Rape, Crying Wolf, and the Criminal Justice System

One of Helen Smith’s readers started a fur ball over the issue of rape accusations in colleges, claiming that male students are fleeing colleges is “because they are less likely to get away with rape” there.

That’s uncorroborated rhetoric. The reader supports a legal standard of preponderance of the evidence. In criminal court, the standard is much higher: innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Duke lacrosse case is an example, where the accuser got sympathetic press early on, Duke condemned the students, and then the case fell apart.

There’s also a teachable moment here.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics research, between 1994 and 2008 about 37% of all rapes were reported to police. When a crime’s reported, the police must clear it by arresting a suspect. Then the prosecutor decides if there's enough evidence to proceed. Then they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crime was committed. Then the judge decides if they're going to incarcerate.

Bottom line: For every 1,000 rapes committed, 63 prison sentences are handed out for all cases prosecuted in federal district courts, though the incarceration rate trended up during this time period. (State court systems averaged about 43 incarcerations per 1,000 rapes.)

For criminals, this means they have about a 6% chance of spending time in prison per incident, where they’ll spend about 4 years inside.

For women, this means train yourself in self-defense and firearms. The government doesn’t exist to protect you.