The Science of Rape Pregnancy Statistics
Timothy Birdnow Representative Todd Akin caused a firestorm with his rape comments, particularly his use of the phrase "legitimate rape" and his claims (he said doctors have told him this, not that he had read the literature or done the research himself) that a woman's body can "shut it down" meaning they are less apt to get pregnant. The firestorm over this has been a glittering jewel of ignorance on display, as Akin's comments have been paraphrased in every conceivable fashion. People claim Akin said a woman CANNOT get pregnant, or that he said rape is illigitimate in most cases, etc. Most people did not actually read his statement. One of the criticisms being made everywhere of Akin is that, according to research, 5% of rape victims get pregnant - a higher percentage than women who engage in consensual sex. Akin has been called an idiot by many, the claim being that a simple Google search shows how terribly wrong Akin's comment was. I decided to repeat the experiment; I Googled it. Yes, the search results were chock full of publications, many including science journals, that verified the 5% number. But when I tried to find the research that gave that 5% number I kept coming back to the same New England Journal of Medicine paper by Melissa Holmes et. al. "Rape-related pregnancy: Estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women". This number which is now accepted as Gospel on the internet has come entirely from one 1996 research study. This makes no sense; I know that other researches must have tried to duplicate the results, yet there is nothing to be found on the internet. I even tried switching to several science search engines and found nothing. Zip. Only this study, and a study of women raped in Yugoslavia conducted by the U.N. (and I give the U.N. about as much credibility as Jerry Springer). Nothing on Google suggests that the authors of the NEJOM piece were particularly biased, but that proves nothing. I find this quite disturbing. Also, I could only gain access to the abstract for this paper, the "meat" of it being behind a pay wall. I wanted to see the methodology employed. Here is the abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8765248 The abstract describes the methodology thusly: "STUDY DESIGN: A national probability sample of 4008 adult American women took part in a 3-year longitudinal survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes." End excerpt. So, this was a survey of women who had reported being raped. My question; how did this survey actually determine the particulars? Did they differentiate types of rape, such as staturory? How did they determine if the women were telling the truth? I imagine they adopted the "women do not lie about these things" outlook, but a realistic person knows that, yes, women sometimes do lie about such things (as do men) and while from a legal or moral or spiritual position we should give the benefit of the doubt to the woman, in a scientific research study we need stricter controls to actually determine what is true. I looked at another study done by Dr. Holmes; the abstract stated that the participants were surveyed over the telephone. If she used that methodology there, did she (and PhD's Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL.)use it here? How accurate is a survey conducted over the telephone, especially about so intimate and personal a subject? Here are the results as determined by Holmes et al: "RESULTS: The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion. CONCLUSIONS: Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization." End excerpt. I find this high level of confidence to be dubious. Why aren't there corroborating studies online? Did the study verify the actual dates of the rapes and calculate the pregnancy term to verify that the woman became pregnant from the rape? Were DNA test results checked where available? This does not seem to me to be good science. I may be wrong; as I said, I couldn't get past the pay wall. Also, I may be missing out on a good deal of the literature. But if that is the case, it is damning to the search engines; why is it so difficult to find this literature on the internet? We know Google is a left-wing operation, as is Yahoo, but still I can find things on them that Google or Yahoo do not want to make generally known. They bury things but do not censor them usually. The fact that this was about the only study - and that I couldn't find any others even using research search engines - suggests that this is the only one of its kind. It's as though the entire global warming debate hinged only on the 2007 IPCC report. Nobody would accept that, yet it is being accepted here. I suspect we have not the foggiest idea of how many women get pregnant with a rapist's child. Over at Tea Party Nation Judson Phillips - a former prosecutor - admitted that his experience was that few rape victims became pregnant. In his experience, that is. He was not making a blanket statement but simply stating his personal experience. Cortisol and adrenelin disrupt the harmonal balance during a traumatic incident like a rape, and the hormonal balance is often critical to conception. Also, in single incidents the rapist may find it difficult to actually penetrate into the woman's womb. Of course, a captive woman may be repeatedly penetrated and each act increases the chances of pregnancy. In the cases of such things as incestuous rape the woman is violated not just one day but over the course of months or even years. Make no mistake about it; women do get pregnant as a result of rape. I am not trying to suggest otherwise, nor was Todd Akin. And Akin should have had the sense to avoid this portion of the comment as it was not germain to the central point (which he made) that the baby was not at fault for the crime. As for "legitimate rape", the source of the firestorm? There have been instances - many of them - of women who have falsely accused men of this heinous crime. Consider the case of Brian Banks http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/brian-banks-accuser-money-wanetta-gibson.html, who spent five years in prison due to a false rape charge (the alleged victim friended him on facebook and asked for his forgiveness while he languished in prison). Consider the case of Jawara Brockett and Darrell Dula, who were prosecuted by Brooklyn authorities despite a recantation by the victim http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/brooklyn-das-office-woman-rape-accusation-jawara-brockett-darrell-dula_n_1434981.html. Or what of William McCaffrey who spent three years on a false charge? http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/woman-recants-false-rape-charge-freeing-man-after-3-years-in-prison/ What of the Duke Lacross players? Yes, women DO occasionally lie about such things. And this is "illigitimate rape" from a statistical standpoint. So too is a statutory rape charge when the boy is 17 and his girlfriend 15. He has broken the law and should be punished, but this incident should not be lumped into the "legitimate rape" category. But we no longer worry about what is true in America but what sounds kind. Akin made the fatal error of sounding hard-hearted. During the 1990's many feminists were arguing (among themselves) that the use of accusations of rape empower women. "All sex is rape" according to feminist Andrea Dworkin, and if that is the case any sexual activity opens a man to accusations of rape. http://reason.com/archives/2005/04/19/womans-hating Now Dworkin was a radical and hate-filled woman, and does not represent the majority of women. But it does represent a certain viewpoint, one that was quite active during the 1990's (until Bill Clinton destroyed it.) Remember the accusations against Clarence Thomas? Anita Hill followed him from job to job, and then accuses him of sexual misconduct. And we were supposed to believe "women don't lie about this". As I say, most don't. And make no mistake; rape is a terrible, evil crime. But we must return to the basic question; was Todd Akin wrong? I don't think we can answer this question in any meaningful way. But I don't think we can claim unequivocally he is wrong. But he was unsympathetic. In the touchy-feely postmodern America that is far worse.