There was a sentence in a diary today:
In the 50 years I've been on Earth, I've never once met a single man or boy who raped a woman.The diary, the diarist, really aren't important since this is not a rebuttal or an argument, but simply a reflection on that one sentence.
Rape has been widely underreported in America, according to a new panel study by the National Research Council.
After comparing several official methods for counting rape and sexual assault, the panel discovered major inconsistencies in national data.
The focal point of the study was the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) -- an annual crime report conducted through household surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Justice Statistics -- which counted 188,380 victims of rape and sexual assault in 2010. Another data source, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, counted nearly 1.3 million incidents that same year. Data from the FBI, which gathers its statistics on rape or attempted rape reported as a crime by local law enforcement, counted only 85,593 in 2010.
In the mid-seventies, I was a young, single woman who lived at the Fox Plaza in San Francisco, next door to City Hall, and across the street from San Francisco's Central Emergency Hospital.
I attended an event put on by the Queen's Bench Bar Association, in conjunction with the San Francisco Police Department, on rape prevention. In those days, rape was still a capital crime in some states, making a guilty verdict as rare as hen's teeth, because even if a jury was convinced that a rape occurred, they had a hard time thinking that it deserved the death penalty. The Supreme Court changed that in 1977. But convictions were still hard to come by.
Wanting to become involved, I spoke with some of the women of the QB after the lecture and found myself volunteering for training to become a trauma crisis intervention counsellor. The training was long and involved. Crisis intervention counseling was in its infancy, and our guidebook, Rape: Victims of Crisis, was written by Ann Wolbert Burgess, R.N., D.N.Sc., Associate Professor of Nursing, and Lynda Lytle Holmstom, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, both at Boston College. Together they had developed the program that was spreading to hospitals across the country.
SF Central Emergency Hospital
But only the first. One woman was kidnapped off the street, held by her assailant for three days during which she was repeatedly raped. She was sure it was all because her skirt was too short. The patrolman who brought her in interrupted her and told her that she could have walked down the street stark naked and not have deserved her fate. By then the work of the QB on sensitizing the SFPD was beginning to bear fruit as shown by the officer's attitude.
I dealt with a seven year-old girl whose uncle raped her while babysitting, a gay prostitute whose reaction was strikingly similar to that of a straight prostitute, both of whom were treated with dignity and respect.
Our function as counselors was to listen. To encourage the victim, in a safe environment, to recount her experiences at her own pace, and for her own good. We helped arranged for someone to stay with the victim at her home, or if that had been the location of the assault, elsewhere. We provided referrals to qualified psychologists and psychiatrists who had expertise in the area of sexual assault. If requested, we held her hand during the physical examination at the hospital.
But we didn't see date rapes, or marital rapes. Because, for all intents and purposes, there were no such things. Although the sexual violence occurred on dates and within the confines of a marriage, the fact that the victim knew her assailant made it unlikely that the case would ever be prosecuted.
It was an emotionally exhausting job, and I eventually moved into a training position. But the staff at Central Emergency would still call me out in the middle of the night for certain cases when they felt I could help. That, plus the facts that I lived across the street and never refused a call.
So why didn't I report my own rape?
It was accompanied by the threat of the knife with an eight-inch blade that was carefully removed from the embossed leather sheath and laid on the night table next to my bed. I did what I was told and the knife remained on the night table where he put it until he got up to leave.
I knew the system. I knew who to call. They would have believed me.
But I did not report my own rape.
And if I, who knew the system, did not report my own rape, how many other women did not report theirs? How many times has a woman said yes, not from sexual desire, but from fear to say no? How often has the unearned guilt of the rape victim protected the perpetrator? Does the fact that it is unreported mean it is not rape?
Do all men, or even most men rape women? Hell, no.
But they don't have to. As long as some men rape some women, all women will live with a certain level of fear.
Whether conscious or not, we will walk with fear after dark on city streets. We will think twice about accepting the job that may put us at greater risk. We will walk to our cars with the point of our keys held carefully between our index and middle fingers, all the better to rake across the soft skin on the inside of an assailant's wrist.
Tolerance of the rape culture only allows it to grow. As rexymeteorite wrote yesterday, we have to call out and condemn the attitude that allows a rape culture to flourish, and not only when that attitude appears on Fox News.