Youths reject rape

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.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    It might be because DNA testing makes convictions more likely. It might be because the really stupid advice, to submit so he won’t hurt you, has finally been flushed away. It mught even b because we put them away longer.

  2. Is it possible that more liberal attitudes towards sex are playing a role as well? After all, in order for a ‘rape’ to occur, you have to have a girl who says ‘no’. If more and more girls happen to be saying ‘yes’, then by definition there would be fewer *opportunities* for rape to occur even if the ratio of men with the potential to force themselves on someone has remained constant…

  3. I am reminded, again, of the classic tale from Lincoln Steffens. In his Autobiography he told the story of creating a crime wave in Cleveland. All that happened was that the Penny Press, where he was a reporter, printed news of every crime that happened for several days. The “crime wave” came to an end when the PP stopped printing all the news that fit.

  4. Indigo Warrior says:

    The decline in sexual violence may simply be part of the larger decline in crime.

    That sounds likely. After all, Leavitt and Dubner explored this in their groundbreaking book Freakonomics, and proposed abortion as the main cause! Free(er) access to abortion -> fewer unwanted children -> fewer young criminals -> less crime.


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