Sexual Assault: Facts and Research

Major content warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

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Earlier this week, my daughter got into a conversation with someone who seemed to believe a lot of the myths and misinformation about rape. That it was rare … that rapists are generally caught and jailed … that there’s no real research into the prevalence of rape and sexual assault.

So I’m putting this together as a reference for my daughter, and for anyone else interested in the research and facts about sexual assault. (The emphasis here is on U.S. statistics.)

Prevalence

We don’t know exactly how frequent rape is, in part because it’s one of the most underreported crimes. A U.S. Bureau of Justice study from 2002 found that only “36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults were reported to police.” A 2016 study from the Medical University of South Carolina National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center found that “Only 16 percent of all rapes were reported to law enforcement.

So take, for example, the 2017 FBI report that found:

  • There were an estimated 135,755 rapes (revised definition) reported to law enforcement in 2017.

That’s about 0.04% of the population. Based on what we know of underreporting, we recognize that the true number was significantly higher. But even using these numbers, remember this is for a single year. If we take an 80-year lifespan, you end up with 3.3% of the population. And that’s just the reported numbers.

In 2010, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a nationwide survey of randomly-selected subjects. Results are based on 16,507 completed and 1,542 partially completed interviews.

Some of their results:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%).
  • Approximately 1 in 71 men in the United States (1.4%) reported having been raped in his lifetime, which translates to almost 1.6 million men.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

A 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study focused on The Sexual Victimization of College Women. From a national sample of 4,446 women, they concluded:

  • Nearly five percent (4.9%) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year.

This study also highlighted another problem with collecting and reporting statistics about rape. Namely, that many people are unclear on the definition of rape. The study notes:

In each incident report, respondents were asked, “Do you consider this incident to be a rape?” For the 86 incidents categorized as a completed rape, 46.5 percent (n=40) of the women answered “yes,” 48.8 percent (n=42) answered “no,” and 4.7 percent (n=4) answered “don’t know.”

The 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, prepared for the National institute of Justice, found that:

  • 26.1% of college senior women reported experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
  • 3.7% of college men reported being victims of completed sexual assault since entering college.

False Reports

Ever since I started working with rape survivors and talking about the research, people — mostly men — have been asking, “But what about all of the false reports?” It feels like that particular response has gotten more common in recent years, and it’s frustrating as hell.

To be clear, false reports of rape and sexual assault can and do happen. But the research shows such cases to be rare.

Let’s start with False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault, published in 2009, which includes an extensive literature review that finds:

  • When more methodologically rigorous research has been conducted, estimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8%.

They conclude, “this realistic and evidence-based estimate of 2-8% thus suggests that the American public dramatically overestimates the percentage of sexual assault reports that are false.”

Going back a bit farther, a 1996 FBI report found that “Eight percent of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were ‘unfounded’.” But this includes complaints found to be “false or baseless,” and therein lies a problem. What qualifies as an unfounded report? Many reported rapes aren’t prosecuted because prosecutors don’t feel there’s sufficient evidence. “Baseless” and “false” aren’t the same thing.

In 2017, Sandra Newman gathered additional research on false accusations and found, among other things:

  • False rape accusations almost never have serious consequences.
  • In the most detailed study ever conducted of sexual assault reports to police, undertaken for the British Home Office in the early 2000s, out of 216 complaints that were classified as false, only 126 had even gotten to the stage where the accuser lodged a formal complaint. Only 39 complainants named a suspect. Only six cases led to an arrest, and only two led to charges being brought before they were ultimately deemed false.

Who Are All These Rapists?

There’s a common myth that rapists are creepy strangers lurking in bushes, and while this does happen, rapists are far more likely to be someone the victim knows.

Research finds some patterns among rapists. “These men begin early, studies find. They may associate with others who also commit sexual violence. They usually deny that they have raped women even as they admit to nonconsensual sex.”

Cross-campus studies of rape identify the following factors as contributors to sexual violence: sex-role socialization, rape myths, lack of sanctions for abuse, male peer group support, pornography, adversarial sexual beliefs, lack of empathy, and all-male membership groups such as fraternities and sports teams.”

Why Aren’t All the Rapists in Jail?

Another myth is that, since rape is a crime, shouldn’t rapists all end up in jail?

I 100% support jail time for rapists, but the reality is, our legal system does a poor job of prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing rapists.

There are a number of reasons for this. Take, for example, the nationwide problem of rape kits (evidence collected from a rape victim) being left to gather dust on shelves.

While things are starting to change here, and there’s more attention and push to process the backlog of rape kits, it’s obvious these cases weren’t a priority for many police departments.

