By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Rapes reported nationwide are at a 20-year low, according to new FBI figures showing close to 89,000 women reported being raped in 2008, down by almost one third (30 percent) since 1992.
Obviously this is news that deserves to be cheered. And most researchers are cheering it. The majority of experts credit the drop to changes in the criminal justice system and more widespread use of DNA evidence. One would hope that means rape is now a much tougher crime to deny responsibility for, or to get away with false denials.
Meanwhile, victims' rights advocates add that prosecution of rape cases is taken much more seriously than it was in the past. They also say victim-blaming is passé (as in, "She wore a short skirt and walked down a dark alley alone at night, so she deserved it.") The hope is that these changes have inspired women to be more likely to report rape crimes to police or military authorities.
There's only one possible flaw in this logic. Criminologists insist we will never really know just how many rapes go unreported each year. So the long-odd possibility exists that rapes may actually be increasing even though reported rapes are dropping. Let's hope that's not the case.