“Rapes Way Down.” That was the headline of a very short story buried in the New York Post Friday.
Here’s the entire story:
The rate of sexual violence against women and girls age 12 or older fell 64 percent in a decade, the Justice Department reported yesterday. From a peak of five rapes or sexual assaults per 1,000 women in 1995, rates fell to 1.8 per 1,000 in 2005, a figure unchanged to 2010. Women’s groups credited wider public and police awareness.
The story was originally reported by the Associated Press. But I could find no mention of this report in any other major paper in the last three days. I did find a longer version of the AP story on the CBS News website. But that was it.
Now, imagine if the report had said the opposite. Imagine if the headline were “Rapes Way Up.” This is a story that would have been reported everywhere. On the front page of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, I’d imagine.
The idea that the incidence of sexual assault has significantly decreased is at odds with the common media trope about the “war against women.” We are supposed to believe that women are the victims of a society that wants nothing more than to oppress them.
Just consider this. A number of reports about the horrific rape in New Delhi earlier this year have actually suggested that the U.S. has a comparable problem. In a Global Post piece on the CNBC website, the author wrote, “In the global epidemic of violence against women, the United States is no exception.” What is the evidence for this?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 5 American women will be raped in her lifetime, and the US Department of Justice reports more than 300,000 American women are raped each year. In 2011, India, a country whose population is four times greater than the United States, had 12 times fewer reported rapes.
Ahh yes, that word “reported” does stick out. Women in the U.S. are actually very safe compared to women around the world. Women in the U.S. -- no matter what city, no matter what neighborhood -- do not get on public buses in broad daylight fearing that they will be the victims of gang rape.
There is violent crime in this country but it has been on a steady decline for decades now. And rape has followed the same pattern. Even if no one wants to report the good news, there it is.