When I was in college at Brown University, there was a date rape case that received national media attention thanks to John Stossel at 20/20. The campus was in an uproar over whether or not a male student had sexually assaulted a female student while they were both allegedly intoxicated. The story quickly devolved into a he-said, she-said fiasco, and the narrative around the story was about whether women lied about being raped and whether women who drank deserved what they got. The larger story was quickly forgotten.
At the time, I was enraged by this, and wrote a very appropriate, impassioned argument to our student newspaper about the real facts about sexual assault.
Here is an excerpt:
In the ten minutes it takes a Brown student to read the opinion section of the BDH, 13 women are raped. That adds up to 78 per hour, 1871 a day, 56,916 per month, and 683,000 American women every year.
…But let’s break this number down even further. 61% of all forcible rapes take place BEFORE the age of 18…One third of all rape victims will develop Post Traumatic Stress disorder, 6.2 times the amount of women who have never been victimized. One third of rape victims will seriously consider suicide, 13% will actually make an attempt. Women who have been raped are much more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
The false reporting rate of rape is approximately 2%, similar to other crimes. This statistic is given by the FBI. Most of the time, women do not even press charges. The FBI estimates that 1 out of 10 women reports sexual assault. Out of 100 assaults, 10 are reported. Men’s fear of false accusations in no way compare to a woman’s fear of getting raped. In fact, even if the report is false, the accused has little need to worry. Out of the ten which are reported, only three go to trial and only one ends in conviction…It would be interesting to see what percentage of correctly accused rapes make the front page of college newspapers for more than a semester compared to the percentage of false accusations.
I wrote this in 1997. Here we are, 12 years later, talking about Roman Polanski with much the same uproar. Leslie Morgan Steiner wrote an editorial for CNN quoting very similar statistics:
But if you share the opinion that Polanski committed a victimless
crime, let me ask you to think about the women and girls in your life
— your mother, your daughter, your sister, yourself. In the United
States each year nearly 250,000 women and girls over the age of 12 are
the victims of sexual assault, rape and attempted rape, according to
the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Only 6 percent of
rapists will ever spend a single day in jail. Ninety percent of rape
victims are female. Fifteen percent of sexual assault
victims are under age 12 and 93 percent of these juvenile sexual
assault victims know their attackers personally. The number of rapes
has declined in past decades but any such violence is unacceptable.
I was outraged in 1997 that our national conversation about rape and sexual assault conveniently forgot the statistics and facts. I am even more outraged today. The media should know better. Hollywood directors should know better. We all should know better. It's time for a new story about this issue, and we need men and women to create one together.