Rape culture is defined as:
“a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.”
Within the feminist movement, there lies a theory that claims society has normalized rape against women.
This article hopes to exam if rape culture is as prevalent as we think and, if some people still choose to believe that it is, what they can do to be safe (I know that sounds like victim blaming, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet). When it comes to false rape accusations, the common narrative is that false rape accusations are rare, thus we must believe victims. In reality, some people are skeptic about rape accusations, and for a very good reason…because false rape accusations are almost at 50%. This article also looks into why women lie.
Rape: By The Numbers
American women have a 2.6% chance of being raped in their lifetime, and a 0.2% chance in college (Patton and Farley 2014). While it’s 0.2-2.6% too much, it’s not necessarily something in which women should fear for their life all the time. Regardless, the issue of avoiding rapist will be taken up later in this article. It’s hard to establish whether rape is highly prevalent in today’s society as the issue of false rape accusations seem to distort the numbers.
According to “Rape And Sexual Assault Are Common. So Why Don’t We Believe Victims” published by Vox (Crockett 2016), it states that
“Rape is incredibly common (about one in five women experience sexual assault), and false reports are rare (2 to 8 percent). So if a woman comes forward about being assaulted, Occam’s razor suggests she’s probably telling the truth.”
The 1-in-5 and 2-8% numbers are thrown around a lot to support the idea of rape culture, but they’re highly flawed. Let’s take the 1-in-5 number which comes from the CDC. As Young (2014) rightfully points out: the CDC’s findings don’t match up with statistics from NCVS data (the NCVS data estimates that 238,000 women faced rape and sexual assault in 2011, and the CDC estimates that it’s 2 million for rape and 6.7 million suffered some other form of sexual assault). Furthermore, the CDC study asked about forced sex in which the respondent may or may not regard it as a crime, and the question for rape is worded badly to get a false positive.
Muehlenhard (2017) released a meta-analysis showing that the 1-in-5 number is correct, but Airaksinen (2017) noted that the researchers acknowledged the use of stretching the word “sexual assault” by other past studies, and their own study rejected the legal definition because researchers shouldn’t be limited by a word — which led to even them stretching the word to include more stuff. The study found that only 3/49 studies met their criteria, but still felt safe to say that the 1-in-5 statistic is correct.
False Rape Accusations
Before we get into the why, we have to talk about the frequency of false rape accusations.
The current belief is that only 2-10% of rape accusations are false (Los Angeles Times 2010, Heaney 2018, Our Silence [a group dedicated to ending sexual assault]). Where exactly does the 2% number come from, and why is it cited so much? The 2-8% number is often cited a lot because nobody bothers to check it. Its origins are also ones that are unfounded and highly skeptical. The number comes from feminist Susan Brown Miller’s book “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.” As Greer (1999) noted: the number comes from a judge who cited the NYPD Rape Squad, but there is no report to prove this number and the team even lacked straining in statistics (see Zutter, Horselenberg, and Koppen 2017 for a larger overview).
Similarly, the low estimate has been replicated a lot. The NSVRC released a report on false reporting and even claimed that false accusation cases are low due to 3 studies of which they cite (NSVRC), all which give an estimate of 2-10%. Two of the studies cited feature the same author, and the last one cited looked at 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000-2003. The first study cited gives a 2-8% estimate (Lonsway, Archambault, Lisak 2009); Walker (2015a; 2015b) looked at the study and found that they looked at a
“a single police department, in a single year..”
The second study (Lisak et al. 2010) is also the exact same as their 2009 version, nothing much changed — but this time they attacked a study done by Kanin. This version looked at 8 studies and, surprise, they’re from single police departments in a matter of 2-3 years. (One study cited looked at colleges [Fisher, Cullen, and Turner 2000], but this study used a survey and it’s not accurate [Kitchens 2013]; One looked at Britain, but this will be taken up later because they make the same accusations as Lisak did to Kanin). The third study cited by the NSVRC is also cited by Lisak, and this study was also done over the course of only 3 years.
The studies are also based on cases that CAN BE proven false, some are still left unfounded. This doesn’t mean that 2-10% of rape cases are false in general; only that 2-10% can be proven false.
In conclusion, the studies cited by the NSVRC aren’t very good.
Another estimate comes from a 1996 FBI report which says: “The ‘unfounded’ rate, or % of complaints determined through investigation to be false, is higher for forcible rape than any other index crime. 8% of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were ‘unfounded,’ while the average for all index crimes was 2%” (FBI 1996). Unfounded cases aren’t necessarily false, so the report is useless, per se.
However, the FBI estimate is too low. Newsweek reported that,
“A 3rd of the DNA scans now routinely done in new rape investigations are non matches” (Newsweek 1993).
In simple terms, DNA samples from hair, semen, or blood found on the victim didn’t match the DNA of the suspect. (It’s impossible to establish if the women lied or was mistaken.) In the 1960’s, the FBI reported that 20% of rapes reported were unfounded, a decade later it was 15%, and by the 1990’s it was 10%. So the number kept changing for some odd reason.
