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The White House today issued a report about the problems of sexual assault with a particular emphasis on the situation on college campuses. We are already hearing expressions of CONCERN that this could lead to abuses of the rights of male college students. If you have access to hidden comments you can follow one such discussion in a diary that Laura Clawsonposted this morning.

The reality is that rapist have a huge probability of getting away with it.

This chart comes from here where you can find the sources for the footnotes. There are lots of statistical reports about rape but this short summary is consistent with most of them. The White House report cites the statistic that about 25% of college women experience rape or attempted rape. That is a staggering number of people.

Of course one of the first things that happens in any discussion about rape is the mansplaining of men who think that the solution to the problem is to explain to women their responsibility for protecting themselves because the burden for the problem is on them.

The solution to the problem lies in the direction of balancing the scales of justice. There are likely multiple reasons why a majority of victims do not report the incident to law enforcement. One of them is the realization that the odds are that they won't be believed and that after a grueling ordeal the case will be dropped without action. The statistics bear that out. Certainly the low incidence of actual prosecutions does not result from a lack of criminal complaints.

In 8th grade civics class we all got platitudes about the law being somehow above politics. Reality does not bear that out. Most prosecutors in state and local government must run for election. The same is true for state judges. Prosecutors usually have broad discretion about what cases they will actually take to court. The police also enjoy considerable discretion in how vigorously they pursue an investigation. The usual justification for the low level of arrests and prosecution for rape is that it would be a waste of tax money to devote resources to cases that had a low probability of conviction. This is essentially a political argument of how they are going to look to the public. If there were stronger demands from the public to do something about rape, it seems likely that investigation and prosecution would become more vigorous.  

There are various proposals for legislative change to make prosecution more evenly balanced. I'm not going to attempt to delve into that area. The reality is that we have a culture of long standing that places the burden of sexual purity on women and sends the message to boys and young men that part of their privilege is the right to get what they can from women and to get by with it. Clearly most of them who act on that message do get by with it. We need to look toward a society in which both girls and boys are given sound information about sexuality from an early age and a message of 50/50 responsibility for responsible sexual relations.

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:04 PM PST.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women, Pink Clubhouse, and Community Spotlight.

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