DOJ Director on Violence Against Women in the United States
Rahim Kanani, Contributor 3/08/2012
In one of the most in-depth discussions to date on violence against women in the United States, and to coincide with International Women’s Day, I interviewed Susan B. Carbon, Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)….
One in every four women and one in every seven men have experienced severe physical violence by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Stalkers victimize approximately 5.2 million women and 1.4 million men each year in the U.S, with domestic violence-related stalking the most common type of stalking and often the most dangerous. One in ten 9th-12th grade students were physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in 2009 alone. One in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes, and nearly 1.3 million women in the U.S. are raped every year.….
Susan Carbon: Since the 1990s, we have learned a great deal more about prevalence of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. For example, research has helped us better understand how rapists target their victims and escape justice. This is particularly significant on our college campuses. College rapists may avoid the justice system by attacking acquaintances, picking women who will not be considered credible due to alcohol use or other factors, and by minimizing injuries by plying their victims with alcohol rather than using physical force.
Nineteen percent of undergraduate women reported experiencing completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college. Most of these assaults occurred when the victim was incapacitated by alcohol. Rapes involving alcohol are much more prevalent than rapes involving date-rape drugs. Risk of incapacitated rape increases significantly during college. In one study, over 80% of undetected college rapists reported committing rapes of women who were incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol. Many college rapists create “cases” that victims are least likely to report and that prosecutors are less likely to prosecute. Only 2% of victims of incapacitated rape reported the assault to law enforcement.
Campuses often fail to respond to college rapists, who continue to offend. Even the best- intentioned universities’ adjudication and other processes often blame the victim and fail to discipline the perpetrator. In one study, 63% of rapists reported committing repeat rapes, averaging six each. More than two-thirds (68%) of the repeat rapists admitted to other forms of interpersonal violence, averaging 14 violent acts. Their level of violence was nearly 10 times that of non-rapists, and nearly 3.5 times that of single-act rapists. This portrait of college rapists is more consistent with the data on recidivism among sex offenders than with the still-prevalent image of a college student who, under the influence of alcohol, mistakenly crosses the line between sexual pressure and rape.….
There is also a body of research indicating that the increased availability of legal services has significantly contributed to a decline in domestic violence in the United States. Obtaining a protection order has been shown in multiple studies to reduce future assault and improve quality of life. Even when orders were violated, there was a significant reduction in subsequent abuse.….
Although we tend to think of sexual assault as a crime usually involving only two people, a 2002 study using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey revealed that sexual assaults are often witnessed by at least one person in the bystander role.