Women’s advocates fear that the messy, high-profile Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, with its public glare on past faults of the accuser, will have a chilling effect on women reporting rapes, reprots the Associated Press. “I can see victims out there contemplating coming forward, and saying, `What’s the point?'” says one victim, whose attacker is serving a 20-year sentence. “If they’re on the fence, and they see this, instead of taking a step forward they might take a step back.”
The Strauss-Kahn case “certainly makes it a more challenging environment, both for victims and on the prosecution side,” says Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Federal data compiled by the group show that six out of 10 assaults are never reported to police. “Of the 40 percent that are reported, roughly half will never will never lead to an arrest — and of the cases remaining, many of those won’t lead to prosecution,” Berkowitz said. “So when you boil it down, 15 out of 16 attackers will never spend a day in prison,” he says. RAINN says that over the last 15 years, reporting rates have risen by a third, part of a growing cultural awareness of the seriousness of the crime. States have also lengthened or abolished statutes of limitations on prosecuting rapes, especially when DNA evidence exists.