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.
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.