Even when a victim reports a rape, the perpetrator is less likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted when compared to other crimes.

If a rapist is convicted, they often receive a lenient sentence. One notorious example is that of convicted rapist Brock Turner, who was “convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in county jail, three years probation and a requirement that he register as a sex offender.” Why only six months? In part, because the judge said a longer sentence “would have ‘a severe impact’ and ‘adverse collateral consequences’ on Turner.”

That’s far from the only example.

Given how often rapists receive these slap-on-the-wrist sentences, is it any wonder rape is so underreported? And that’s before you get into other reasons for not reporting, like one study that found 1 in 5 rape victims who didn’t report said it was because of a fear of reprisal. Or shame, denial, minimization, fear, or lack of information. Or victim-blaming. Or because when they do tell someone, they’re not believed.

Resources

Happy Space Janitors Day!

Terminal Alliance - Papberback Cover ArtI’m gonna be spending half of today on a plane, and the rest of the time either at work or getting ready to spend half of today on a plane, so this is gonna be pretty quick.

Today is the official release of the paperback edition of Terminal Alliance. Yay! This means you can now pick up your mass market copy for only $7.99. It also means the e-book price has dropped to match the mass market. Yay again!

Feel free to pick up a copy in the format of your choosing:

You can also read the first chapter in whatever format you’d like, as long as it’s one of these three: PDF, EPUB, MOBI

The sequel, Terminal Uprising, will be out on February 12, 2019.

Doggie Surgery and Travel Preparations

Zoey is in the cone of shame, following ACL surgery on Friday. Zoey does not like the cone of shame, but it’s the only way to keep her from taking more of her staples out overnight.

Zoey in her cone

It turns out ACL surgery is pretty pricey. We’re okay financially, but if anyone feels like this is a good time to pick up a book or two, I certainly won’t ‘t object.

The surgery went well. We’re looking at a long recovery process, though. A process made more challenging because Zoey really likes to run and chase squirrels and generally be a ball of barely-contained doggy-energy. (Which is part of what led to the problem in the first place — she not only sprinted after the squirrel, she hurled herself bodily against the fence trying to get to the little thing.)

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I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Utopiales, in Nantes, France. This should be a lot of fun, but I’m currently in pre-travel stress mode, trying to make sure everything’s packed, all the info I need is printed out (and translated, where necessary), and double-checking I’ve got various panels, meetings, and meals entered in my schedule — and set to the proper time zone.

Blogging will be light to none until I get back next week, but I’ll try to post a few pics and updates on the other social media.

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Terminal Alliance - Papberback Cover ArtThe timing for this trip is a little awkward, since tomorrow is also the release date for the paperback edition of Terminal Alliance. This means the ebook price has dropped to $7.99.

My copies showed up today, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a newsletter sent out tomorrow before I leave, with one subscriber winning a signed copy.

In the meantime, I’ll just leave these links here…

Terminal Alliance

Why I’m Not at Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again. (Post by Crystal Huff)

Updates:

10/25 -Arisia Guests of Honor Daniel José Older and Malka Older will not be attending as things stand.

10/26 – Arisia posted the following on Twitter:

“Regarding a recent influx of comments, the Arisia Executive Board takes our Incident Response process and the safety and concerns of our community very seriously. We will follow up with a statement by the end of the weekend.”

10/26 – Nalo Hopkinson has turned down Arisia’s invitation to be their 2020 Guest of Honor.

10/26 – Arisia Artist GoH Elizabeth Leggett announced on Facebook that she’s waiting until Monday to see how the convention handles things, at which point she will decide whether or not to attend.

10/26 – I’m seeing reports that Noel Rosenberg has resigned. (Confirmed)

10/26 – Statement from the Arisia Executive Board:

“Effective immediately, Noel Rosenberg is no longer President of Arisia, Inc. On October 26th, at an emergency meeting of the other members of the Arisia Executive Board, the first step we took was to ask Noel to resign as President of Arisia Corporate and we have accepted that resignation. The Arisia 2019 Conchair has informed the Eboard that Noel is no longer the Operations Division Head, and will not be placed in any other staff positions.

“Yesterday we issued a short statement that ‘the Arisia Executive Board takes our Incident Response process and the safety and concerns of our community very seriously.’ We mean that, but we acknowledge that we failed severely in this case…”

10/26 – Rose Fox discussed an Arisia staff member using his position to harass others in 2011, and Arisia’s failure to respond satisfactorily.

“This one set of incidents–not just Morgon’s behavior but the complete lack of backup from [the head of security at the time] and the general chain-of-command fumbling that led to Morgon keeping his badge and ribbon well after he was known to be violating Arisia’s code of conduct–was the immediate cause of Arisia losing two dedicated, hardworking volunteers who might otherwise have contributed a great many more hours to the convention, and of Arisia’s community losing two people who had previously been very involved in the convention’s social aspects.”

