Government officials are agog at the results of a survey that found that 1 in 5 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape, and that the number of rapes reported to authorities are dwarfed by the actual number of rapes that occur. Did none of the shocked attend a freshman anti-rape seminar in college?
The survey’s findings are disturbing, of course, but not totally surprising. For instance, the commonly accepted notion that rape usually goes unreported bore out; last year, only 84,000 or so rapes were reported to authorities, but based on rates of sexual assault reported by survey participants, researchers think that last year more like 1.3 million American women experienced rape or attempted rape. That’s four times as many incidents than RAINN estimated. All in all, one in three women will be subject to spousal abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or some combination of those three in her lifetime.
Men can be victimized by sexual assault, too; in fact, the survey of 16,000 Americans found that 1 in 71 men had experienced sexual abuse or rape, and that many male victims were victimized when they were young children.
One third of male sexual abuse victims reported experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their assaults, and two-thirds of women reported the same.
So, rape is underreported but widespread, traumatic, and effects both male and female victims? Seems logical, and it sounds like something we’ve been hearing since 8th grade sex ed. But officials affiliated with the survey were shocked, shocked! that things are this bad. The New York Times reports one official’s reaction.
“That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey. “I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population.”
But didn’t we know this already? Those of us who remember the early 1990’s probably remember “rape savers,” those tough little loops that you were supposed to put around the buttons in your jeans so that they couldn’t be removed by force— they used to be ubiquitous on mid-priced pants. In 1992, 109,000 rapes were reported to authorities, according to the FBI, many more than were reported last year. And didn’t we already know that most rapes occur at the hands of someone already known to the victim? And that about 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime? And that men are sometimes raped?
If we can’t even bother to remember that rampant unreported sexual assault is a problem, then how are we ever going to fix it?