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A clearer picture of the prevalence of sexual violence emerged in the FBI’s recently released Uniform Crime Report, unburdened by excess descriptors. The Bureau no longer defines rape as “forcible” and, under that new definition, rates of rape surged to 14,400 reported cases in the first half of 2013, up from 13,242 during the January to June period of 2012. For 90 years, “forcible rape” was defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” but the definition has now been broadened and no longer uses a gender reference. The report counts 272 cities, encompassing about a fourth of the American population.

Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behavior and her presence at inappropriate places

Asha Mirje


india rape

A female Indian politician and member of the “women’s commission” sparked fury by saying that gang-rape victims may have invited attacks by the way they dress and behave.

“Rapes take place also because of a woman’s clothes, her behavior and her presence at inappropriate places,” Asha Mirje, who is a member of the state women’s commission, said at a Tuesday meeting, local media reported.

She also questioned whether a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who died after being gang-raped on a bus in the capital New Delhi, really needed to go out to a movie at 11 p.m.

Thousands of people took to the streets in nationwide protests against rape and sexual assault after the attack, for which four men were sentenced to death last year.

Mirje, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader in western Maharashtra state, also commented on the case of photojournalist who was gang-raped in Mumbai last year, asking, “Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at 6 p.m.?”

Women, she explained, must be “careful” and must consider whether they are leaving themselves open to assault.

Her comments prompted fury from both politicians and activists, who called for her resignation or removal from her post on the women’s commission.

“Every time such a statement is made by a public figure it justifies rape,” Kavita Krishnan, secretary of lobby group All India Progressive Women’s Association, told Reuters. “It’s unconscionable that people in public posts make such remarks.”

Rupa Kulkarni, leader of domestic workers in the state, told the Hindustan Times that Mirje had ”no moral right to continue on the post as she is biased against women.”

NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said Mirje had apologized for her comments, which did not represent the views of the party.

“As far as the party is concerned she has said sorry and the issued is closed,” he said.

Assaults have tarnished the reputation of the world’s largest democracy, where police said last week that village elders ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman after they found out she was in a relationship with a man from a different community.


How do you measure rape and sexual assault? It’s a difficult question and the answer impacts a couple of highly charged debates. As in: If you believe the measurements that say sexual violence against women is significantly on the wane—as one prominent national survey shows—then you might argue against spending a lot of money fighting it. Or you might argue that binge drinking among women doesn’t really explain the problem of sexual assault, since the drinking has increased even as the rape numbers have fallen.

On the other hand, if you’re worried that the same measurement tool—the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey—is vastly undercounting sexual violence against women, especially when it comes at the hands of men they know and in the company of drinking or drugs and that it’s time to stop letting “a misplaced fear of blaming the victim” prevent college educators—and the rest of us—from warning “inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.”

How helpful, then, that the Justice Department asked the National Research Council (part of the National Academies, which also includes the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine) to study how successfully the federal government measures rape. The answer has just arrived, in a report out Tuesday with the headline from the press release: “The National Crime Victimization Survey Is Likely Undercounting Rape and Sexual Assault.” We’re not talking about small fractions—we’re talking about the kind of potentially massive underestimate that the military and the Justice Department have warned about for years—and that could be throwing a wrench into the effort to do the most effective type of rape prevention.

The NCVS statistics show the rate of completed and attempted rape in the United States declining from a high of 5 percent of girls and women victimized annually in 1995 to a low of about 2 percent from 2005 to the present. Sounds good, right—men behaving better, women protecting themselves more. But here are the flaws that call the nice-sounding stats into doubt: The NCVS is designed to measure all kinds of crime victimization. The questions it poses about sexual violence are embedded among questions that ask about lots of other types of crime. For example:

(Other than any incidents already mentioned,) has anyone attacked or threatened you in any of these ways: a) with any weapon, for instance, a gun or knife, b) with anything like a baseball bat, frying pan, scissors, or stick, c) by something thrown, such a rock or bottle, d) include any grabbing, punching, or choking, e) any rape, attempted rape or other type of sexual attack, f) any face to face threats, OR g) any attack or threat or use of force by anyone at all?

That’s not a good way to prompt women (or men) to report nonconsensual sex, broadly speaking, especially if they haven’t previously gone to the police—as most rape victims don’t. As the new report puts it: “This context may inhibit reporting of incidents that the respondent does not think of as criminal, did not report to the police, or does not want to report to police.”

The NCVS also doesn’t include scenarios in which a victim is unable to consent to sex because she or he is “drunk, high, drugged, or passed out.” And the NCVS doesn’t do enough to provide survey-takers with privacy. They can’t quietly check off a box on a self-administered questionnaire—they have to answer questions out loud over the phone. These features of the survey have also been shown to inhibit victims from responding.

