In response to the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa, I posted a four-part series of blogs on the value of women in November 2014. These past few weeks have had me thinking more about that series. I’ve seen lots of statistics and percentages bandied about these last weeks; so, I thought I’d take a look at raw numbers.
While numbers vary a little depending on the source (and I’ve linked to my sources at the bottom), here’s what I found*:
165,465,343 females in the US (US Census)
160,253,836 males in the US (US Census)
In that population:
33,093,069 women have been sexually assaulted (20% – NSVRC)
2,243,554 men have been sexually assaulted (1.4% – NSVRC)
35,336,623 total number sexually assaulted
12,721,184 – estimated number of those assaults that were reported (36% – NIJ)
954,089 – estimated number who were falsely accused (7.5% of reports – VAW)
4,706,838 – estimated number or reports that were prosecuted (37% of reports – Univ KY)
847,231 – estimated number of convictions for rape prosecutions (18% – Univ KY)
63,542 – estimated number of false convictions for rape (7.5% of convictions – VAW)
The catalyst for discussions of sexual assault and rape is a one complicated and corrupted by politics in ways that I don’t claim to understand. I am not commenting on the believability, honestly or accuracy of one side over another. I do not have and will never have the information I need to do that.
What I do have is the experience of a survivor.
I didn’t report my assault because I watch a lot of crime TV and I knew that there was no evidence to support my claim. There were no marks that could not be explained. The reason there were no marks that couldn’t be explained was because he was very strong, there was a loaded gun roughly four feet away, I couldn’t move my legs and I was terrified. I believed that if I hit him, I’d have to knock him unconscious and there was nothing I could reach that would do it. I believed that he would not kill me as long as I didn’t push him too far. I noticed that when I cried out, he hurt me more; so, I stopped crying out. I repeated in my head over and over, “I just have to make it home. I just have to make it home.”
He called me the next day like nothing was wrong because I really think that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong.
I told him that he was never to contact me in any way again; but, we had been seeing each other. He knew where I lived. I was terrified for months that he would come to my house. He never did and I relaxed.
With all the recent television coverage and social media blather, my terror is back – brand new and even larger.
Three weeks ago, a man came into the post office lobby when I was sending a package. We were the only people there and I was instantly terrified. The man didn’t threaten me, talk to me or even acknowledge me; but, I nearly hyperventilated.
This national discussion (which has largely been name-calling, blaming, and party-aligned vitriol, as far as I can see) has done little to foster understanding between survivors and those who have not experienced sexual assault. I have seen blind blaming of these people because belief doesn’t fit a narrative. I have seen blind belief in them because of their genders or because believe does fit a narrative. Blind accusations or belief don’t help us grow.
I have struggled a great deal not to let my own experience color my opinion; but, I believe that it is in the struggle that we make progress. When I struggle, I seek the knowledge and opinions of others. I listen to what they have to say. I take their input, add to it my own thoughts and come up with an opinion or belief that is my own and has a reason for existing other than that I saw it on TV.
If we don’t struggle to understand each other rather than just struggle with each other, we’re never going to get anywhere. And I’m afraid that Nowhere is exactly where these intractable exchanges on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are getting us.
I have waited a little while after the hearings to post this for several reasons, not least of which was that I needed to calm myself down. I needed my own terror to subside a bit and I needed to really think about whether or not I even wanted to talk about all of this. Turns out, I don’t want to talk about it; but I think that we still have to.
*I used conservative numbers where I saw discrepancies. Some estimates are that 25% of women are raped; I used the more conservative 20%. Some estimates are between 2.1 and 10.9% of rape charges are false; I used a conservative 7.5%. It is to be noted that 7.5% of false accusations for rape is consistent with false accusations and convictions for all crimes.
VAW – Violence Against Women