When a tape emerged during the presidential campaign of Donald Trump joking about sexually assaulting women my teenage daughter posted a status update saying,
I am disgusted and offended by ANYONE who defends Donald Trump after he bragged about sexual assault.
We live in a Trump County so people responded and my daughter was advised to get ‘thicker skin’ because in the ‘real world,’ she was told, that’s how men talk.
Crimes Against Women
Obviously, my daughter doesn’t need ‘thicker skin’ because outrage is an appropriate response to Trump’s comments. We already live in a country, and in my family’s case a state (Ohio), where crimes against woman are under-reported, under-investigated and quite often not prosecuted.
This is especially true with rape.
Rape: Ohio In Top Third Of U.S.
Ohio ranks 17th (2014 data) in the nation with 32 rapes per 100,000 people — a rate nearly 20 percent higher than the national average. Ohio has also been the source for some of the most notorious rape cases garnering national attention, like Brock Turner and Steubenville and our legislators struggle with something as basic as creating commonsense laws. As a nation, spousal rape has been illegal since 1993 (Really? It took that long.), but Ohio is still dealing with loopholes in our legislation.
People do not educate themselves about rape — because it’s easier to believe the myths and pretend it does not happen to people we know. Or, to deny the reality that people we know rape. But as Kate Harding explains in her book Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do about It we have a rape culture. She accurately points out that, as a society, we have placed the burden of rape prevention on the victim (learn self-defense, dress appropriately, don’t get drunk if males are present, etc.). It’s a peculiar approach — one we do not use for other crimes. How ludicrous would it be to examine the actions and reactions of a robbery victim?
Yet, we have no qualms doing it to rape victims. I know, I watched it happen in a Preble County courtroom.
You Know A Rape Victim
In the United States one in five women are the victim of rape or attempted rape, an astounding number that speaks volumes about our mores and values. This statistic means you and I know rape victims. Even in small rural cities like Eaton, Ohio where I live (pop. 8,400) — reported incidents of rape are high. Between 2009 and 2015, according to data submitted to the FBI, 53 incidents of rape were reported in Preble County (pop. 41,000) with 21 of those incidents being reported in my hometown of Eaton.
This means my hometown is on par with Ohio’s 32 incidents per 100,000 average.
It’s one thing for an incident to be reported, though, the real issue is how many charges are filed and how many convictions are secured. Nationally, and locally, the number of cases that make it inside a courtroom is significantly lower than the number of reports.
In Preble County, about one-third of the 53 incidents were prosecuted.
Inability to Convict
The number of rape convictions in Preble County from those years is even lower: nine. National statistics suggest that two to eight percent of all reported rape incidents are false (i.e. the victim is lying). Rounding that percent up to 10 percent would mean five Preble Countians lied in their report, leaving the county with 48 potential rapes. With only 17 processed through the court system, this suggests that the remaining 31 incidents were cleared, dismissed, not investigated or inadequately investigated since the prosecuting attorney’s office did not seek charges in those cases.
Real World Example: Rapist Set Free
Two decades ago, I listened as a 20-year-old Preble County woman testified in Preble County Common Pleas Court about a male co-worker who placed ‘what appeared to be a knife’ to her neck, forced her to drive them to his home, where she testified she was raped.
The defendant sat 20 or 30 feet away from the woman and never testified, and, quite frankly, he was never on trial. The victim was. Every action she took that fateful day was scrutinized — from the timing of her phone calls to why she didn’t try to escape. During the cross examination, and in his closing arguments, the defense attorney paraded out all the myths prevalent in our culture. He suggested that maybe the newlywed woman was lying to cover up the ‘mark on her neck,’ and the attorney went so far as to say that the gun — visible on a table during the incident — was simply a ‘conversation piece.’ (In a 2002 article, though, the assistant prosecuting attorney that argued the case said the defendant ‘brandished’ the gun.)
In the defense attorney’s closing arguments he also implied the victim ‘wanted it.’ During the trial considerable time was spent detailing the various sexual assaults that unfolded. In the closing arguments the defense implied all the acts were consensual.
The tactics worked. The jury deliberated six hours and returned a not guilty verdict to eight counts of rape and one count of kidnapping.
When I asked the detective what went wrong with the case he said, “I guess they didn’t believe her.”
Our inability to believe can perpetuate crime.
The Rest Of The Story
But it was not the end of the story for the defendant, Stephen Quinn. Five years later he plead guilty to rape, kidnapping and felonious assault just across the county line in Darke County. His victim — a female co-worker — testified that Quinn placed a knife to her throat and forced her into his vehicle and raped her.
Quinn is currently serving a 28-year sentence in an Ohio penitentiary.
Preble County’s Track Record On Rape Convictions
Between 2009 and 2016, 18 cases with rape indictments were processed through the Preble County Common Pleas Court. One of those cases was dismissed by the Prosecuting Attorney.
Of the 17 remaining cases:
- Nine yielded a rape conviction
- Three jury trials ended in acquittal
- Five cases ended in plea bargains where the rape charge was dismissed or reduced.