Posted on May 31, 2017
Last week I gave some data on Facebook implying that well over 90% of rapes of females are performed by serial rapists. There are important implications for anti-rape policy.
First, “culture of rape” education is unlikely to have a substantial impact. Most of the rapes are being done by hardened rapists who probably can’t be reached.
Second, what really matters is catching rapists as early in their careers as possible.
Third, identifying rapists is the hard part. Getting convictions is much easier. The largest single reason for not catching rapists is that most rapes are never reported at all. I believe that persuading more women to report rapes is the most important social change the anti-rape movement could accomplish. Key persuasive point: a single reported rape can save several other women from being raped.
We know from findings of the Innocence Project that ID by the victim is highly error prone in cases of rape by a stranger. Wrongful convictions based on erroneous ID means that the rapist is still on the street and not being looked for. Therefore it is also extremely important to persuade rape victims to preserve the physical evidence by getting to a hospital as soon as possible without bathing. Even if the rapist used a condom there may be trace DNA evidence.
Agency practices are extremely important in getting cooperation from victims. The police and hospitals are getting better, but many agencies still do a poor job of processing rape cases. The anti-rape movement is already pressuring the police on this, but I suggest they should adopt a systematic approach of auditing every police department by interviewing rape victims who are willing to be interviewed as to exactly how they were treated by hospitals and police. A public report on police and hospital errors based on even a small number of cases could have a powerful impact.
Contacting anonymous rape victims is difficult, but the police could help by giving a letter to all victims from the audit group asking volunteers to come forward. Police that refuse to cooperate should be shamed publicly.
All of these programs need to be extended to male and transsexual rape victims as well as female victims. In the short run the programs will likely face a lot resistance from people who deny that rape of males is a significant problem, but in the long run I believe that programs addressing all victims will be more effective than programs that specialize in a single gender.