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The role of stigma in rape and abuse report rates

‘Out of 100 rapes, 32 will be reported’

Steadfast Feminist.  Natalie Dulka
Steadfast Feminist. Natalie Dulka

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-, 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?

One Comment

  1. Not So Mouse Not So Mouse June 12, 2016

    AS with many other stories floating all over the internet, my brother was a sexual abuser, molester, batterer that tried to rape his 5 years younger than him sister, usually after mental and emotional abuse. One time the cops showed up after a particularly bad battering, and when I told them he had been doing this me my entire life, instead of asking more pointed questions about the abuse I had suffered at his hands, instead they proceeded to tell me he was out there accusing me of being a &%^$#ho that deserved it…. as if we live in the middle east or something? ( to lie about his straight honors and AP classes college bound sister like that was even more disgusting, but such is the pathetic mind of a loser who hates women) and that that was why i had long nails that had raked his face when i was in reality trying to defend myself by pushing his face away from me when he had me pinned to the wall hurling abuse and screaming in my face with his bad disgusting breath that made my skin crawl even to this day. The point is the cops dont give a shit about the lives of girls, they must think it even admirable that brothers abuse and molest their sisters to “break them in” and condition them to raise more “subjects” that will submit to state sponsored rape culture and brutality <– that is a fact, not the bullshit concern we see on Law and disorder SUV unit…. Instead they should be showing women who were trained to fight back and who kick the living shit out of their abusers, and instead of being interviewed as victims, are shown interviewed as heroes and role models for the rest of us to know we dont have to put up with this shit no more. AH, that would be justice! But no, the wall of blue silence covers up for abusers among their ranks and out in society too, to uphold patriarchy and rights over women and children to be treated like chattel F*that and all who brainwash everyone else into upholding that human trafficking system, because that is exactly what it is no matter how they wrap words and pretend it is legal, it is not, rather it is a total violation of human rights.
    As for the men that do not support feminism because it destroys privilege to abuse, rape etc… they can not see their own part in the vicious cycle and are part of the same problem.

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