10/27 – Maura Taylor posted another account of Arisia mishandling a reported rape.

10/28 – Per the Arisia Eboard, Noel Rosenberg has been permanently banned from Arisia. (Though there are ways this ban could be overturned.)

10/29 – Statement from 2019 Arisia con chair Daniel Eareckson.

“I have taken too long to make this public statement; I apologize for that. Between now and the convention, I intend to frequently put out messages like this one indicating what we are doing to make Arisia a safer place…”

10/30 – Statement from an Arisia safety staff volunteer.

“What I can tell you is this: There was an investigation about the allegations against Noel, but it was taken so lightly, and without seriousness, they didn’t even bother to tell the person running con safety, someone who worked closely with him, anything about it. I believe Crystal Huff. And I feel utterly betrayed by so many people I thought I could trust.”

10/30 – Another statement from the Arisia Eboard.

“At this time I, Gregorian Hawke, have accepted the resignation of the the following Eboard members (those who stood for re-election in September). Anna Bradley – Vice-President, Rick Kovalcik – Clerk, Benjamin Levy – Treasurer, and Sharon Sbarsky – Member-at-Large. Anna Bradley has resigned effective immediately. Rick Kovalcik, Benjamin Levy, and Sharon Sbarsky have resigned effective upon the election of a replacement (per Bylaws 3.12) at the November 11th meeting when elections will be held.”

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I’ve known Crystal Huff for years. She’s active in fandom, and was one of the people helping to promote the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon bid. She’s chaired or co-chaired at least half a dozen conventions. She’s been one of the moderators of the Journeyplatypii of Fandom conrunners group. She’s the Executive Director of Include Better and the former Executive Director of The Ada Initiative.

She’s also a rape survivor. Like many survivors, her rapist wasn’t a stranger hiding in the bushes, but a man she knew and trusted.

A few things to keep in mind:

Conventions have gotten better in recent years about establishing policies on abuse and harassment. When it comes to following and enforcing those policies, the record is spottier. I know of some instances where conventions have done an amazing job of following through and working to promote the safety of their attendees.

Crystal’s experience, when she reported this to Arisia, was … well, it sounds like she’s correct when she says she doesn’t think Arisia was prepared to deal with this situation. It’s one thing to create a policy. It gets messier when the accusation is against someone you know. Possibly a friend. Possibly an officer in your organization.

That doesn’t change the organization’s obligation to follow through and protect its attendees.

One objection Crystal encountered was that people didn’t want to have to choose between her and her attacker. And sure, that can be a lousy position to be in. But let’s be clear about who’s responsible for putting people in that position. Hint: the one creating this “awkward” situation for everyone is the guy who committed the assault in the first place, not the person who reported it.

This is a long post, but an important one. We have a lot more work to do to make fandom a better, safer place. I hope Crystal’s post, which I’m sharing at her request, can be another step in that process.

Trolling, harassing, and victim-blaming comments will be deleted, and the commenters tossed into the moderation queue.

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Content warnings: rape, trauma, sexism, gaslighting, harassment, intimidation, stalking, and general asshattery of a group of people in general and one rapist in particular.

This is really long, and I am sorry, but it is mostly depressing.

I know why my rapist wins.

TL;DR: After a few years of intimidation and stalking behavior that drove me more and more from the Arisia community, my rapist, Noel Marc Rosenberg, was appointed as the Operations Division Head of Arisia 2017. I’d objected to his positions of authority in Arisia before, privately, to leadership, but I strenuously objected at that point, and did not attend the convention. That appointment made Rosenberg the person responsible for oversight of the safety team of the convention. In September of 2017, he was also elected as president of the umbrella corporation of Arisia. The president of Arisia presides over the executive board, which is apparently the entity to which safety concerns and incident reports are referred if they are too complex to address during the convention itself.

This year, on September 23, 2018, Rosenberg was re-elected as president of the organization. The election was held less than two hours after the executive board notified me that they would not be addressing my safety concerns regarding him.

The Arisia Code of Conduct states:

“…all Staff are representatives of Arisia and therefore are held to a higher standard of behavior, even when off duty.

“…Arisia forbids abusive, insulting, harassing, and / or intimidating behavior which includes, but is not limited to, stalking, physical or verbal intimidation, discriminatory comments, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

“Please report any incidents in which a member of the convention is abusive, insulting, intimidating, bothersome, or acting in an unsafe or illegal manner to Incident Response Team (IRT), an Assistant Div Head, a Division Head, an Assistant Con Chair, or the Con Chair.”

