As you probably know, the conservative war on “voter fraud” is a solution (disenfranchisement) in search of a problem. There is no credible evidence of voter fraud on a scale that would affect anything but the most closely contested of local elections. That’s not stopping legislators from instituting the modern equivalent of poll taxes and declaring those who have moved recently threats to our electoral system, however.
Yesterday, Christian Schneider offered a possible reason for this in the National Review Online.
Think about all the times you’ve been told that sexual assault occurs more than we think, as victims are hesitant to come forward and press charges. (A claim I believe, incidentally.) What if we just used arrest and conviction statistics to determine how often women are assaulted? Should we assume nobody in Major League Baseball used steroids in the late 1990s because no players were suspended?
Jonathan Bernstein has handled the sports question well at the Washington Monthly. I, as I frequently do, want to talk about rape.
You see, we don’t just tell people that rape happens more often than rape charges. You don’t have to believe it or not based on faith. We’ve done the work to prove it. We have about five decades of studies and surveys under our belts. Here’s the latest.
We’ve surveyed the general population to find out the prevalence of rape victimization. We’ve found out who the victims are, in a demographic sense. We’ve compared these numbers to police reports, so we know not just how much underreporting there is, but who is more and less likely to report a crime.
We’ve surveyed the rapists, too. We’ve found them out there, uncharged and unconvicted, but strangely willing to tell us what they’ve done as long as we don’t use the word “rape.” We don’t have to point to rumors and stereotypes to tell you who they’re likely to be. We know how their attitudes identify them, even though the identification is not precise.
Have you done any of this for voter fraud, Mr. The-Truth-Is-Out-There Schneider? No. You’ve just said the equivalent of, “There are dark alleys out there where lots of rapes could take place without anyone knowing.” Funny thing about that: Once we started studying rape, we found out it almost never happens in those dark alleys. Identifying an opportunity for a crime is not the same thing as identifying a crime.
We’ve also done the work to find out why victims don’t report rape. It’s because we have this messed up society in which the people who should supporting rape victims and investigating and prosecuting rapists don’t. Instead they revictimize the victim.
Police investigate the victim instead of the rapist. Prosecutors refuse cases unless the victim and the crime are too perfect for a jury to have a chance of dismissing. Communities and social circles blame the victims for ruining the lives of the rapists. Friends, family, media, the legal system–all of these tell the victim how the victim brought this on by doing whatever it was that put the victim at a disadvantage somewhere near a rapist.
All of these things matter. The degree of social support offered to a victim is the best predictor of how well the emotional trauma of a rape will be resolved. It makes a sad, appalling sense for a victim to refuse to report a crime. It’s self-protection.
Does any of this happen to those who report voter fraud, Mr. Schneider? Are there any consequences to those who report specific allegations instead of just generally sneering at the inner city? No. In fact, there’s an entire political party just waiting with open arms to welcome accusers, which makes your claims all the more pathetic. There is still no good reason to think there is any significant voter fraud.
Grabbing the mantle of rape victims to cover your factual inadequacies, of course, makes you an asshole.