23 September 2018

Women Refuse To Report Rape--But The "System" Is NOT To Blame

The "#MeToo" movement shone a media spotlight on workplace sexual harassment. Now Christine Blasey Ford is shining a media spotlight on sexual assault.  Social media even has a hashtag, "#WhyIDidntReport", as women share unreported sexual assault experiences.

What are the facts about reporting of rape and the prosecution of rape?
  1. According to RAINN (Rape And Incest National Network), only 310 of every 1,000 rapes are reported. For comparison, 627 of every 1,000 assaults are reported, and 619 out of every 1,000 robberies are reported. 
  2. Of 310 reported rapes, 57 (20%) result in an arrest, and 11 (3.5%) proceed to prosecution. For robberies, the percentages are 27% and 6%, respectively, and for assaults the percentages are 40.7% and 16.7%, respectively.
  3. Of every 11 prosecutions for rape, 7, or 63.6%, result in conviction. The conviction rates for robberies and assaults are 59.4% and 39%, respectively.
  4. The average sentence for sexual assault is between 8 and 9 years, nationwide (Note: this is a broad average and does not distinguish among categories of sexual assault).
  5. The reasons given for not reporting rape and sexual assault generally are as follows:
    • 20% feared retaliation
    • 13% believed the police would not do anything to help
    • 13% believed it was a personal matter
    • 8% reported to a different official
    • 8% believed it was not important enough to report
    • 7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble
    • 2% believed the police could not do anything to help
    • 30% gave another reason, or did not cite one reason
The reasons for not reporting deserve discussion. 

48% of unreported rapes are for reasons unique to the victim. 8% of unreported rapes are reported to someone besides law enforcement. Together, over half of unreported rapes are a simple choice not to report them to police. 

Only 15% of unreported rapes are because the victim believes the police can or will do nothing about the crime. 

These statistics prove that most who do not report a rape do not believe the legal system will ignore them.

The facts prove a prosecution for rape is more likely to result in a conviction than one for either robbery or assault. With a decade of incarceration the likely result from such a conviction, the facts also prove the prosecution of rape is taken very seriously in this country. 

The facts also prove that building the case for prosecution is far more problematic for rape than for robbery or assault. Rape cases are simply more difficult than robbery or assault cases. Still, when people make a credible case for their accusations of rape, they are the most likely of crime victims to see justice done.

Here we must acknowledge a fundamental truth: our criminal justice system is not an arbiter of truth. It is not intended to be. Our entire legal system focuses on two outcomes at trial: proven and unproven. 

This is why criminal verdicts are returned as either "guilty" or "not guilty". The verdict does not offer any commentary on the truth of a charge, merely on the evidence given. As David French points out in the National Review:
Anyone who tells you that we can statistically peg the number of “false” rape claims is peddling a fatally flawed statistic. There’s a simple reason why: Our system does not adjudicate whether a claim is true or false. It adjudicates burdens of proof. 
French highlights a study showing that 44.9% of reported rape cases were classified as "Case Did Not Proceed", the criteria for which were defined as follows:
This classification was applied if the report of a sexual assault did not result in a referral for prosecution or disciplinary action because of insufficient evidence or because the victim withdrew from the process or was unable to identify the perpetrator or because the victim mislabeled the incident (e.g., gave a truthful account of the incident, but the incident did not meet the legal elements of the crime of sexual assault).
If one excludes cases that did not proceed from the statistics, the percentages of rape reports leading to arrest and trial are higher than those for robbery. If we impute the reasons for non-reporting as potential reasons for victims withdrawing from the process, then half of the cases that do not proceed potentially are because the victim backs out. If we exclude half of the "do not proceed" cases from the statistics, the rape reports leading to arrest and trial are on par with robbery. By that measure, rape victims who report the crime to the police have the same expectation of justice as any other crime victim.

All this is speculation, but it serves to make clear a brutal reality about reporting rape: the lack of criminal sanction for rape stems mainly from the choices of rape victims either to not report or to not proceed. 

The choice to report a crime is a personal choice. The essence of liberty is choice. The essence of freedom is choice. A free people must be allowed to make choices for themselves, including the choice to report or not report rape. 

However, no choice is free from consequence, good and bad. Consequence always proceeds from choice. People must choose whether or not to report rape, but that choice determine the consequences they will have.

When rapes are reported, the system does respond. Even those who choose not to report acknowledge this. When there is evidence, the system works more for rape victims than for other victims of violent crime. The statistics prove this.

Another fact deserves mention: 0% of unreported crimes result in arrests, trials, or convictions. When crimes are not reported, the guilty are guaranteed to go free; with crimes are reported, their odds of escaping incarceration decline significantly. This is true even for rape cases. 

When people refuse to report rape and then proclaim that "the system" is somehow broken, they argue an absurdity. Refusing to report rape--or any crime--prevents the legal system from working. Refusing to report gives the criminal a free pass, something the legal system would not do.

#WhyIDidntReport should really be #WhyIConsented.

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