The Numbers On Rape

Ingraham highlights how few cases get resolved:

In the most recent crime data released by the FBI, only 40 percent of documented rape cases ended in “clearance.” Clearance indicates that officers were able to close a case, either via an arrest, or in some cases due to victim non-compliance – this latter method is called an “exceptional” clearance. This percent of rape cases cleared has declined sharply since 1995, while clearance rates for murder and aggravated assault have held steady.

But the reality is far more troubling than these numbers suggest.

Earlier this year, law professor Corey Yung released a lengthy paper providing evidence that police departments are systematically undercounting rape in large cities across the country. His numbers, which he calls “conservative,” suggest that “an additional 796,213 to 1,145,309 forcible rapes of women have been reported to authorities, but police have hidden them from the public record, thereby feeding the myth of the ‘great decline’ in rape.”

On Monday, Amanda Hess hoped that reporting will soon improve:

Last year, the FBI finally updated the definition for the modern era. Rape is now defined as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Now, the FBI hopes that the statistics will finally reflect “a long list of sex offenses that are criminal in most jurisdictions, such as offenses involving oral or anal penetration, penetration with objects, and rapes of males” that had previously been erased from the big picture. The new definition also drops the “forcible” qualifier in favor of “without the consent of the victim,” encouraging jurisdictions to report rapes perpetrated without a show of physical force.

Today, the FBI released Crime in the United States 2013, its first annual report to rely on this more inclusive definition of rape. The agency estimates that when crimes involving male victims, oral and anal rape, and sexual assaults committed with objects are included, the numbers of sex offenses reflected in the UCR program could increase by more than 40 percent. That hasn’t happened yet: Because “not all state and local agencies have been able to effect the change in their records management systems” to reflect the new terminology, the 2013 numbers actually reflect an estimated 6.3 percent decrease in rapes, as calculated by the old definition.

Dara Lind further unpacks what the definition change means:

[T]he FBI now has to consider unreported rape of men. Rape of men is a tremendous problem, especially in US prisons. Some estimates have indicated that, because of prison rapes, more men are actually raped in the US than women. But prison rape is especially likely to go unreported, and it looks like that’s a huge issue for the FBI. Among the 14 states that sent detailed reports to the FBI last year, there was one rape of a male for every 44 rapes of females. So if the FBI’s definition of rape is going to include rapes of men in practice, not just in theory, it’s going to have to figure out how to get a better handle on prison rape.

Recent Dish on rape statistics here.