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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chron prints bogus statistics in letters

In yesterday's Chronicle, we were treated to this letter to the editor:
Texas victims rape to shameful WHAT an absolute heart-wrenching shame that our legislators are trying to force their moral bigotry on the women of Texas.
More than 226,000 children and 104,000 adults are raped every year in Texas, and most of those rape victims are younger than 18. Texas ranks 17th in the nation of forced rapes per 100,000 people -- and those are only the ones that are reported! Rape is the most dramatically underreported crime. Statistics also show that 30 percent of rape victims contemplate suicide while 13 percent actually follow through with their suicides. If statistics cannot sway our legislators, each of those who voted to enact this bill should be forced to listen to the women at rape crisis centers all over the state, without insurance or means of paying the health-related expenses, recount their stories of abject fear and total degradation.

First of all, I have no idea what the title of the letter means. And while I realize that the content of the letters is the responsibility of the writer, it's irresponsible to print such ridiculous "statistics" in a major newspaper. Let's look at the real numbers. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 8,541 rapes in Texas in 2002, not 330,000. That same year, according to the Texas Department of Health, there were 2,304 suicides, a far cry from the 42,900 that the writer suggests. I don't mean to downplay the impact of rape and suicide in our society. They're both horrible things that we should work to eliminate. But tossing around made-up figures like the writer does damages the credibility of people who are sincerely trying to help.

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