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:

Hello,

I wanted to drop you a quick email regarding your site at http://theenlivenproject.com 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.]

[Update:

Related:

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…

]

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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24 Responses to Lies, Damn Lies, and Infographics [Updated With Links]

  1. Gideon says:

    See, internet? Math isn’t that hard after all.

  2. Mark's Dad says:

    The commenters on Beaulieu’s link (and your second link above) explaining her data,
    http://theenlivenproject.com/the-challenge-of-data/
    thoroughly make your point that the infographic is worthless, as are practically 100% of all mass forwarded emails.

  3. Richard Pass says:

    I have posted this at “Enliven Project’s” website. Surprisingly, my comment has not shown up. Thanks for looking into this. Here was the result of my brief research:

    Preface: Rape is a heinous crime that, in my opinion, should merit the strictest penalties that the law allows.

    That said, this graphic epitomizes Mark Twain’s quote of “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”. If you use distortions and misrepresentations to support your cause, no matter how noble it may be, then you poison your own cause.

    It is quite apparent that *no one*, to date, has actually looked at the “source” for this graphic. The ONLY listed source is the “National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010″. The other listing of”FBI reports” is meaningless as there is no way to verify the data used, without a specific citation.

    So, lets examine the only listed source. For brevity’s sake, lets only look at the “not reported to police” portion of this graphic, since that portion is the most dramatic, and compare this to what is shown in this graphic:

    First, let’s just take the source of the data at face value. There is a lot to discuss about this source, but let’s just assume that the source used means “all rapes”. The graphic states that 90% of rapes are not reported. Yet, their *only* cited source says that the number of unreported “rapes” is 65%.

    That means that at the very basest of levels, this graph is inaccurate to the only cited source to the tune of 350%. Yes, this graph is inaccurate by 350%. But it is much worse than that.

    However, let’s first look at how they came up with a 90% figure. Well, they just assumed it. Yep, they just made it up. They say so themselves. I quote: “We assumed 10%” .

    So, a factor of 3.5 times wrong is not so bad, is it? Well, looking closer at the data’s source, “rape” includes actual rape, sexual assault, attempted rape, and the verbal threat of rape. So, this graphic is saying that the mere verbal threat of rape is as good as rape itself.

    If we look at actual physical rape, then the data source states that only 35% of those cases are actually unreported. That means that 65% of actual, real, physical rapes (not verbal threats) are actually reported, meaning this graphic has now distorted the data by 650%.

    There is much more to be said about how bad this graphic is, but this will do for now. The comparison of “false accusation” (which is in their words also “assumed”) is an apples-to-oranges comparison, meant only to minimize the real pain felt by those falsely accused of rape. This graphic is a disgrace to those falsely accused, and to real rape victims. The use of lies to achieve your ends will only result in negative consequences for the real victims.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      I usually don’t allow comments that have been posted elsewhere, but if it hasn’t been published there yet I’ll allow it this one time.

      • Richard Pass says:

        Thank you. Your track-back showed up immediately (they can’t really moderate them without banning them outright), so i followed your comment on this issue to your blog. You are very concise and straight forward about this issue.

        I am astounded at how many people just accept this graphic at face value. Skepticism seems to me to be a dead quality. While society really needs to address issues, such as rape, in the best ways we can, we need to do so with the best data that we have. Using biased data will have severe negative consequences to the most vulnerable citizens: real rape victims and those falsely accused of rape.

        Thanks again for allowing my humble comment.

      • I don’t see a trackback. Is it still there?

        It’s a sad comment on the state of discourse that you felt the need to include your preface, as though one must first show that one opposes rape before one joins a conversation about fake statistics.

  4. Alex Hern says:

    I’m not quite sure why you say there are no sources linked, though. When I clicked through to Enliven’s page, at around 8am PST on the 8th, there were linked sources; and there are still linked sources.

    Admittedly, they aren’t very good ones, and they don’t do a whole lot to tackle your criticisms. But they are there.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      Well, I’ll be damned. There sure are.

      Subtle.

