Running head: THE REALITY OF RAPE
The Reality of Rape
Southern New Hampshire University
Rape is a crime of violence and aggression that not only hurts a victim for the moment, but it shatters her entire life. According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, rape is defined as “any kind of unlawful sexual activity, usually sexual intercourse, carried out forcibly or under threat of injury and against the will of the victim.” This definition has been redefined to cover same-sex attacks and attacks against those who are incapable of valid consent, including persons who are mentally ill, intoxicated, drugged, etc. (rape). Because rape crimes affect all races, cultures, ages, and economical classes, it is difficult to create concrete research on the topic because of the variances. Society in the United States by no means condones rape, but it does expect it. The theories of rape are all different but the crime is always the same, a violation of one’s self through a sexual act.
There are many different types of rape including date rape, statutory rape, gang rape, and acquaintance rape. Though there are more than a handful of different names to view rape, all of the names have one thing in common: a victim. The frightening reality is that all of the rape studies that have been done show that the perpetrator is usually someone that the victim knows and/or trusts; during the dating years, seventy to ninety percent of rapes are acquaintance or date rapes (Mackey). Even more terrifying is that only one-third of rapes are reported to law enforcement officials (Buddie ; Miller). Victims are most likely afraid that by going through with the process of pressing charges on his/her perpetrator that they, in turn, will be blamed using one or more of the ridiculous rape myths, by society. The reality of rape is a startling combination of ignorance relating to rape myths, lack of reportings and convictions, severe post-traumatic feelings of the attack, and theories of rape, both psychological and sociological.
Rape is such a difficult crime to prove because it usually comes down to the victim’s word against the perpetrator’s word. In the United States, anyone who is charged with a crime is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to prove that the crime did indeed happen, a victim is usually humiliated and she is forced to re-live the horrible incident of being sexually violated. A defense attorney may verbally attack the victim on the stand in court accusing her of not trying to defend herself and that if the assault did happen, she would have been able to get away if she really wanted to (Mackey). This defense is one of the many rape myths that many people believe are true. The fact is that in many incidences of rape, the perpetrator will threaten the victim with some sort of weapon, including threatening to beat her. Any logical woman realizes that a rapist is usually not a murderer, and if she cooperates, she will be let go with only the images and pain of the horrible attack. In fact, less than two percent of murders in the U.S. involved rape or any other sexual assault (Greenfield). In rape situations, the victim has lost control over what may happen to her life and her body; she is victimized and over-powered.
According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice, “the closer the relationship between the female victim and the offender, the greater the likelihood that the police would not be told about the rape or sexual assault” (Rennison). The probable reason for this is related to a rape myth that states that most rapes are committed by strangers; it isn’t rape if the victim and perpetrator knew each other (Office on Violence Against Women). Perhaps this is ignorance on the victim’s part because she believes that it isn’t rape if it was by her spouse, boyfriend, friend, or acquaintance. It’s feasible that this ignorance adds to the reasons that rape is continuing in the country; if a man can “get away with” raping one woman, why not do it again?
Another example of ignorance is that many men do not seem to recognize the difference between consensual pre-rape intimacy and forced sex. According to one study, fifty percent of young men interviewed believe it is okay to force sex on a woman if she consents to intimacy and then changes her mind, or if she led him to believe that he would attain sex. In another study, seventy-six percent of high school males regard forced sex as acceptable under those similar circumstances (Thio). Ignorance appears to be high among young males regarding the act of rape as shown by the previous examples. The fact is simple: when a woman retracts from intimacy with a man and says “no”, she means it and the man must adhere to her wishes. This is the likely reason that many rapes are not reported because the victim feels that the assault was partially, if not fully, her fault. Accepting a date with a man does not mean that a woman is assuming to have sex later that night; it isn’t her responsibility to prevent rape, it is his obligation to stop it.
