FBI Says Forcible Rape Statistics Lowest in 20 Years ... Really?

All the news outlets are buzzing with the latest rape statistics from the FBI, "Rape is down, lowest in the last 20 years!"

You would think as a women's self-defense instructor that I would be overjoyed to hear this news. But then my gut kicked in (just read the headlines and pay attention to who's showing up in your classes) and I knew something didn't feel right.

So I put on my geek hat and took another look at the FBI's methodology and their statistics. And here is where the headline changes, "RAPE STATISTICS HAVE NOT CHANGED IN 10 YEARS - A WOMAN IS RAPED IN THIS COUNTRY EVERY 6 MINUTES!"

When you look at the FBI Uniform Crime Rate, there are a couple of things you need to understand.

  • Because not all law enforcement agencies provide data for complete reporting periods, the FBI includes estimated crime numbers in these presentations.
  • ...the FBI calculates estimated offense totals for certain states. For example, some states do not provide forcible rape figures in accordance with UCR guidelines. In addition, problems at the state level have, at times, resulted in no useable data.
  • ...the FBI deviated from standard procedure and manually calculated the 2007 and 2008 rates of females raped based on the national female population provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    So what does all this mean? Basically, the information is incomplete. And before we go off celebrating that there has been some cosmic shift and women are safer, we better understand what is going on! Also, this data only reports "REPORTED" rapes. Criminologists agree that we will never know how many rapes go unreported every year. So are we really any safer, or are women not feeling safe enough to report rape?

    From a statistical standpoint, it is a true wash. When you normalize the total number of rapes by day, by hour, we are still seeing 244 women raped every day in this country, or 10 every hour or 1 every 6 minutes. This is not an improvement.

    When the FBI says the rape rate is 29.3 per 100,000, they mean 29.3 PEOPLE not women only. When you look at the women only stat, you now have a rate of 57.7 women per 100,000 who are raped. Take that a little farther and look at girls/women at 16 years and older and the rate now jumps to 73.1 women per 100,000. Much different statistical picture, isn't it?

    And yes, numbers can be manipulated to tell any story you want. But when it comes to crime, and especially rape, let's not kid ourselves in thinking that the problem has now become a non-issue because we are "at the lowest levels in 20 years." We're not!

    To make matters even worse, only 25% of reported rapes actually saw an arrest (FBI number 22,584 arrests).

    The reality is, as long as 1 woman is being raped, that is one too many. As long as rape jokes and the demeaning of women is allowed, we will continue to have a serious problem.


    **Angie M. Tarighi is the CEO & Founder of Women’s Self-Defense Institute providing self defense training, education awareness & personal protection products empowering women to fight back against crime.