      • Gideon says:

        The quoted stats are still bullshit, though. I clicked on the one that said “5 are convicted; this is for all felonies not just rape, blah blah”

        The link states the following, for 2006: out of 100 defendants, 69 are prosecuted. Out of those, 68 are convicted. Yeah.

        Scrolling down to type of disposition by most serious charge, the statistics for rape are that out of 100, 50% are convicted by guilty plea and 12% by trial, for a total of 62% conviction rate.

        I dunno what the fuck she’s talking about.

  5. George Byrd says:

    No surprise here.

    It is well established that 89.3% (p < .05) of all statistics published on the intarwebz are made up on the spot.[1]

    FN 1. Recent clinical studies indicate that 90.1% of test subjects whose sense of humor was surgically removed or damaged by cosmic radiation did not understand this fact.

  6. Max Kennerly says:

    As far as I can tell, the line, “Forensic DNA typing laboratories — as numerous commentators have noted — encounter rates of exclusion of suspected attackers in close to 25 percent of cases,” comes from the commentary of a single prosecutor, with no supporting citations to any actual research or data.

    I have no idea if it’s correct or not; just saying that it, too, has no citation behind it.

  7. Paul Joslin says:

    Mark – It’s even uglier than you mentioned. Remember the 2% false accusation rate? They multiply that by the (assumed) 10% reporting rate, and assume only .2% of false accusations are reported! That’s why there are 2 figures (out of one thousand) marked “falsely accused”.

    The general consensus is the the minimum (provably) false accusation rate runs 5 – 9%, meaning there should be 50 – 90 figures labeled falsely accused. And some of those figures should be in the “reported”, “faced trial”, and “jailed” categories; we just don’t have good estimated of how many.

    Moreover, and probably the biggest flaw, most studies show if you take all reported sexual assualts, and remove the “provably false allegations” and “went to trial (whether acquitted or convicted)”, you’re left with 40 – 50% of “we just don’t know” not 40 – 50% of rapes.

  8. Rob says:

    For the most part good article but I disagree with this…

    “The false rape allegation is commonly made right after a controlling, possibly dangerous, boyfriend discovers what appears to him to be infidelity. ”

    Seems to be standard feminist nonsesne that if a women did something wrong then it must be a man’s fault. More likely she is convering up her infidelity so she can continue the relationship, continue her backstabbing and continue her lying to her boyfrined (or husband).

    • Mark Bennett says:

      Rob, thanks for your comment.

      It is often a good idea to give your adversary what might appear to be an “out.”

      Who is responsible for the woman being in a position to have to choose between telling the truth and losing her boyfriend; or falsely accusing someone of rape?

  9. Joe Blow says:

    What about those that take plea bargains? I was accused of rape by 2 of my ex girlfriends. The DNA for one came back with not one male specimen but 2 … neither me. The other was my GF of 3 years. I caught her cheating on me and we got into a fight she went to jail. She got out a week later came home had sex with me and called it rape. I don’t deny having sex with her but it definitely wasn’t rape by any means. Either way, because of the two cases happening in such a short time span I was given the choice to either go to trail facing 3 first degree felonies all carrying a potential life sentence or take a plea for aggrivated assault. I did what most sane men would do I took the deal. It made me sick to my stomache to say the words “guilty” in court but I did it and am now on probation for the next 3 years. In the end there are only 2 people in this world that know what really happened that night one continues to use and manipulate men, the other was a well respected programmer that struggles to find work because of his criminal background. The other girl just looks like an idiot and a slut. Which she is.

  10. Louis Farrakhan says:

    Hi,

    There is a simple answer to all this rape issue!

    Shel Silverstein, he of Sylvia’s Mother fame, wrote a song called, “I Love My Hand Hand”!

    Men have allowed the art of Self Pleasuring to be denigrated for far too long! Its time men restored this art to its proper place. A man’s right hand is a far cleaner, hygienic place to put his Precious Langer, then a sewer outlet, that may have all manner of diseases. He doesn’t have to “move” to the tune of anyone else or perform to their requirements. He can pace himself or he can move quickly, for his own satisfaction.

    He has no fears or regrets having satisfied his sexual urges & contentedly goes on about his business, with a pep in his step.

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