CHICAGO - According to Anthony D'Amato, an expert writer in the areas of international law and jurisprudence, a recently documented decrease in sexual violence in the U.S. and a significant rise in accessibility of pornography, specifically online, raises questions about government findings that there is a strong connection between pornography, crime and rape.
Figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice - compiled from information from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Crime Victimization Survey, including both attempted and completed rapes - demonstrate a considerable drop in the number of rapes per capita in the United States since 1970.
The Department of Justice reported that there were 2.7 rapes for every 1,000 people in 1980 and that the rate had dropped to 0.4 per 1,000 people in 2004.
Police reports and survey interviews outline an 85 percent decrease in sexual violence over the past 25 years.
Official explanations for the decline include less lawlessness associated with crack cocaine, women being taught the importance of avoiding unsafe situations, a greater number of would-be rapists already in prison for other crimes and sex-education classes telling boys that "no means no."
However, D'Amato wrote in the Jurist Legal News and Research blog that the increased access to pornography is the social factor that correlates almost exactly with the decrease in rape.
"The American public is probably not ready to believe my
theory that the sharp rise in access to pornography accounts for the decline in
rape," D'Amato wrote. "The correlation is inverse: the more pornography, the
less rape. It is like the inverse correlation: the more police officers on the
street, the less crime."
D'Amato said state figures should be considered along with national data.
From data compiled by the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration in 2001, the four states with
the lowest per capita access to the Internet were Arkansas,
and West Virginia.
The four states with the highest rates of Internet access were Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey and Washington.
"I took the figures for forcible rape compiled by police reports by the Disaster Center for the years 1980 and 2000 and found that while the nationwide incidence of rape was showing a drastic decline, the incidence of rape in the four states having the least access to the Internet showed an actual increase in rape over the same time period," D'Amato wrote.
All figures were per capita.
"I compiled figures for the four states having the most access
to the Internet," D'Amato stated. "Three out of four of these states showed
declines (in New Jersey, an almost 50 percent
was an anomaly: It increased both in Internet access and incidence of rape.
However, the population of Alaska
is less than one-tenth that of the other three states in its category. To
adjust for the disparity in population, I took the combined population of the
four states in each table and calculated the percentage change in the rape
statistics and found the results to be statistically significant beyond the 0.95
If exposure to pornography leads to an increase in social violence, D'Amato said, then the vast exposure to pornography on the Internet would have resulted in an increase in rape.