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Friday, September 7, 2012

Representative Akin and graduate school in a high crime area

At first I dismissed Representative Todd Akin‘s weak statement about rape and conception as more political cant like that about abortion.  Another statement about women that sidetracked the real issue of violence in our society.  The candidate had supplied no statistics and yet he gained international attention.

Just a month before, I looked up the statistics of violence against women in Minnesota, thinking of a move.  I had been told that the crime rate was better in Minneapolis.  In 2009, Duluth boasted a zero rate of rape while the rate in Minneapolis was about five times per capita that in New York City.  I lived in South Minneapolis in the 1980s while attending graduate school and, although many women were from outstate Minnesota (towns or small cities), we didn’t know how quickly the crime was rising.

According to this chart, rape and assault increased 20 times in Minnesota from 1960 to 1995.  

Minnesota Crime Rates 1960 - 2010







Forcible

Aggravated



Year
Population
Index
Violent
Property
Murder
Rape
Robbery
assault
Burglary


1960
3,413,864
50,049
1,435
48,614
42
81
950
362
12,645


1961
3,470,000
50,370
1,505
48,865
34
94
951
426
13,225


1962
3,475,000
53,762
1,674
52,088
33
124
1,028
489
13,312


1963
3,500,000
59,392
1,983
57,409
41
91
1,186
665
14,160


1964
3,521,000
70,398
2,601
67,797
51
157
1,285
1,108
18,833


1965
3,554,000
71,485
3,074
68,411
50
186
1,433
1,405
18,853


1966
3,576,000
79,893
3,691
76,202
79
261
1,765
1,586
20,713


1967
3,582,000
92,887
4,727
88,160
58
309
2,402
1,958
25,233


1968
3,646,000
108,041
5,111
102,930
81
398
2,959
1,673
29,232


1969
3,700,000
113,836
5,253
108,583
69
424
3,016
1,744
28,836


1970
3,805,069
121,796
5,782
116,014
75
369
3,389
1,949
30,507


1971
3,881,000
137,267
5,993
131,274
95
468
2,987
2,443
34,219


1972
3,896,000
130,674
6,798
123,876
95
571
3,290
2,842
36,124


1973
3,897,000
137,781
6,926
130,855
107
579
3,455
2,785
39,610


1974
3,917,000
153,976
8,119
145,857
118
692
4,079
3,230
43,939


1975
3,926,000
168,766
8,125
160,641
129
730
4,069
3,197
46,842


1976
3,965,000
171,727
7,492
164,235
92
726
3,189
3,485
44,493


1977
3,975,000
168,176
7,705
160,471
106
774
3,413
3,412
45,103


1978
4,008,000
166,096
7,601
158,495
81
797
3,411
3,312
43,837


1979
4,060,000
178,349
8,973
169,376
93
871
3,754
4,255
45,183


1980
4,061,235
194,918
9,250
185,668
106
942
4,025
4,177
50,602


1981
4,090,000
193,731
9,344
184,387
85
1,056
4,266
3,937
52,253


1982
4,133,000
184,110
9,062
175,048
95
938
4,188
3,841
48,855


1983
4,144,000
167,177
7,909
159,268
69
927
3,298
3,615
44,571


1984
4,162,000
159,884
8,802
151,082
74
1,051
2,960
4,717
41,242


1985
4,193,000
173,348
10,751
162,597
88
1,242
3,598
5,823
42,663


1986
4,214,000
183,823
11,991
171,832
105
1,338
4,299
6,249
42,319


1987
4,246,000
195,986
12,118
183,868
112
1,439
4,354
6,213
45,384


1988
4,306,000
185,792
12,490
173,302
124
1,337
4,079
6,950
39,167


1989
4,353,000
190,801
12,549
178,252
111
1,363
4,128
6,947
39,042


1990
4,375,099
198,577
13,392
185,185
117
1,487
4,057
7,731
39,691


1991
4,432,000
199,274
14,006
185,268
131
1,762
4,345
7,768
37,832


1992
4,480,000
205,664
15,144
190,520
150
1,840
4,906
8,248
39,859


*1993
4,517,000
198,125
14,778
183,347
155
1,588
5,092
7,943
38,147


1994
4,567,000
198,253
16,397
181,856
147
2,725
5,370
8,155
36,157


1995
4,610,000
207,327
16,416
190,911
182
2,593
5,702
7,939
36,756


1996 
4,658,000 
207,891 
15,782 
192,109 
167 
2,327 
5,385 
7,903 
35,515 


1997 
4,686,000 
206,833 
15,827 
191,006 
129 
2,446 
5,373 
7,879 
35,265 


1998 
4,725,000 
191,197 
14,656 
176,541 
121 
2,358 
4,371 
7,806 
32,486 


1999 
4,775,508
171,802 
13,085 
158,717
134 
2,038 
3,917 
6,996 
27,706 


*2000
4,919,479 
171,611 
13,813 
157,798 
151 
2,240 
3,713
7,709 
26,116 


2001 
4,984,535 
178,191 
13,145 
165,046 
119
2,236 
3,758 
7,032 
25,496 


2002 
5,024,791 
177,454 
13,428 
164,026 
112 
2,273 
3,937 
7,106 
28,034 


2003 
5,064,172 
170,979 
13,316 
157,663 
127 
2,092 
3,906 
7,191 
27,698 


2004 
5,096,546
168,770 
13,751 
155,019
113 
2,123 
4,070 
7,445 
28,048 


2005
5,126,739 
173,544 
15,243 
158,301 
115 
2,258 
4,724
8,146 
29,711 


2006
5,167,101  
175,534
16,425 
159,119 
125 
1,947 
5,433
8,920 
30,173 


2007
5,197,621  
172,832 
15,003 
157,829 
116 
1,873 
4,770
8,244 
29,670 


2008
5,230,567  
162,976 
13,771 
149,205 
109 
1,805 
