Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

Another reader provides yet another angle:

I’ve been reading this thread with fascination, thinking back to events from my own college time. This fits into the category of “men supposedly can’t get raped, plus there’s that grey zone…” We were dorm buddies. She was coming on to me. I didn’t want sex. She did. I said no. She persisted. I got hard – at that age, nothing much stopped me from getting hard (“oh, she’s wet, that must mean she wants it” – ummmm). The details honestly aren’t important. She ended up fucking me. I just lay there and waited for it to be over.

I told her a few days later that she hadn’t listened to me saying no, and she suddenly looked at me in horror.

She was a pretty radical feminist at the time. I never had another conversation with her, even though we lived in the same dorm. I have no idea who she is now.

But non-consensual sex is what it is. I recognize how easy it is to end up in that position. I wasn’t going to push her aside, like some might suggest. I was ridiculously larger than her, but use force? Um, no, not in a sexual situation when two people are naked. Plus, I didn’t trust her to not turn the tables and accuse me of forcing her. So I kept quiet. I just let it happen, passively. Lots of bad sex happens at that age. Mine came attached to the words, “Look, I don’t want to do this, stop, okay?” and then it happening anyway.

People end up in situations they don’t want. Then they just act to end the situation as best possible. I think it’s human nature. I have told a few people, but reporting it otherwise didn’t make sense. What was there to report? Sure, saying No and getting fucked anyway, but she wanted to get laid – whatever, it wasn’t the end of the world.

It’s interesting that the event never really bothered me that much. I had non-consensual sex. I will do better next time. My wife and close friends know, and they agree that I don’t seem traumatized, and I trust them. I have friends (male and female) who experienced something similar, and we all agree that it’s not rape, and also not consensual, and we aren’t too bothered by our past. (Hell, plenty of us married folks admit to plenty of times of having sex when we kind really don’t want to and do anyway – and 95% of the time it ends up fine, and the other 5% is because your spouse really needed that moment, and none of that is rape, when we talk about it, either.)

In no way am I minimizing rape, nor the reactions to non-consensual moments that others have experienced. Not at all. A close family member was brutally gang raped and beaten and left for dead in a forest and survived. (Notably, she doesn’t carry her trauma with her, having chosen to carry her life, based on the miracle of still having it.) A close close friend was raped by her (former) best friend and is still totally freaked out by it. There are spectra of events, spectra of reactions.

I realize that in writing, you might end up publishing, but I doubt you will. Kind of a boring story. But there’s a link to a tumblr I want to share, because it might help those whose reactions are different from mine. It’s a really rough read, but reading there has helped me as I’ve stood by people who have gone through trauma. By reading and learning, I can embrace and help them, bring compassion to my interactions with them, listen to voices saying what they aren’t ready to say yet. If you could share the link, maybe it would help some folks. Thanks.

Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

Another reader recounts a horrifying experience:

I’ve been following this thread closely.  Thank you, as always, for providing a forum for these kinds of conversations.  I’m grateful.

I’m an over-educated, professional, heterosexual male, single, no kids.  I’m also a recovering sex addict.  Several years ago I was to meet a woman whom I had met online at a party at a sex club, a club where she said she was a member.  I had never been to one of these kinds of parties before.  I was still very active in my addiction at the time, and I had not yet found my way to meetings or rehab or therapy or honesty.

She did not show up.  I stayed at the party anyway.  It was a pretty amazing environment at the time, given my current state of mind.  At some point during the evening (the details are still a bit sketchy), I was drugged.

It was a drink someone gave me, or mine was spiked – I don’t know. I woke up several hours later, alone in a room, bleeding, naked, battered, very high.  I had no active memory of what had happened to me, but I wasn’t stupid either.  I quickly gathered my things, put myself together as best I could and stumbled out.  My driver’s license, debit cards, credit cards and cash were gone.  I was barely coherent, barely conscious, barely able to move or walk. I did not know how I got out of there; I did not know how I got home. And I was in an incredible amount of pain.

