The Rape Victim: A Project of the Committee on Women of the American Psychiatric Association ...

By Elaine Hilberman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
TWO
LEGAL ASPECTS OF RAPE

According to the Uniform Crime Reports released by the FBI, 1 46,430 women were victims of rape in 1972. This volume represents an 11% increase over 1971, and a 70% increase over 1967. In 1974, there was an estimated total of 55,210 forcible rapes, an 8% increase over the preceding year, and a 49% increase over 1969. FBI comparative statistics confirm that rape is the fastest growing of the violent crimes, with almost a third of the total volume reported in the southern states. While better reporting may account for part of the increase, it is felt that these statistics greatly underreflect the actual incidence of rape. Given the climate of opinion about rape, it is not surprising that forcible rape is probably one of the most underreported crimes in the United States today, with educated estimates that between 50 to 90% of rape cases go unreported. The FBI attributes underreporting to "fear and/or embarrassment on the part of the victims."' She is afraid of public accusation of provocation or active participation in the rape. She is fearful of the reactions of those close to her, whether husband, boyfriend, parents, or friends. In the case of a young victim, the parents wish to protect the child from the publicity and the legal ordeal. If the assailant is a close friend, relative, or employer, there are additional pressures not to report.

The natural channels for reportage are hospitals and law enforcement agencies, a common feature being that most citizens trust neither one of these institutions to deal with rape. Hospitals suffer from lack of personnel trained to work with victims both in the crisis period and in follow-up, and from lack of consistent and clear procedures for evidence collection. In the absence of a formal policy for the treatment of victims in crisis, personal attitudes and fears prevail on the part of the staff, both with regard to the victim and the criminal justice system. A clinician, then, might choose

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