The most recent study I could find on false rape accusations comes from Zutter, Horselenberg, and Koppen (2018) which found that
“Approximately 5% of the allegations of rape were deemed false or baseless. That was at least five times higher than for most other offence types.”
I decided to ask Francis Walker, the guy who’s site I’ve been citing in the upper paragraphs. According to him,
“Main issue is that many departments just don’t report unfounding for any offense, leading to artificially lower %s.”
Probably the most comprehensive study done on false rape accusations is Kanin (1994); the study was between 1978-1987 and investigated rapes in small metropolitan area with a population of 70,000. Over the course of 9 years, in 41% of rape cases the complainant admitted that no rape happened and it was false. Most accusers were from low SES and averaged an age of 21. Researchers followed up the study with another examination on 2 large Midwestern state universities; they found that 50% of rape cases were false. What makes this study better is that it was done in 9 years, not 2-3, and it was done on a small metropolitan area and two colleges.
Lisak et al. tried to dispute Kanin, but their jabs are the same one the previously mentioned Britain study made against the police department they were looking at (Look at Walker 2015b for a response made to Lisak et al.’s accusations against Kanin). While the Kanin study is old by now and there’s genuine criticisms to be made against it, but not ones that disprove the study (Walker 2015c), it just goes to show that the frequency of false rape accusations are much higher than only 2-8%. Regardless, the Kanin study does not use unfounded cases (one where it can’t be proven/ disproved).
When reading articles on the Kanin study (referring to Newman, 2018), they all seem to make the same criticism that others make: Kanin labeled a report false if the police said it was, and this could lead to major bias. When you actually read the study, a case was labeled false, and only false, if the complainant said it was. There are also other studies that don’t get a 2-8% estimate besides Kanin.
MacLean (1979) looked at an area adjacent to Glasgow with a population of 100,000. Of the 34 rape cases reported and investigated, 15 were thought to be genuine, 3 were probably genuine, 6 were probably false and 10 were false. That’s 26% that were deemed proven false.
McDowell (1987) looked at rape allegations in the Air Force using 556 rape allegation cases. 220 of those were true, 60% were false, and 256 were inconclusive. The researchers then looked at a mid-western city and found a false rape accusation rate of 60%.
Jordan (2004) found a false rape accusation rate of 41% when you combine cases where the police said it was false, and where complainants said it was false. When it comes to possibly true/ false, it was 38%.
Why Women Lie
While there’s no possible way to get every reason on why women lie, we do have some studies that give a few reasons.
Zutter, Horselenberg, and Koppen (2018) found that the reason women lie could be divided into categories: material gain, alibi, revenge, sympathy, attention, or a disturbed mental state.
Spohn, Tellis, and White (2014) looked at 55 sexual assault cases in Los Angeles during 2018, they found that false accusations could be divided into 5 overlapping categories: avoiding trouble/ providing an alibi, anger or revenge, attention seeking, mental illness, and guilt/ remorse.
Long Term Effects:
Due to the amount of false rape accusations, it’s no surprise that American’s are starting to be highly skeptical.
Avoiding Rape: The Importance of Race
This section will attempt to argue that if you wish to avoid being sexually assaulted or raped, you should avoid the main provokers of this…blacks and Hispanics.
According to RAINN, most rapist are whites who are then followed by blacks.
The problem with this is that Hispanics are lumped in with whites — and this is a major problem as it inflates the numbers; when Hispanics are made into their own category then it changes the number. What’s unknown to me is why RAINN treats Hispanics as a victim but not as perpetrator? Regardless, RAINN is wrong.
As we can see, the incarceration data shows that blacks and Hispanics lead in rape and sexual assault. This also fits with “catcalling” which is sometimes seen as sexual assault for some odd reason. The infamous New York video showed how a beautiful women walking down the street is catcalled a lot by men, but they left out the race/ ethnicity of the cat caller.
“More specifically, it’s a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around New York City for 10 hours. The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not” (Rosin 2014).
While the video isn’t a good proxy since their method was bad, it’s still something to work with. Rosin shows how the video makers did get white guys but left it out — but that doesn’t mean that they catcalled the girl at the same rate as the blacks and Hispanics. To finally add to this, we have to take a look at media stuff — aka — women being treated like sex objects. I’m not aware of any study that shows if women are treated as sex objects on TV, so I’ll focus on music. Women are treated like objects in music videos…but it’s mostly in rap, and most rappers are black
Aubrey and Frisby (2011) found that women more likely to be sexually objectified and be shown in sexually alluring behaviors in R & B and hip hop than in country music; this shouldn’t be surprising as black music is more sexual and full of “sexual dancing” (Levin 1997).
So what do we get from this section? Well, if you want to avoid being a victim of rape and sexual assault then you should avoid the group of people who largely do that crime unto others. This may seem kinda racist — but it’s really not. Stereotypes are largely true and exist for a reason as race differences in behavior have persisted for a long, long time. So instead of saying “men are trash” or “men are rapist,” break it down by race so people know who to avoid. “Teach men not to rape?” Teach minorities not to do it so much. Besides, it’s also hilarious to get people riled up.