minimising the prevalence of various forms of sexual assault

(33 Posts)
JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 16:12:58

This stems from a post on the woo thread, but I didn't want to derail that one.

I often see people describe stranger rapes as 'rare' 'vanishingly unlikely' 'very unusual' etc, and I think it is very invalidating of many women's experiences.

Because stranger rapes aren't 'rare'. Less common, yes. But not rare.

Statistics say that 9% of rapes are stranger rapes. 85,00 women are raped a year, so that's 7,650 stranger rapes a year. Over 20 a day. If 1 in 10 women are raped in their lives (the lowest statistic of the many I've seen), that means c. 1 in 100 women are raped by strangers.

That's not actually 'rare' - a disease with that prevalence wouldn't be described as 'rare'.

I think it invalidates women's experiences when people go on about how unlikely and out of the ordinary stranger rapes are (as if we're making it up, or our rape is less significant).

Women are made to feel that their problems don't matter in all kinds of ways, and that issues that affect them aren't really significant enough for the rest of society to bother with. And one way this is done in relation to all forms of sexual assault is by downplaying its prevalence.

I feel we shouldn't ever be calling any kind of rape rare, because if we do, it's just another way of dismissing the importance of the experience of those who been on the receiving end.

And also because it's not rare - despite people repeatedly saying so.

What do others think?

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 16:16:13


JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 16:16:18


JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 16:18:27


As an example, Crohn's disease affects up to 0.048% of the population, far less than stranger rape. But who would consider Crohn's to be 'rare'?

Shallishanti Fri 06-Jun-14 16:26:58

I completely misunderstood your thread title and thought you had some scheme for reducing the incidence of sexual assault.
I think the point is that understanding the relative rarity of stranger rape is important to help people accept what is/isn't rape (eg juries should be told that few rapes conform to the stranger/dark alley image)
What is and isn't classed as 'rare' is very subjective. Broadly I think it depends on the seriousness of the event. a 1:100 chance of catching a cold I would consider a low chance. A 1:100 chance of catching malaria, not rare. By that line of thinking a 1:100 chance of being raped is not rare....but how helpful is it for women to feel they have a high life time risk of being raped? If 99 women are NOT raped, and you are the one who is I think you would feel very unlucky...and luck is another way of thinking about risk.

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 16:31:33

A woman's lifetime risk of sexual assault is actually around 1 in 4, but you're right that it isn't helpful to think of it like that.

my point was more that society in general minimises the prevalence of many forms of sexual assault, and that this really isn't helpful. It dismisses victims' experiences, and also stops people recognising how big the problem is.

When I tell people I was raped by a stranger, disbelief because "that's really rare / unlikely!" is very common.

Shallishanti Fri 06-Jun-14 16:37:19

I'm sorry you had that experience.
Maybe those responses are just a clumsy way of saying, 'you poor thing you were REALLY unusually unlucky'

NotCitrus Fri 06-Jun-14 16:44:23

I think "stranger" evokes the idea of being grabbed in an alleyway on a dark night, which probably is a smaller bit of the stats - stranger rape would cover loads of scenarios starting off in public places like conferences and bars - which are the rapes people don't want to think about, because it sounds like so many of our real lives and harder to avoid. Or from the male point of view , more like them so they don't want to think those are really rapes, whether they themselves are rapists or not.

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 17:02:16

Thanks, but that wasn't really my point.

We live in a culture where women's experiences are routinely downplayed, dismissed and minimised. This includes the tendency towards the notion that sexual assault is unusual, and only perpetrated by a tiny minority of men, and that these men are monsters.

Following on from this is the idea that lots of women lie about it, because, hey, this type of thing is rare, right?

By describing any sexual assaults as rare, when the figures plainly show otherwise, we are perpetuating that culture.

If an issue affected 1% of men, it would not be routinely described as rare.

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 17:05:13

NotCitrus - it's true that people forget that 'stranger' rape covers a wide variety of scenarios. Worbuoys was a stranger rapist.

ezinma Fri 06-Jun-14 17:11:18

I agree, OP. Stranger rape is common. Acquaintance rape is frequent.

We should be careful not to play down the former when we want to draw attention to the latter.

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 17:16:35

"Stranger rape is common. Acquaintance rape is frequent."

^ This is exactly right.

If we downplay the scale of the problem, how can we ever address it? How can we convince people that it's even worth addressing?

KristinaM Fri 06-Jun-14 17:33:30

I think people see it as a logical deduction

" Most women are raped by someone they know "

Turns into " few women are raped by a stranger "

Turns into " stranger rape is very rare "

CailinDana Fri 06-Jun-14 17:46:49

You are dead right OP. Dead right.