On some level I knew what had happened to me, but my mind very quickly and very effectively buried and burned any memory away.  Three or four days later, I went on vacation with my girlfriend overseas for two weeks.  She did not know about my “other life.”  I told no one, and two days later I did not remember why I had bruises on my body and face – seriously.  I still didn’t know where my wallet had gone.  I had no conscious explanation, so I chalked it up to maybe I had been in a bar fight.

It took several years, two months of inpatient rehab, 30 months of Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings and 12-step work, and two years of incredibly intense therapy for the memories to begin to return.  I had been gang raped by at least three people that I can remember that night.  The memories came in bits and pieces for a day or two, and then everything, all at once, while I was driving across a bridge.  I almost wrecked my car, and then I almost parked it and jumped.

When “it” all came back, I cannot begin to express the level of shame I felt, the level to which I blamed myself.  I believed that because of how I had been living my life at the time I deserved what had happened to me – I believed that to my core.

And the next day I went to work.  I was in my office, socializing with my co-workers, again hiding my real daily experience from those around me, although this version was much different than what I had believed to be the exciting double-life I had been living before – as a sex addict, screwing everything in sight.

I have since told four people what happened to me, about my gang rape – my sponsor, my therapist, a sibling, and one close friend.  It is still almost impossible for me to even type those words and own them.  I have never spoken of it again until writing this email.  I did not “report” it … what would that have even meant for me?  Call the cops?  What would that phone call have sounded like?  HOW would I have even reported anything?  I could not even begin to wrap my head around that concept.

It was an experience that, on a very deep subconscious level, drove me deeper and deeper into my sex addition.  I was left suicidal for a very long time and kept heading full speed for rock bottom until I lost everything of any value in my life.  Only then did I somehow find my way to a residential, inpatient treatment center out of state.  I still don’t entirely understand exactly how that came to pass, but it is the only reason I am alive today.

Obviously the name on the email account is fake – the account is a burner account – but I would still like to remain as anonymous as possible.  Part of me fears that I have already given away too much detail in this email, that someone will find out its me.  No one (apart from those mentioned) in my life has any idea of what I’ve been through, what I experienced.  I still struggle with reconciling this experience in my life with being a heterosexual male, dealing with all of the fallout and aftermath, in the context of our society and culture, in the context of my “identity”.  It’s challenging everyday, but the ones I have shared this with have been (to me) surprisingly supportive and understanding, never failing in telling me that it was not something I deserved to have happen to me.

Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

by Dish Staff

Several more readers open up:

To echo the sentiments of those before me, thank you so much for continuing this discussion. It has been one year since my rape. I have made a conscious decision not to report the incident and I don’t regret that decision for a minute.

I was 100% sober and many years removed from university.  It was about three weeks into a new romance with someone in the same professional field. Earlier in the evening we had engaged in consensual sex. This time, though, he stood up and said “my turn” before forcing me to perform oral sex. I violently tried to pull back but he yanked my hair so hard that each time I tried to fight him he grabbed even harder to the point where there were clumps on my sheets. Paralyzed with fear, my body went limp as he eventually finished.

I rushed to my bathroom, sat on the floor and choked down sobs in my for what felt like hours.

I got dressed and went to the movies. (A couple of days later he acknowledged and referred to it as “a lesson in understanding each other sexually.”) Despite the sexual assault – and subsequent emotional abuse and manipulation – I dated this individual for another two months while suppressing the night’s events for about six months.

After finally acknowledging the rape and emotional abuse that followed and then slowly telling my parents and my circle of friends, they kept asking the same question: “Why didn’t you press charges?” 

While I know that my ordeal is not uncommon, justice doesn’t reward gray areas. I knew that if I pressed charges, it wouldn’t be my attacker on trial. It would be me: my sexual past, my relationship, my life. There are days where the anger is palpable. There’s anger at him for his attempt to strip me of my self, my strength. There’s anger at myself for feeling responsible for what happened. There’s also anger at the idea that he could do this again … rape again under the guise of a relationship.

I’ve confronted my attacker. And every day I’m regaining more of the my self-worth he stripped from me. The one thing I don’t regret is not reporting it. In not doing so, I’ve spared myself further self-doubt and humiliation that is heaped upon survivors.

