Reported rapes have fallen to the lowest level in 20 years as DNA evidence helps send more rapists to prison and victims are more willing to work with police and prosecutors, victims advocates and crime researchers say.The FBI estimates 89,000 women reported being raped in 2008 — 29 women for every 100,000 people. That’s down from a high of 109,062 reported rapes in 1992 — 43 women for every 100,000 people. Data for 2009 are not yet available.
“We have seen reform in how police work with victims, gather evidence and investigate rape; we’ve seen increased awareness of the crime, and we’ve seen better prosecution,” says Michael Males, senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice in San Francisco. “Hospitals now have rape kits that they didn’t have 40 years ago” which make it easier to collect an attacker’s DNA and other evidence of a crime.
Rape prosecutions have improved dramatically over the past two decades because of advances in DNA testing to pinpoint a rapist rather than forcing prosecutors to rely solely on a victim’s identification of her attacker, says Kim Gandy, past president of the National Organization for Women and a former prosecutor.