Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rape and pregnancy

Update, August 24: The New York Times has run a good story on the complexities of the term "rape." you can read it here.

OK, there's been a lot written about the politics. Not so much is appearing about the statistics, though there is one study, from 1996, in which the authors attempted to determine the rape-related pregnancy rate nationwide. You can't tell a lot about the methodology from the abstract, but the conclusion is stark: among adult women in the US, more than 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year. The study also concluded that the rape-related pregnancy rate was 5%.

This is probably both an overestimate and an underestimate. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, in 1996 there were 96,252 forcible rapes, so the study used a much broader definition of rape than the FBI does. (The FBI defines forcible rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.") In 2010, the FBI reports 84,767 forcible rapes. It would be interesting to know whether the other sex offenses rates are also decreasing. Regardless, whether or not force is used, rape can result in pregnancy.

James Hamblin of the Atlantic has more data you can use for triangulating here; I found the study through his blog post.

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