Violence Against Women

1 in 4Was 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.

For more, see Rape Statistics and Rape in the United States.

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.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

14 responses to “Violence Against Women

  • dianasschwenk

    Difficult to click like on this one, but you know what I mean, right?

    This is a difficult topic and one that is very hard not to be emotional about. I’m sure you didn’t mean to say being emotional, or having an emotional reaction to being raped, is uncivilized, right?

    Thank you for tackling this very heavy topic Smitty.
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, I know what you mean about the [Like] button… Sometimes you read some heart-wrenching, but excellent, post about someone facing their problems, and “like” just feels so wrong. There should be an [Excellent Post] button or a [Totally Agree] button.

      With regard to emotions and a civilized society, an emotional reaction to any kind of attack or injustice isn’t just appropriate, it’s the fuel that pushes us to make things better. Where we need a rational and intelligent approach is in how we discuss it and seek solutions.

      One of my big concerns these days is how emotional and polarized (and fact-free) the public debate (and “debate” isn’t even the right word anymore — “soapbox yelling” is) has gotten on difficult topics. Trying to solve challenging social problems requires getting past an “us” and “them” mentality and realizing these are “we the people” problems.

  • wakemenow

    Great post, Wyrd. Glad that you took the time to lay out statistics to help us all put these matters in clearer perspective.

    All I would add, though, is how under-reported sexual violence perpetrated by women on either other women, children, or possibly grown men tends to be. Can’t find many stats on that. yet I keep finding news programs reporting female school teachers engaging in statutory rape of pretty young students and even one case of a female daycare worker taking sexual pictures of the kids in her care. Rare? Probably. But what about when it comes to what happens in people’s homes? Most people don’t want to talk about that, but I’m curious what information we might be missing there. Because one thing I have read a lot about over the years are women who aid men in perpetrating violence against children or who are knowledgeable of the abuse taking place and do not seek help or attempt to protect the kids. People tend to blame men solely for this, as though the women in question were coerced into going along with this, but I have my doubts based on the cases I’ve looked into. Have any thoughts on any of that?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you. Yes, rape is an extremely under-reported crime in general, and it appears to be even more under-reported when the rape is outside the “default” of a man attacking and raping a woman. Date rape, for example, is vastly under-reported, and when you get into child abuse, various kinds of homosexual rape, and male rape, the stats become even more unrepresentative.

      Even stats on “default” rape are extremely hard to pin down; different studies come up with different stats. The FBI crime data that was my primary source is possibly only the tip of the iceberg. And once various special-interest groups get involved, the picture becomes even murkier as data is selectively used in aid of that particular group’s point.

      As an aside unrelated to rape, domestic abuse is even harder to quantify and highly under-reported. And again, a political football that muddies the waters terribly. (I loathe the way everything these days seems to be a political fucking point while real people suffer real problems. Society has gone insane in my view.) But some studies put domestic abuse towards men as high as 40% (of course, those stats tend to come from male advocacy groups). Domestic abuse towards men is a particularly under-reported issue, because attitudes of men towards men tend to make it embarrassing for men to even mention. But both men and women suffer shame and often a sense of “it’s my fault” — often a point of view that is literally beaten into them.

      My sister’s first marriage was to a drug-user and abuser. My sister started working out, and the abuse part ended with him cowering in a corner begging her not to hit him again. BRAVO SIS!!

      On the other side of the coin, I was once on a business trip with a male co-worker who was in a seriously abusive marriage — his two front teeth had been knocked out, and he had multiple other scars. My willingness to listen and not judge caused him to spend most of the time telling me in great detail what that was like.

      Neither of those cases resulted in any public data, so you’re right on the money in terms of what happens in peoples’ homes and what goes on without anyone knowing other than people close to the situation.

      And very good point about women participating with men in crimes against others. The infamous “Ma” Barker was not the criminal mastermind history and J.Edgar painted her as (no doubt to justify shooting an old woman), but she definitely was aware of and “aided and abetted” the murderous crimes of the gang.

      There are cases of women aiding men in sexual crimes, in some cases those women are in abusive relationships with the man and may view their participation as “no other choice.” But as you suggest, that may have been a convenient excuse, at least to some extent. The human capacity to do great good brings with it the concomitant ability to do great evil — something not at all limited by gender.