Here’s how to fix this, the National Research Council panel says: Conduct a survey of rape and sexual assault separately from other kinds of crime. The best way to get an accurate count is to frame the questions in a “neutral context, such as a health survey.” Instead of asking, Have you been raped? the survey tool should ask questions about specific behavior, for example: When this incident happened, were you passed out from drinking or taking drugs? This gives room for survey-takers who might not call what happened to them “rape” to provide a more accurate measure of how many people are actually victims of nonconsensual sex. And they should be able to enter their answers on their own, on a computer, rather than over the phone.

There is, in fact, an existing survey that has many of the attributes the NCVS currently lacks. It’s administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. (NISVS is the acronym. Apologies for the alphabet soup.) NISVS “represents the public health perspective,” as Tuesday’s report puts it, and it asks questions about specific behavior, including whether the survey-taker was unable to consent to sex because he or she had been drinking or taking drugs. NISVS was first conducted in 2010, so it doesn’t go back in time the way the NCVS numbers do. But here’s the startling direct comparison between the two measures: NISVS counted 1.27 million total sexual acts of forced penetration for women over the past year (including completed, attempted, and alcohol or drug facilitated). NCVS counted only 188,380 for rape and sexual assault. And the FBI, which collects its data from local law enforcement, and so only counts rapes and attempted rapes that have been reported as crimes, totaled only 85,593 for 2010.

It’s a real cause for alarm that there is such a huge discrepancy between the national survey that most closely follows the approach recommended by the experts and the ones that don’t, yet are more often cited. The bottom line is that women are still experiencing date rape or acquaintance rape or gray rape—whatever you want to call it—in dismayingly large numbers. As Christopher Krebs, a sexual violence researcher at RTI International, puts it, “We all know that rape and sexual assault are the most underreported crimes in the world, and it’s very hard to say that the problem is declining. The NCVS data could be missing a lot.” And especially critical: The NCVS doesn’t directly capture the instances in which drugs or alcohol leave women less able to defend themselves. Let me say that again: The national data about rape that gets cited over and over again doesn’t ask a single question about whether a victim was unable to consent because of drugs or alcohol, even though that is a major risk factor. The NCVS fails to see the full range of nonconsensual sex that should concern us. It also doesn’t accurately reflect the circumstances in which this kind of rape occurs—another important function that a tool like this should serve.

In the vast majority of sexual assaults, Krebs says, the victim knows the offender. And sometimes she may not remember exactly what happened—because her memory is blurred by intoxication. That’s why Emily Yoffe called for rape prevention education that reaches women as well as men. Not instead of men—of course we need to make clear that men who force sex are fully responsible for their violence, no matter what the circumstances. But we also should treat women as fully capable of agency by giving them the information they need to understand that binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault. I’m the mother of sons, not daughters. It is absolutely my responsibility to teach my boys that there is no excuse—none—for having sex unless they can be absolutely sure the other person wants to. But if I had girls, I would want to open their eyes to the reality that drinking to the point of passing out will make them more vulnerable. That doesn’t mean blaming them. It means arming them. The number in this piece that’s probably the most accurate count—1.27 million women sexually assaulted per year—underscores the urgency.

 

 

 

By Emily Bazelon


Almost 1 in 10 high school and college-aged people have forced someone into sexual activity against his or her will, a study finds. The majority of those who have done it think that the victim is at least partly to blame.

The results come from a multiyear study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was designed to look for the roots of adult sexual violence. Most adult perpetrators say they first preyed on another while still in their teens.

In adulthood, more than 1 million people are the victims of rape or sexual assault each year, according to the National Institutes of Justice. Domestic violence affects more than 2 million adults a year.

A multiple-choice online survey conducted in 2010 and 2011 asked 1,058 teenagers and young adults, ages 14 to 21, whether they’d ever “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?”

Nine percent said yes. Eight percent had kissed or touched someone when they knew the other person did not want to. Three percent got someone to give in to unwilling sex. Three percent attempted to rape the person, and 2 percent completed a rape. (The numbers don’t add up because some perpetrators admitted to more than one behavior.)

This may be the first survey to ask questions like these, and the researchers caution that because of the relatively small number of youths involved, the results aren’t definitive. But they are certainly chilling.

“I don’t get creeped out very often,” says Michele Ybarra, lead researcher of the study, which was published online in JAMA Pediatrics. “But this was wow.”

When asked who was to blame, half of the perpetrators said the victim was completely responsible; one-third said it was their own fault. “If half of the perpetrators felt the victim was responsible for this, we need to do something,” Ybarra, who is president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health in San Clemente, Calif.

