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...LEAA Research - West
By San Francisco Women Against Rape
Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter Fall 1975

In 1974, the U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, granted $100,000 to San Francisco for a year-long study of the problem of rape. The Mayor's Criminal Justice Council turned to Queen's Bench, a group of primarily women lawyers and judges, who created Queen's Bench Foundation to expend the grant. The original and approved proposal for a year of research was converted into a three-month research project to be followed by implementation of recommendations based on research findings.

QBF published the preliminary research findings as a Rape Victimization Study, stating that the focus was 

"on the victims of rape. The research design established four goals: (1) to study the impact of rape on victims' (2) to evaluate the crim¬inal justice and public health procedure for handling rape victims (3) to evaluate community services available to rape victims (4) to determine why victims do not report the crime of rape."

The bulk of the factual data in the research package is generated from interviews with rape victims.

It is too late to debate why and by whom it was decided that this crime of violence could not be lessened nor the treatment of victims improved without prior statistically researched data to "prove" that a rape experience has far-reaching, traumatic consequences. But the study was done. A thorough examination makes one question whether the project met any of the intended goals. The RVS must be faulted on methodology; insensitivity to victims of rape; a minute core sample of victims interviewed (55); the lack of racial balance among the women interviewed as well as in the QBF staff; the fact that only 28 of the attacks occurred in San Francisco, yet with countless conclusions/recommendations based on that handful of cases; the value judgments, contradictions, and biased logic in the data; and recommendations often at variance with the information brought forth from the interviews.

Equally alarming is the racism, sexism and classism in the RVS, as evidenced by direct quotations by unnamed patrolmen and assistant district attorney; general comments by psychologists, social workers and other health professionals; and editorial comments by the QBF staff itself.

A sample of the information in the RVS includes: "One Assistant D.A. said that minorities may misuse the criminal justice system in order to frighten or intimidate others in their cultural group.", "One patrolman said, 'Most rape reports are not worth the time they take to write.'", "They (patrolmen) believed that false charges are frequently made by alcoholics, juveniles, prostitutes and minorities.".

QBF staff evaluated victims' reactions after being raped, and concluded, based upon an unspecified number of interviews, that

"women who reported turning away from relationships with men and preferring now to relate entirely to women in both sexual and non-sexual relationships, seemed to be denying a natural and important part of their social and sexual identity. This was also true about women who said they voluntarily chose abstinence after a rape experience. Since rigid control of feelings impairs ability to react and respond to new situations, this form of resolution could not continue for long without disturbing other important parts of their lives."

The QBF staff stated that

"clients (victims) seen by ... social workers were, on the whole, younger, more socially disadvantaged and less psychologically sophisticated than the victims described by the psychiatrists and psychologists."

The staff made no comment about the cost and accessibility of psychiatrists versus social workers to the women of San Francisco.

Unnamed doctors at Central Emergency Hospital, where all victims of reported rape are taken for medical verification of intercourse, stated: "Victims seldom come in at a decent time of day". "Counseling is not my field; it is not required of me."

In determining why women do not report the crime to the police, the staff concludes that "women who exist on the fringes of established society and who have encountered negative response concerning the rape are less likely to report". This conclusion is at variance with the findings of San Francisco Women Against Rape, who have come in contact with nearly four times as many victims.

In examining the major impact of an interracial rape, the interviewers state "concept of safety" was most important "because white women are less likely to be familiar with Black men in our society." The unasked questions could include: Why is there only mention of white women being raped by Black men? Do the interviewers believe that Black women are never victims of interracial rapes?

Each example may not be significant in itself, but together they serve as indices to the caliber and tone of this research project. And although there are a few disclaimers in the study about the tiny core sample nearly one quarter of the report is straight percentages with editorial comments based solely on the few women who were interviewed.

In evaluating the recommendations supposedly proceeding from the study data, we found them to be based on insufficient/irrelevant research, or no research at all. Some recommendations were actually in conflict with researched findings . (The RVS as signed police report as the only deterrent to rape, yet only four victims in its sample succeeded in completing the first steps in a prosecution.) One wonders about the validity of formulating a rape-responsive program on the basis of a study structured to include information gained only after the fact of rape. Can any rape research which ignores the power relationship between victim and rapist and fails to mention the sex-role stereotyping that destines women in our society for the role of victim be adequately grounded? Should any blanket recommendation of police report, prosecution and incarceration of rapist that fails to take into account the sexist bias of laws prohibiting rape be taken seriously? Since rape is definitely a cross-class, cross-cultural phenomenon, why is no provision made for varying attitudes toward the criminal justice system?

Of the $100,000 grant, part was given to the San Francisco Police Department to ensure their cooperation and aid the Sex Crimes Detail in lowering the incidence of rape. The majority of that allocation was spent on two new squad cars. High staff salaries; rent of an expensive office; and on-site visits to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Denver (the staff largely ignored local and West Coast rape-responsive programs) absorbed most of the budget. Computer time was rented to tabulate the data procured in research so information would be objective, yet the desired objectivity did not materialize. Consultant fees were paid to professionals, yet denied to community groups working around the issue of rape. Most interviewed victims accepted a fee of $16.50.

After the QBF RVS was published, it was distributed widely around the state and city as a suggested data base for new rape legislation and for new medical protocols. San Francisco Women Against Rape received a copy. Because of our many objections to the study, its potential serious influence on the handling of the problem of rape state-wide, we wrote an in-depth critique of the RVS_ and distributed it. Another hope in writing the position statement was that the QBF might be denied an additional $125,000 LEAA grant to create a rape-responsive program in San Francisco. Much of this work had already been done by our organization. On the basis of the RVS, we doubted the competence of QBF. An additional factor was that the bulk of monies from the new grant was to go for staff salaries, rather than programs to prevent rape or respond to victims' needs. We further believed that because of the QBF lack of community insight and support, it should be denied any funding from other city agencies or private grant-giving foundations.