Until now, it’s been impossible to know exactly how many of these [date rape] cases collapse in court, because no prosecution data was being collected. But the research and training group End Violence Against Women International in Addy, Washington, just completed a four-year study across eight states and has allowed SELF an exclusive early look at its conclusions.
Of all the rape cases that come across prosecutors’ desks, stranger-rape cases have the best courtroom odds, with 68 percent ending with a conviction or guilty plea.
But when a woman knows her assailant briefly (less than 24 hours), a mere 43 percent of cases end in a conviction. When they know each other longer than 24 hours, the conviction rate falls to 35 percent.
Even fewer, 29 percent, of intimate partners and exes are punished. “And keep in mind, the cases that come through the prosecutor’s door are the strongest ones — strong enough for the police to have referred them along in the first place,” notes EVAW International research director Kimberly Lonsway, Ph.D.
This result isn't a surprise to me at all, but I'm glad it's been quantified so people know why so many date rapists believe they can and should be able to get away with rape. Or as they would put it, "rape" with scare quotes and the obligatory statement, "Women lie about rape."
Smart rapists with even the least bit of social skills will either choose to only rape non-strangers or they will rape strangers in a situation where they can lie about being a stranger such as outside a bar or at a party.
Jurors that incorrectly evaluate the evidence in rape cases are aided by systematic policies which lead juries to be more doubtful of rape victims than they are of other crime victims. Many of these systematic policies have been removed in the US, but others such as jury instructions related to a delay in reporting are still in place in too many jurisdictions.
Too many decent people continue to believe that date rape isn't real or they believe the lie that most reports of date rape are fraudulent. For some of them their denial is so deep that they will refuse to accept that this study result shows an injustice against crime victims when rape victims know their rapists. Those in denial will instead see this study result as a confirmation about the number of fraudulent reports of rape. The correlation between longer association and acquittal becomes incorrectly linked to an increased rate of fraudulent police reports.
That a bitter breakup can lead some men who haven't raped that partner before to rape their estranged wife or ex-girlfriend gets denied. For those who practice this denial the only viable cause of a report of rape during a breakup is that the report is fraudulent and motivated by revenge.
In most jurisdictions all it takes is one or two jurors who refuse to accept the evidence presented to them or who are thoroughly conned by the common defense of "it was consensual."
Unlike those who know the reality of date rape and deliberately side with the rapists while denying they are doing so, these people are suckered by the same assumptions that the rapist used to get his (or far less commonly, her) victim to trust him or the general situation.
That means these decent people who deny date rape not only buy a rapist's excuses at trial, because of their denial, they are vulnerable to the strategies of date rapists and only random chance protects them.
The strategies used by most date rapists can be used in a variety of non-sex crimes.
If 2 men are sparring in a boxing ring and one man uses temporary isolation to suddenly violate the rules of boxing and knock the other man off his feet with an illegal punch and then kicks him hard enough to knock the other man unconscious and cause internal bleeding the man assaulted may wake up uncertain about what happened. If the man who assaulted him claims ignorance about the kick and none of the other people at the gym saw the assault, the assaulted man isn't likely to immediately call the cops and report having been assaulted.
The man who has been assaulted is likely to agree to box again once he recovers (contact sports cause injuries so an injury isn't proof of an assault) if the assaulter is convincing in his denial. But like victims of date rape if the assault is repeated then the assaulter's excuse isn't going to be as believable the second time.
Being shocked over an assault and not naming it as a real assault doesn't magically undo the reality of the assault, but in date rape cases many people assume that shock and disbelief do magically undo a sexual assault.
The crime of rape then becomes defined not by the criminal actions and the violation of criminal statutes, but gets defined and judged by the alleged victim's reaction. This is exactly what rapists and their defense attorneys want.
Many people assume that date rapists are not criminally inclined and just misunderstand signals which makes them harmless to sensible people. This assumption is wrong because the crime of date rape is one of rationalizations and strategy.
A man who would spike his date's drink in order to rape her may not have any qualms about spiking a friend's drink so he can steal documents and other information needed so he can commit identity theft.
Someone like that would have no ethical qualms, if he felt it was necessary, about using that friend's identity when introducing himself to someone he wants to rape. If she rightfully reports him, she'll point the cops toward his friend. The DNA won't match his friend so that kind of rapist can rationalize that his friend will never be wrongfully convicted. Women who think like this who want to rape would have no problem threatening their victims with a false rape accusation.
For rapists like these the only deterrent is a high probability that they will face criminal sanctions.
Unlike "real" rapists, they would never use a weapon to kidnap someone out of a mall parking lot. When it comes to dating they're likely to tell themselves that everyone lies so they're no worse than the man who adds 3 inches to his height on his online dating profile.
When decent people don't genuinely understand that the MO of most date rapists differs from stranger rapists they are vulnerable to be suckered by the lies of those rapists and their defense attorneys and apologists.
The core of the defense’s theory was simple: All seven women were lying. Each had gotten drunk, had consensual sex with Marsalis and regretted it. Then, when authorities called them and revealed that Marsalis had lied about his profession, they felt betrayed and cried rape as revenge.
We see this ignorant assumption in common rape prevention advice directed at potential rape victims which focuses on telling women to take more personal reponsibility for their behavior. This bad advice often is called valid simply because it has been repeated over and over and over again.
If repetition were proof of validity then there would be no such thing as popular Internet hoaxes.
From earlier in the same story about a case which shows the discord between the evidence and the jury verdict:
As she would later testify, the next thing Leigh remembers she was in a dark room, facedown on a bed — and Marsalis was anally raping her. The pain felt as if he were ripping her in two. Her limbs were leaden, her mind sluggish.
“Stop, please stop,” Leigh mumbled. Marsalis simply chuckled. Leigh slid back into unconsciousness but kept resurfacing that endless night to discover Marsalis violating her limp body. Finally, she opened her eyes to an apartment filled with late-morning light.
“Good morning,” Marsalis said, smiling and leaning in for a kiss; Leigh, stunned, kissed him back. “I had a wonderful time last night. I hope you did, too,” she says he told her, staring into her eyes. Leigh felt groggy and confused as she pulled on her jeans.
So when Marsalis walked Leigh to her car and suggested they get together again, Leigh heard herself say, “Sure.” She was certain she hadn’t gone to bed with her date of her own volition — and that she couldn’t possibly have blacked out after barely three drinks — but her certainty was softening in the face of his chivalry. Am I reading the situation wrong? Leigh wondered as she drove herself home. Would a rapist act this nicely?
I don't believe that Jeffrey Marsalis -- accused of similar rapes by 21 women -- is a dense man. Because Marsalis undeniably lied about his profession so he seemed more trustworthy, he is a man who is firmly invested his lies and his strategy of looking like a gentleman when women are fully conscious or when their are witnesses so that his victims question their perceptions of what was done to them while they were incapacitated.
In this case the woman identified as Leigh met with Marsalis at a restaurant after the first rape hoping to clarify what happened but quickly went blank and woke up to find herself being raped again.
Any juror who heard that testimony and assumed that it disproved the claim of rape was dangerously wrong.
A court-appointed psychologist declared that Marsalis met the legal definition of a sexually violent predator yet Marsalis wasn't convicted of a single charge of rape despite a pattern of predatory behavior shown by the testimony of 10 women.
Those who are ignorant of date rapists MOs or who cling to date rape denial because reality seems too depressing to be real need to let go of their ignorance and denial if they want to deter rapists.