Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rape advocates: stop being dishonest about the prevalence of rape

This post will illustrate a point we try to make often.  Please follow me -- this isn't about false claims per se; it's about the fact that we don't know what percentage of all rape claims are actual rapes, so rape advocates shouldn't pretend they do. 

Rape "experts" have no difficulty tossing out a definite percentage of actual and false claims.  Some are stuck on the two percent false claims (which is a lie); others say 9 percent.  They thereby suggest that since 2 or 9 percent are false, the other 98 or 91 percent must be actual rapes.

Let's not mince words: it's a lie.  But it's what they do, and we must be vigilant about it.

I repeatedly make the point that we are reasonably certain that some rape reports were actual rapes; and that some were false claims. However, the majority of rape claims fall in that big, gray area that defies certainty. 

Rape advocates wrongly, and disingenuously, suggest that the big, gray area must be comprised of actual claims.

But let's talk reality.  Let's pretend we are reasonbly certain that 15 percent are false, and that 15 percent were actual rapes -- we do not know about the rest.  So how should we characterize the percentage of false claims?  Should it be 15%?  Only if we make clear that we only know that only 15% were likely actual rape. Rape advocates don't do that: they say that "only 15% of all rape claims are false," suggesting that the other 85% were actual rapes. So to avoid the lies, we should insist that they only talk about the ones of which we are reasonably certain.  Thus, in my example: 50% of all rape claims of which we are reasonably certain are false.

To illustrate this big, gray area, here's a snapshot of one city, Saginaw, for 2009. It's not a typical American city because it is very violent.  There were 119 incidents of criminal sexual conduct (which includes penetration) investigated in 2009:  "Of those, the city pursued 22 arrest warrants, closed 22 for lack of leads, deemed 17 unfounded and continue to actively investigate 35. Another 13 involved uncooperative victims, while 10 await evidence analysis . . . ."

Of all those investigations, the city pursued arrest warrants for 18.5% of the reports.  But 43.7% were closed for "lack of leads," or because they were "unfounded" (which usually include both claims that are false for which there were insufficient evidence) or involved uncooperative victims.  About 37.8% are still being investigated.

How many of these are reasonably certain to be false?  We can't tell from these stats.  We would be speculating if we tossed out a figure.

But how many are reasonably certain to be actual rapes?  Well, we don't know that, either. Perhaps some of the 18.5% referenced above, perhaps more, perhaps less.

You see where this is going: we have no idea how many actual rapes were committed, or the actual percentage.  But it is grossly dishonest to suggest, for example, that "only" 14% of all rape claims are "unfounded" (thereby suggesting that the other 86% were actual rapes).

That is the kind of lie rape advocates tell.