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The Christian Science Monitor | Outcry Over Stanford Case Hints at Shift in Rape Culture

(06/09/2016) Think of it as the flip side of the movements to decriminalize actions such as possession of marijuana and to rely less on incarceration for nonviolent offenses, particularly among juveniles. The tough-on-crime policies that resulted in overcrowded prisons have become widely seen as discriminatory against people of color. But when it comes to rape, much of the public may now side with activists who have long pointed out that not only male privilege, but white privilege, athletes’ privilege, and rich people’s privilege are keeping too many criminals from serving sentences that fit their crimes.

“There’s no overcriminalization here,” says Jennifer Gentile Long, CEO of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, in Washington. If anything, she says, “a lot of the focus on deincarceration and overcriminalization has inappropriately bled into” some conversations in the legal field around sexual violence.

Out of every 1,000 rapes, only an estimated 344 are reported to police, 63 lead to arrests, 13 are referred to prosecutors, seven lead to felony conviction, and six result in a rapist in prison, according to an analysis by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). That compares with 20 robbers and 33 assault/battery perpetrators serving time for every 1,000 of those crimes. [ . . . ]

Although “it is a significant and sad moment” when someone is sentenced to prison, Ms. Long says, when it comes to rape, the legal system “needs to send a signal that these are serious crimes.”

That this case got as far as it did signals improvements in law enforcement and prosecutors’ ability to pursue rape charges. But there needs to be much more training about how traumatizing sexual assault is and how common it is for perpetrators to prey on those who are particularly vulnerable, Long and others say.

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