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From my experience, individuals preaching “innocent until proven guilty” when sexual assault cases are brought up rarely have a grasp on the state of sexual assault in America.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, rape in America and the presumption of innocence in our legal system. On one hand, we know that the prosecution in a case must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because every one of us has had that concept hammered into our brains by mandatory government and history classes.
On the other hand, none of us have had to take classes on how the justice system fails sexual assault victims.
An extremely sensitive issue, I have a suggestion for anyone who isn’t familiar with the complexities of sexual assault in America: shut up.
I’m not saying you’re not entitled to your opinion. You definitely are. As am I. And it is my opinion that you need to shut up. Ultimately, whether you do or not is up to you, I’m not giving you an order, you won’t find me attempting to cover your mouth with duct tape… I’m just asking you, begging you…
Please. Shut up.
For those of you who are offended by this, I ask that you read the rest of this article before furiously typing that I’m a gigantic idiot. Thanks!
As discussions about sexual assault populate our Facebook comments thanks to a certain high-profile case, I feel the need to address a few things…
The odds are stacked against the victim. Literally.
Though I’ve already covered this excessively here, I’d like to talk about how inadequate the justice system is when it comes to rape victims…
Few rapes lead to an arrest.
For one, a majority of rapes are never reported. In 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 66% of rapes were not reported to police. And of the 84,376 reported rapes that occurred in the US in 2012, according to the FBI, only 16 percent (about 12,500) of those cases actually led to arrest. Even if over 60% — as the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates — of these arrests lead to a conviction, that’s still a fraction of rapists actually seeing jail time. It’s possible that as few as 6% of rapists serve jail time. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network feels that number may be as low as 2%. Sadly, we do such an atrocious job of keeping accurate track of these statistics, it’s difficult to tell for certain, though whatever number you come to is likely to be far lower than other violent crimes.
Part of the problem is rape kits.
Nationwide, rape kits have been horribly mishandled and Illinois is no exception. After it was found that most rape kits in Illinois never get tested, the state government attempted to pass laws to ensure this never happens again. And even with a requirement that rape kits must be tested within six months, sources have disclosed that a current backlog means it might take as much as a year for a rape kit to be tested in Illinois. This has helped lead to a sexual assault arrest rate in Illinois that’s substantially lower than the national average.
Another part of the problem? A lack of police training.
According to many advocates, police officers are rarely trained adequately enough to handle sexual assault cases. Though crime investigations far and wide put the focus on the offender, rape investigators will often focus on the victim, treating them as if they are under investigation. For any other violent crime, this would be a peculiar practice, yet it’s widely accepted it comes to rape investigations. This flies in the face of the fact that unfounded cases of rape are rare.
With these facts in mind, it’s no wonder that many victims never report their sexual assaults. They face hell from not only the ones they’ve accused, but also the justice system and the public at large. With such a small chance of success, why would anyone want to put themselves through such a horrible ordeal?
This is why it’s dangerous to casually speak out against rape victims…
Want to post a comment on your favorite website putting a rape victim’s accusations in doubt? Don’t.
Anyone who sees that comment, victims in particular, will just be reminded that the system rarely brings justice to instances of rape. Your comments reaffirm to current and future victims that many people very likely won’t believe them. Already traumatized, they don’t deserve to be re-traumatized by thousands of ignorant dudes taking a break from their office jobs to make dumb Internet comments.
I am not, however, asking you to grab your pitchfork and to march down to the local jail to demand mob justice for any and all individuals suspected of rape.
I’m just asking you to think before you carelessly speak on the subject of rape, or the motives of victims, especially when you couldn’t possibly know their motives. At the very least, championing “innocent until proven guilty” for the accused while making guesses about the accusers with no concrete proof is hypocritical. Honestly, it’s likely downright dangerous to society. Keep your gut checks, personal opinions and random guesses to yourself.
And if you really want to guffaw in the name of justice and “false accusations,” you should consider the fact that the solution you seek might be the same solution the “other side” seeks.
Improving the way the police and courts handle instances of rape and the ways in which we talk about rape in society would help everyone. It would help the many, many women and men who are victims of rape, and it would help the small number of those who are falsely accused.
So if you’re truly worried about justice, carelessly attacking victims will help nobody. Instead, why not try helping to improve the system as a whole?
To learn more about advocacy, check out the following organizations…
Sources: Crime in the United States 2012, Illinois’s Failure to Test Rape Kits, Backlog In Rape Kit Testing Persists, Criminal Victimization, 2012, Felony Defendants in Large UrbanCounties, 2006, Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization, RAINN.org