Saturday, February 20, 2010

The underreporting lie

We were told rape was underreported and that reforms were needed, so we adopted an avalanche of reforms. Now they tell us underreporting is worse than ever, so more reforms are needed. The fact is, they don't know if rape is underreported, but they insist it is to further a political agenda.

Prior to the great wave of rape reforms starting in the 1970s, rape advocates reported, with seemingly infinite invention, that women were too scared, too embarrassed, too certain of its futility to report their own rapes. Rape was universally considered to be underreported, and everyone agreed that reforms were needed to do justice to countless women who suffered in silence the brutal indignity of rape.

The statistics supporting the conclusion that underreporting existed were, of course, a moving target. In 1974, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration said there were somewhere around three times more rapes than were actually reported. But rape was not the most underreported crime -- larceny, burglary, aggravated assault, robbery and auto theft all had greater incidences of underreporting. As time went on, the rape advocates got their act together and made certain that their underreporting metanarrative became the official party line. A 1983 story in Time Magazine reported that the Department of Justice calculated that 56% of all rapes were reported. But rape "experts" deemed that number too high, Time said:
"Only 3.5% to 10% of rapes are reported, according to an aggregate of surveys done by the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI and the National Opinion Research Center." The one-in-ten figure gained widespread currency. See this 1977 report and this 1981 report.

The insistence that rape was underreported, and that women don't lie about rape, led to an avalanche of reforms in both law and public policy -- a cavalcade of changes applicable to no other alleged crime that made it much easier both to report the crime and to convict accused criminals. These included rape shield laws that forbid inquiring into the accuser's sexual past with persons other than the defendant; elimination of the requirement of corroboration, thus allowing a conviction for rape based on no evidence beyond the accuser's say so; the elimination of the requirements of force and resistance; the law allowing husbands to be convicted of raping their wives; the law eliminating use of polygraphs for sexual assault accusers but no other criminal complainant; lifetime anonymity for persons who make rape accusations; the law allowing admission in a rape trial of evidence that the defendant previously committed a rape (the prior rape is admitted if proven by just a preponderance of the evidence, and even if the defendant was previously acquitted of the charge); the trend to abolish and eliminate statutes of limitations for rape, thus allowing a purported victim to wait for an indefinite time to make a rape accusation; compensation for UK victims of even non-forcible rape, and "over the clothing" sex acts, no matter how slight their injuries, but not for men falsely accused of rape, no matter how egregious their harm; all manner of counseling and assistance for rape accusers funded by tax and tuition dollars; and the rule on many college campuses that rape accusers can't be charged with underage drinking in connection with the accusation.

While these reforms made it easier to cry rape and to convict for rape, they also made it easier to falsely cry rape and to wrongly convict for rape. While these reforms were occurring, there were no reforms whatsoever to protect the presumed innocent who, too often, turn out to have been falsely accused. The typically minimal sentences for false rape reporting were not enlarged; no effort was made to insure that law enforcement charge false rape claims as crimes, and they rarely do; and no effort was made to protect men's reputations from false rape claims by maintaining their anonymity prior to conviction. Society handed women and girls unprecedented power not only to bring their rapists to justice, but to destroy the lives of innocent males merely by crying rape, but it didn't bother to consider what should be done if they abuse that power. The falsely accused were offered up on the altar of gender political correctness as a twisted sort of collateral damage in the war on rape.

But surely these massive reforms must have cut into underreporting of rape? Surely after decades of one reform after the next to encourage women to come forward, the women must be lining up, right? Well, no, we are told. By the early 90s, alleged underreporting was still a major problem: "In a large national survey of American women, only 16% of the rapes (approximately one out of every six) had ever been reported to the police. Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, National Victim Center, 1992 ." By the mid-90s, the picture wasn't any better: "In 1994-1995, only 251,560 rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials -- less than one in every three. (National Crime Victimization Survey, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1996.)"

Today, on college campuses, the supposed hotbed for modern rape, alleged underreporting could scarcely be worse. In fact, very few rape victims do report: "Ninety five percent of students who are sexually assaulted remain silent." And ". . . more than 95 percent of sexually victimized students don’t report to police or campus officials." See also here.

Underreporting has gotten worse, not better.

What is going on here? Society has bent over backwards to invent all manner of special rules applicable only to rape claims to make reporting easier than ever, yet women still aren't coming forward, we are told. Why not?

And if the reforms don't work, let's do away with them because they place innocent men at risk.

The fact is, no one knows the precise extent of underreporting, and they never did. The "proof" posited for underreporting ranges from unreliable to nonexistent. Yet underreporting is wielded like a sword to continually push for more and more and more rape reforms, and some of the reformers won't be satisfied until rape accusers are named both judge and jury in the trials of their accusations. While it makes sense that some actual rape victims don't report rape for a variety of reasons, it is by no means clear what that number might be, or if it even approaches the number of women who report false rapes. While it makes sense that some women don't want to undergo a "second rape" at the hands of the justice system by reporting (although that fear is by now wholly unwarranted), that fear certainly doesn't stop the false accusers from "coming forward," now does it? Why is that? All of the assertions that insist underreporting is a reality are premised on the assumption that every report of rape was an actual rape, and the same goes for every alleged unreported rape. That assumption doesn't just strain credulity, it shatters it into a thousand pieces. Let us be brutally frank: for many who insist underreporting is a reality, their proof is akin to asserting that underreporting must exist because no one is reporting all of these rapes that must be occurring -- thus proving rampant underreporting. Get it? Neither do I.

A recent law review article that appeared in the New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement explains that the politicization of rape renders it impossible to discern whether underreporting even exists. J. Fennel, Punishment by Another Name: The Inherent Overreaching in Sexually Dangerous Person Commitments 35 N.E. J. on Crim. & Civ. Con. 37, 49-51 (2009). Excerpt here.

Alleged rampant underreporting is touted as a fact in order to advance a politicized agenda. It is not based in reality. On campus, underreporting is trumpeted by the same angry, despicable forces of gender political correctness that vilify maleness itself, especially when maleness is packaged in white skin. The truth is being held hostage by radical feminist ideology. Let's have an honest, objective look at both rape and false rape claims, which, I am certain, will show that the former is not nearly as prevalent as the sexual grievance industry insists, and the latter not only is far more common, but becoming more and more prevalent because it is not deterred. An honest look at these issues will promote a greater respect for the rights of the presumed innocent, many of whom are, in fact, falsely accused; moreover, it will enhance the credibility of actual rape victims, which has been badly hurt by decades of doing nothing about false rape claims.