Rape is (mostly) not about power and the patriarchy

Rape is (mostly) not about power and the patriarchy. By Claire Lehmann.

Unfortunately, much of the commentary on these issues has been coloured by a particular ideological lens, and in some cases the rhetoric has been at odds with the facts.

The ideological lens through which sexual assault is viewed today has a decades-long history, starting with Susan Brownmiller’s fascinating but factually wrong 1975 treatise, Against Our Will, in which she argued that rape is “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”. Brownmiller’s analysis grew out of second-wave feminism, which viewed gender relations through a conflict theory (that is, Marxist) framework, wherein women as a class were oppressed by men as a class. …

While it is true most victims of rape are female (around 80 per cent), victim of crime statistics collected by the ABS also indicate that it is overwhelmingly a crime committed against young people — including boys. The age at which a female is most likely to be sexually assaulted is between 15 and 19 — while she is still in high school. The age at which a male is most likely to be sexually assaulted is under the age of 15 — while he is still a child. In a third of the cases, the rape has occurred in a “family or domestic violence” situation.

That 14-year-old boys and 15-year-old girls are most likely to be targeted by sex offenders seems at odds with the notion that sex offending is primarily motivated by power. Both in a legal sense and financial sense, children do not hold power. And yet they are more likely to be victimised by sex offenders than adults in their 40s or 50s.

The incidence of women who are raped with age closely matches the female fertility curve, which peaks around 20. So it’s not mostly about power, but reproduction.

Another popular trope that has proliferated in recent days is the notion that the rule of law is “broken” in regards to sexual assault because only a small number of cases that are reported end up resulting in convictions. The implied argument seems to be that police and prosecutors drop cases because they don’t “believe women” or because the threshold for evidence is too high. To be sure, many cases are dropped because prosecutors have insufficient physical evidence to work with. Nevertheless, researchers have found that one of the most common reasons for case attrition is lack of co-operation from the victim, not police. …

If we want to increase convictions for sex offending, we should be encouraging women (and men) to report such crimes as soon as possible, not scaring them off with stories about how going to police is like “being raped a second time”. …

Law enforcement has come a long way in the past few decades in developing a trauma-informed, victim-focused approach. … Going to the police is the first and most important step in a path toward justice, and police today have a range of services that they can offer victims to help them cope with the trauma they have experienced.

On the other hand, as Christine Blasey Ford showed at the Kavanaugh hearings in Washington and now the allegations against Christian Porter in Canberra, there is a role in politics for women not to tell the police, then bring up or concoct an incident decades later to bring down a non-left political figure. This can only happen because the media is campaigning so hard for the left. Naturally the same standards are not applied to the left — compare Porter’s treatment to Bill Shorten’s.