We are never at a lack of stories about women who remain strong after experiencing a sexual assault. While there’s always been a continuous clamor for justice for these women, a lot of predators still get away with not being accountable. In the worst cases, victims are blamed, stigmatized, and killed for going through that horrible experience. Thus, many of them chose to stay silent.
The US Department of Health and Human Services reported that there are over 60 million survivors of rape and sexual abuse today—about 20% of the population in the US. As many as 90% of those survivors never report the abuse to law enforcement, while more than 30% never report the abuse to anyone. It was also reported that 1 out of every 6 American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
A 2002 study found that between 64% and 96% of all rapes are never reported to criminal justice authorities. Only a small minority of reported cases, especially non-stranger assaults, ever result in the successful prosecution of the offender. This only shows that a vast majority of rapists are never brought to justice. As a result, they are likely to re-offend or commit other crimes, believing that they could get away with them without being punished.
Rapists Can Reoffend and Commit Other Crimes
While the "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from State Prison: A 9-Year Follow-Up (2005-2014)" report showed that people convicted of sex offenses are actually much less likely than people convicted of other offenses to be rearrested or to go back to prison, previous reports revealed high rates of sexual reoffending among them.
Studies revealed that 17% of sex offenders were convicted of another sex offense within five years of release—with 21% reconvicted within ten years. According to Reason.com, the leading libertarian magazine and video website covering news, politics, culture, and more, the findings were based on an analysis of studies that included rapists and child molesters but not other kinds of sex offenders (such as people caught with child pornography). Another study showed that 21.4% of sex offenders were rearrested for violent offenses after five years. It was nearly identical to the 21.7% of homicide convicts who were rearrested for violent offenses during that same period.
A 2014 meta-analysis found a five-year recidivism rate of about 20% among "high-risk" offenders but less than 3% among the rest. The Arizona Voice for Crime Victims (AVCV) brief quotes a 2013 Supreme Court decision saying that: "there is evidence that recidivism rates among sex offenders are higher than the average for other types of criminals.” "An analysis of 400,000 state prisoners found that 21% of sex offenders were rearrested for a crime within six months of release, 31% were rearrested within one year, 44% within two years, 51% within three years, and 60 percent within five years,” AVCV said.
The good news is that more and more re-offenders are likely getting caught because sexual abuse reporting has increased. A 2011 study revealed that between 69% and 76% of incidents of sexual abuse involving an adult were reported to the authorities. According to Pacific Standard, an American online magazine that reports on issues of social and economic matters, the likelihood that child victimization of all types gets reported has roughly doubled since 1992. Jill Levenson, professor of social work at Florida’s Barry University, also said that re-offenders are especially likely to be caught because they’re closely watched.
“I think there are probably fewer undetected offenses by those offenders, especially those under parole or probationary supervision and in treatment,” Levenson said.
A recent study found that rapists not only commit rape but also other serious felonies. Rachel Lovell, a research assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, said that most existing research about sexual offenders is limited because offenders must either be caught or self-disclose their crimes. However, researchers recently proved sexual offenders have very high "serial criminality rates."
"New data on undetected sexual offenders—those who were never prosecuted for their crimes—connected to newly tested rape kits tells us that not only is repeated sexual offending more common than previously expected but also about all the other crimes they commit," Lovell said. A perfect example of this is Larry McGowan, a sexual-assault offender. According to Phys.org, an internet news portal that provides the latest news on science, McGowan has been linked to raping six women during a 15-year span and is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence. After analyzing rape kits in Cuyahoga County, the researchers found that he was in and out of prison for stealing cars, felonious assault, arson, burglary, theft, and robbery in between rapes.
Nearly 7,000 untested rape kits were analyzed by the researchers, which have resulted in hundreds of convictions. The findings published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior also showed that 7% of the rapists have at least one arrest for murder; 40% committed lots of varying crimes, and only a third had a rape arrest in their history.
Why Society Goes Easy on Rapists
Rapists getting away with their crimes is rooted not only in the lack of justice but also in patriarchy. Law enforcement, for instance, has a history of improperly clearing sexual assaults. For decades, police departments have abused the “unfounded” classification reserved for false or baseless rape claims.
As a 2010 meta-analysis put it, “[M]isclassification of cases by law enforcement agencies is routine. Cases in which the victim is unable or unwilling to cooperate, in which evidence is lacking, in which the victim makes inconsistent statements, or in which the victim was heavily intoxicated frequently get classified as ‘unfounded’ or ‘no-crimed.’”
The lack of investigative vigor also results in unconvicted rape cases. In Minnesota alone, records show that police never assigned an investigator in almost a quarter of the rape cases; the investigator never interviewed the victim in one-third of the cases; police failed to interview potential witnesses in half the cases, and about 75% of the cases were never forwarded to prosecutors for criminal charges.
In many cases, victims were never believed by the authorities. Their stories are often put into question or washed away. Society puts the blame on women for being abused or assaulted, while their perpetrators live blissfully. If none of this changes, we may hear more stories of women suffering and rapists committing crimes over and over again.