Jessica Valenti

How Very Bad Men Get Away With Rape

It takes one person to commit a rape, but a village to let them get away with it over and over

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
4 min readSep 20, 2018

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Credit: erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

It can be easy to forget that sexual assault is a crime committed by a very small percentage of the male population. You might think otherwise, considering how many women have come forward in the last year with tales of abuse and the epidemic number of sexual assault victims in the U.S. — one person every 98 seconds.

The truth, though, is not that most men abuse women — it’s that the small number who do are able to get away with it multiple times. For example, according to a 2002 study, six percent of men attempt or commit rape, but more than half of them will attack more than once, averaging about six rapes each.

Why is this minority of bad men able to get away with abusing women over and over? Because “good” men make it easier for them.

You don’t have to be an abuser to enable abuse, and over the last few weeks, Americans have watched that reality play out on the national stage.

Knee-jerk sympathy for men accused of wrongdoing isn’t new.

After CBS chairman Les Moonves was accused of sexual assault, for example, network board member Arnold Kopelson said, “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff… Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.” Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who says Moonves raped her in 1986, told New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow that she didn’t come forward for fear it would derail her career. Comments like Kopelson’s suggest she was likely correct.

When New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma was asked why he would run an article by Jian Ghomeshi — the Canadian radio host accused by nearly 20 women of abuse ranging from sexual harassment to punching a woman in the head so hard she couldn’t see straight — he responded that “sexual behavior is a many-faceted business” and that “the exact nature of his behavior” wasn’t his concern. He was not the only man unconcerned with Ghomeshi’s behavior: when a CBC employee brought forward a sexual harassment complaint against him in 2010, she says she was summarily…

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Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.