Rape in Australia: highest reported number of rapes by men of women per capita in the world?

Update (November 8): A correction has been published. This line was amended from “this country has, after all, the highest reported number of rapes by men of women per capita in the world” to “one of the highest reported number of rapes per capita in the world” on 8 November, 12.41pm AEST. According to UN statistics, for 2011, the most recent year reported, the rate per 100,000 population for Australia and New Zealand is given as 30, seventh among the 72 nations listed. Note that the same statistics report that in 2011 there were 0 reported rapes in Mozambique, Cameroon, Morocco, Lesotho, Guinea, Bermuda, Barbados, Guatemala, Argentina, Turkmenistan, Republic of Korea, Brunei, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, the Solomon Islands and 49 other countries …

Today, Van Badham has a really good piece in The Grauniad (Australian online edition) on ‘How not to raise a rapist’. Leaving to one side the important points she makes about the existence of a culture of violent woman-hating, I was struck by the claim that Straya has “the highest reported number of rapes by men of women per capita in the world”. I’d not encountered this statistic before, so I decided to take a closer look. Having done so, it appears that this claim is not in fact supported by the evidence cited.

To begin with, Badham’s article links to an article on LiveLeak: USA – Country With Most Amount of Rape Cases. This article is a republication of an article which originally appeared on The Global Post, Which country has the highest reported incidents of rape? [DATA], by Kyle Kim, dated March 18, 2013. Kim asks “…what do rape incidents look like globally? We’ve produced one partial answer via charts using the latest international data available on reported rapes by the United Nations”. Kim notes that “When looking at reported rape cases per capita, Australia, Botswana and Lesotho rank highest”. As evidence, Kyle provides a link to the website of the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime where the reader can download the relevant UN data. Unfortunately, this link — http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/CTS12_Assault.xls — does not provide the required statistics: what Kim links to is in fact an Excel sheet providing data on ‘Assault at the national level, number of police-recorded offences’, where ‘assault’ is defined as meaning ‘physical attack against the body of another person resulting in serious bodily injury; excluding indecent/sexual assault; threats and slapping/punching’ and ‘assault’ leading to death.

The relevant UN data is actually contained in another document produced by the same agency: ‘Total sexual violence at the national level, number of police-recorded offences’, where ‘sexual violence’ is defined as ‘rape and sexual assault; including sexual offences against children’ http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/CTS_Sexual_violence.xls. According to these statistics, the reported rate of rape in Australia* for the year 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available) is actually 30.0 per 100,000, a figure which sits at the lower end of the global spectrum. (The same document also states ‘Please note that when using the figures, any cross-national comparisons should be conducted with caution because of the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offences in countries, or the different methods of offence counting and recording’.)

In summary, based on the references cited, it doesn’t appear to be the case that Straya has “the highest reported number of rapes by men of women per capita in the world”.

*The data may actually be referring to New Zealand in this case.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2015 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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6 Responses to Rape in Australia: highest reported number of rapes by men of women per capita in the world?

  1. ablokeimet says:

    It’s an interesting topic, but one which can’t be usefully compared using police statistics. As the Slackbastard notes, there are many countries where the reported rape count is 0 – something plainly not credible. In fact, all reputable research indicates that only a very small proportion of rapes are reported to police in any country.

    Further, I believe that an increase in reports of rape can often go hand in hand with decreases in the incidence of it. As the stigma of being a rape victim erodes, women are more likely to stand up and complain about it – and the complaints are more likely to create a social atmosphere less conducive to impunity.

    What, then, is the best way of estimating the incidence of rape? In Australia, there has been a reasonable attempt by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which ran a Personal Safety Survey in 2005. It has been published under Catalogue # 4906.0 and is available on line:

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/4906.0?OpenDocument

    It will be interesting to see the results when a repeat is conducted. If it shows a substantial change in the propensity of women to report rape, it will be proof that one can’t even take the police statistics as an indicator of movements in the rate of this crime, let alone an indicator of the levels.

  2. @ndy says:

    There’s a couple of issues here. One is the r/ship b/w actual and reported rapes; the other is the meaning attached to what statistics are available.

    According to the stats provided by the UN, in 2011 Botswana had the highest number of reported rapes relative to population (88.6 per 100,000) while Sweden had the second (69.2) and St Vincent and the Grenadines the third (51.2). I don’t know why Botswana has the highest rate, or why St Vincent and the Grenadines rate so highly, but it should be noted that the rate in Botswana would be considerably higher if marital rape was a crime, which currently it is not. As for Sweden, my understanding is that in 2005 changes were made to laws about rape and following this there was a considerable increase in reportage … (see ‘Rethinking rape law in Sweden: coercion, consent or non-voluntariness?’, Monica Burman, in Rethinking Rape Law : International and Comparative Perspectives, Clare McGlynn and Vanessa E. Munro, eds, Abingdon [etc.]/Routledge, 2010, pp.196-208.)

    Regarding Australia and the meaning of the claim as it appears in the uncorrected article, it could be argued that a higher rate of reportage is a progressive indicator: that is, given that rape is a crime that is only rarely reported to police, often not prosecuted when it is, and only sometimes leading to a successful prosecution, one would actually hope for and expect, in the absence of a decline in the rate at which men rape women, for this rate to increase to the point where it approximated the actual rate at which such crimes are committed. The framing of the original claim was problematic as it implied that a conversation about rape — its meaning, cause, effect, prevention and punishment — was especially necessary in Australia given that it was reported to police here more than any other country, but whether the rate is highest or lowest relative to other jurisdictions, it would remain a necessary one.

  3. Khan says:

    i got a solution
    need to change in Law
    implement and enforce the commands from 2 verses of Quran
    i.e.
    Quran (24:30) – order for men
    Quran (24:31) – order for women
    who doesn’t follow the law, should have heavy fines and penalties for them
    and after this law has implemented and enforced, if any man rapes any woman; death penalty for man
    i guarantee after that LAW and punishment; rapes rates will almost touch to zero…

  4. Imran Ali says:

    [Y]ou still treat women like sh!t Look at the violent crimes of those who follow the Quran. It’ll also mean that killing an infidel will be encouraged. You jackass! I left that part of the world to get away from zealots like you. You are a criminal.

  5. ablokeimet says:

    ABS has now published the results of the Personal Safety Survey 2012. The following URL links to a time series on the incidence of violence against the person:

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4906.0Chapter2002012

    The survey was first run in 1996 as the Women’s Safety Survey and then in 2005 & 2012 as the Personal Safety Survey, covering both men and women. The results are clear – that the incidence of sexual violence against women in Australia has fallen by a considerable percentage – by around a third in 16 years. It fell from 1996 to 2005 and fell again from 2005 to 2012.

    It is this survey which gives the best measurement of violence in society, because it doesn’t rely on the willingness of victims to report the crime to police. ABS has gone to great lengths to ensure that good data are collected, while the size of the sample is large enough to ensure that broad aggregates like this are quite reliable.

    These figures must be kept in mind, therefore, whenever we see that reported rapes are increasing or that there is a spate of reports of some particularly spectacular crimes. This is not evidence that violence against women is increasing, but that society is becoming less tolerant of it. One rape is one too many, but we are moving in the right direction.

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