Here’s the problem:
- An estimated one in six women has been the victim of either an attempted or completed rape.
- Fewer than an estimated 1/3 of rapes are ever reported.
- Of those, only an estimated 6% of accused rapists end up serving time, despite the fact that an estimated 90 – 98% are guilty.
- We do have laws against rape, but the system is rigged in the rapist’s favor. We routinely dismiss victim’s claims and even blame or attack the victim. It’s no wonder that such a small percentage of rapes are reported to the authorities.
- We also tend to reflexively disregard claims of rape when the victim was drunk or otherwise incapacitated, making it easier to believe that she may have given some kind of consent but just not remembered it that way later. Of course rapists take advantage of their victims’ incapacity. In fact, many aggressors will intentionally target impaired women, and/or make active attempts to impair them. This makes them easier to rape, while damaging their credibility should they later make an accusation.
Bill Cosby was a pro with all the advantages: power, popularity, a reliable scheme for incapacitating his intended victims, and plenty of means to keep them quiet afterwards. So how did he finally get taken down? Because victim after victim, with no connection to one other, came out and independently gave essentially similar stories. By the 20th victim statement or so, I don’t think any honest person could continue to hope that Cosby might be innocent.
Apparently this is what it takes to get a guilty verdict: credible statements that are also corroborated by multiple independent sources. While this bar is inappropriately high, it is actually achievable more often than you might imagine.
How? Because many or most rapes are committed by professionals – by serial predators. They do it more than once. A lot more. And these guys can be Cosbied. It just takes some organization.
Here’s the scheme. Any community organization – a student group, sorority, nonprofit org, etc. – can develop an unofficial data base of rape reports. Put the word out to the community that we’re collecting simple reports that can be made quickly and conveniently via the internet, and are kept confidential just by checking off the right box. Then following a critical number of reports (perhaps two, three, or four) re a given perpetrator, then all of that perpetrator’s victims are notified that the designated number of reports have been made.
You see where this is going, right? Suddenly two or three or four people are stepping up to file complaints about the same perpetrator. The victims don’t know each other and have not compared notes. Yet they are all accusing the same guy, and in some respects their stories are similar in ways that are unlikely to be coincidental. This will surely lead to these victims’ statements being taken more seriously, and these perpetrators being found guilty more often.
I didn’t make this up. It’s already being done in various colleges around the country. The most prominent example of this approach is Callisto, a web-based service that provides a variety of reporting mechanisms and options for those who have experienced sexual assault. Obviously it’s most easily implemented within well-defined communities such as colleges or military bases. However, a similar approach might also work, with adequate outreach, in any town or city.
The serial rapists account for a substantial proportion of overall rapes. Cosby enough of the professional predators and the rape rate will go way down. It can be done.
I find your title and innuendos most disturbing. Whether or not Mr Cosby is guilty has NOT been established – accusation does not equal guilt.
While much of your thesis makes sense you destroy all credibility by presuming to know an unestablished truth – thereby causing more damage, and creating more barriers to those you purport to help.
Jackie, I understand your objection, and I rarely comment on a public case. But in this case, the evidence is so compelling that I am comfortable with my characterization of what Cosby did. I believe that his guilt has been well established. Suggesting otherwise would be, in my opinion, to collude with his habitual abuse of power. Which is the problem that I am suggesting should be counteracted.
Bear in mind that I am not a court of law passing a sentence without a trial. I am a private individual choosing to believe the nearly 60 credible women independently alleging rape, rather than believe the denials of the alleged rapist who has previously given sworn testimony that he drugged women to have sex with them. While there is potential harm to presuming Cosby guilty in this circumstance, IMO there is far greater potential harm to remaining “open-minded” which, given the compelling evidence, would be tantamount to claiming that all those women were lying.
I appreciate your reply but feel the need to point out the incongruence in your response.
By its very definition “open-minded” is neither condemnation of guilt or accusation of lying . . . it is remaining neutral and allowing a defined process to reach its natural conclusion. Anything else is not open minded and so falls victim to our own prejudices – thereby impeding or, potentially, denying justice to all
I would come closer to agreeing with you if the “defined process” offered an opportunity for fair consideration. But the process has failed these women, who were intimidated and silenced for a long time. Even today, rape accusers are routinely dismissed, ostracized, punished. And as per the research cited above, only about 2% of rapes lead to convictions. So conviction is too high a bar for believing a rape allegation.
I also disagree with your proposition that being open-minded is always actually neutral. Refusing to draw a conclusion in the face of compelling evidence is siding (in this case) with the rapist. The choice to deny the obvious is not neutral.
BTW I’m often on your side of this argument, because I think it is wrong to form a premature conclusion. But — as in this case — when so much evidence is available, neutrality is not a realistic option
More to the point is that we are even having this discussion. If communities organize to Cosby more rapists, then more of the current and future serial rapists will be tried and convicted. I think we’d both prefer that avenue over the one that Cosby and his victims found themselves on.
I continue to hold my position that public trials/convictions are counter productive to any chance of justice.
And I vehemently take exception to your statement “I think we’d both prefer . . . ” – particularly as it was prefaced with “more of the current and future serial rapists will be . . .” – where it appears you’ve stepped beyond passing judgment on the accused and broadened the scope of your wrath to uncommitted crime
The point of this blog post is to promote a strategy to identify and convict more serial rapists, and get them out of circulation. Since you oppose forming opinions about alleged rapists outside of the formal legal process, I naturally assumed that you would prefer getting accused rapists into the legal process. If that’s not correct, then please state your own ideas for how we should deal with serial rapists.
I agree with you, Ricky — although in many cases there are two sides to the story, this is not one of them.
Although you may feel morally superior, Jackie, by waiting for legal justice before drawing any conclusions of your own, you are potentially contributing to these victims’ sense of guilt and shame by not believing their myriad accounts substantiated by significant evidence. And frankly, there’s nothing morally superior in that…
stepping aside from the apparent need for judgment – towards either me or non-convicted persons – believing in the justice system does not equal not believing people’s truths – its about having faith . . .
I love the suggestions made in your article. I don’t know what the answer is to this sickening problem, but I love the idea of a proactive/community based approach.
I think we all need to take more responsibility towards our fellow citizens, our neighbors, & our communities & towards addressing such important problems
Thanks. I think there are a lot of answers, not just “the” answer. This proposal is just one piece of what should be done