Let it never be said that feminists aren’t adept at using visual devices and scare tactics effectively. That both of these go hand-in-hand isn’t surprising.
I recently stumbled across a flow chart produced by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) that seems to be making its way across the fem-o-sphere that decries the fact that 15 out of 16 rapists serve no prison time.
The chart is mostly effective because it (is):
- easy to read
- alarmist in conclusion
- raises concerns about a hot-button issue that can not ultimately be solved
- has arrows
- doesn’t actually draw any conclusions (as per point 3).
The rape flow chart is yet another liberal argument without an argument.
Let me add perspective here. This flow chart compiled data from three governmental and institutional surveys about rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault. It is telling that the creators of the chart lump all of those under the rape umbrella – no doubt to maximize effectiveness. The opening salvo states:
60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to a statistical average of the past 5 years.2 Those rapists, of course, never spend a day in prison. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail.
The argument starts out in good faith by acknowledging “rapes/sexual assaults” as separate categories, but then it drops the less effective terminology and opts to call all of these crimes “rapes” by the end of the paragraph.
But, for the purposes of determining real arrests, convictions, and penalizations it would be best for us to understand the difference between these categories. The governmental surveys define sexual assault as grabbing, fondling, or verbal threats. Rape is unwanted or coerced sexual penetration. According to statistics, 35% of reported cases were considered rape, 27% were considered attempted rape while 38% were considered sexual assault. If feminists had their way every sexual assault case – even where a man grabbed a woman’s breast or rear end on a train or made lewd comments toward her – would end in a prison sentence. But the courts and justice system don’t work that way; prison terms are socially constructed based upon resource constraints and criminal severity. Feminists hope that if they hem and haw enough, crimes like unwanted ass-grabbing will supersede robbery, larceny, theft, aggravated assault and battery, forgery, or illicit drug dealing in terms of sentencing.
To gain proper perspective on how effective our justice system is in punishing rape, we should analyze other crimes. We can consider homicide and its analogous strains (made for comparison to rape and sexual assault) – attempted murder and aggravated assault and battery. According to government statistics, 40% of homicides are left uncleared. An uncleared homicide is one in which authorities neither make an arrest nor formally close the case. But homicide is different from rape (sexual assault) – not only in terms of absolute effect but also in its ability to be defined. A 40% unsolved rate is relatively high considering that “homicide” and “murder” have objectively defined end results: a dead person. Homicide – except in cases of self-defense – aren’t subject to fluid and subjective terms much like rape is – which opens up room for rape to be categorized like homicide – with degrees like capital murder, first-degree, second-degree, manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. But feminists prefer to lump any unwanted sexual contact into the “rape” category because it casts a wide net and adds to the concept of male original sin. Unlike rape, with homicides there is no room for false reporting whereas experts’ consensus on false rape claims puts that figure at around 10%. Given that some (many?) sexual assaults aren’t actionable offenses, and given the fact that some rape claims are false, a 50% arrest rate would be workably more significant than a 60% arrest rate for homicide. Here a table from the National Center for Policy Analysis’ report on crime arrest, prosecution, and sentencing statistics:
As you can see, homicides have a 40% probability of ending in prison time. Keep in mind, these figures are from 1997 and that homicide arrest rates have fallen about 6% since then (I don’t have data on how much rape/sexual assault arrests have fallen). Rape is second among all categories of crime with a 16.3% prison sentencing rate. As such, a 50% arrest ratio for a category that is 62% rape and attempted rape (the harshest crimes falling under the “rape” umbrella) sounds relatively successful to my subjective brain. It seems that feminists who accept rape as their cause really have a problem with the entire justice system – in both their constrained resources and their imbedded standards of prosecution and guilt-determination (aka The Constitution).
In that this flow chart is an argument without an argument it fails to teach us anything useful. It then becomes another scare tactic used by feminists to convince us all that “something has to be done” without addressing exactly what that “something” is and what we’re able to do about it. The chart doesn’t make clear exactly where the problem lies. Does the “problem” lie with women who are unwilling to report their rapes? Is it with the police and prosecutors who don’t take rape seriously? Is it with juries who let that pesky phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” get in the way? How about with judges who are too lenient on convicted “rapists”? Or, finally, is it with society which doesn’t take rape seriously enough?
Subjectively – like feminists and the purveyors of this chart – a 16.3% prison time ratio seems about right considering a.) 38% of offenses are sexual assault and 27% are attempted rape – crimes which may not have deserve prison time – relatively speaking b.) some of the accusations are false claims; knowledge of such occurrences cascade through the justice system and have multiplicative effects (but we aren’t allowed to harangue false rape claimants because that makes us rape apologists) c.) prosecutors may not feel they have enough evidence to convict d.) juries may not find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and e.) judges may not see fit to put those who are convicted of their crime in prison – especially if that crime is some sort of lewd grabbing or sexual taunting.
These visual tactics and open-ended questions are often used by leftist movements which maintain their heads of steam by always having something to fight for. Being radical, that something is Utopia. For feminists whose raison d’etre is thwarting rape (a noble effort, don’t get me wrong), their work is never done until the world is ridden of this scourge. As such, we have to understand a flow chart like this for what it is. It is a tool by which radical feminists seek to co-opt focus, attention, and resources on the issues they deem important. Through it, they are merely the loudest voices among the crowd hoping for attention to their cause. Feminists who publish scare tactics like this are tacitly saying that other crimes aren’t as worthy of attention, government funds and private dollars are unjustly spent, and peoples’ attention is focused in the wrong direction. Where are the advocacy groups seeking to increase arrest and prosecutions for people who commit homicide? Surely death carries more weight than rape – not to even mention sexual assault. Their effective visual aids and alarming pseudo-analysis coalesce in attracting attention, sympathy, and – above all else – funding. But just as rape and rapists will always exist as long as humans are human, unmentioned rapes will always exist too (and as long as “linguistic inflation” gobbles up more and more situations and calls them rape). Prosecutors will never be able to find enough evidence in every rape case to press on towards trial; juries will never close the asymmetric information and moral hazard gap so as to increase convictions. Not to mention the budgetary constraints which make it impossible for everyone to work in the D.A.’s office or for a prison to be built on every street corner. A full-on eradication of rape/sexual assault will never happen unless, that is, we were able to institute a Big Brother like society where rapes wouldn’t even occur in the first place. But given that, lots of other things – non criminal speech and non criminal behavior along the way – will be thwarted. When Utopia comes into existence, Utopia is far from existing.