Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Flaws in Rape Law

Every year, about 293,000 sexual assaults take place, and another American gets raped or sexually assaulted every 107 seconds. 97 out of every 100 rapists walk free with no punishment or jail time. One may ask the question, “Why don’t more rapists get punished? Rape is a serious crime!”. This is where technicalities come in; where a rich man in a nice suit can decide whether or not a rape case is even worth taking to court. What dictates whether or not a rape case is worthy? A lack of witnesses is a big reason as to why most rape cases don’t make it. If the victim is a female, there is an even bigger chance of the rape case not making it to court, because more than likely, her attacker is claiming the sexual encounter was consensual, and rape cases almost always favor the man if there’s a lack of evidence and two stories are being told. The staggering amount of rapists walking free makes the crime seem as though it has no punishment, and this is why rape still increases by the minute. If more rapists were put in jail for their actions and given serious prison time, the number of sexual assaults would undoubtedly decrease. This concept is similar to the stance on drunk driving: if you increase prison time for a drunk driver, especially one that’s actions resulted in death, the number of drunk drivers would decrease. Rape cases need to be brought to court no matter how many witnesses there were or how much evidence there is, and the punishment for a rapist needs to be serious prison time.

Of the 293,000 victims that are raped per year, 80% are under age 30, and 44% are under age 18. That means there’s a large amount of mere children being assaulted. A common misconception is that most rapes occur in dark alleys or parking garages and that the attacker is usually a stranger. In reality, however, it’s most likely someone the victim knows, and it most likely occurs near or in their house. There’s virtually no way of knowing whether a close loved one could actually be a future attacker. If you walked a busy city street, one would not be able to separate the convicted rapists from the latter; 97% of all rapists walk free without spending even a day in jail. This is a very scary statistic- a neighbor or a friend or even a work colleague could have raped in the past and got away with it. More than half of all rape cases report that the incident happened within one mile of their home, and about four in ten cases actually take place in the victim’s home. 47% of rapists attack a friend or acquaintance. Rapists are everywhere, they just look like average people. This is the most dangerous part about identifying a rapist: they’re almost unidentifiable. Rape is a crime that often has long-term effects on its victims. 31% of all rape victims will develop PTSD and 11% of those will have it for life. This is about 1.3 million American women suffering with rape-related PTSD. Now, imagine an anxiety-ridden rape victim knowing that their rapist is out there, walking free without penalty, free to rape once more. Some victims are afraid to leave their home, and others never go out without someone else. Rape has a permanent effect on its victims, and the rapist most often is never punished for this damage. One might argue that school campuses are the most guilty of dishing out unfitting penalties for rapists. A freshman at Indiana University (whose name will not be shared) was raped on campus by a fellow student while she was in and out of consciousness due to intoxication. The initial punishment for her attacker was a 60-day suspension from campus during a summer semester. No expulsion was made, and the rapist made off with an easy punishment for a horrible act of sexual assault. This leads this topic to excuses made to protect the rapist- What was she/he wearing? Was she/he intoxicated? Did she/he ask for it?- rape law as a whole has hundreds of loopholes for the rapist to wiggle their way into. Rape should not be justified if the victim was wearing suggestive clothing or if the victim was intoxicated. The fact that rape cases can be dismissed because of these factors is ridiculous. This concept is similar to looking at a murder case and defending the murderer by asking if the victim was aggravating the murderer. Nobody is forced to rape. Rape is a choice, and no matter what the state of the victim is, it is always wrong.

This data was collected for a reason: to prove how serious rape is and how the cases aren’t taken as seriously as they need to be. The amount of people affected by rape is too large for there not to be more rapists in jail. Again, out of the 293,000 people raped every year, only 3% of the rapists end up serving any kind of prison time. If they do, by some miracle, serve time, it is not long enough. Studies were done with drunk driving that showed that a rise in penalty for drunk drivers led to a decline in drunk driving. This would be the same with rape. The rapists feel safe; the feel that they can commit the crime and face zero or no punishment at all. Putting more rapists in jail for longer amounts of time would almost definitely lead to a decline in rape overall, and would pull dangerous rapists off of the street. The problem is the legal system and their leniency with rape cases as well as small technicalities that determine whether or not the case can be brought to court. One of the biggest issues of rape law is as follows: ¨Victims don’t report rape because the law is written, by default, to make questioning their credibility an issue in prosecution and defense, rather than collecting or establishing evidence. Over 60% of rapes go unreported as a result¨. Rape victims are too afraid to report their cases because they know their credibility will be questioned, meaning that the court needs to decide whether the victim could be lying or not, as well as whether they are just doing this for attention. No rape victim wants to be looked at as a joke. Victims just want justice; they want their attacker in jail, not to be harassed by lawyers about whether the victim gave consent or not. Rape cases are too harsh in this sense. A case can easily come to a “he said/she said” stance, where the court most often favors with the attacker, believing he/she is more credible than an emotionally distraught victim. The lines of consent are very vague. and courts will often rule that the victim may have given consent without knowing it, therefore the attacker is not at fault and is free to go. Rape law is much different than others. For example, when a murder is committed, the court already knows the crime has been committed. With rape law, the court must decide if the victim was even raped to begin with. Rape Kits are available, but all they can do is identify the person that had sexual intercourse with the victim. The court must decide if the victim was raped or if they gave consent to the ¨rapist¨. It is commonly known that rape law is very difficult to deal with because the case will most likely eventually turn into two sides of a story that a jury must listen to and decide which is the truth. The selected jury, most often, will find the rapist innocent if there is not enough evidence to prove otherwise, thus creating the crazy subject of rape law we have in our world.

Let us say, for instance, that the jury believes the attacker is indeed guilty. We then enter the field of punishment. Too many times has the worn out ¨this should not ruin his/her life, it was a mistake and they have their whole lives ahead of them” gone into play, and this usually gets the rapist off the hook. Many argue that rape is not a serious crime and should not have severe punishment. This is most commonly used in the case of teenage rape. Who is to say, however, that letting a rapist go is a good thing? Their reason for being let go is that the rape was a mistake and it will never happen again, yes? Will they better themselves and have a successful future where they will never harm another soul? Juvenile's account for 16% of all rape cases, and 17% of those were arrested for other sexual offences in the past. 46% of rapists that were released from jail were arrested 3 years later for another violent crime. Many rapists will rape again if not given severe punishment. If rapists are let go, they will rape again, or will commit another crime. Is this a risk the court system is willing to take? An increase in punishment for rapists will decrease the amount of rapes taking place every year. If the penalty for walking outside a crosswalk was life in prison, there would be a definite decline in j-walkers. The same applies to rape, and any other crime, for that matter. Many actions could take place in order to decrease rape statistics: longer jail time for the attacker, stricter punishment, and more lenient rape law are some examples. All of these, however, remain undone. Here lies our problem.

Lombardi, Kristen. “A Lack of Consequences for Sexual Assault”. The Center for Public Integrity. Web. 24 February 2010.
Kilpatrick, Dean. “The Mental Health Impact of Rape”. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. Web, n.d.
Burroughs Stone, Jeneva. “How The Laws Governing Rape Fail Everyone”. America Blog. Web. 15 December 2014.
RAINN. “What to Expect from the Criminal Justice System”. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Web, n.d.
RAINN. “The Offenders”. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Web, n.d.
RAINN. “Statistics”. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Web, n.d.

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