New York City police officers are having a hard time investigating a troubling 62% surge in sexual assaults in the Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. And it just might be because they're harboring some harmful misconceptions about rape.
In an interview with DNAinfo on the spike, Capt. Peter Rose said authorities are dealing with a range of allegations — which we'd imagine is standard for any kind of crime. For whatever reason, though, this seemed particularly baffling to Rose when it came to sexual assault.
"Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of them were actually coworkers," Rose told the local outlet. "It's not a trend that we're too worried about because out of 13 [sex attacks], only two were true stranger rapes."
"They're not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets," Rose said at a Community Council meeting Wednesday night, according to DNAinfo.
He continued, "If there's a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards."
These statements further the troubling and misinformed notion that some rapes are more concerning than others. That is, that acquaintance rape is somehow less serious or morally reprehensible than stranger rape.
Rose's comments reveal a pervasive myth about sexual assaults and the conditions under which they occur: at night, maybe in a dark alleyway and always with a stranger.
The prevalence of campus rape alone would seem enough to rebut this pesky myth. But if not, there are plenty of other statistics that show stranger rape is less common than we think.
According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, seven in 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. This person could be an acquaintance, current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Yet a 2002 report from the Department of Justice found that even in the face of such statistics, harmful societal attitudes like Rose's prevail — and victims continue to suffer the most because of them.
"Rape myths allow us to believe that a 'real rape' is one in which a victim is raped by a stranger who jumps out of the bushes with a weapon, and in which she fought back, was beaten and bruised, reported the event to the police and had medical evidence collected immediately," reads the report.
It continues: "In a 'real rape,' the victim has never had sex with the assailant before, is preferably a virgin, was not intoxicated, was not wearing seductive clothing and has a good reputation."
Distinguishing between stranger rape and acquaintance rape puts pressure on survivors of sexual assault to be the "perfect rape victim," lest they are mercilessly victim-blamed for being drunk, not saying "no" enough times or talking to their perpetrator after the crime.
It's particularly concerning to hear such distinctions from a law enforcement official, Jane Manning, director of advocacy at the National Organization for Women, told DNAinfo.
She said, "If you have the commander of a precinct making comments like that, he's setting a tone for all the officers of a unit about how seriously to take acquaintance rape cases."