USA Today published an article back in May that was discussing the myth that rape and incest are primary reasons for getting abortions. The article proclaimed “Just 1% of women obtain an abortion because they became pregnant through rape, and less than 0.5% do so because of incest, according to the Guttmacher Institute,” as stated by Alia E. Dastagir, “Rape and incest account for hardly any abortions. So why are they now a focus?” USA Today, 24 May 2019). Despite your stance on the abortion issue, the fact remains that people use statistical manipulation all the time to promote a personal agenda. In this instance, pro-abortionists are using the rape/incest narrative even though the stats don’t add up.
Our society rarely questions stats. In the same article, the article discusses rape statistics, claiming, “research shows 3 out of every 4 sexual assaults are not reported, and out of every 1,000 rapes only five perpetrators are convicted.” This is simply wrong.
These stats are based on the underreporting myth. (Incidentally, I had published a full-length article on the Underreporting myth that same day at http://www.oncefallen.com/underreporting_myth.html.) NO ONE questions this dubious statistic. After all, it came from RAINN, so it must be true because “RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.”.) Well, I hate to “RAINN” on their parade, but this stat is a prime example of statistical manipulation coupled with an appeal to authority.
RAINN’s claim of 995 out of 1000 rapists walking free is as follows, typically accompanied by a meme with human figures colored in accordance with the following stats:
• Of 1000 rapes, only 230 are reported to police
• Of 230 reports, 46 lead to arrest
• Of 46 arrests, 9 are referred to prosecutors
• Of 9 prosecutions, 5 lead to a felony conviction
• Of the 5 convictions, 4.6 will go to prison
• Therefore, 995.4 rapists will “go free” (See https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system)
The claim that only 230 of 1000 rapes are reported to the police are based from the National Crime Victimization Surveys (That’s 23% of you prefer stats). RAINN claims that these numbers came from the years 2010-2016. But the NCVS stats have fluctuated between 50% and 76.8% in the years of 2010 to 2016, so they did not use an average of six years, they picked the one year out of six that had the highest number and ran with it.
But the National Crime Victimization Surveys have been misrepresented by RAINN. The NCVS covers combines sexual assaults, rapes, AND ATTEMPTS. Sexual assault is defined as “A wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats.” Rape is defined as “Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. Includes attempted rape, male and female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.” Because the definition of attempt is not adequately defined by the NCVS, it is open to interpretation. We live in a culture where looking at a woman too long is “stare rape.”
RAINN erroneously presents every unreported incident in the NCVS must be a bona fide rape (even though RAINN seems to understand elsewhere on their own website that not every incident in the NCVS is a rape). But that is simply untrue. Interestingly, large numbers of unreported events went unreported precisely because the event was not seen as serious enough to be reported. We don’t know what this event entailed precisely because the incident was no reported. Also worth noting is the fact that despite being a very large survey spanning up to 100,000 households, the number of responses to the questions related to rapes/ sexual assaults are less than 100 in nearly every year of the annual surveys, and the reasons for failing to report are often represented by even smaller numbers.
This is a disclaimer from the 2010 NCVS:
“While the change in the rape or sexual assault rate from 2009 to 2010 is significantly different at the 90%-confidence level, care should be taken in interpreting this change because the estimates of rape/sexual assault are based on a small number of cases reported to the survey. Therefore, small absolute changes and fluctuations in the rates of victimization can result in large year-to-year percentage change estimates. For 2010, the estimate of rape or sexual assault is based on 57 unweighted cases compared to 36 unweighted cases in 2009. The measurement of rape or sexual assault represents one of the most serious challenges in the field of victimization research.” In 2010, there were 57 ‘unreported cases’ out of sample size of nearly 71000 people: In 2010, 40974 households and 73283 individuals age 12 and older were interviewed for the NCVS. Each household was interviewed twice during the year. The response rate was 92.3% of households and 87.5% of eligible individuals.”
The problem isn’t so much relying on the NCVS but on the interpretation of the data. RAINN presents every unreported incident in the NCVS as an unreported rape, and that’s simply untrue. This also means the rest of the statistics in RAINN’s progression chart is based on the same bias as the first, most important leg of this progression chart. As not every unreported incident is the result of a completed rape, this also means the discrepancies between the number of reported incidents, the number of prosecutions and number of imprisonments are the result of many other factors (like false allegations or incidents indeed not elevating to the level of a crime, like “stare rape”.) If only between 2%-8% of sex crime reports are false, as feminist and victims rights’ activists proclaim, why is that not taken into account on this chart?
Sure, RAINN adds a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page, “This statistic combines information from several federal government reports. Because it combines data from studies with different methodologies, it is an approximation, not a scientific estimate. Please see the original sources for more detailed information. These statistics are updated annually and as new information is published.” “Sexual violence is notoriously difficult to measure, and there is no single source of data that provides a complete picture of the crime.”
If these numbers are not scientific, but mere estimations, why present it as settled fact? Almost no one reads the fine print. Almost no one is going to click onto a different page to read how these stats are interpreted by RAINN or by their original sources. Instead, RAINN misleads people, whether intentional or not. (In my honest opinion, I believe this statistical manipulation is intentional.) After all, RAINN teaches this in the form of a meme, and memes don’t cover the details.
The belief that only 5 out of 1000 rapists end up in prison is UNTRUE. It is time for RAINN to stop lying to us. And if this statistic can be proven wrong, what about the other well-known stats used often by victim advocate groups? I understand the difficulties in challenging these well-established groups, but just because they have popular opinion on their side does not mean they have the facts on their side. Many of these groups rely on scary-sounding stats to promote their cause and generate funds. RAINN is not alone in presenting dubious stats—earlier this year, we reported the SMART Office still relies on debunked studies to justify the federal Adam Walsh Act. This Movement has one thing the other side is typically lacking—the TRUTH.