U.S. Cities Are Seeing The “Cosby Effect” In Rape Reporting

U.S. cities are experiencing the “Cosby Effect” – rape victims coming forward and reporting their assaults sometimes decades after they happened. New York saw reported sexual assaults increase from 1,352 to 1,439 from 2014 to 2015; in Chicago, reported assaults increased from 875 to 939; and in Los Angeles, reports increased from 1,427 to 1,626 – increases ranging from 7 to 13 percent.

New York Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton told the Brian Lehrer show that the NYPD “had a significant increase in 2015 of rapes that were reported in previous years, in some instances going back many, many years.” According to the Washington Post, in one such case, the assault happened in 1975.

Some are attributing this increase in reporting to the 55 women who came forward with accusations of rape against Bill Cosby, who despite repeated denials and countersuits was finally arrested on sexual assault charges dating back 11 years on December 30. The accusations against Cosby and the growing conversation around them appear to have emboldened survivors to get their assaults on record.

And that’s a good thing. Even if it’s not possible to pursue charges against a rapist, having the assault on record helps the police to investigate subsequent assaults. Further, only 36 percent of rapes are reported to police, not least of all because of the rhetoric surrounding rape victims – take, for example, the people who said that Cosby’s accusers were leeches and gold-diggers. The fact that Cosby has been investigated and now arrested is vindicating not just to the women who accused him of rape, but also to other rape victims who have been afraid to come forward.

The more that justice is facilitated, and the more that the police learn how to be sensitive to rape victims, the better. It looks like police departments are changing the way they treat victims as victims start to gather their courage and speak up. This change is one of the few silver linings to the Cosby scandal, and it is brilliant.

[Washington Post]
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