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Rape in Fort Morgan, CO? Anti-Immigrant Bigots’ New Unsupported Claim is an Old Unsupported Claim

There are some people who try very hard to justify their bigotry against immigrants. Sometimes, they try so hard they escape the bounds of fact and leap into flights of fancy.

Trying to distract from the fact that Somali immigration hasn’t been accompanied by a rise in crime in the city of Minneapolis, Irregular Times visitor “Mel” made a new claim today:

“In Fort Morgan, Colorado, per capita rape has increased 80% since Somali and Mexicans ‘refugees’ were placed there since 2009.”

The problem is, that’s just not true.

Thanks to the Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reports Data Tool website, it’s possible to measure the rate of rape (measured by the FBI as the number of rapes per 100,000 population) across years. Here are the results:

Rates of Rape in Fort Morgan Colorado go down, then change in definition.

Two patterns are worth note. First, after 2009 the rate of rape in Fort Morgan, Colorado as indicated by the “legacy measure” went down from 2009 to 2012, not up. Then, in 2013 and 2014 (the latest years with data provided for Fort Morgan by the UCR data tool) the rate of rape was measured at an entirely different level using a “revised measure.” The first trend doesn’t show what “Mel” claims at all. And what’s going on with the revised measure? The FBI explains that beginning in 2013, a starkly different set of acts are being described in these rape statistics compared with years before, resulting in higher counts:

“Beginning in 2013, rape is defined for Summary UCR purposes as, “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The new definition updated the 80-year-old historical definition of rape which was “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Effectively, the revised definition expands rape to include both male and female victims and offenders, and reflects the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape, especially nonconsenting acts of sodomy, and sexual assaults with objects.

““This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. Proponents of the new definition and of the omission of the term “forcible” say that the changes broaden the scope of the previously narrow definitions by capturing (1) data without regard to gender, (2) the penetration of any bodily orifice, penetration by any object or body part, and (3) offenses in which physical force is not involved. Now, for example, instances in which offenders use drugs or alcohol or incidents in which offenders sodomize victims of the same gender will be counted as rape for statistical purposes.

“It has long been the UCR Program’s mission to collect and publish data regarding the scope and nature of crime in the nation, including those for rape. Since the FBI began collecting data using the revised definition of rape in January 2013, program officials expected that the number of reported rapes would rise. According to David Cuthbertson, former FBI Assistant Director of the CJIS Division, “As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics.””

The FBI also reports that attempted rapes are included in the new counts.

These changes make the counts of 2013 and 2014 not comparable to the counts of the years before.

In short, for two different reasons the claim made by Mel about rape in Fort Morgan, Colorado is just not supported by available data. This is a pattern that isn’t new. For years now, anti-immigration activists have whipped up hysterical stories of good, virtuous, clean, white, native women being the victims in supposed waves of rape bad, awful, dirty, swarthy immigrants. Such wild tales have been used to support harrassment, mass deportations and even lynchings in the past. What will come in the future as the wild tales are being whipped up again? We can either sit back and watch as history repeats itself or we can do something about it now. We can’t stop people like Mel from making up fictions to justify their bigoted attitudes against immigrants, but we can stop such claims from spreading by countering them with actal, observable facts.

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