Another reader:

I attended a party on my dorm hall and was accosted by the drunken roommate of a friend. I barely knew the guy. He grabbed me and forced his tongue in my mouth while there were a dozen or more people standing around watching. I had only just arrived at the party. I had almost zero interaction with anyone I knew and none with this guy.

I pushed him off. He grabbed me again and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away and he then tried to drag me into a nearby room. All while people – my friends some of them – were watching.

It wasn’t until I was able to push him hard enough that he fell down, and I then went to kick him, that my BFF’s boyfriend and his roommate intervened. They pulled the guy up and away from me. But only, in my opinion, because I was about to hurt the guy, not because they thought he was doing anything wrong.

He was hustled off to his room (to sleep it off as he was quite drunk) and my friends attempted to get me to laugh it off but I simply went back to my own room. Furious.

It took a while mend some of the damage done to my friendships with a few people (who to their credit did apologize later, though the males involved never did understand why I’d been angry). Granted, both incidents were years ago, but the stories that I read that are much more recent lead me to believe that not all that much has changed.

I wanted to report the guy to the Head RA of the dorm in the days that followed, but I was eventually talked out of it. My BFF pointed out – correctly – that I would be the one moved to another dorm not the guy who attacked me and where was the justice in that?


I have never been raped, but I was once lured by a stranger into a semi-private place where the man then groped me. It was awful and creepy. I blamed myself for being stupid enough to follow him. For a while after it happened, I did not want to be touched by anyone, including my husband. I know it is not as horrible as rape, but just typing about it now gives me anxiety.

One reason I was lured by this man was that I thought I could trust him because he had gotten out of a car with a current-year parking sticker for the law school I was attending. The school was quiet and small, and you could seemingly trust everyone because you seemingly knew everyone. I have to believe a big reason campus rape gets all the headlines is that campuses can seem so safe.

I was able to get away from this man before anything worse happened. Before I left I took note of the make and model of the man’s car and the number on his parking sticker. I went straight to campus police because I figured they would have the parking records to look up the man. I gave them the car description and the parking number. They showed me an array of photos, and I identified the man. They said he did not work or attend the school, but that his wife worked at the school and that other female students had complained about similar incidents from him. They immediately set to work to get a restraining order banning him from university property.

I wanted to write in to share a story of someone whose immediate reaction to an assault was to report the guy. Maybe that was the lawyer part of me at work, knowing that my memory might fade, but I have to say I am happy to have done it. Of course, I didn’t have to go through any high-profile slut-shaming, and I wasn’t raped. I realize it is different. But having the brains to collect enough information on the guy to report him is about the only thing I am proud of from that day.

Update from a reader:

Like the woman who shared her molestation story, I too was once lured to a semiprivate place by a man who groped me. I was 15 at the time, on a cruise with my family, and the man was our room steward. He pressed his tongue into my mouth, something I had never experienced before, which was terrifying and gross. I managed to get away, and told my parents, who reported the incident to the captain. My molester spent the rest of the voyage in the brig.

When we returned home, an attorney for the cruise line called to ask my father if we intended to press charges, and he said that another crew member had come forward as an alibi witness for the steward. My father answered that I had been traumatized enough, and the matter was dropped.

What we didn’t know until years later was that my younger sister – only 10 – was raped on that cruise, perhaps by the same man, perhaps by his friend and alibi witness. She and I shared a stateroom. When I found her bloody underwear, we assumed she had begun her menses and gave her sanitary supplies! (I was 11 when I had my first period, so it didn’t seem unreasonable.) What a horror show.

Happy ending: my sister and I both ended up with loving husbands and channeled our early experience into work with abused women.

Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

by Dish Staff

This reader thread, sparked by Danielle Campoamor’s story, is among the most powerful ones we’ve had this year. So far we’ve heard from a convict who was raped in prison, a white coed assaulted by a black basketball star, a young teenager sexually abused by his teacher, a followup from a woman who told us about her rape, and several others. Our next installment is from a gay reader – with an unexpected twist:

When I was 26, I was raped while traveling to London. I stayed several days longer than my straight friends and decided to go hit up the gay bars after they left. I met a guy from Germany, we danced and decided to go back to my hotel room. At some point he started to try to put it in. I told him that I wasn’t bottoming unless he wore a condom and that I didn’t have any. He held me down and went at it anyway. Which is the dictionary definition of rape, isn’t it?

