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Rapists are rarely prosecuted and almost never convicted

A California state legislator introduced a bill last month that would require disciplinary officers at colleges and universities in the state to share all reports of sexual violence with the police. The proposal seems like a sensible and obvious one, but it has divided advocates for victims of sexual assault, some of whom are fed up with the criminal justice system’s inability to prosecute rapists.

On the one hand, universities might lack the resources and the expertise to investigate an allegation of rape. On the other hand, the courts do little better when it comes to sexual violence. The chart above, by David McCandless and his associates at Information is Beautiful, illustrates the problem using data from the United Kingdom.

According to the chart, around 78,000 rapes are committed annually in England and Wales, 79 percent of which are unreported. The number of unreported rapes is very difficult to estimate. Advocates for women cite U.S. government data suggesting that around 60 percent of sexual assaults are unreported, but these data could be too conservative. It is also important to note that the number of false allegations shown here (12 percent of rapes reported to police), while very low, nonetheless likely overstates the number of people who falsely accuse a particular person of attacking them, as Amanda Marcotte explains.

In any event, the fraction of rapists who are ever convicted is troublingly minuscule. Alexandra Brodsky argues that a better approach for legislators might be to give victims the right to pursue civil action against a perpetrator, and universities can improve their protocols for dealing with sexual violence.

Click below for a larger version of the chart.

Max Ehrenfreund | February 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm
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