America (and Salon) still doesn’t know how to talk about rape

The title isn’t mine, I’ve shamelessly stolen it from this article on Salon written by Mary Elizabeth Williams.

It’s quite astounding that an article titled in such a way by Williams is so full of fail.

I’ll quickly highlight some:

The findings show that the National Crime Victimization Survey counted 188,380 sexual assaults in 2010. The same year, the FBI, which measures reported rapes and attempted rapes, counted only 85,593. But at the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey counted nearly 1.3 million. 

The NISVS 2010 counted nearly 2.6 million rapes and attempted rapes in 2010 if you consider being made to penetrate as rape.  Behold how easily 1,2670,000 male victims are erased.

Could it be because when men are raped, as they are, in droves, in prison, they have virtually no legal recourse? Stop Prisoner Rape estimates that more than 200,000 men are sexually assaulted in prison each year, making male-on-male rape one of the most common – and unreported — forms of sexual assault in America.

Here Williams elegantly ignores that according to Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) reports on sexual abuse against inmates about 40% of those who perpetrate sexual abuse against male inmates are female prison staff. For closer examination of the BJS reports read my blog post “Thugs raping thugs?”.

Could it be because in some states, a man can still be legally protected for raping his wife?

Here Williams make no mention of how a woman is also still legally protected for raping her husband since the exemption in the law is for spouses, not for husbands.

To be a bit fair, some of this is stuff Williams lifted from the Huffington Post article (Rape Is Grossly Underreported In The U.S., Study Finds) she referred to.

That HuffPo article by Emily Thomas had other problems as well. When Thomas discusses how the definition of rape is important she wrote:

A major conflict between different surveys is the lack of a uniform definition of rape — specifically one that truly reflects the nature of sexual assault for all genders.

The CDC’s definition of rape “represents the public health perspective” and takes into account the ability of the victim to consent to sex because he or she had been drinking or taking drugs.

while criticizing NVCS definition of rape:

But the NCVS’ definition omits consideration for drugs or alcohol:

Rape includes psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, oral penetration by the offender(s). It also includes incidents in which the penetration is by a foreign object. It includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual rape.

Thomas offered no thoughts on how CDC and NCVS excludes male victims of being made to penetrate from the term rape and whether that exclusion “truly reflects the nature of sexual assault for all genders.”

I haven’t yet read the full report (Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault) from the panel of The National Research Panel Williams and Thomas refer to, but I intend to. I am not overly optimistic though considering Salon’s and Huffington Post’s uncritical coverage of this report and the fact that a quick glance at the chapter on Legal definitions and historical context mostly draws on reports from Women’s Law Project.

One thought on “America (and Salon) still doesn’t know how to talk about rape

  1. Pingback: Male victims ignored again: Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault by The National Research Council | Tamen's writings

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