I did not report the incident immediately and waited till I returned to the US several days later to seek treatment. I was honest with the doctor about what happened. She exerted extreme pressure on me to report the incident and get counseling. The process of trying to report such a crime is horrible. The police engaged in every behavior victim’s advocates dislike; victim blaming, disbelief, and homophobia were a constant.

The counseling service was likewise useless. I didn’t receive a return call about my situation for nearly two weeks. The woman who did call me back made it clear that she didn’t think my incident was worthy and then offered me a time-slot months in the future. I ended up just scheduling an appointment with my normal psychologist to discuss the incident.

I felt horrible and I wasn’t even traumatized by the rape itself. I couldn’t imagine what dealing with this bullshit and an actual traumatic experience would be like. I enjoyed that night with the German – a lot actually. He stayed the night, we hung out the next day and I stayed at his hotel that night. We had breakfast the next morning and said our goodbyes. I’m Facebook friends with him now. I expect to travel to Germany this summer to visit friends and we’re actively planning on meeting up for a day or two in Berlin.

Sex is a powerful experience. Like any powerful experience you can get hurt. I took a risk going out and picking up a random person to sleep with. I could have been very badly hurt but I wasnt. I did not contract any STDs or get physically hurt – both real possibilities. I learned to take some basic precautions and be prepared. I’ve started on PreP. I make sure to qualify hookups more than I used to.

I’ve also learned that I can’t be open about my experience because it doesn’t fit the narrative. I’ve literally had people blow up at me when I admitted that he’s apologized and I’ve forgiven him. I’ve learned never to suggest that other people might feel similarly; that makes me a rape-apologist. In the end, I’m not honest about my experience because too many people think they can cherry-pick ideas that validate their preferred narrative. But that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it?

An Alternative To “No”?

by Dish Staff

In a recent meditation on the language of consent, which featured in one of the Dish’s roundups on the UVA rape debacle last week, Susan Dominus searched for a “linguistic rip cord” to help young women reject unwanted sex “without the mundane familiarity of ‘no’ or the intensity demanded in ‘Get off or I’ll scream'”:

One phrase that might work is “red zone” — as in, “Hey, we’re in a red zone,” or “This is starting to feel too red zone.” Descriptive and matter-of-fact, it would not implicitly assign aggressor and victim, but would flatly convey that danger — emotional, possibly legal — lay ahead. Such a phrase could serve as a linguistic proxy for confronting or demanding, both options that can seem impossible in the moment. “We’re in a red zone” — the person who utters that is not a supplicant (“Please stop”); or an accuser (“I told you to stop!”). Many young women are uncomfortable in either of those roles; I know I was.

In an ideal world, clear consent will always precede sex, and young women (and men) who do find themselves in a tricky situation will express their discomfort firmly. But in the imperfect world in which we live, new language — if not red zone, then some other phrase that could take off with the universality of slang — might fill a silence.

But McArdle pours cold water on the idea:

I understand what Dominus is trying to do, but I don’t think it will work.

Twenty-five years after I registered for college, we’re still searching for an alternative to the stark simplicity of “No.”  And unfortunately, there’s just no substitute. If you want to “teach men not to rape” — a formulation that floated around the Internet a lot in the days after the Rolling Stone story was published — then you need to give them a rule that can be clearly articulated, and followed even if you’ve had a few.

That’s why “no means no” worked so well, even if it wasn’t perfect. It’s a heuristic that even a guy who’s been sucking at the end of a three-story beer funnel can remember and put into practice. The rule obviously needed some refinement, by adding other equally clear rules — like “if she’s stumbling drunk or vomiting, just pretend she said no, because she’s not legally capable of consent.” But the basic idea, of listening to what the woman is saying, not some super-secret countersignals you might think she is sending, is exactly the sort of rule that we need in the often-confusing, choose-your-own-adventure world of modern sexual mores.

Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

by Dish Staff

Another reader adds his story to the powerful thread:

I want to offer a male perspective from someone who has been through something similar, in order to say it’s not just women who have these reactions. As a young teenager I was sexually abused by a teacher/coach, someone who had become like a father-figure to me (I’ve never met my real father, who left before I was born). It happened a few times, but I was eventually able to avoid him when the teacher transferred to another school.

I never told anyone until I was 19 or so, when I just couldn’t deal with my depression on my own and finally told certain friends and family. My mom reported it to the original school and contacted the police. They were sympathetic but didn’t do anything to follow up or take away his position. Mine was the only reported case. I did write a letter for the police and have it filed as a report, but I never followed up. I spoke briefly with a police investigator on the phone who was pretty clear that since it was several years prior, and my word against his, that it would be a tough case to push forward. I told myself that if other reports came up then I would testify or participate in whatever investigation was necessary, but didn’t want to go any further if it was just me, and ultimately didn’t ever follow up on it.

Later in my early-20s I did get counseling for my depression. The counselor wanted to pursue the police case again, since the individual was still a teacher in the school system.

I was doing better psychologically and she felt obligated to by law, as well as her personal desire to see the man behind bars. With my permission, she contacted a police investigator again. I spoke with him initially on the phone, but ultimately I still couldn’t handle it. I stopped seeing the counselor and did not follow up any more with the police. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. It was like everything would shut down. I became so anxious that I went numb and just couldn’t face it. When pushed, I would answer questions and was open about it. But my subconscious reaction was to avoid the situation as much as possible.

I am not a weak man or someone afraid of confrontation. I served in the military, including a tour in Iraq. I have seen and faced some tough situations, but I never suffered the fear and anxiety that I faced when trying to report what happened to me or the idea of confronting my abuser. For the most part I do not suffer from PTSD related to my Iraq experiences. But I do, even still, suffer from PTSD related to my sexual abuse and find it difficult to have long-term, intimate relationships. I am in a far-better place then I was, but it is still there.

I know that if other reports came up that my abuser had done similar things to someone else, then I would gladly testify and confront him, do whatever I could do put that person behind bars. I’m not sure I could do that for myself though, and would still find it very hard to face him. I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more to report and push the case, as your other reader stated, and pray that no one else was ever abused because I didn’t have the courage or ability to follow through. I can understand completely why a woman wouldn’t want to report her rape, or might only report it to the school, but not push for a criminal case. That seems to be the natural reaction.

I agree with you completely that there has to be some defense process for the accused, even at the school level, but at the same time many schools and police need to be more assertive in pushing for investigations and going to the next step. Many victims just won’t be able to be their own advocates.

An Actual War On Women, Ctd

by Dish Staff

The Islamic State’s “Research and Fatwa Department” is circulating a pamphlet on what the jihadis are allowed to do to the thousands of women and girls they have captured and enslaved in their rampage through Iraq and Syria:

Much of the pamphlet talks about ISIS’ policy on having sexual intercourse with a female slave, something that the group cites the Quran to justify. “If she was a virgin, he (the owner) can have intercourse with her 1(355)immediately after the ownership is fulfilled,” ISIS explains. “If she was not a virgin, her uterus must be purified (wait for her period to be sure she is not pregnant.)”

There are other rules as well, like that two men who co-own a captive can’t both have sex with her and that a man can’t have intercourse with his wife’s slave. As to girls: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse,” the document reads. “However, if she is not fit for intercourse, he (the owner ) can only enjoy her without intercourse.”

An English translation of the evil document, via MEMRI, is available here. Jamie Dettmer notes how many women ISIS is believed to have kidnapped:

According to Nazand Begikhani, an adviser to the Kurdistan regional government and researcher at the University of Bristol Gender and Violence Research Center, ISIS has kidnapped more than 2,500 Yazidi women. Yazidi activists, meanwhile, say they have compiled a list of at least 4,600 missing Yazidi women, seized after they were separated from male relatives, who were shot.

