On January 17th, Lestina Marie Smith, a 17-year-old woman from Saginaw, was charged with two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly raping a 19-year-old man at knifepoint. She is currently being held without bond awaiting the determination of probable cause.
Criminal Sexual Assault Against Men
Is it even possible for a woman to rape a man? Some might ask this question, and especially because the language written into our legal system describing rape has historically been descriptive of men being the perpetrators of rape against women and not the other way around.
This story has gained a larger audience in the weeks since it was first reported, probably for this reason. It might be interesting to know a few things about rape against men.
In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey found that an unheard-of 38% of sexual violence incidents were against men – from surveying 400,000 households.
An article in Slate details researcher Lara Stemple’s inquiry into this remarkable change. In the past, men have only accounted for between 5 and 14% of rape and sexual violence victims.
Are There More Male Victims of Sexual Violence Now?
The question is, have more men simply begun to report sexual violence because of the publicity of trials like that of Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State Football scandal. Do male victims feel that some of the stigma of reporting sexual violence is removed when other male victims step forward?
As Stemple dug through other existing surveys, she found another surprising truth: the experience of men and women in becoming victims of sexual violence is “a lot closer than any of us would expect.”
In fact, rather than assuming it’s always men perpetrating sexual violence against women, we would do better to assume that men and women have about equal experiences. At least, that is what surveys are uncovering. However, it gets even more interesting.
Many people tuned in to the Sandusky trial and read about allegations against him made by his victims. Many of us are familiar with the idea of sexual violence perpetrated in prison by men against other men. What has remained more hidden is that women are more often perpetrators than we think.
Sexual Violence Surveys
In a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the CDC invented a category of sexual violence and called it “being made to penetrate.” It included victims who were forced to penetrate someone else with their own body parts, either by physical force or coercion, or when the victim was drunk or high or otherwise unable to consent.
Under that definition, 1.270 million women and 1.267 men claimed to be victims of sexual violence. As you can see, that is roughly equal in number.
In addition, in another analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data, 46 percent of male victims reported a female perpetrator. In Stemple’s paper on this subject, she includes a population that’s not even part of the general population: prisons, jails and juvenile facilities.
The BJS did two studies there which turned all of our prison sexual violence assumptions on their heads: in general, women were more likely to be assaulted by fellow female inmates, men by guards, and many of those guards were female. Juveniles reporting staff sexual misconduct were 89% boys reporting abuse by a female staff member.
However you think about it, criminal sexual misconduct will continue to be reported and prosecuted. Assuming these statistics are accurate, we may see a rise in reports of sexual violence against men perpetrated by women.
If you are a woman facing charges related to criminal sexual assault, it’s in your best interest to take the charges seriously. Experienced legal representation is critical. Call my office today.
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