Rape Hearings in the Senate. Finally.

At 2:15 pm Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases,” addressing a crucially understated failing in our justice system. The hearing called upon a diverse group of sexual assault experts, women’s group organizers, professors, rape survivors, rape crisis center founders and police to provide testimony and answers. The Senate panel, comprised of the Members of the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, was persistent but sensitive, and uniformly expressed its displeasure with the status quo of law enforcement that currently exists when investigating or (more likely) not investigating reports of sexual assault.

As Chairman Arlen Specter pointed out in his opening remarks, the failure to thoroughly or even adequately investigate reported rapes has been more prominent in the mainstream media as of late, which we pointed out in our blog post on the impact of Marie Claire’s rape kit story earlier this summer. It seems as though this increased media interest then caught the attention of the Subcommittee, but witnesses then pointed out that it cannot be the media’s responsibility alone to shed light on these gaping holes in the justice system — a fact that the Subcommittee took in stride.

It is telling that this hearing stands out as a giant exception to the rule of “why talk about rape?” that has been so pervasive in our society. It is also, however, extremely encouraging that the Senate Judiciary Committee finally saw fit to give this crucial issue voice, and to address it with the dignity and severity that it deserves.

Below, some statistics and quotes from the hearing that were live-tweeted from the Women’s Media Center twitter account

The FBI’s current definition of rape was written in 1927.

Nearly 1 in 3 Native American and Alaska Native women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

There are no illustrations given to police in rape cases handbook of acquaintance rape- only those of stranger & gang rape.

Victims of rape are often asked to sign waiver of prosecution in instances of acquaintance rape because it’s “too hard” to prosecute.

“The scene of the crime is the body of the survivor.” – Lawanda Raviora

“We must commit to culture in which women feel safe to report crime, and in which perpetrators feel accountable.” – Hon Susan B Carbon

This post first appeared on the blog of The Women’s Media Center

by Lisa Norwood via Creative Commons/Flickr
by Caroline Framke for the Women's Media Center


ELois P.
ELois P.5 years ago

There is NOT enough LAWS, surrounding rapes, for TOOOOOO many individuals are charged with this crime that they did NOt commit.

In many cases,(with this 'prison industry' doing what it can to stay afloat), many are charged additionally, with the crimes they are otherwise charged with.

In many cases, it is NOt learned that a person did NOT commit rape until they have served many years AND they have been traumatized by guards and the such, who are looking (always), for a way to justify their OWN perevrsions and it must be STOPPED AND PROSECUTED!

Such individuals(guards and other state employees), have perverted issues amongst themselves, but their issues/crimes/ill behaviors, are overlooked/COVERED UP, because they're state employees, and it MUST be STOPPED!

Such individuals are responsible for victims COMPLAINTS not being adherred to, because these state employees, work together, to keep(or try to keep), rapes that THEY cause, COVERED UP and it MUST be STOPED.

The DOJ, don't report rapes because many are juveniles when they are sentenced into ADULT facilities and they then, become insignificant, at least until the 'statue of limitation' for rape is exhaulted, which is (in itself) a crime!

I am speak, from experience because I have a lovedone, who was DENIED his RIGHT, (for that first year of being incarcerated), to file a WRITTEN COMPLAINT and when the facility finally could NOT get around honoring that right of an individual, then was he allowed to file a

Julie V.
Julie V7 years ago

Update all federal laws regarding rape. It's long over due. I hope the women in Congress will get after this and get it done. There's no reason to think the men will, considering the fact that the FBI definition of rape goes back to 1927, and between then and now the Congress was made up mostly of men.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

What took them so long?

Petra Luna
Petra Luna7 years ago

It's about time they're doing this. Please refer to my website for stats: www.plunafoundation.com

Sign these petitions for April's Law, to help children who are sexually abused.

federal: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/worldwide-petition-for-aprils-law-in-the-us/

state: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/aprils-law-wisconsin/

And for our men: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/a-new-perspective-the-unacknowledged-abuse-survivors/?page=6

Deborah K.
Deborah K.7 years ago

Interesting that Specter has something to say about this considering his behavior during the Thomas/Hill hearings where he wholly disparaged Anita Hill - who was there testifying involuntarily - as she spoke of Thomas' sexual advances towards her at OCR.