The women were bussed, according to firsthand accounts of women who have managed to flee, to the ISIS-controlled cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and chosen and traded like cattle. Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq say they have freed about 100 Yazidi women. In October, ISIS justified its enslavement of the women—and of any non-believing females captured in battle—in its English-language digital magazine Dabiq. Islamic theology, ISIS propagandists argued, gives the jihadis the right, much in the same way that the Bible’s Ephesians 6:5 tells “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.”

Katie Zavadski finds some perspective on the ghastly situation:

The pamphlet may be part of a response to a recent condemnation of the group by Islamic scholars from around the word, according to UMass Lowell security studies professor Mia Bloom. Instead of engaging with centuries of Islamic theological debates, ISIS is reverting to seventh-century norms, at which point “women would have fallen under the rubric of war booty.”

She also doesn’t rule out the possibility that some foreign fighters might find these guidelines attractive. “Maybe they think that this is a recruiting tool,” she says, for frustrated men from abroad. But Bloom worries that this cycle of sexual violence will be difficult to stop. “They are creating a very perverse incentive system,” she says, noting the uptick of domestic violence complaints in postwar Serbia.

Previous Dish on the Islamic State’s barbaric view of women here.

Would You Report Your Rape? Ctd

by Dish Staff

The personal thread takes a new direction:

Thank you so much for continuing the discussion on rape. My rape story is a little different. I never felt a tremendous weight of shame, but rather anger that some jerk could think it was okay to do that to me. And anger at the ways our culture fosters that kind of thinking.

I was a college student living in an off-campus house with several people. My birthday party that night was the usual: a decent amount of drinking and a lot of fun with friends and friends of roommates. I eventually went to bed, alone. My roommate wasn’t in bed yet, so I left the bedroom door unlocked for her. A little while later I woke up from a heavy, drunken sleep to an acquaintance beginning to rape me. He was a college basketball star, and a very tall imposing one. He is black and I am white. I fought him and started screaming, which finally caused him to stop the rape and leave.

I did not report the rape to the police or to the university because who would believe an underage drunk girl against a college basketball star? They would undoubtedly claim I led him on, and if I argued I did not, I felt there was a very good chance they would pull the race card. After all, why wouldn’t I be interested in the attentions of the local sports hero, unless I’m actually a racist?

I will echo some of your other writers and simply say that in a case such as this, of he-said, she-said, I felt it was not worthwhile to fight to be taken seriously. We all have a lot of battles to fight in life, and this isn’t one that I necessarily wanted to spend my efforts on, only to be interrogated, dismissed and have my reputation tarnished.

In the aftermath of this incident, my friends barely took my story seriously and continued to be his friend. I eventually moved away and graduated college elsewhere.

I abhor the worship of university sports heroes and “frat culture,” with its repulsive, dangerous combination of male entitlement and female objectification. I believe it is that kind of misogynist thinking that led my perpetrator to justify what he did to me. But I don’t want you to get the impression that I hate all men. I have been married for more than 15 years to a really great guy, and we are raising two smart, strong girls. I simply feel our culture has for too long tolerated certain behaviors that are not respectful or healthy for women (or men, for that matter).

That Other Rape Crisis

by Dish Staff

Rape on college campuses is undoubtedly a real and serious problem, but as Michael Brendan Dougherty reminds us, it pales in comparison to rape in prisons, where victims get no publicity, no sympathy, and no justice. Hell, we even joke about it, even in children’s cartoons (as seen above):

In prison, men may become the victim of repeated gang rapes. Prisoners can be locked into cells with the men who prey on them. Some live under the constant threat of sexual assault for decades. Their efforts to report their rape are ignored or even punished, both by prison personnel and an inmate culture that destroys “snitches.” The threat of rape is so pervasive it causes some inmates to “consent” to sex with certain prisoners or officers as a way of avoiding rape by others.

