Was participating in a discussion about violence against women and wrote a response that’s really too long for a comment, so I thought I’d make a post of it. This is really a comment response, so you might want to read Mark’s post, and the comments there, first.
This response does stand alone and mainly consists of statistics regarding murder and forcible rape. At the end I offer some opinions on the matter. It’s a heavy, but very important, topic.
According to FBI data on homicide, in 2012, there were 12,765 murders. Of those, 2,834 were women (9,917 were men). [Table 1]
That’s a rate of almost 7.8 women per day (and almost 27.2 men per day).
Not all of those are going to be sexual in nature, of course; people are murdered for a variety of reasons.
There were 14,581 murderers in 2012 (some murders involve multiple offenders). Males committed 9,425 homicides, women committed 1,098 (with 4,058 listed as “unknown”). Of the total, 6594 were committed by people from 17-34 years of age (peaking, 2,553, around 20-24). [Table 3]
Firearms account for 9,528 of the homicides, knives (or such) account for 1,888, and 1,478 were committed with blunt objects or personal assault. [Table 8]
Felony actions account for 1,841 murders, and 15 are known to involve rape, 10 more involve other sex offenses (murder/rapes are actually fairly uncommon, fortunately). Robbery accounts for 75 murdered women (577 men), and burglary accounts for 32 more women (and 60 men). Some other data points: 26 children were murdered by a babysitter, 140 were murdered in a drug- or alcohol-related brawl, 148 were killed in arguments over money or property, and there were 800+ gang-related murders. [Table 10, 13]
Bottom line: is murder of women a problem? Absolutely it is, but many times more men are murdered, and sex — overwhelmingly — has very little to do with it. You’re far more likely to be murdered if you’re a male, so when we start talking murder, there needs to be some perspective.
Sexual violence, on the other hand, is an enormous problem for women (and by extension, society). Rape and violence against women goes back to our “caveman” days. People my age can remember the common icon of the caveman dragging the cavewoman back to his cave by her hair. This is not to in any way excuse rape, but to point out how deep the issue runs.
According to FBI data on forcible rape, in 2011, there were 83,425 forcible rapes reported to law enforcement. (One issue is that rape is a vastly under-reported crime. One report suggests that only 18% of forcible rapes are reported; the number is even lower for date rape situations.)
The rate of forcible rape is estimated at 52.7 per 100,000 females. In comparison, there were 354,396 reported cases of robbery, 751,131 cases of aggravated assault and 9,063,173 cases of property crime. [Table 1]
Various studies have found that between 15-20% of women will experience some form of rape in their lifetime. Thankfully, there seems a slight decline in rape rates in the last decades. Stricter laws, education and even the availability of internet porn seem to have some correlation to the reduction.
A report in 1997 found that 91% of rape victims are women — 99% of those arrested were male (rape among male prison inmates likely accounts for most of that 9% of rapes on males). The stats are tricky and vary widely, but nearly 75% of rapes are by someone the victim knows. About 27-40% take place in the victim’s home, and over 66% take place somewhere indoors.
So it’s a very real problem, and it’s an often hidden problem. What can we do?
I’m a big believer in those woman’s self-defense classes that teach women how to respond if attacked by a rapist. These generally feature a male in protective gear who simulates an attack on the woman. The training involves getting past the verbal assault and overcoming a common reluctance to hit back and hit back hard and with knowledge.
Various other forms of education are also helpful — including having a good grasp of the statistics and specifics involved. Education is always a Good Thing! Talking about the realities is a Good Thing!
But I think if we have any hope of really changing things we need to change our whole way of life. We live in a culture that is steeped in violence and sexuality. At the same time, we’re incredibly prudish, even downright weird, about sex.
Ask most women which would they rather: be non-sexually beaten within an inch of their lives and permanently scarred, or be date-raped with very little physical violence and no lasting physical effects? As odd as it sounds, many will pick the life-threatening beating as seeming worse.
Part of that, I think, comes from our own weird sexual attitudes, but the larger part comes, I think, from the fact that it really is — on some levels — a worse thing to experience.
Rape is a forced act of intimacy that perverts what is usually an “act of love” (or mutual lust). A rape victim is not just forced to have sex, but is forced to breath the attacker’s breath and feel his sweat and other body fluids. And unlike most assaults, rapes can go on for hours or days.
Back in the day (of Feminism circa 1970s) there was the idea that: “Rape is not sex but an act of violence.” That’s definitely true; rape is often an act of power or rage completely unrelated to sex. But it is also sex, which is why so many view it with horror.
And it does point out the component of violence that is part of any rape. Fixing that requires that we address the violent nature of our own society. The amount of violence and death we see in a night’s worth of TV viewing has risen to astonishing rates. Movies and video games are packed with violence. But Janet Jackson “accidentally” shows a nipple at an NFL half-time show, and the country loses its collective mind.
That said, the real problem is violence against people. You are far more likely to be a victim of violent (non-sexual) crime if you are male. Men are three times more likely to be murder victims and significantly more likely to experience violent assault. (Stats are hard to pin down, but they all show that men are much more common to be victims of general violence, with higher rates for men of color and youth.)
We are a fundamentally screwed up, highly distracted, society with very inverted values. Until we understand and accept that — and begin trying to change it — all we’re doing is patching holes in a crumbling dike.
Above all, we need to be sensible and rational in our approach. Viewing this purely on emotional grounds actually puts us in the same general class as the rapists and abusers. A civilized society is a rational and educated one.