Not only in India: Red Line station rape

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In Chicago, as in Delhi, as—where not?—getting around comes with a special edge if you happen to be female.

A recent gang rape on a Delhi bus has spurred the "rape crisis" protests and calls for the death penalty that have been all over the news for the last few days.

Ironically, some of that public rage reflects a culture in which women are still regarded as property.

An editorial last week in the Hindu put it this way: "India's society rails against rape, in the main, not out of concern for victims but because of the despicable notion that a woman’s body is the repository of family honour. It is this honour our society seeks to protect, not individual women."

How bad is this crisis? The official statistics are surprising.

In Delhi, with a population of more than 15 million, fewer than 600 rapes were recorded last year, and about 660 are on the books for this year. But "recorded" is the operative word. In a society where subjugation of women is still common and rape means family shame, the real incidence is anybody's guess.

Chicago, with a population of fewer than three million, now records about 1,400 incidents of "criminal sexual assault" annually, and they're not all reported here, either.

Even allowing for the discrepancy between one city's "rapes" and another's "sexual assault" (a criminal sexual assault charge in Chicago specifies penetration), those figures make it look like Chicago's got a much worse crisis.

It's the same on the national level. India (population about 1.2 billion) now supposedly has a rape every 22 minutes.

In the U.S. (population about 300 million), someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).

That sounds terrible, but, we're told, it's actually a huge improvement.

According to the RAINN website, the rape rate in the U.S. has decreased a whopping 60 percent since 1993.

Or maybe not quite. An update will put the decrease at 56 percent, says RAINN president Scott Berkowitz. RAINN's stats are mostly drawn from the ongoing Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey, which interviews a sample of 40,000 households annually.

Berkowitz says the decline in rape in this country, at whatever level it exists, might be due to things like greater public awareness, the use of DNA evidence in prosecutions, and a big general drop in the rate of violent crime over the last two decades that the experts are still trying to explain. How big? If we can believe the statistics, down 70 percent between 1993 and 2010.

Still, December mornings in Chicago are dark as night; an early run or walk to the train can be worse than just chilly. A 5:40 AM attack Wednesday outside the Morse station on the Red Line spurred a public warning from the Chicago Police Department. Thanks to the increasing surveillance we're all subject to, it came with photos of a "person of interest."

Rape may not be a matter of family honor here, but Big Brother is watching.

CA-630-12-34.pdf

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