Acceptance of prison rape is a stinking corruption. No conception of justice can include plunging criminals into an anarchic world of sexual terror. And obviously it thwarts any possibility of a rehabilitative justice that aims to restore criminals to lawful society. Inmates are not improved or better integrated into society through physical and psychological torture. Prison rape also vitiates any sense of retributive justice, since rape is not a proper punishment for a crime. Allowing prison rape is just a vindictive horror, and when accepted under the name of punishment makes criminals the victims of justice.

Sadly, some Senators are looking to defang the Prison Rape Elimination Act:

PREA required states to certify by May of 2014 that they were in compliance with the standards, or promise that they would eventually comply. States that refuse to do either can be penalized with a loss of five percent of their federal funding for prison-related purposes. But a proposal that originated in the Senate Judiciary Committee would almost completely eliminate financial penalties for states that defy the rape prevention law. The proposal, written by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas — the most vocally defiant state — was agreed on by the committee in an after-midnight session in September and was attached to an unrelated bill.

The bill carrying the PREA amendment failed to pass, but members of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, a federal body that spent years developing the PREA standards, say efforts are already underway to reintroduce the amendment during the next legislative session.

A reader’s story of prison rape posted here. Update from another:

Thanks for posting that piece on prison rape.  I thought you might be interested in the following scene from Rectify, a TV drama about a death row prisoner who is exonerated after nearly two decades in jail.  It features the main character, Daniel, talking to his stepbrother, Ted, about his experience of being raped in prison.  This scene conveys a sense of visceral agony that reports and columns cannot and it helped me realize the extent to which prison rape is a silent crisis:

For a riveting memoir on the subject, check out Fish by T.J. Parsell, who was gang-raped upon entering prison at the age of 17.

A More Complex Picture Of College Rape


Contrary to the conventional wisdom, new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest that college women are actually less likely than their non-student peers to become victims of sexual assault:

The report estimates that 6.1 of every 1000 college students are raped or sexually assaulted every year; assault is slightly more common among college-age nonstudents (7.6 per 1000). Those rates are lower than other studies of college women, including federal studies, have found. The BJS says this is probably a difference of methodology: the crime victims study, which this report is based on, simply asks women about “unwanted sexual activity,” while other studies list specific behaviors or scenarios women might have experienced.

However, the BJS data also confirm that most rapes go unreported, as the above chart illustrates:

Sexual assault victims are typically much more likely not to go to the police than victims of other crimes … But reporting rates are especially low among college students.

Among young non-student women, according to the new report, 67 percent didn’t report their assaults to the police — that’s a little higher than the average for all sexual-assault victims (which is about 65 percent) but it’s about comparable. Among college students, however, 80 percent of victims didn’t go to the police.

Furthermore, it doesn’t look like college students are reporting assaults to college officials, either. 14 percent of nonstudents said that they didn’t report their assault to the police, but did report to another official (which the survey doesn’t define). But only 4 percent of students said they went to another official or administrator.

As Brandy Zadrozny observes, the data also show that college-aged men are significantly more likely to get assaulted than non-students in the same age group:

Though fewer college-age men are raped or sexually assaulted than women, it happens to about 9,400 men annually. Men ages 18 to 24 enrolled in college were more likely to become a victim. Men in college were raped or sexually assaulted at a rate of 1.4 per 1,000, almost five times the rate of non-students (0.03 per 1,000). Men made up 17 percent of rape and sexual assault victims in college and just 4 percent for nonstudents.

Libby Nelson explores why different surveys turn up such markedly divergent numbers on rape:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s study on intimate partner violence finds much higher rates of sexual assault in the general population than the crime victimization survey does. The difference lies in how the questions are worded. Researchers in other surveys, including the CDC’s, don’t necessarily use the term “rape” or “sexual assault” at all. Instead, they ask much more specific questions about what happened, such as “when you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?”

Christopher Krebs, the lead researcher on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, a study of two colleges that led to the widely cited “1 in 5” statistic, says the term “rape” carries heavy baggage. “Women often think of rape as something perpetrated by a stranger, someone they don’t know, someone jumping out from behind a bush or behind a car,” he says. “They think of something that happens that’s violent: they had to be hit or kicked or threatened. They think of it as something that happens when you’re around people you don’t know.”