Welcome to our weekly series discussing rape and sexual assault. We're into week four and gaining readers with each addition to the series.
For those who are new to the series, we are sharing a list of statements that come from a 1990 survey of high school kids. They were surveyed before and after taking a Rape Awareness Program. Like the kids back then, we're taking a poll on each statement and comparing our responses with those from the 1990's. We're also discussing our responses in the comments and using the opportunity to expand our own knowledge, shine a light on our own pre-conceptions, and to discover new ways to discuss rape and sexual assault both within the progressive community and outside among family and friends.
Join us below for a re-cap of last week's statement and then don't forget to take this week's poll:
Statement #3: Physically forcing someone to have sex is rape.
This statement is true.
The 1990 survey found that before taking a rape awareness class 94.2% of the students answered correctly. After the class, 97% answered correctly.
Here on Daily Kos and more than 20 years later,
93% 94% answered correctly. The remaining 20% 6% were split between those who marked this statement as false, 5% 1%, and those who felt there were shades of gray, 15% 4%. (I apologize for all the strikeouts; my eyes went to totals instead of percentages and really messed up the numbers. Thanks to SandySin in the comments below for pointing out the mistake.)
Believe it or not, since the time this question was asked back in the 1990's, the legal definition of rape has changed. Our legal system was relying on a 1927 characterization of rape:
[Rape] is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”The new legal definition came about only recently in January 2012 and was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder:
The new definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”Obviously this changed allowed the word rape to be used in a much wider context that better fit the cultural norms of what we consider rape today.
Furthermore, the word consent was further defined by the Department of Justice. Lack of consent includes:
instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent.I find in very interesting that many of the 15% of people who chose Shades of Gray in last week's poll were very bothered by the missing word, consent, in last week's statement and then to see that the new definition of rape very much hinge on that word. My mind was opened a little wider when I learned that one of the reasons the word consent is so important concerns the BDSM community. For example:
I chose shades of grey because of BDSM play (12+ / 0-)Almost all the concerns ended up dealing with the concept of consent. One of the commenters asked an intriguing question about marital rape and wondered if it was specifically declared illegal in all jurisdictions. I felt that the question deserved an answer and found this on Wikipedia:
The question was worded to physical force, not consent. Sex without consent is rape. Sex with physical force can still include consent. Heck, even couples not in the scene will sometimes use some modicum of light physical force (like holding wrists, pushing onto a bed, etc.. rough sex without the BDSM) and still be consensual. So from where I sit (in a long term BDSM relationship that's lasted 15 years and counting) physical force does not equal rape. Lack of consent equals rape, even without physical force (say under threat or coercion).
The criminalization of marital rape in the United States started in the mid-1970s and by 1993 marital rape became a crime in all 50 states, under at least one section of the sexual offense codes. At that time, most states differentiated between the way marital rape and non-marital rape were treated. The laws have continued to change and evolve since 1993, but in some states, there still remain differences.We also had several conversations about prison rape and many wondered if the rates of rape were higher than in the civilian population. kimoconnor got busy and found some websites for us to read.
She discovered a recap of studies on prison rape at the National Institute of Justice website. Among all the information available, this interesting fact stuck out:
Overall, inmate reports indicate that they do not define or consider sexual relationships and rape in the same way that persons within free society view them, and, as a result, perceive rape to be a rare occurrence.That would mean statistical data on rape from prisons may be tainted by the way in which questions are asked of inmates. If they are asked specifically about rape, it's likely the numbers will be lower than the actual occurrences.
Her second find is a great article from the New York Review of Books, The Shame of Our Prisons: New Evidence. From the article, I'm choosing a few facts for you to mull over, but please, feel free to go read the entire piece.
According to the latest surveys, in 2011 and 2012, 3.2 percent of all people in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of those held in juvenile detention reported having been sexually abused in their current facility during the preceding year.The answer to the question about whether the rates of rape were higher in prison is complicated. A direct comparison to specific populations will show that it depends very much on who you are, even in prison. The above article says that people who experienced sexual abuse are more likely to be abused again therefore in prison, people who were abused as children are more likely to be targets of abuse:
As in previous studies, the rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse reported by women were dramatically higher than the corresponding rates reported by men: among prisoners, 6.9 percent versus 1.7 percent. Men, on the other hand, reported higher rates than women of sexual misconduct by staff members (most of which is committed by staff of the opposite sex),3 and in juvenile detention, boys reported much higher rates of abuse by staff than girls did—most, again, committed by women.Women are always more likely then men to be raped, even in prison.
A few more facts about prison rape that need to be highlighted:
The new studies confirm previous findings that most of those who commit sexual abuse in detention are corrections staff, not inmates. That is true in all types of detention facilities, but especially in juvenile facilities. The new studies also confirm that most victims are abused repeatedly during the course of a year. In juvenile facilities, victims of sexual misconduct by staff members were more likely to report eleven or more instances of abuse than a single, isolated occurrence. By far the two biggest risk factors for sexual abuse in all kinds of detention facilities are being “non-heterosexual,” as the BJS puts it, and having a history of sexual victimization that predates the inmate’s current incarceration.
Of the youth who reported sexual activity with staff, 63 percent said that no physical force or other coercion had been involved. Indeed, many of them reported that they had initiated the sexual contact, and about half reported that the staff in question had given them pictures or written them letters. While this may not reflect our typical conception of violent sexual abuse, it should be emphasized that much of the staff sexual misconduct in juvenile detention is precisely that.10 And sexual contact of any kind between staff and inmates is illegal in all fifty states, for good reason: the power imbalance between them is so extreme that it makes genuine consent on the part of inmates impossible.11 The notion of consent is even less applicable when the powerless are minors, making the behavior of staff members in these cases even less pardonable.I think we can come to the conclusion that the vast majority of us on DailyKos can agree that "Physically forcing someone to have sex without their consent is rape." I will be sure to use that word consent consistently in future conversations about sexual assault.
Thanks for a great conversation last week... let's see what we can do with this week's statement!
Diaries in the Series: