By Terrah Baker
As someone who is supposed to report facts, I don’t like it when numbers don’t add up. While statistics show that 20 – 25 percent of women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, another well-respected study by Dr. David Lisak of the University of Massachusetts, Boston shows that only 6 percent of men meet the criteria for a rapist.
So, if only a small portion of the male population is raping, but so many women are being raped, what does this tell us about the perpetrators? According to Dr. Lisak’s 2002 research, that each rapist is accumulating sometimes over 100 victims in his lifetime, with an average of 5.8 rapes per rapist. It shows that most rapists are not just one-time offenders, but serial rapists, hiding under the guises of “nice guys,” “friendly hosts,” and “helpful acquaintances.”
First, you have to look at what being a rapist actually means. In terms of the study, they asked questions based on the legal definition of sexual assault, in a way that would not alert them to the actual purpose of the survey. In Arkansas, the definition of rape is “engag(ing) in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity with another person by forcible compulsion, who is incapable of consent because of physical helplessness, mental illness, defect or incapacitation.” In Dr. Lisak’s survey, one question read: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances?”
The first reaction of many in our society is to blame the victim, or ask what part they played in their own rape, so no wonder that’s where many victims’ minds normally go. The first reaction of many victims is not to say anything, to put it out of their mind or at least pretend like it never happened, leaving the perpetrator protected from conviction, free to commit more rapes and almost confirmed by his previous successful attempts.
Reports show that only 40 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported and about 3 percent of those cases ever end up with a rapist serving a single day in prison. With statistics like that, no wonder so few victims come forward. It doesn’t seem worth it to experience more trauma, judgement, shaming, for something that may not even find them justice.
These facts bring law enforcement, sexual assault victim advocates, and international activists to only one conclusion: to stop rape, we must stop blaming victims and focus on prosecuting the rapists.
There are many factors to consider when discussing sexual assault dynamics in this country. You could discuss the high rates, the skewed justice and legal system, the public health consequences, or the cultural attitudes that belittle and blame rape victims, the correlation between crime and sexual abuse, the high likelihood of revictimization, but putting all of that aside, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: rapists need to be brought to justice so sexual violence in our country and around the world can end.
Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, it’s a great time to educate yourself on the facts surrounding sexual assault. You’ll find a hidden epidemic that has been causing struggle, turmoil and infects a large portion of our population causing chain reactions of drug use, homelessness, depression and a number of other personal and social health concerns.
For anyone who has been a victim or knows a victim, know their is support available through sexual assault crisis centers (acasa.us/help.html), the U of A STAR program (health.uark.edu/starcentral.php), and the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault (www.acasa.us). Their programs are meant to help you in whatever way you choose, and to empower you through the entire process. You never have to make a police report, but if you want to, there are people who trust you, believe you, support you, and want to help.