The Life and Times of the term “Date Rape”

A lot of people are wondering about the origins of the weird, one-size-fits-too-little term “date rape.” I got a good sense of where it came from when I was researching my book, Drink Spiking and Predatory Drugging: A Modern History, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016.

While it is a confusing and maybe not so useful term, (and one that has been mangled beyond all recognition by the very misleading phrase “date rape drugs,”) the original coiners of the term, in the mid-1980s, meant well. They were trying to focus more attention on the ordinary-life occurrence of rape, and away from the image that many people had from media images of stranger rapes. It was at this time that we learned how common acquaintance rapes were on college campuses.

Below are some excerpts from my book (pages 138-140) for a little context:

The popularity of the term “date rape” no doubt stemmed from the need to shift the imagined problem away from the stranger lurking in the shadows, and toward the much more common acquaintance. In many non-stranger cases, the assailant is someone who the victim was socializing with (date, friend, classmate, fellow partygoer) when the assault took place, either by force, threat, or lack of ability to consent. [….]

The term “date rape” emerged alongside a highly noted study by Mary Koss and her colleagues, whose results were published in both Ms. Magazine and peer-reviewed journals. It was a large, multi-campus survey that found that 15.4% of college women had experienced an assault that met the legal definition of rape since age 14; another 12.4% had experienced an attempt at this type of assault (attempts are also felonies). Forty-two percent had never disclosed the assault to anyone. Eight percent of college men admitted to engaging in acts that met the legal definition of rape or sexual assault.

Immediately, some confusion emerged among both advocates and critics: some erroneously thought that this meant that one in four college women had been assaulted while in college. Others did not realize that respondents had described incidents to the interviewers, and then the interviewers categorized the incident as an assault, using legal definitions.

Some critics seemed to object to researchers making these decisions, but also seemed to object to women themselves calling something “rape.” Subsequent surveys found similar numbers from year to year, so it is unlikely that the methodology was faulty. [Alexandra] Neame’s review (2004) of this period of backlash points out that as sound social science, the research has not been challenged.

Most of the backlash, however, was a reaction to the impact of the research in the broader culture. [….] In the long run, though, the activism and research of the 1990s did succeed in changing perceptions of the typical rape.

It appears that at a certain point, though, the gains associated with a more thorough understanding of the commonality of sexual assault among non-strangers peaked and then stalled. Perhaps too many assumed that once we all knew that this was the more common circumstance than the man jumping out of the bushes, then we would see greater consequences for sexual assailants. But instead, since the 1990s, it appears that neither reporting rates (the likelihood that a victim will report an assault to the police) nor conviction rates have systematically improved. In some ways, perhaps caution was warranted in this matter. Given what we already knew about the circumstances under which women were more likely to report sexual assault to the police (by a stranger, if there were other physical injuries, if the assailant used a weapon), the likelihood that non-stranger rape reporting would increase drastically was low to begin with. Still, the almost complete lack of improvement in reporting is troubling.

The social consequences of reporting have remained high, and now go beyond stigma, minimizing, and disbelief. The digital age poses new kinds of threats to assault victims who come forward – harassment, threats, and doxing from strangers. It’s not surprising that reporting of rape and sexual assault remain low. But the secrecy fostered by a low-reporting situation also leads to all kinds of second-guessing and misinformation.

References and Links

M.P. Koss, C.A. Gidycz, N. Wisniewski, “The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 1987, 162–170.

Alexandra Neame, “Revisiting America’s ‘date rape’ controversy,” Family Matters, 68, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Winter 2004.

Lynn Langton and Sofi Sinozich, Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014. http://bit.ly/2PMNW3C

Caroline Heldman and Baillee Brown, “A Brief History of Sexual Violence Activism in the U.S.” Ms. Magazine Blog, August 8, 2014, http://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/08/08/a-brief-history-of-sexual-violence-activism-in-the-u-s/

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SAVE THE DATE: Get the e-book for $9.99 on May 17, 2018 — one day only Daily Deal from Palgrave.

image of book cover Title is Drink Spiking and Predatory Drugging: A Modern History
http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137575166

Update, 5/21: The Daily Deal is over, but the paperback version is slated for the summer of 2018.