      When it comes to crimes against minors, there are a lot of really sick, twisted fucks out there of both sexes. I can’t even imagine how broken a mind has to be to go there. Reported rape, as mentioned in the post, is 99% attributed to men, but society has a very different view of mature women seducing young men. For many men, it’s a badge of honor or a wonderful tale of their youth and introduction to sex. Several movies have painted very romantic (albeit tragic) pictures of it.

      Mature men and very young girls are usually a different picture (Lolita aside). Even so, in parts of this country, and in many parts of the world, a girl of 13 is considered of marriage age.

      All-in-all, it’s probably one of most complex issues society has to deal with given that sex is so much a part of our basic biology and evolution. The USAnian prudish fascination with sex doesn’t help much. (It always struck me as sadly hysterical that the old comedy, Three’s Company, despite being a “sex comedy” about supposedly hip, sexual youngsters, was actually incredibly prudish. Even the comedies of today rarely deal with sex on a real-world basis, although it has gotten a bit better.)

      • wakemenow

        All good points.

        You know another super creepy murderous duo was Fred and Rosemary West. The most dreaded trifecta: rape, torture and murder.

        We don’t know how to deal with healthy sex. We’re enticed to cultivate pornish imaginations and to view the sexual act as mere “fucking.” Nothing against rough sex at times, but we seem to be losing the ability and understanding of the depth of intimate relations. That leads to this schizoid attitude toward sex where many are uneasy talking about in a real-life connection-based sort of way, preferring a more dissociative relationship with our sexuality. As if we don’t want to own it and love it, believing it to be evil and slavish to impulse and animal instincts. Believing it to belong to our lower selves, not recognizing how our sexuality and interpersonal exploration can and ideally should elevate with and nourish us. Sex isn’t the problem, but it’s been scapegoated for so long in an effort to keep people toeing religious lines. It’s like we’ve been severed from our sexual natures in this culture — most definitely there’s a disconnect when it comes to respecting female sexual nature and expression. People can’t seem to wrap their minds around it as healthy and not automatically “whorish.”

        All I know for certain is it’s quite the tangled web humans have woven.

        “Society has gone insane in my view.”

        Word, Wyrd.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I hadn’t heard of the Wests before — ugly stuff! Fortunately serial killers are fairly rare. According to the FBI, less than one percent of murders are by serial killers. Over 15% of them are known to be female. (The Charlize Theron film, Monster, tells the story of one of them: Aileen Wuornos. Definitely not a “feel good” movie, but a compelling one!)

        It’s weird that a world that has so put emotions over intellect is still so messed up and insecure about sex. What a world we’ve created.

        I go back to something I mentioned in my Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes post: I think the world has become so complex and complicated that many people have simply given up trying to actually understand any of it and have retreated into a comforting bubble of simplistic “bumper sticker” views.

        And it may also be that sensible people are so brutalized by the shit that goes on every day in our supposedly civilized society that the safe, simple bubble world is very alluring.

      • wakemenow

        I own the film “Monster.” Still not entirely sure how I’d classify Aileen Wuornos though.

        As for complexity causing people to retreat, yes, I do believe that’s occurring. I’m a bit of a Luddite myself, to be honest. Don’t want to head too far into the lunacy I see. The laws are impossible to comprehend, as is the small print on every document. Politics are a joke and a nightmare. Technology is upgraded so often that I can’t and won’t try to keep up with it, and nearly every new doodad I do buy winds up frustrating me for it’s lack of quality compared to its predecessors. Like cell phones! (Never buy a Pantech. POS)

        And I do like my bumper stickers. ha

        The safer, simpler bubble is alluring. Almost feels required to maintain sanity most days. The joy of the internet is we can click off.

        And then you try communicating with people through your bubble and they respond like they have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re too far out, they say. Expecting you to get down in the trenches of idiocracy with them. Otherwise, you’re a waste of time. Comes to point where indeed it is nice to tune out to an extent.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Technically Wuornos was a “serial killer” (multiple killings over a period of time with a “cooling off” period between killings) — as opposed to a “mass murderer” or a “spree killer” — but I can see why you might find her not quite fitting the classification. There is some sense she was reacting to a world that brutalized her. As I understand it her first killing was in self-defense of a client who tried to rape her, but it’s not clear whether the other six were self-defense or not. IIRC the movie correctly (which was obviously a fictionalized account to some degree), she increasingly engineered the situations that necessitated a reaction, and seven killings in a one-year span does seem to suggest some intent on her part. (But this is all speculation on my part.)

