- Female[presenting people] are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault (182,000) than male [presenting people] (40,000).
- Most victims of rape or sexual assault are female [presenting people] younger than 24 years of age.
- Most rapes committed against women[-identifying people] are committed by an intimate partner (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend) or someone else they know (friend, family member, acquaintance).
These statistics are five years old, and unfortunately the U.S. has not seen a drop in these numbers. We can only assume then that these numbers have continued to grow, as Rape Apologists and Incredulity give support (intentional or not) to the actions of rapists and assailants.
In 2014 Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” which polarized readers due its violent and graphic account of a gang-rape at a university. Shortly afterward, an investigation into the story seemed to determine that the survivor falsified the report for sensationalism.
Whether or not that is the case, we see the overarching problem clearly illustrated by the American Public’s eagerness to believe that the story and facts did not match up and that the survivor lied. In general this eagerness to believe that rape accounts are lies stems from a desire to believe that awful things like rape just don’t happen. No one wants to hear that someone they knew personally, or looked up to as a role model, has violated the sacredness of another person’s body. For some reason we find it easier to believe that it didn’t happen, that he/she/ze/they is making up the story to get attention or for revenge; anything to avoid having to deal with the reality that the rapist has not only failed to live up our expectations, but has crushed them.
During an investigation, “The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching his shows, consuming his books or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly. The cost of disbelieving [the accuser], on the other hand, is far steeper. It signals that that [they] don’t matter and that they are disposable — not only to frat boys and Bill Cosby, but to us. And they face a special set of problems in having their say.” ~Zerlina Maxwell, Washington Post.
Not believing the survivor tells others that if they come forward they won’t be believed, so that eventually no one wants to come forward because they don’t want to go through the rigors of an investigation, which includes things like rape kits, testimonies, trials, being slut shamed, etc… When you aren’t going to be believed the thought of enduring the investigation becomes unbearable, so why bother? This is why we estimate that 68 percent of rapes are never reported.
We need to create a culture where people don’t feel that they can’t report violations of their sanctity, a culture where people are believed when reported and their is real justice, a culture where the person who was raped is treated like a person, where the person who committed the rape is still treated like a person who can be shown the error of their ways, a culture where this doesn’t happen. Which is what my next post will address.