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, or tweet @AP.

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 11, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    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.

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