Mayor Schmoke signed a proclamation Monday officially making this "Rape Awareness Week." But in many ways it was a perfunctory gesture -- allegations of rape at the Kennedy home in Palm Beach have already raised the public's awareness of rape.
The problem is, outside of generating a debate about whether victims should be named by the media -- kicked off by NBC and the New York Times' naming the alleged Palm Beach victim -- the public discussion of rape has been little more than scandal-mongering, and the real issues have been largely ignored.
Despite the celebrity identification with the Palm Beach story, rape remains a hauntingly pervasive and underreported crime. Nationally, one in four children is sexually assaulted by the time he or she reaches 18; 1 in seven women is raped in her lifetime. In Baltimore city alone, 687 rapes were reported in 1990 -- an increase of 27 percent from 1989. Moreover, because of shame, fear, social stigma and the difficulty of making rape charges stick, only about one in 10 rapes is ever reported. When underreporting is taken into account, perhaps as many as 18 women in this city are raped every day.