        [Hang on; quick topic shift] It might seem odd that a computer programmer would have Luddite tendencies, but I do. The ridiculous amount of gadgetry on cars, for one example, has always struck me as nutso and just more stuff to break and be maintained. Some of GM’s killer car problems are due to the level of automation now in cars. And our rampant techno-lust often seems to me just another “opium of the people.”

        I do own a cell phone, which I carry when out for emergencies, but it’s [gasp] a flip phone that’s quite a few years old now. It’s capable of texting and taking pictures, but I only use it (very, very rarely) as a phone.

        One nice thing about having a strong streak of Luddite is that, if the hammer does fall and civilization collapses, I’ll be fine. I know how to fish and hunt and farm and build a house with basic (mechanical) tools. 🙂

        The death of quality manufacturing is a whole other can of worms I’ll leave closed for now. (Other than to mention it’s in part due to the public’s expressed desire for cost over quality and for a disposable world where the latest new gadget quickly replaces last year’s model.)

        The legal fine print — deliberately crafted to be unreadable by normal people — is slowly becoming recognized as (yet another) menace to public welfare. Elizabeth Warren — one of the only politicians I respect — is one person fighting this.

        There do seem to be a few sunbeams poking through the clouds. There is a truism in addiction that you have to hit “rock bottom” before the absolute necessity of turning things around really presents itself. We, as a society, may be at — or damn close to — rock bottom, because people are beginning to fight back. The various “Occupy” movements are part of that; even the “Tea Party” is a reaction to the shitty world we’ve created.

        After all, at least in theory, the 99% completely outweigh the 1%, and we could band together and make this a very different country. The sticking point seems to be the “band together” part…

      • wakemenow

        Forgot to respond to this.

        >> And our rampant techno-lust often seems to me just another “opium of the people.”

        It is.

        As for Luddite survival, I’ll likely be one of the first to wither away. lol Don’t know how to hunt, detest eating fish, and wouldn’t know how to go about building much for myself. :/ Oy vey.

        Elizabeth Warren is one of the good ones.

        Too bad the Tea Party is funded and backed by the Koch brothers…

        Yup, figuring out how to band together seems to be where we’re stuck.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Funny thing about the Koch brothers, they’re not classical Conservatives; they have a definite Libertarian streak. As I understand it, they don’t oppose abortion or … what was the other one, marijuana legalization, maybe? Fans of Ayn Rand, I suppose.

        Doesn’t mean I like them any better, but it was interesting to find out.

  • reocochran

    I have talked about violence and rape, in my posts. I would like to say, on a simpler level. I do agree, our country is much more nervous on the subject of sexuality than on violence. I would rather see soft pornography than a killing spree in a movie. I am sometimes, as with one post where we talked a bit back and forth on, was against use of force while in bed. (The 50 shades of grey post.) I am not against consensual use of force between two people, in the privacy of their home or hotel room. I think, if both people like to have that, okay. I had written, that I personally don’t like it, since I worked at a battered women’s shelter, I had seen the after effects of things gone horribly wrong in the bedroom or while fighting. It created a bad picture in my mind…
    I think that your statistics are accurate. I like how you took the time to explain your thoughts. It is a sad state of affairs when we have people who supposedly love each other, hurting each other. Thanks for making me smile at the 4″ gnomes hitting the nails!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      From what I’ve seen, spouse-abuse doesn’t come from sex or from love; it comes from a much darker, uglier place. My sister’s first husband (now, fortunately, long gone) was an abuser, and in his case it seemed to come from an underlying rage, a great deal of personal insecurity, alcohol abuse and a cultural reference point that saw men treating women physically as not being entirely out of line.

      But the few experiences I’ve seen are just a small sample… do the women you’ve dealt with seem to have also been involved in consensual bondage or consensual sadomasochism? I would be very interested in knowing, if so. I would have thought those were two completely different worlds with very little overlap!

      It’s a strange irony that those closest to us are the easiest to hurt. And it’s most tragic when we hurt the ones we love (or, in some cases, claim we love).

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