Associated Press headline erases partner rape

“Study: 1 in 10 men in parts of Asia have raped”

That’s the original Associated Press headline for an article about a study that found that about 1 in 4 men in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea committed rape, as Slate reports. The 1 in 10 number refers specifically to stranger rape. So that headline’s wrong. And it suggests the AP doesn’t consider rape by an intimate partner to be rape.

The original article does mention the actual stats, but frames them in a way that advances the notion that partner rape numbers are in addition to actual rape statistics:

About 1 in 10 men in some parts of Asia admitted raping a woman who was not their partner, according to the first large studies of rape and sexual violence. When their wife or girlfriend was included, that figure rose to about a quarter.

The AP has since changed the headline and flipped around the framing of that paragraph (without acknowledging the original error) – though they still think stranger rape should be singled out. But AP articles spread to other publications quickly, and the original headline and article are still out there, published without corrections. And there is no excuse for the AP ever putting out this article with its original framing.

Besides the blatantly inaccurate reporting, the AP is advancing a dangerous myth. There’s a widespread idea that rape is committed by a stranger hiding in a dark alley. This is used to protect people who rape intimate partners from prosecution, to make survivors of partner rape feel illegitimate, to erase the majority of rapes, which are actually committed by acquaintances.

While it’s important to look at the realities of rape everywhere in the world, the framing of this study on “Asia” (actually 6 countries in Asia), which was largely funded by European countries, could lead to problematic assumptions. So it’s worth highlighting that these numbers are basically the same as those from studies in the US.

To contact the AP and let them know that rape is rape, you can call them at 212.621.1500, email info@ap.org, or tweet @AP.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/smsintexas/ Sarah

    A few years back, my friend’s father held her mother (his estranged wife) hostage, raped her, planned to murder her, and wound up committing suicide himself. They were legally still married.