On the rape thread on Feministing, I outlined a possible approach to combat rape based on the underlying theory that it’s a violent crime. Some of the ideas below are based on things that have worked for other violent crimes, while others are based on no particular theory but direct profiles of rapes and rapists.
1. Basic law enforcement: more cops on the streets, diversion of police resources from drugs and obscenity laws to violent crime, and implementation of methods to reduce police arrival time (which mainly goes back to more cops).
2. Basic social welfare: it’s known that murder correlates very strongly with both poverty and inequality; although the underreporting of other violent crimes, especially rape, makes it hard to investigate them with the same level of thoroughness, it’s likely that the socioeconomic profile of the rapist doesn’t significantly differ from this of the murderer. Therefore, widening the social safety net, and having policies concerning minority cultures and education that don’t create underclasses, should help reduce the risk of rape.
3. Self defense: self defense classes offered to women only meant to protect from rape tend to have low penetration and limited availability. A better path would be to teach self defense in physical education classes in schools. Males have a physical strength advantage over females partly because they spend more time honing their physical skills in sports and brawls. However, note that according to the 1997 NCVS, the ratio of risks of young men to older men is the same as this of young women to older women, which is not what the “men are physically stronger than women” hypothesis would predict since men in the 16-19 age bracket, the one most at risk, are probably physically the strongest.
4. Reporting: reported sexual assault rates are surprisingly static, which suggests the rape rate is inversely proportional to the reporting rate. In the last 15 years, the US has seen a drop in rape and a rise in reporting, and crime surveys from Britain and Canada, where sexual assault rates are higher, also reveal lower reporting rates. There are several mechanisms of encouraging victims to report. First, making rape laws more gender-equal, as in Canada, should increase the reporting rate of at least male rape. Second, rape prosecutions at least in the US are based on the DA’s decisions; there have been cases of women forced to testify or even watch tapes of their rapes at the trials of their rapists; making prosecution contingent on the victim’s consent should encourage reporting. And third, too many cops and people buy into the myth of false reports, so $10 million on an educational campaign will be money well spent.
5. Drinking: both rape victims and rapists are likely to be drunk. The 1997 NCVS reports that 35.8% of rape victims believe their rapists were under the influence of alcohol (and 13.8% believe they were on drugs, with a 7.3% overlap). A Home Office survey lists several studies giving figures ranging from 6% of 81% for victims. Policies that a) educate people about drinking and b) promote some alternatives to binge drinking should help reduce rape.