Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Columnist: it is 'dangerous' to assert that 'all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes'

In the wake of Rep. Todd Akin's scientifically incorrect assertion that "legitimate rapes" don't end in pregnancy, Politico reporter Dave Catanese tweeted the following, among many other things:

"So perhaps some can agree that all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes? Or are we gonna really deny that for PC sake?"

Apparently Catanese shouldn't have said that. A writer at mediaite.com named Tommy Christopher doesn't like the fact that Catanese dared to raise the issue of false rape claims:

". . . there is a part of Catonese’s defense of Akin that actually is dangerous on its own, in much the same way that Akin’s remarks themselves were. Akin’s use of the term 'legitimate,' as in authentic, conveyed the idea that some rapes aren’t actually rapes, and Catonese reinforced that notion by tweeting 'So perhaps some can agree that all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes? Or are we gonna really deny that for PC sake?'

"While not technically inaccurate, Catonese’s tweet gives the impression that there is a widespread problem with over-reporting of rapes, when the fact is that, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), less than half of all rapes are reported, while only 12% of rapes result in an arrest, 5% in felony convictions, and 3% in jail time. 54% of rapes are not reported, while according to the FBI, only 8% of rape cases are classified as “unfounded,” a definition that, in true circular fashion, relies on sick, Akin/Ryan-ian logic:
This statistic is almost meaningless, as many of the jurisdictions from which the FBI collects data on crime use different definitions of, or criteria for, “unfounded.” That is, a report of rape might be classified as unfounded (rather than as forcible rape) if the alleged victim did not try to fight off the suspect, if the alleged perpetrator did not use physical force or a weapon of some sort, if the alleged victim did not sustain any physical injuries, or if the alleged victim and the accused had a prior sexual relationship. Similarly, a report might be deemed unfounded if there is no physical evidence or too many inconsistencies between the accuser’s statement and what evidence does exist. As such, although some unfounded cases of rape may be false or fabricated, not all unfounded cases are false.
"In a culture that is already unfriendly to rape-reporting, Catonese has a duty to make these facts clear, and rather than firing him, Politico ought to make sure he does it."

Tommy Christopher's comments, and his stats, are disingenuous because they don't tell the whole story, for reasons we've recently blogged about here. As we explained, it is disingenuous to assert that less than ten percent of all rape claims are "false" without also explaining that the majority of reported rape claims can't be classified as rapes. No serious study, not even Dr. Lisak's, has ever refuted that assertion.

Catonese apparently learned how "dangerous" his comments were. Yesterday he tweeted: “Re last night: Bad idea trying to have nuanced conversation on highly charged issue on here. Did not intend to take a side. Lesson learned.”

At COTWA, we go to great lengths to make clear our profound concern for rape victims. Fighting the evils of both rape and of wrongful rape claims is not, and should never be, a zero sum game, and there is no necessity to trivialize the victimization caused by one in advocating for the victims of the other. 

But please, Mr. Christopher, do not try to demonize anyone who dares to talk about false rape claims by invoking Rep. Todd Akins.