Corey Rayburn Yung (Kansas) has an important new article in the Iowa Law Review: “How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America’s Hidden Rape Crisis.” As a starting point, his research uses media investigations in several cities revealing that police systematically eliminated rape complaints from their official reported statistics. Police officers and departments in those cities used “three difficult-to-detect methods” to avoid counting and reporting rapes: “designating a complaint as ‘unfounded’ with little or no investigation; classifying an incident as a lesser offense; and failing to create a written report that a victim made a rape complaint.”
The study presented in the article identifies undercounting jurisdictions by determining whether their pattern of reporting crime is highly unusual. Specifically, the study uses the rate of murders as a baseline. This is a sound choice because murder is not susceptible to undercounting: it’s difficult to undercount a crime that results in a body. And, nationwide, the rate of murder and the rate of rape is highly correlated. Continue reading
Recent events have caused me to think about the ethics of editorial discretion. In particular, how should authors, editors, and publishers take into account the harm caused by publicizing information about other people’s private lives?
Over the weekend, an online magazine made a very poor editorial choice. A writer for the magazine wrote a piece about the proper use of the term “bro.” The piece included the sentence: “And I just don’t think the diminutive label of ‘bro’ should be to describe more insidious sexism, let alone violent aggression like rape threats.” The words “rape threats” were hyperlinked to a single tweet by a female journalist.* The tweet was addressed directly to another person on Twitter, in which the journalist had used a variant of the word “bro” in briefly alluding to rape threats she had received. (For non-Twitter-users: when a tweet begins with the “@” symbol and the username of another person on Twitter, only the sender and recipient of the tweet, and any people who happen to follow both users, will see the tweet. Other people can then find the tweet, which is technically public, but doing so requires a specific search.)
When the magazine published the piece, the female journalist objected, understandably, on several grounds: (1) the piece suggested that she had talked about her own rape threats the “wrong way”; (2) the piece gratuitously drew attention to those rape threats in a way that would likely provoke more threats; (3) the piece alluded to her rape threats casually, like any other material that might be thrown into a piece to make a point; and (4) the piece made an example of something that she had chosen to keep mostly private and that was undoubtedly disturbing to her. Continue reading