Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Rapist You Know

Rape Still Mostly Unreported

Despite progress made by women's groups to encourage women to report rape, it continues to go unreported. Although reporting has increased over the past decade, only 30% of attempted rapes and completed rapes are reported to the police according to the National Institute of Justice. Rape goes unreported because of the intersection of consent and coercion. Consent is the central element of the definition of rape. Rape only occurs when a women does not consent to sexual contact. Coercion is the practice of compelling a person to involuntarily behave in a certain way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, initimidation or some other form of pressure or force. Coercion may typically involve the actual infliction of physical or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of further harm may then lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person being coerced. In stranger rape the establishment of nonconsensual sex through coercion is easily ascertained. In acquaintance rape it is less clear.

Sexual consent and coercion play into social beliefs about sexuality and the roles of men and women. Sex role behaviors and communication styles differ between the genders. Men who regard sex as "scoring" and are sexually aggressive often believe "no" can be changed to "yes" with a little more persuasion or force. Women frequently say "no" too softly or indirectly because they don't want to hurt feelings or jeopardize a relationship. In such circumstances it can be difficult to determine whether the man involved understood that the woman was denying her consent. Sara acknowledges it is highly unlikely that Steve viewed himself as a rapist.

These faulty beliefs and misunderstandings about acquaintance rape serve to shape the way in which acquaintance rape is dealt. This set of assumptions referred to as "Rape Myths" often present serious obstacles for victims as they attempt to cope with their experience and recovery.


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