Is 'Stranger Rape' More Troubling than 'Date Rape'?

By Froma Harrop

January 12, 2017 5 min read

A New York City police captain said he regards "true stranger rapes" as "more troubling" than rapes in which the victims knew their attacker. Outrage ensued. He quickly apologized, writing on Twitter, "My comments were not meant to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault."

The National Organization for Women protested outside his Brooklyn precinct anyway.

It happens that Capt. Peter Rose was on the mark, in both his original statement and his clarification. Portraying date rapes as "not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the street" in no way implies that sexual assaults involving acquaintances are not abominable. Rather, in terms of public safety, stranger rapes are the greater threat to the female public.

Nationally, about 80 percent of women who report being raped say they knew their attacker. Many such cases fall under the category of "date rape," especially common in an era of online hookups.

A man and woman make contact on a "dating" app such as Tinder, popular among those seeking a purely sexual liaison. They meet at a bar, and after some time spent drinking (and perhaps drugging), the woman agrees to accompany him to her place or his, and the man forces the woman to have sex.

That's rape, for sure. It is a crime. And the traumatized woman may go after her attacker criminally or through a civil suit.

Married women sexually assaulted by their husbands also have recourse. Until 1975, every state had a "marital exemption" providing legal cover for husbands who raped their wives. No more.

But as with other violent crimes, the abhorrence factor is adjusted by the circumstances. A woman who voluntarily goes to a private place with a guy she just met two hours before has behaved unwisely. Less so the woman who did so after her "date" slipped a drug in her drink. And not at all for the woman lacking the mental capacity to offer consent.

Rose's precinct, in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, has been dealing with a spike in alleged sexual assaults. By noting that only two of the 13 incidents reported last year were "true stranger rapes," Rose intended to reassure women in the neighborhood. Reasonable women would have responded that way.

Suppose they don't live with an abusive man and don't casually hook up with men met online. Suppose they do. Given the reality of limited police resources, wouldn't all rational women in the neighborhood want priority placed on the predators roaming the area for random female victims?

This discussion clearly makes a distinction between victims who took precautions and those who didn't. Such distinctions make some feminists uncomfortable, but they shouldn't. Good people err in judgment, especially when they're young. But no one does women a favor by treating them like children bearing no responsibility for their own safety.

This has nothing to do with sexual mores. A woman of sound mind has a right to hook up with however many men she wants to and engage in whatever sexual activity she and the partner agree on. But there are risks involved. Skydivers don't have armies of helpers running along the ground with safety nets.

Law enforcement is ill-equipped to play the chaperone. It basically does cleanup. And people injured in car accidents are taken to the hospital whether they wore seat belts or not.

Let's end with clarity. Women raped by a date, co-worker or husband should be cared for as those assaulted by a stranger in a park. They deserve criminal justice. But rapes by total strangers are the most horrendous. They should be more troubling to the police — and the public, as well.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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