Lies, Damn Lies, and Rape

“there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” 

- Mark Twain

Statistics matter to us.  We draw so much from them.  We often shape our truth around them.  Take rape for instance.  The FBI has drawn up statistics each year for this horrible crime.  The one problem is that they were absolutely inaccurate statistics based on an antiquatedly narrow definition.

Rape = “Carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

This is the absolute breadth that guides what to include and what not to.  This doesn’t include men.  This doesn’t include non-forcible coercion, which is so often the case with rape by family or close friends.

Decades ago, police departments across the nation had implemented accurate terms and definitions.  They had to in order to address crime properly.  But it took the FBI 82 years.  That’s how serious our government is about dealing with this all-too-common and atrocious violation.

As much as I want to give the FBI a pat on the back, I really just want to understand why it took so long.  It’s just unfortunate that we sometimes let the law and their definitions define our reality.  That’s why this really matters at all.  This will put the FBI statistics on rape just a tiny bit closer to  the reality of what is actually happening in our communities today.

However, we can never really put too much stock in rape statistics because we know only a tiny percentage of victims ever report it.  A tiny percentage of those reported get prosecuted and, thus, become a statistic.  That’s why Mark Twain may always have the last word on statistics.  82 years is a good argument for why we should never let the FBI have the last word on sex crimes.

My last word is it doesn’t matter what our government agencies report.  No one knows our communities better than you and I.  Rape and abuse will always be running way ahead of any poor attempt to calculate it.

It’s just like when we utter that so familiar quote of 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been violated by the age of 16.  Do we really believe the percentages are this small?  Considering the legal definition of rape and abuse are so narrowly chosen.  How can all those men and women self-identify as victims when our government has been so confused for so long themselves?

Never has something as vile as rape, domestic violence, and child abuse been so responsible for so many of the ills in society.  Yet it has been so neglected, disregarded, and still remains chronically unuttered from the lips of almost all government officials, past or present.

So what does the ‘expanded definition’ really offer in the way of safety for our communities?  Don’t expect much.  It’s the same as it ever was.  The lesson here may be that we need to take ownership over our own definitions and put statistics back into the hierarchy where good old Mark put it so long ago.

2 thoughts on “Lies, Damn Lies, and Rape

  1. Rape is when someone is forced to have sex. Otherwise, you are simply watering down the word. When a women says they have been raped now, it could mean anything. And not something I would call rape.

    Generally, if you weren’t threatened, weren’t involuntarily drugged, or didn’t kick and scream, then it’s not rape. It may still be a crime, but it’s not rape.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. There are some differences between rape and other forms of abuse no doubt. What you seem to be driving at is the issue of consent. Was consent given? What we have decided, as a community, is that children are so vulnerable, inexperienced and impressionable that they are unable to give consent. If an adult coerces a child into sex then I consider it rape. Some call it child abuse, which it is also. The new definition reflects that we know more about rape and how it happens. We know pedophiles groom children for abuse.

      As a survivor of abuse, knowing the humiliation and stigma associated with it, I believe a woman when she says she’s been raped. Who would want to make that admission to anyone? There can be some gray areas involved.

      The trend that I find most disturbing though are when rape victims are not believed and are put in a position to prove they were raped. I believe this is why 90% of rapists never spend a day in jail and less than 10% of victims ever report their rape.

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