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Domestic violence rate 42% higher than previously reported

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, December 20, 2008 17:59 EDT
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And the rape rate is 25% higher. (Hat tip.) I’m a little disturbed by the headline: “US: Soaring Rates of Rape and Violence Against Women”, with a sub headline clarifying that the rate hasn’t gone up in reality so much as the Department of Justice has drastically improved its interviewing methods. I don’t want anyone out there trying to shrug this off as an anomaly brought on by hard times. Domestic violence and rape are both drastically under-reported, and the DOJ has known it for a long time, because their measurements fall far short of what other groups find using different methodologies, particularly those that find that a significant percentage of women are victims at some point in their lives. The CDC, for instance, has found that a quarter of women have experienced domestic violence, and a little over a tenth of men, in a survey that didn’t, sadly, tease out the difference between getting slapped once and walking out and living under a reign of terror, which would be interesting information to have. We know that women are often ashamed of being victims and won’t admit it, either by denying it outright or using weasel language that implies that it was just a bad date or that a domestic violence incident wasn’t that bad, or that they were equally guilty for engaging in self-defense instead of capitulating to the beating immediately. (MRAs and the police also exploit the fact that many victims will engage in some kind of self-defense to massage the numbers to make it look like women commit more crimes than they do.)

What the DOJ did was move from computerized phone interviews to in-person interviews. They also adjusted some of the questions so that weasel language or simple mischaracterization of the event are harder to pull off. (With rape, one major problem is that a lot of rape victims avoid the stigmatizing word “rape”, because they live in a culture where saying, “I was raped,” is an invitation to be blamed for what happened. Instead, many victims prefer to use language that describes forced sex without using the word “rape”, some because they think that more specific and lengthy descriptions will make it harder for people to claim you’re histrionic.) It’s more expensive, but it’s the only way to get better results, though I doubt you’re going to be able to get a huge percentage of women who simply refuse to admit it ever happened, or is currently a part of their everyday lives.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.

That rape and domestic violence aren’t as dependent on other factors that lower the crime rate in other areas shouldn’t be too surprising, because rape and domestic violence tend to depend strongly on male contempt for women. And while feminists have done a lot of good work in convincing society to accord women more respect, we’ve still got a huge percentage of men that stubbornly cling to the idea that women are their inferiors. Some men feel bad about holding this opinion, and some are gleeful misogynists who think that hating women is the way to push back against “political correctness”, but either way, the belief that women are inferior to men will invariably lead to a certain amount of violence against women, as these men lash out through rape and other forms of violence to subdue women they’re convinced are out of line somehow. I don’t think the end of misogyny will mean the complete end of intimate violence and rape. We know, for instance, that a small percentage of domestic violence situations are women who terrorize men. But if we could eliminate the specifically gendered violence, especially the kind where the victim is cowed by the abuser and held pretty much captive, then we’d see most of this problem go away.

Anti-feminist trolls who use friendlier but less distinguished numbers to try to confuse the discussion will be banned. You may be able to convince others that you’re not trying to deny the reality of domestic violence, but denialists are not welcome here. This is a safe space for people who’ve suffered violence.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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