Sixteen seems to be the age when sexual coercion becomes a real possibility, at least for boys. Almost half of the study participants said they first forced someone to have sexual activity when they were 16. But by age 18, girls had become much more involved in preying on others, to the point where they were almost as likely to be perpetrators as were boys.

Three-quarters of the victims were in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator.

The coercion used was almost always psychological, not physical. The most common tactics for forcing or trying to force sex were guilt, deliberately getting the victim drunk or arguing with or pressuring the victim. Five percent threatened to use physical force, and 8 percent did. The survey used the federal Bureau of Justice definition of rape, which includes psychological coercion as well as physical force.

The survey also looked at media use and found that perpetrators of sexual violence were more likely to watch violent X-rated materials than were the others.

By now most parents reading this are probably ready to hide. But Ybarra tells Shots these numbers show that parents need to act and well before their children are 16.

“We absolutely need to have conversations with our kids about what healthy sex is and what unhealthy sex is,” she says. Parents could say, “‘If you have to convince your partner, maybe that’s not the right way to have sex.’ Even simple messages like that are important.”


Almost a quarter of men surveyed in a UN report looking at violence against women in parts of Asia have admitted to committing at least one rape.

Rape was particularly common within relationships. However, one in 10 men admitted raping a woman who was not their partner.

Ten thousand men from six countries took part in the survey.

It is the first multi-country study to examine how widespread violence against women is and the reasons behind it.

Of those who admitted rape, just under half said they had done so more than once.

The prevalence of rape varied between countries.

In Papua New Guinea, more than six out of 10 men surveyed admitted forcing a woman to have sex.

It was least common in urban areas of Bangladesh, where it was just under one in 10 and Sri Lanka where it was just over one in 10.

In Cambodia, China and Indonesia it ranged from one in five to almost half of
all men surveyed.

Part of the research has been published in The Lancet Global Health.

The authors said that the findings do not represent the whole Asia and Pacific region – but the survey respondents do provide a good demographic match for the countries studied.

Men were asked questions like:

  • Have you ever had sex with your partner when you knew she didn’t want to but you thought she should agree because she’s your wife/ partner?
  • Have you ever had sex with a woman or girl when she was too drunk or drugged to say whether she wanted it or not?

They recorded their answers on hand-held computers while the interviewer left the room.

‘Sexual entitlement’

Nearly three quarters of those who committed rape said they did so for reasons of “sexual entitlement”.

Report author Dr Emma Fulu said: “They believed they had the right to have sex with the woman regardless of consent.

“The second most common motivation reported was to rape as a form of entertainment, so for fun or because they were bored.”

That was followed by using rape as a form of punishment or because the man was angry.

“Perhaps surprisingly, the least common motivation was alcohol.” said Dr Fulu.

Men who had themselves suffered violence as children, especially childhood sexual abuse were more likely to have committed rape.

“These data justifiably create global outrage, accentuated by horrific recent high-profile cases, including the brutal gang rape of a student in New Delhi,” said Dr Michele Decker from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore

“More than half of non-partner rape perpetrators first did so as adolescents, which affirms that young people are a crucial target population for prevention of rape.

“The challenge now is to turn evidence into action, to create a safer future for the next generation of women and girls.”

Professor Rachel Jewkes, who led the research in Papua New Guinea, said the area they surveyed – Bougainville – had a particularly turbulent history, with an extraordinarily destructive civil conflict extending from the late 1980s to beyond 2005.

“It’s an area where the conflict hasn’t been absolutely resolved,” she said.

“When we looked at mental health we saw particularly high prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder including uncontrollable aggression, the disruption of normal social relations and relations in the family.”

Percentage of men admitting rape

  • Papua New Guinea Bougainville Island – 62%
  • Indonesia Papua Province – 48.6%
  • Indonesia urban – 26.2%
  • China urban/rural – 22.2%
  • Cambodia – 20.4%
  • Indonesia rural – 19.5%
  • Sri Lanka – 14.5%
  • Bangladesh rural – 14.1%
  • Bangladesh urban – 9.5%
  • Source: United Nations

In an ultimate act of revenge, an Indian woman killed her rapist by setting him on fire, the Times of India reports. Authorities say the 25-year-old woman was raped at knifepoint on April 30, and her 38-year-old attacker was released on bail in May. She asked him to her house on Thursday to negotiate a settlement when the woman and her brothers poured kerosene on the man and set him on fire. He died on Friday, and the woman and her family are now facing murder charges. Most commenters on the article support the woman’s actions, saying “Fitting punishment. This should be made into a law…burn all rapists alive” and “Well done brave lady!!” while criticizing India’s “slow” judicial system.

Read it at Times of India