Despite woman-hating song lyrics and slutty preteen styles, sexual violence rates are down — way down among the young — writes Mike Males, senior researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, in the Los Angeles Times.
The U.S. Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey (considered our best measure of crime because its anonymous surveys capture offenses not reported to police) reports that rape has been falling dramatically for decades. The first survey, in 1973, estimated that 105,000 females, ages 12 to 24, were raped that year. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the survey was expanded to include sexual assault and attempted or threatened offenses. Even so, the latest survey (in a young female population 1 million larger than in 1973) reported that 30,000 females, ages 12 to 24, were raped and 60,000 were victims of attempted rape or real or attempted sexual offenses (including verbal threats) in 2005.
The crime surveys further indicate that the decline in sexual violence is greater among younger females than older women. In the last dozen years, they found that sexual victimization rates among girls ages 12 to 19 fell by 78% and among women ages 20 to 24 by 70%, nearly double the drop among women older than 25.
Males thinks gender equality may foster a rejection of violence against women, but that’s just a guess. Teenagers and young adults are committing far fewer violent and property crimes now than they did a generation ago. The decline in sexual violence may simply be part of the larger decline in crime.