Study finds majority of India rape victims knew their attacker

A protester chants slogans as she braces herself against the spray fired from police water canons during a protest against the Indian government on Dec. 23, 2012, in New Delhi, India. Reaction to rape incidents around the globe have reinvigorated awareness, but the question of coverage in the news remains a thorny issue.

New data from India's National Crime Records Bureau revealed that victims knew their rapist in the majority of reported rape cases, shedding light on an assault epidemic that has drawn international attention in recent. 

The NCRB's 2012 report found that close relatives or acquaintances of the victims are accused in 98 percent of India's rape cases, as opposed to the traditional belief that most rape occurs when a stranger attacks a woman unknown to him. 

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Kavita Nandini Ramdas wrote in the New York Times that the NCRB figures found reported rape cases in India had increased from 228,650 in 2011 to 244,270 in 2012, while 572 rape cases were reported in Delhi in 2011 alone. 

Women's rights activists said they weren't surprised by the new data. 

"Our experience has shown that the rapists were very close to the victims and even families had blind faith in them," V. Sandhya of the Progressive Organization of Women told the Times of India. 

A status report from the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the United Nations found that two women are raped every hour in India, and every six hours, a married woman is found either beaten to death, burnt, or driven to suicide.

The newest figures also line up with numbers from around the world, which indicate that rapes are largely committed by someone the victim knows.

The US Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), for example, found that 73 percent of sexual assaults in the country were perpetrated by a non-stranger. 

The statistics are by no means infallible: many experts feel that rape is grossly underreported around the world, and India is no exception. 

"Rape is so severely underreported that it is really even difficult to arrive at an estimate," said Aruna Kashyap, a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, who said that the underreporting is widespread at least in part because of the unfair way India's court system deals with rapes.

Many rape victims in India also face social stigma and unhelpful or even predatory police forces if they do choose to come forward, meaning that many cases are never discussed with authorities.