Recently I was talking to my (male) friend about why, when my DD is a teenager, I won't be telling her to cover up in case she is raped. Apart from being victim blaming, and pointless (as it does not prevent rape) I also argued that stranger rape is so rare that taking measures such as covering up/not drinking etc is restrictive for no good reason. In fact, as you say, rape is such a common crime that even though stranger rape is relatively rare, it is not rare in absolute terms. So I will not use that argument again. The victim blaming/pointless arguments are enough on their own anyway.

You make a very valid point and I won't be minimising again. Sorry to hear you were raped. I was also raped, but by a family friend and a boyfriend, so I have a tendency to focus on acquaintance rape. I come at it from the point of view that people tend to see stranger rape as "real" rape and so minimise my rape. But I can see that no one gains anything from minimising any "type" of rape, it's all fucking shit and it should all stop.

Have you had support in real life to deal with what happened to you?

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 18:02:41

It was many years ago (although the trial is this year as they've only just caught him), and I've had counselling. I've moved on with life - I don't avoid going outdoors or anything.

I also don't think people really do see stranger rape as necessarily more real. The police and lots of people I knew were just as dismissive and disbelieving, as I've heard about them being for acquaintance rapes!

CailinDana Fri 06-Jun-14 19:38:20

It's interesting (and awful) that you say they've been just as dismissive as they are with acquaintance rapes. It shows, doesn't it, that it's all just an excuse to dismiss rape as unimportant. That guff about "legitimate rape," as if there is at least one "type" of rape the apologists will accept as "real" is just bullshit. No matter what, they will always find a way to blame the woman or imply that it was all nothing.

How are you feeling about the trial coming up?

ReallyFuckingFedUp Fri 06-Jun-14 20:03:03

I think feminist do it to combat the victim blaming in warning women to dress a certain way act a certain way. And maybe also so women can leave the house with out living in fear.

But you are right. It isn't rare.

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 20:25:55

Trying not to think about it too much... I'd go completely mad if I did!

JustTheRightBullets Fri 06-Jun-14 21:07:53

Cailin - I think you're right, btw. It's all just about creating hoops for victims to jump through. There's not really any such thing as a society approved 'real' rape. The victim will always be considered to have done something wrong or be somehow exaggerating. I was genuinely asked if it could have been a 'misunderstanding'. Think how John Worbuoys victims were treated etc...

NotAgainTrevor Sat 07-Jun-14 08:46:30

Interesting topic, I think you are bang on actually, it is not rare really. In reality it is what society accepts to be 'proper' rape is relatively rare. So innocent, pure virgin, wearing demure clothes, stone cold sober, not being in a dangerous place hmm and left bloodied and beaten from the vicious fight back to protect her purity when the scary stranger dragged her kicking and screaming away. Everyone other raped woman was asking for it.

I think I minimise often, I think it may be a form of self protection I don't want to face the issue that I feel essentially powerless.

A problem we have is society general sees womens bodies as being public property with no right to boundaries. The 1 in 4 rape statistic is often disputed by MRAs as some of the women didn't think they had been raped and it was only ebil feminists that decided that for her. Forgetting that women have internalised so many of the blame message and don't recognise rape for what it is. It comes up on womens boards all the time, "I passed out drunk at a party, some bloke had sex with me, I'm such a bad person, but it can't be rape, I couldn't didn't say no!" Likewise sexual assault, most women will say they havn't been but start questioning who has teen been flashed, groped, had someone rub their erection up to you in a public place, then you struggle to find any woman that hasn't been assaulted. This is all dismissed, as a laugh, a joke, or even more damagingly just men being men, what else can we expect. It's rare and we are overreacting.

NotAgainTrevor Sat 07-Jun-14 08:51:32

Teen been confused' should just be been! clearly still feeling the effects of last nights wine.

trufflehunterthebadger Tue 23-Sep-14 22:48:43

I recently had a stranger rape for trial. The victim was walking home at 2am, was taken down to the ground (offender was a squaddie and used a military technique). He strangled her, raped her in the middle of the street and only left her alone because a very brave woman heard the victims screams and ran out of her house to help.

His defence barrister suggested at some point that it "could have been worse" for the victim because at least he didn't drag her into a bush

Worse still, the barrister is female

YonicScrewdriver Tue 23-Sep-14 23:42:59

Christ, truffle, I hope the judge said something.

JustTheRightBullets Tue 23-Sep-14 23:53:58

I'm assuming he pled guilty? (Given that the defence was only offering mitigation.)

Yonic - from what I can tell that sort of comment isn't uncommon. So I doubt the judge said anything at all.

YonicScrewdriver Wed 24-Sep-14 00:03:22


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