Matt HealeyTuesday,30 September 2014

The Snap:

There has been a lot of talk recently on how to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the US. This is unquestionably a worthy goal and should be pursued. The focus should be on how to reduce the number of attacks and should focus on the attacker, not what the victim did to provoke the attack because the victim never provokes the attack.

The Download:

In order to properly address the concerns, I think it is important to take stock of where we are from a historical perspective. That way we can assess if any of the actions we are taking are working. To that end, I looked up the historical trends for cases of sexual crimes and found this report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It covers 1994 to 2010. Over those 15 years there is a clear trend in the number of reported crimes. It is declining. Here are some highlights from the report

“From 1995 to 2010, the estimated annual rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations declined 58%, from 5.0 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older to 2.1 per 1,000.”

While this is a very positive trend, we should not break our arms patting ourselves on the back because there still is work to be done. The first thing that needs to be understood is that the decline is an estimated decline. It is estimated because not all attacks are reported. Actually the rate of reporting has declined to from a high of 56% in 2003 to a low of 35% in 2010.

“The percentage of rape or sexual assault victimizations reported to police increased to a high of 56% in 2003 before declining to 35% in 2010, a level last seen in 1995.”

So while the declines described in the first highlight take this into account, they are still estimates and more needs to be done in convincing victims to report the crime. I am not going to comment on it because I do not feel qualified to discuss the intimate details associated with a woman’s decision to not report a crime.

Regardless, given the decline, if we really want to continue the trend, maybe we need to look back at the policies and practices that caused the decline and do more things like that. In the next post, I will take a look at some areas that may provide examples of policies and trends that helped reduce the frequency of attacks.

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