‘Out of 100 rapes, 32 will be reported’
I spend a lot of time on the internet and, in doing so, I come across a lot of people who seem to think that feminism is a bad thing. The understanding that many people have of third wave feminism (that’s the kind of feminist I am) is that it is perpetuated by a bunch of anonymous 13-year-olds on Tumblr and executed by fat, ugly, tattooed women who wear too-tight clothing and hold signs that read “I’m not asking for it” and “Down with the patriarchy.” I spend a lot of time on the internet and I come across a lot of people who think that, because of feminists, our society has become one of women crying rape like boys call wolf. The understanding these people have of feminism bleeds into their understanding of rape and sexual misconduct. It has become a widely accepted fact among the worst citizens of websites like Reddit and Imgur that rape only exists in victims’ heads.
Many men — yes, just men — that I have encountered on the internet have expressed their distaste for the way society handles rape accusations. “It’s guilty until proven innocent with rape,” they say. These men lament that women too often use rape as a way of getting back at exes and that it’s become an easy out for wishy-washy co-eds who changed their mind after the night of. Sure, we could shrug off this victim-blaming behavior as harmless. After all, it’s just a bunch of anonymous men whining on their computers, right?
Right, but those men have jobs and lives outside of Red- dit. They have mothers and sisters and coworkers and friends who are women who could, someday, say they were raped. They have fathers and brothers and co-workers and friends who are men who could, someday, say they were raped. My worry is that these anonymous internet men will look at their sister or brother or coworker or friend and laugh off his or her claim — saying that it’s just them being emotional or that they shouldn’t have been wearing that outfit or been that drunk or been in that part of town. My worry is that these anonymous internet men have power in lives outside of the internet. These men have the power to convince a rape victim that his or her story is not worth telling.
The thing about rape is that, more often than not, no legal action is taken. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, only 32 percent of rapes are reported to police. Out of 100 rapes, 32 will be reported, 7 reports will lead to an arrest and only 2 accused rapists will be convicted. Only 2 percent of rape accusations end in conviction. But let’s turn back to that 32 percent report rate.
If 68 percent of rape victims aren’t reporting, doesn’t that beg the question why? The fact that only 2 out of every 32 reported rapes end in conviction could deter many women from coming forward. When you know that there’s only a 6.25 percent chance that reliving your rape over and over again to police and prosecutors will end in your rapist’s conviction, would you do it?
As much as the statistical improbability deters many women from pursuing legal action against their rapists, I would argue that stigma has a lot more to do with it. I would argue that many women feel more ashamed than violated when it comes to their rape. Because of anonymous internet men telling the women and men in their lives that their rape wasn’t really a rape, that they’re overstating it and that they’re just trying to
get out of a bad decision, those victims won’t go to the police with their accusations. Because of a societal understanding of rape as an excuse that is perpetuated through internet sites like Return of Kings, Reddit, Imgur and The AntiFeminist, many victims don’t think that their rape was really a rape.
But there is more to healing after a rape than just reporting it to the police. The most important part of going on with life after a rape is going to counseling and getting help. It is being willing to call it what it is and move forward. According to Sui- cide.org, 13 percent of rape victims attempt suicide because of their rape. It is far more important for victims to be willing to say that they were raped, understand that it is not their fault, and start healing than it is for their attacker to be behind bars.
But, when we insist to a victim that she wasn’t really raped, how can we expect her to come to terms with what happened to her? When we talk about rape as if it is some imaginary villain that feminists came up with to tear down men, we trivialize the experiences of victims everywhere. When anonymous internet men whine about rape as if it is some childish calling card for women to play any time they don’t want to face their actions, those anonymous internet men mock the struggles of countless rape victims. When they say that rape is overstated and never real, they poke fun at the hundreds of women and men who experience sexual assault and rape in their lives. They mock the emotional and physical struggles of the victims who came forward. They terrorize the self-worth and stability of those who didn’t. It helps no one to laugh about rape. It helps no one to whine about how and when women claim they were raped. It helps no one, so why do we keep doing it?
Natalie Dulka is a sophomore English Writing and Theatre Art double major from Minneapolis, MN. She keeps herself occupied by holding the position of Chief Executive Officer of Feminism Club, being involved with the theater, and writing plays. Her passions include sarcasm, wool socks, and equality.