Lies, Damn Lies, and Infographics [Updated With Links]

You may have seen this graphic:

…which purports to show that for every 998 rapists, there are 100 rapes reported, thirty people tried, ten people jailed, and only two people falsely accused.

The numbers, particularly the last one—only two false accusations for every 100 true reports—are very interesting to me. Where did the illustrator get them? According to Sarah Beaulieu, who published it, "Statistics from Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010 and FBI reports."

Sounds good.

But wait

One of the key challenges about sexual assault statistics is that it’s nearly impossible to gather accurate and consistent data about incidence and prevalence.  This infographic doesn’t do a perfect job, but it combines data from several sources, both domestic and international.

* * * * *

For those of you who have asked, here is the background on the stats we used:

  • Some reports suggest that only 5-25% of rapes are reported to authorities. Other suggest that close to half are reported. We assumed 10%, which is dramatic, but possible.
  • Of the rapes that are reported, approximately 9 are prosecuted. 
  • Of the prosecuted, 5 result in felony convictions. This is across the board for all felony prosecutions, not just rape.
  • Assuming that 2% of reported rapes are false and a 10% reporting rate, the graphic assumes that 2 of 1000 rapes are falsely reported (assuming a rape can’t be falsely reported unless it’s reported in the first place)

No links, nothing. We have to trust Beaulieu that this is what the statistics show. 

I know that it's not politically correct to call "bullshit" when victimocrats are talking about rape, but bullshit.

It's no longer "National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010 and FBI reports" but "data from several sources, both domestic and international," which suggests that the previous explanation, "Statistics from Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010 and FBI reports," was untrue.

How many rapes are reported? Maybe 5%, maybe close to half. Maybe more. Beaulieu said that they "assumed" 10%; it's dramatic.

Of those reported cases, how many are prosecuted ("faced trial")? Nine? No way. "We meant 9%"? Yeah, you've already proven that you're statistical morons. The infographic shows 30% of the reported cases being prosecuted, assuming that someone has to be prosecuted to be jailed.

Of those nine prosecutions, how many resulted in felony convictions ("jailed")? Five, based on yet another assumption, and more undisclosed data, and again the infographic (showing that  1/3 of rapists who face trial are jailed) does not match the number provided. (If you assumed, instead, that Harris County is typical, you would find that in 2012, 172 sexual-assault-of-an-adult cases ended in dismissal or acquittal, and 382 ended in conviction or deferred-adjudication probation—2/3 held responsible, near as dammit. Texas Office of Court Administration. See what I did there?) 

Finally, where does the 2% number come from? Explicitly, still another assumption. You can find a bigger and more credible number, 5.9%, here—certainly not a hotbed of rape apologists. (Note that this statistic is based on allegations being proven untrue. An unproven allegation—a "not guilty," for example—would count as true.) If you wanted a credible reason to assume that the number was even bigger—25%—you could find it here: "Forensic DNA typing laboratories — as numerous commentators have noted — encounter rates of exclusion of suspected attackers in close to 25 percent of cases."

The Enliven Project's infographic is nonsense. If there's a number in it that is anywhere close to correct, it's purely coincidental—Beaulieu links to nothing that supports any of their assumptions.

I'm not interested in making up my own nonsense, but if you did not assume that the unproven cases and the not-guilties are true allegations, or if you assumed that the false-positive rate in all allegations matched the exclusion rate in cases with DNA submitted to laboratories, then that infographic would look very different.

You know what I think happened? I think someone sent Beaulieu an email like this:


I wanted to drop you a quick email regarding your site at and ask whether you would be interested in us making an infographic for you?

I’m sure you receive several similar guest post requests each week, so I wanted to quickly point out what I’m proposing and why this would be of value to you:

· We’ll provide you with an exclusive infographic created by us. Rather than simply sending you a text based article, we do all of the research and arrange for one of our designers to create an infographic solely for use on your site. This isn’t something that has been or will be published elsewhere.

· Some examples of infographics that we have recently designed and placed include…

Beaulieu bit, and is now scrambling to justify publishing this nonsense.

I don't blame her. I blame the American educational system, which has created a nation of statistically innumerate consumers of easily digested but false information, including her and everyone who unquestioningly spread this graphic around the internet.

We are all dumber for her efforts.


[A side note: in a sympathetic and only marginally better-sourced critique of the infographic at Slate, Amanda Marcotte writes: 

Those who do report run a very high chance of never seeing a conviction, some because police drop the case on the slut-and-liar grounds and some because juries buy the defense attorney's claim that the victim bizarrely preferred being publicly accused of being a slut and liar to quietly forgetting about a night of forced sex.

Marcotte's premise is that women make false allegations of rape after calm deliberation. I believe the premise to be false.

Based on my experience defending what investigation has convinced me are actual false allegations of rape (probably half the sexual-assault-of-an-adult cases I've defended, though you cannot, of course, assume either that I'm objective or that if I were this number would be in any way representative of the entire population of rape allegations), I do not believe that this is true. Here's why:

The false rape allegation is commonly made right after a controlling, possibly dangerous, boyfriend discovers what appears to him to be infidelity. It's a sick, twisted, impulsive way for a person to get out of trouble, and the person who would make such an allegation doesn't spend a lot of time beforehand considering where the allegation is going to go. I wouldn't call them sluts, but there are a whole lot of liars in the world, and once they've told that particular lie it is hard to take it back.

Since I am not claiming objectivity, I invite you to measure that against your experience of human beings and of the world.]



The Honest Courtesan, The Truth About "The Truth About…"

Overlawyered, An in-faux-graphic on rape statistics

Simple Justice, Forever Wrong (Update — and Wronger x2)

The Legal Satyricon, Updated: That “info” graphic about rape? Bend it over, slap its ass, and forcibly fuck it with facts

Me, A Lie Told Often Enough…


Two Names to Remember in Delhi

Vinod Kumar Anand and Manohar Lal Sharma have stepped up to defend three of the six men accused of gang rape in Delhi.

Here is Sharma:

(I suspect—I hope—that “I agree that they are facing the allegation of rape, but if it is true or false I am yet to prove it.” is a mistranslation.)

Here’s a little more about these two characters. Sharma, especially, sounds like a troublemaker (or possibly a madman—it’s hard to tell from 10,000 miles away).

Meanwhile, a friend—a US lawyer from India—writes:

The whole situation is quite the microcosm of Indian society in a way: the ineffectual criminal justice system, the loud protests by thousands that will go nowhere, politicians who promise too much and deliver nothing and the lawyers that bend over backwards to ensure that nothing gets in the way of “justice” – justice that’s predetermined.

I saw the link in your post to an article that reported on the “presumption of innocence” being applicable in the Indian penal system. My experience, unfortunately, has been just the opposite. Actually, even that’s wrong. To say that that there is an Indian justice system of any form is wrong. The penal code is an absolute mess, there are no reliable procedural rules and money will always trump everything else.

The justice system, as its used in India, is rarely more than another tool of oppression against the very poor and the very unfortunate. Reformers are marginalized and largely ignored – or worse, thought of as a joke.

In principle, the “boycott” by the lawyers’ groups is despicable, but in reality nothing more than showmanship and to some extent a desire for self-preservation. It won’t be the first time someone’s been killed for taking on an unpopular defense. The country’s collective mind just doesn’t have the same sense of respect for the justice system and frankly, given its history, rightly so.

I would love to see this incident serve as a catalyst for all sorts of penal system reforms, but I don’t see it happening.

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.