The Vinson case, which made sexual harassment a violation of Title VI, holds important information in Vinson's recitation of the facts, e.g. she was repeatedly raped in the women's bathroom at the bank where she was employed, that she was in fear of losing her job if she did not have sex with her supervisor. [See http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=477&invol=57]

Sexual assault in all of its forms has never been taken seriously in the U.S., except by some of us during the women's movement in the 1960-1970s. That is when the first rape crisis centers opened, not surprisingly. I know too many women who are very quick to speak as apologists for those who rape, particularly when it involves women and children in other countries being raped by U.S. soldiers.

Marianne C.
Marianne C7 years ago


According the the FBI's statistics on crime, false rape reports are not a widespread problem. Rape is reported falsely on very much the same statistical level as most other false crime reports, at between 2% and 5% of cases.

Given that low figure of false reports, no cop or police agency should EVER be allowed to brush off rape reports because they IMAGINE it wasn't really rape.

Colleges and all other coed institutions need to be held to much higher standards in pursuing rape investigations and prosecutions, too. Remember the coed who was raped in her dormitory by a fellow student while she shouted "No, no no!" through the entire ordeal? The college review board actually BOUGHT the rapist's contention that although she was shouting no, "they were very passionate noes."

It may not occur to a rapist that his victim passionately does not want to be raped, but it SHOULD damned well occur to the review board!

Marianne C.
Marianne C7 years ago

If our rape laws were "sufficient" or anything NEAR it, more than 1 in 10 rapes would be reported, more rapists would be prosecuted, convicted, and in prison, and fewer rape victims would be living with the gallingly bitter memory of having had their rapes brushed off as insignificant. How could any moral person support a system that allows rapists to go unpunished?

Rape victims have too often led shattered, crippled lives while their rapists went on with life as usual, enjoying the benefits of living free from fear of retribution and far too often raping again.

With the exception of teenagers in love who get caught having sex -- and I don't think for an instant that it's always a crime when a girl has sex with her boyfriend who is 18 -- ALL sex crimes should be treated more seriously. Crimes involving sex by real threat, force, or coercion should be prosecuted much more vigorously and punished much more harshly than they are.

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

Our rape laws are particularly egregious! We need an overhaul of the entire thinking behind them.

Lindsey DTSW
.7 years ago

I think that in most cases the law regarding rape is sufficient - it's attitudes about rape that aren't always sufficient.

Rape should always be taken seriously as the heinous crime it is (and those women who falsely cry rape for a variety of reasons - and some do - should be arrested, tried, and convicted for as serious a crime.)

Unfortunately some rapes, especially 'acquaintance rapes', are difficult to prosecute because unless there's physical evidence of injury to the woman it can be extremely hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was rape and not consensual sex that, for whatever reason, the woman now regrets or a malicious attempt to harm an innocent man.

Both women and men need to fully internalize the fact that both rape and false charges of rape are really serious things.

Gina H.
Gina H7 years ago

Maybe when gangs of women start stalking and killing their rapists, law enforcement will take it more seriously. I'm sure Aileen Wuornos was one of those women who had had enough of the abuse from men as well as Lorena Bobbitt. Aileen paid with her life unfortunately because women who strike back at the patriarchy are deemed far too dangerous. Good ole whiteboy justice in Florida. They didn't waste much time executing her unlike Ted Bundy, et al... who seemed to have a long time to relive the joys of his killings before being executed. Gary Ridgway, AKA the Green River Killer, got life without parole for his "hunting spree" on prostitutes. Makes me wonder if the males in law enforcement enjoy hearing the details at times so they keep the male monsters around longer. A woman who kills men must make them a bit uncomfortable.