It’s impossible to start at the beginning, or even know where the beginning of this story should be.

Arisia was the first science fiction event I attended, my first year in college. It was the first convention for which I volunteered on staff. After working on the convention for several years, it was the first one I chaired, in 2011. I served on the executive board several times. I used to regard Arisia as my “home convention,” and I was proud of the things I did to make it happen. I regarded the progress on the con’s inclusion and diversity efforts in recent years as having roots in things I did years ago, in ways great and small, and I was thrilled to see accessibility and safer spaces and diversity of program participants expand beyond those efforts. I was, to be honest, chuffed that Arisia was considered a feminist convention by other convention-runners. My online handle, for many years, was “ArisiaCrystal.”

You can therefore perhaps imagine how awful and gutting it was for me when members of Arisia leadership, over the past few years, told me that there was nothing to be done about the fact that my rapist was also on staff, in positions of authority, and has in recent years involved himself with the safety processes of the convention. Over the past few years, these developments have edged me out of the Arisia community. I didn’t feel safe attending Arisia in 2017 or 2018, given Rosenberg’s position and authority over the safety team.

This post is because I think he’s finally won. I can no longer imagine attending Arisia.

I share some of my thoughts here in the hopes it is useful for other organizations in the future. It’s my hope that talking about this in public might help address the underlying problems. If nothing else, as my friend Nóirín Plunkett once urged me, I’m going to refuse to participate further in my own gaslighting.

So. Here is a list of some of the reasons why my rapist has won.

These factors all tie in together, but this only happened because Arisia, as an organization and as a community, decided that this was all okay.

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Fake News and Lies: Caravan Edition

Lying Cat

“The caravan of migrants and refugees is burning American flags!”

This came up in the comments on a friend’s Facebook post. Here’s Snopes doing some fact-checking.

“Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the caravan!

This comes from an October 22 Trump Tweet. I’m not sure why “Middle Easterners” is supposed to be so scary. (That’s a lie — we all know why Trump thinks it’s scary.) Regardless, this claim is completely baseless.

“The’re attacking, beating police officers!”

This is another widely-shared social media claim, complete with a photo of bloodied police. Among those sharing this lie was Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. Politico debunks this one.

“Soros and/or Democrats are behind the caravan, paying refugees to storm the U.S. border!”

This claim comes, among other sources, from a U.S. Congressman: Matt Gaetz of Florida, who Tweeted video on October 17, suggesting it was, “Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs?”

  • Snopes describes the Tweet as being, “replete with factual inaccuracies and baseless accusations.” The Footage isn’t from the Honduras, there’s zero evidence or support for Soros or US-backed NGOs having any involvement … you know what? Just check the Snopes page. There’s too much wrongness in this one to summarize it all here.

“Why don’t these people try marching in their own streets and fixing their own country instead of coming to the U.S. to demand handouts and charity?”

This is a question, not a lie, but it’s one I’ve seen come up in a number of conversations. It’s a question that suggests a lack of empathy and understanding as to why people would uproot their families and flee their homes, abandoning everything they know.

Here are a few of the reasons.

  • “People in the caravan cited widespread poverty and gang violence in Honduras, one of the world’s deadliest nations by homicide rate, as their reasons for fleeing. Juan Carlos Mercado, 20, from Santa Barbara, said corruption and a lack of jobs in Honduras had stymied him. ‘We just want to move ahead with our lives,’ he said, adding that he would do any kind of work.” (Source)
  • “One migrant, a 20-year-old Honduran named William, told CNN he crossed into Mexico via a float that carried him across the muddy Suchiate River on Saturday. He left home looking for work, he said, and was ultimately bound for either Mexico or the United States, wherever he could land a job. ‘There is no work back home,” he said. ‘No future.'” (Source)
  • “The migrants told the AP they fleeing a corrupt government, poverty and violence in Honduras. Cristian, a 34-year-old cell phone repairman from San Pedro Sula, said he left Honduras because gang members had demanded protection payments of $83 a month, a fifth of his income.” (Source)
  • And then, of course, there are news items like these: U.N. Blames Honduras Security Forces for Killing Electoral Protesters. Honduras post-election killings: families wait in vain for justice.

In other words, they’re not coming for handouts. They’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing oppression. They’re fleeing corruption. They’re fleeing poverty, hoping for the chance to work and support their families.

You ask why they don’t march in the streets at home? Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of what a corrupt government will do to them and their family. Because they’re trying to protect their loved ones. Because every day they stay puts themselves and their family at risk.

Whatever your opinions and political beliefs, let’s try to do a better job of pushing back against ignorance and lies.

Jim C. Hines