Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

White House Becomes Involved in Debate over Rape Statistics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

White House Becomes Involved in Debate over Rape Statistics

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT BILL Clinton cited on Tuesday chilling statistics on crimes against women to promote a new Justice Department program to combat these crimes.

"The FBI estimates that a woman is beaten in this country once every 12 seconds," Clinton said.

But the White House acknowledged Wednesday that Clinton incorrectly had attributed the statistic to the FBI. White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the figure came from a 2-year-old Senate Judiciary Committee report - not the FBI, which counts crimes reported to police.

Questions also were raised about other statistics used by Clinton because the White House chose to ignore its own Justice Department figures and rely instead on the Senate report. In each case, the department's statistics for rape and other violent acts were dramatically lower.

"Go ahead, kick us around. We made a mistake," McCurry said. "We should not have said FBI. That word should not have been in the president's remarks.

"But please explain to your readers why we're putting the money out there and why we signed the bill and why we did the event yesterday - which is because women are frightened about coming forward on these crimes."

Clinton appointed Bonnie Campbell, a former Iowa attorney general, to head the new Violence Against Women office at the Justice Department. He also announced an initial $26 million in grants under a new program to combat violence against women.

By citing the figures, Clinton waded into an old debate on crime statistics.

The Senate report is based partly on the "Rape in America Report," produced by the National Criminal Victims Research and Treatment Center in Charleston, S.C. Director Dean Kilpatrick said the Senate panel's figures are more reliable than Justice Department statistics, especially in calculating unreported crimes.

But David Murray, director of research at the Statistical Assessment Service, which analyzes the uses of figures in public debates, criticized the White House for not relying on figures produced with taxpayer money. …

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