Shocking Statistics on Rape

August 29, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington. -- I am astounded daily by the rape stories that blare forth from the eight newspapers that I read.

Last week in The Baltimore Sun there was a report of two young women accusing a priest of sexually assaulting them more than 20 years ago at the Archbishop Keough High School. In a lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages, one woman claimed she was sexually abused on the Keough chapel altar, in the chapel sacristy and in rectories, and the priest's private office.

In the Chicago Sun-Times I read of the indictment of Congressman Mel Reynolds, a Chicago Democrat, on 20 counts, including statutory rape. Cries of racial discrimination surround this case.

In the Washington Post I read of Alphonso Quinn, the 37-year-old ''crossbow rapist'' who was convicted on Aug. 12 of using this antique weapon in a Bowie, Md., rape -- and who is now on trial for allegedly using both his crossbow and an AK-47 assault rifle in forcing a 31-year-old Greenbelt, Md., man to lie quietly on the bed while Quinn raped his wife.

Shocking, dismaying ''news of the day'' about the brutal, dismaying crime of rape in America.

But these stories are not so shocking to me as a recent report by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics about the number of rapes of young girls.

This first major law enforcement study of the extent of rapes of young girls showed that of some 21,000 rape victims in the study (one-fifth of all rapes reported nationwide in 1992) about half were under age 18. Nearly one out of every six rape victims was under the age of 12.

Conductors of this study, which covered 11 states and the District of Columbia, report that as shocking as these figures are, they surely understate the problem of rapes of very young girls. That is because the younger the victim, the less likely she is to report rape because the perpetrator is often a family member or friend. Another reason is that children who report rape are less likely to be believed than adults.

The Justice Department findings bolster a 1991 study of three states which found that 46 percent of victims under the age of 12 were raped by a family member and another 50 percent were raped by an acquaintance. That survey found that among the youngest group of female victims one out of every five was raped by her father.

We teach young children to beware of strangers. But this study )) shows that strangers account for just four percent of rapes of girls under 12, 15 percent of sexual assaults against 12- to 17-year-old females and 33 percent of women 18 and over.

I recalled that Justice Department study last week after reading that, under the threat of losing $3 billion in federal funds, the state of Louisiana had agreed to permit Medicaid abortions for pregnant victims of rape and incest. One wonders what sort of politician must be coerced to agree that a 13-year-old victim of rape or incest ought not be forced to give birth to a baby.

Our society rightly moves harshly against preachers and teachers, politicians and priests who abuse their special powers to violate women. But we ought to find ways to consign to a special hot spot in Hell for those relatives and friends who rape girls under age 12.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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