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March 6, 2014

"How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America's Hidden Rape Crisis"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new paper on SSRN authored by Corey Rayburn Yung. Here is the abstract:

During the last two decades, many police departments substantially undercounted reported rapes creating "paper" reductions in crime.  Media investigations in Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis found that police eliminated rape complaints from official counts because of cultural hostility to rape complaints and to create the illusion of success in fighting violent crime.  The undercounting cities used three difficult-to-detect methods to remove rape complaints from official records: designating a complaint as "unfounded" with little or no investigation; classifying an incident as a lesser offense; and, failing to create a written report that a victim made a rape complaint.

This study addresses how widespread the practice of undercounting rape is in police departments across the country.  Because identifying fraudulent and incorrect data is essentially the task of distinguishing highly unusual data patterns, I apply a statistical outlier detection technique to determine which jurisdictions have substantial anomalies in their data.  Using this novel method to determine if other municipalities likely failed to report the true number of rape complaints made, I find significant undercounting of rape incidents by police departments across the country.  The results indicate that approximately 22% of the 210 studied police departments responsible for populations of at least 100,000 persons have substantial statistical irregularities in their rape data indicating considerable undercounting from 1995 to 2012.  Notably, the number of undercounting jurisdictions has increased by over 61% during the eighteen years studied.

Correcting the data to remove police undercounting by imputing data from highly correlated murder rates, the study conservatively estimates that 796,213 to 1,145,309 complaints of forcible vaginal rapes of female victims nationwide disappeared from the official records from 1995 to 2012.  Further, the corrected data reveal that the study period includes fifteen to eighteen of the highest rates of rape since tracking of the data began in 1930. Instead of experiencing the widely reported "great decline" in rape, America is in the midst of a hidden rape crisis.  Further, the techniques that conceal rape complaints deprioritize those cases so that police conduct little or no investigation. Consequently, police leave serial rapists, who constitute the overwhelming majority of rapists, free to attack more victims. Based upon the findings of this study, governments at all levels must revitalize efforts to combat the cloaked rise in sexual violence and the federal government must exercise greater oversight of the crime reporting process to ensure accuracy of the data provided.

March 6, 2014 at 09:19 AM | Permalink


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Umm, to call the results "corrected data" seems just as big a lie as what the author claims the various police departments have done, regardless of whether the author is actually correct on the underlying point.

I wouldn't have a problem with calling them "estimated totals" or some other term that is honest about the inherent margin of error in such an endeavor, but to call it data as if completely honest original reports could be produced for each of the purported disappeared rapes is incredibly misleading.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 6, 2014 11:49:12 AM

The false reporting of a rape should carry the same sentence as a rape. A not guilty verdict for rape should make the original report false, per se.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 6, 2014 1:31:44 PM

so in English the cops from bottom to top lied through their teeth.

Not to mention falaficaiton of gov't reports and documents.

Hmm all felony charges at both the state and federal lvl if I'm not mistaken.

Of course the kicker is this.

Is anyone SUPRISED?

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 6, 2014 5:27:58 PM

How to just lie:

In 2010, Lois Lerner told a Duke University group that the “Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year-old precedent [with Citizens United] that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. Everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The FEC can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.”

When asked who wanted the IRS to fix the problem, Ms. Lerner refused to comment.

In February 2011, Lois Lerner sent an email saying that the Tea Party matter was “very dangerous” and “could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue of whether Citizens United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax exempt rules.”

When asked what she meant when she said the Tea Party cases were “very dangerous” she pleaded the Fifth.

In other correspondences, Ms. Lerner told colleagues that it was important to make sure the TARGETING did not appear to be a “per say, political project” and she ordered that Tea Party cases undergo a multi-tier review. Rep. Issa also asked Ms. Lerner to clarify whether Barack Obama was correct to assert that there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” in this IRS targeting scandal.

When asked about all three of these comments, Lois Lerner responded that she was asserting her Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer these questions.

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 6, 2014 8:36:59 PM

How about how to lie with statistics with the lies that joe biden and other saying that 1 in 4 or 5 women are sexually assaulted or actually raped in their lifetime. Any person knows that that one in 5 is exaggerated, perhaps in other countries it may be higher be never 1 in 4.

As for under reporting of actual rapes, well who knows, feminist and women's organizations will say that happens, make a press release or the media on it, and advocate for funding for organizations, if it weren't true, ie rapes were over reported, would they admit it, no because it won't draw attention to their cause.

Also, the goal of police officers, sadly is to CONVICT YOU OR GET YOU TO CONFESS, they aren't interesting in getting the truth, everything from the central park rape case to numerous other convictions such as by the innocent project organizations that were overturned by DNA evidence illustrate. In addition, its "HARD TO PROVE YOU DIDN'T DO IT WHEN DNA TESTING WASN'T REALLY USED IN THE 1980S WHEN YOU TRY TO CLAIM INNOCENCE 30 YEARS LATER AFTER SOME JURY CONVICTS YOU BASED ON FAULTY OR INSUFFICIENT FORENSIC EVIDENCE SO YOU MAY NOT GO FREE".

So I'm skeptical of it, in addition its easy to get a grand jury indictment such as in the duke case, but my point is that if you go beyond high profile cases, there are numerous convictions overturned by dna evidence, trouble is "if your wrongfully convicted, you shouldn't have to prove you didn't do it, and what about dna evidence destroyed or other issues".

For instance a DA will claim well maybe the girl was promiscuous so that's why other dna was there to deny a person's bid to go free or seek a new trial, but god forbid we use it against the an alleged victim.

So I can argue that for every false rape conviction or case, there can be double or triple the number that aren't overturned or simply the evidence is not there or destroyed to have to "prove your are innocent". This is not unique to rape cases, it also true in murder cases.

Posted by: Alex | Mar 10, 2014 1:46:04 AM

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