4,179
7,678 
26,483 


2009
5,266,214  
152,160 
12,874 
139,286 
74 
1,789 
3,619
7,392 
25,580 


2010
5,303,925
148,946
12,515
136,431
96
1,798
3,388
7,233
24,415













Note:  The complete chart also includes statistics for Larceny Theft and Vehicle Theft. 


Candidate Todd Akin did refer to studies that documented a woman’s physical response to sexual violence.  For what reason?  To diminish the impact of rape?  This, to me, was like heightening the abortion issue after the birth control pill was available.  Control of violence against women is the issue at hand just as abortion should shadow the control of pregnancies for women in unstable relationships.  The first issue improved upon, the second issue is not as critical. 

Women living in high crime districts talk of crime, discuss it, and they live very differently from women in safer areas.  Many in 1980s Minneapolis became conservative with men, even reactionary, and not matching the attitudes about them.  Often I discovered that neighbor women left a relationship for school or a career and that they were hardly ready to respond to anything hazardous.

The police had less time for complaints that weren’t life-threatening.  Relationship violence could be heard sometimes in apartment buildings, what probably added an invisible statistic.  Violations that would usually deserve a patrol car were neglected and made women vulnerable to the men they knew and to men in general.  After work one day, I made a call to the police about a man exposing himself in an alley.  The police didn't want to spend time chasing him down because such cases were not deemed as harmful as others.  There was so much major crime that the lesser crimes were a part of the environment.

When I moved to Duluth, I owned only one pair of shorts.  I didn't show my legs except when wearing skirts, usually below the knee, and now I wonder if women in that high crime area would dare to wear a scoop-necked blouse.  I would say not often while it is the fashion for many women in America. 

I kept strange hours and a nightlight on then.  My tastes in literature changed and I didn’t even watch BBC “Mystery” much, my craving for excitement was so much lowered.  I began watching home improvement and nature shows on PBS.  Though I lived in an old building with nice carpeting and light fixtures, cocaine raids were often going on down the street.  I went from reading Anais Nin to reading the early works of Virginia Woolf, an author who hardly ever relied on violence.  Her diaries tell how the bombs during two world wars were dropping on London when she wrote.   It was like learning that Doctor Dolittle began in Hugh Lofting's letters to his children while he fought in World War I.

I read nonfiction, Jacques Cousteau and other mellowing influences.  Many tenants were living within their own interior current and in apartments decorated for that.  I read magic, folklore and children’s literature.  At the same time, re-reading  Shakespeare, I developed an interest in the Roman Empire.  The portrayal of violence was fine if it happened and especially if it was in a distant past.  I found graphic violence unsatisfactory.  If it didn’t have the sensitivity to feel for the victim and give the victim pages, it lacked conscience. 

My building was broken into twice.  The first time, the window at the back door was smashed and a woman tenant found the burglar in the laundry room after which both ran.  When the police came, they said to appalled women in the hallway, “Maybe he was cold.”  I moved.   There were nights of vigilance held at neighborhood parking lots but as I now see from the chart, the improvement is not great. 

I would say that the threat of violence is enough to lower birth rates.  But if Representative Akin took buses in Minneapolis, he might see many young women with children and without a wedding ring.  The city is a place of extremes.  Some of my experiences were sublime but when it was bad there, it was very bad.  I resented the difficulties of living in a large city a hundred miles from my birthplace when the work I did wasn’t so available in smaller cities.  And there were so many advantages there.  Recently I saw that my short collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, was ordered into the Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis.  That thrilled me, its being the central downtown library and a place where I spent many hours.






























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