Of an annual average of 131,950 female (over the age of twelve) rapes in the United States, approximately thirty-six percent are reported to police, making the number only 47,960 cases reported (Rennison). Of those reported cases, only 34,650 arrests were made, and only 21,650 were convicted (Greenfield). These statistics create the reality that roughly sixteen percent of rapists in the U.S. are convicted. The average sentence for a rapist is 9.75 years, but an average of 4.75 years are served, allowing the perpetrators to be released back into society (Greenfield). Fear of being exploited and blamed by society is most likely the top reason of women not reported the attack. In addition to feeling self-blame, the victim also fears that her attacker will retaliate on her for reporting to the police and/or pressing charges against him.
The consequences of being sexually assaulted are profound on victims. Each victim reacts to the crime differently; some show a lack of concern, whereas others become so traumatized that they sink into a deep depression and possibly commit suicide. The reactions to being raped can relate to factors including the degree of violence, the age of the victim, her social class, and prior sexual experiences (Thio). Is it understandable that a young girl who is a virgin and she is forcibly raped would become traumatized knowing that she lost her virginity to a rapist. A woman who is raped by someone she knows and/or trusts could be more susceptible to self-blame for the attack; a woman who is raped by a stranger is more likely to suffer from future interpersonal issues and persistent depression (Thio).
Unfortunately, there is no one theory that explains rape, and no treatment has been effective in treating sex offenders (Retzinger). Perhaps the reason that there is no theory to explain sexual assault is because the act is a mixture of psychology and sociology. The crime of rape is a power crime, and not for sexual needs. Perpetrators may have experienced women as rejecting and in turn reject women, therefore feeling the need to humiliate and overpower them. This reason can be explained by the psychological theory of sexual inadequacy that states that rapists suffer from some sort of personality defect or emotional disturbance. The perpetrators have serious psychological difficulties that handicap them in relationships with others and discharge this mental handicap when under stress through sexual violence (Thio).
The social psychological theory is one of sexual permissiveness. This theory is similar to the psychological theory of men feeling rejected. In a sexually permissive society where there are many opportunities to have consensual non-marital sex with women, the perpetrator feels more relative frustration when turned down in that society (Thio). This theory can be backed up by studies that show that the largest percentage of rapes (twenty-two percent) happens in areas where the population is over 250,000 (Greenfield). Both the psychological and social psychological theories suggest that the crime of rape is indeed a power crime by stating the similar reasons of men feeling rejected.
Rape is a disturbing reality in modern society. It really doesn’t matter if it’s called date rape, gang rape, or any other name. The fact is simple: rape is rape, no matter what name is given. In order to get to the bottom of finding a solution to rape, society must start with taking any and all blame off of victims. A woman shouldn’t need to prove that she didn’t accept a man’s sexual invitation; it’s that man that needs to prove that he didn’t commit rape. It’s inhumane to create a situation where the victim feels uncomfortable testifying and is humiliated again; she has already been humiliated by being raped in the first place. If society would accept the fact that there is no such thing as victim-precipitation and victim-blame, perhaps more victims would come forward and more rapists would be convicted and sent to prison.
Buddie, Amy, & Miller, Arthur (2001). Beyond rape myths: a more complex view of perceptions of rape victims – 1. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. Retrieved from the World Wide Web November 18, 2004: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_M2294/is_2001_August/ai_82782443
Mackey, Frank Misogynist. Cultural rape myths. Survivors Emerging. Retrieved November 18, 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://people.morehead-st.edu/students/ar/aeruck01/culturalrapemyths.html
rape Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 19, 2004 from Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service: http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?tocld=9376486
Rennison, Callie Marie. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: reporting to police and medical attention, 1992-2000 (United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics No. NCJ-194530). Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Retzinger, Suzanne, & Scheff, Thomas. (1997). Shame, anger, and the social bond: A theory of sexual offenders and treatment. Electonic Journal of Sociology.
Thio, Alex. (2004). Deviant Behavior (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.