Palgrave is featuring my book Drink Spiking and Predatory Drugging: A Modern History as a Daily Deal on May 17. For one day only the e-book (for all formats) will be available for $9.99

In the meantime, previews are available at Palgrave, Amazon, and Google Books.

And related content is available here on my blog.

Where’s the Scholarly OA blog and the Predatory Journal List? (Third Update, 6.15.17)

Newest Update, June 15, 2017: The plot thickens, and yet we have clearer answers as to the disappearance of Beall’s List. Read the latest by Prasad Ravindranath at Science Chronicle: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/44933113/posts/1493322021

original post January 18, 2017, updated February 13, 2017 and June 15, 2017

February 13 update: So, this story just keeps getting weirder. It seems that in a recent interview with science blogger Prasad Ravindranath, Jeffrey Beall significantly downplayed his plans to collaborate with Cabell’s on (re-)producing an ongoing list of flagged or potentially predatory journals and conference proceedings. Cabell’s responded in a shocked manner. And Beall, for his part, is feeling very much like he needs to move on to less controversial work at UC Denver. And that’s where we are with all that, folks.

Reminder – the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive has Beall’s List up through the end of 2016 there.

Jeffrey Beall’s running list of potentially scammy journals, publishers, and conferences has been taken down. What now?

Recently, in the process of putting together a paper on rumor research, I came across a handful of interesting articles in journals and conference proceedings that had been flagged on ScholarlyOA.com as potentially predatory and phony. I was disappointed, since they seemed like they were based on some solid work. I haven’t decided yet whether I plan to leave them out of further revisions of the paper or simply refer to them as unpublished manuscripts. Some of them involve mathematical sophistication that I am in no position to evaluate, and I therefore have to know for sure whether other mathematical modelling people have reviewed it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific publishing, the word “predatory” here tends to mean charging submitters a large fee and then engaging in little to no peer review, resulting in the publication of journal issues or conference proceedings that have no recognition from, or participation in, organizations in their respective fields. Their editorial boards are also phony – scholars have been sometimes shocked to learn that they were on the masthead, and had never been sent manuscripts to review. They often have innocuous names that sound perfectly respectable, or are similar to, legitimate journals in a field. So let’s say there’s a legitimate journal called Journal of Crypto-Invertebrates. The predatory one might be called International Journal of Crypto-Invertebrate Research. Unless you noticed that the publisher wasn’t one of the major journal publishers, or called up the people on the editorial board, you might not catch it at all; the visible mimicry of real journals is fairly impressive. You might easily mistake one of these places for real if: you had not been aware of this growing problem, or if you were looking for research that is outside your discipline or specialization.

One note: the up-front-payment criteria doesn’t by itself doesn’t mean a publication is bogus; legitimate Open Access publishers seek payment from sponsoring institutions like universities and institutes, and then make the content free to readers. That’s just a newer and alternative payment model; the peer-review process is supposed to be the same, and they’re sponsored by the same scholarly and scientific publishers as other journals.

But the bogus publications are essentially pay-to-play mills. Although Beall’s List, as it has come to be known, has served as a handy double-check for the past few years, the problem was identified in science magazines about ten years ago.

Jeffrey Beall, who is a research librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, hasn’t commented, as far as I know. But Cabell’s, a company that he has been working with, has only said to press inquiries that Beall removed the lists from his blog “due to threats and politics.” Cabell’s plans to put out its own list later this spring, 2017, according to Inside Higher Ed.

In the meantime, as of January 18, the archived ScholarlyOA.com lists have been reposted at Internet Archive-Wayback Machine.

More as I find out about it.

Updates (1/20/17):

  1. The Times Higher Education site published an article on the Beall’s List disappearance, pointing out two aspects of this situation that I hadn’t thought about: 1) a vetted list that results from actual investigation and engagement is important to librarians, too,  who need a way to differentiate journals that are shady or predatory versus ones that are legitimate but small, new, or independent journals. Also, the THE article points out that some scholars knowingly publish with these predatory places to boost their citation counts. Seems risky to me, but I guess it’s possible if you know your institution well enough that you feel like you can slip a publication by them.
  2. About the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine: yes, it does have mirrored sites abroad, including a distributed hosting project. [Translation: efforts to “back up” large portions of publically available web pages can continue even if IA/WM has a problem or two.]