Justice

This Disturbing Map Reveals Where People Are Tweeting Most About Sex Crimes

One rape occurred every four-and-a-half minutes in 2014, according to an FBI report. But certain states and cities had more tweets than others about sex crimes and other offenses, according to online housing resource Abodo, which based its analysis on tweets posted between June 2014 and December 2015.

The results are surprising.

Abodo crime Twitter mentions

Abodo looked at geotagged tweets that included the words "molestation," "molested," "molester," "molesting," "pedophile," "raping," "rapist," "sex abuse," "sex assault," "sexual assault," and "sexual violence." Abodo included the District of Columbia in its analysis, but excluded it from lists of the states with the most crime-related tweets because it topped them in every category: violent crimes, sex crimes, property crimes, police-related tweets, and drug crimes.

These states tweeted the most about sex crimes.

Map of Sex Crime Tweets

1. Oregon

Oregon tweeted the most about sex crimes, ignoring the District of Columbia. But Oregon's 2014 rate of reported rapes lands it closer to the middle of all U.S. states.

Oregon had 1,458 reported cases of rape in 2014, a rate of 36.7 rapes per 100,000 people, according to FBI data. The rate has risen significantly since 2012, during which Oregon had 29.2 reported rapes per 100,000 residents, according to a CNN report.

Eugene, Oregon, ranked high among all U.S. cities in the frequency of tweets about sex crimes. The Abodo study's authors observed:

"... In 2013 (the last year for which city data were available), Eugene recorded 68 rapes – which was second only to Oregon’s most populous city, Portland."

One possible reason for the high frequency of sex crime tweets may lie with Oregon's high number of registered sex offenders.

Oregon has the second-highest number of registered sex offenders of any state, The Oregonian reported. Unfortunately, the state's online database of sex offenders is two years out of date and likely of little use to local police and house hunters. The Oregonian reported:

"Oregon's public website lists only a fraction — 2.5 percent — of the state's more than 25,000 sex offenders. So residents can't really tell who and how many sex offenders are in their neighborhoods."

2. New York

New York ranked second in tweets about sex crimes.

New York City has recently seen a spike in reported rapes, which increased 8 percent in 2015 to 540 reported rapes, according to The New York Times. The higher numbers don't necessarily mean that New York City is seeing more sexual violence, but rather that the New York Police Department is taking sexual assault more seriously.

“We have no reason to believe there is more sexual assault than was happening last year at this time,” Liz Roberts — deputy chairwoman of Safe Horizon, New York's largest victims’ services agency — told the Times. Roberts said the agency's victim hotline hasn't received a significantly higher volume of calls.

Rather, the city's police are more active in pursuing rape allegations, Roberts said. “In terms of NYPD response, we have seen a lot of attention to this issue in the last few years,” she said. “They have been engaging with victims’ services on a different level.”

3. Nevada

Nevada ranked third for tweets about sex crimes. The state had a higher rate of reported rapes than Oregon or New York: 47.8 rapes per 100,000 people, according to FBI figures.

The rate of Nevada sex crimes was higher than the national average, according to a 2009 report by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Most arrests involved sex workers. The UNLV study reported:

"The rape rate in Nevada has been consistently higher than national rates over time. Most arrests for sex offenses in Nevada in 2007 involve prostitution (77 percent), and only a small proportion of these arrests involve forcible rape (3 percent). Nationally, the relative proportion of arrests for rapes (13 percent) is higher and substantially lower for prostitution (42 percent)."

4. Massachusetts

Massachusetts numbers are a little more difficult to dissect. The state had 32.3 rapes per 100,000 people, according to FBI data.

The number of reported rapes at Boston College dorms and residences doubled between 2013 and 2014, according to The Tab. Campus officials believe this may be due to a culture shift, with more women coming forward.

“The way we have marketed resources for bystander intervention, such as working with the ResLife office, has allowed more people to get information on resources," Katie Dalton, Director of the Boston College Women’s Center, told The Tab.

“First-year students now seem to know more about on-campus resources than they did four years ago, because of the exposure of Bystander Intervention and the prevalence of the sexual assault conversation," Catherine Larrabee, a senior and member of the Women’s Center staff, said.

Some of the Massachusetts sex crime tweets may have referred to news stories, such as those about Gregory Lewis, who was arrested in October 2014 after allegedly committing "a cross country spree of sexual assaults, kidnappings, and armed robberies," CNN reported.

Another series of news stories concerned Kira Wahlstrom, a Massachusetts woman who won a $4 million verdict in April 2015 related to a sexual assault. She had sued "the companies that owned and managed the Radisson Hotel parking garage where she was raped" and prevailed "in what may be the largest award for such a case in Massachusetts history," the Boston Globe reported. "The jury determined that the companies were negligent in not providing proper security in the Stuart Street parking garage, especially in light of a rape that occurred there 12 days before the attack on Kira Wahlstrom."

It's possible that Twitter users took note of these high profile sex crimes and tweeted about them or simply were more concerned with sexual violence as a result.

5. Oklahoma

Oklahoma ranked fifth in the frequency of sex crime tweets and sixth among U.S. states in its rate of reported rapes: 45.8 per 100,000 people, according to FBI stats. Oklahoma City ranked No. 1 among U.S. cities in the frequency of tweets about sex crimes, Abodo reported.

The city also had a particularly high violent crime rate in 2012, according to a local news outlet. That year, the city's violent crime rate was 137.56 percent higher than the national average rate.

Sex Crime Tweets by City

Abodo's study mapped out how crime tweets spiked in Oklahoma City:

Sex Crimes Oklahoma City

ATTN: reached out to Abodo to gain some insight about the cities that ranked highest in its list of tweets about sex crimes. With the exception of Eugene and Oklahoma City, none of the cities were in states with particularly high rates of sex crimes.

"I can't really venture a solid conclusion about why certain cities may be tweeting more than others, particularly as it relates to sex crimes. It's possible there was a major crime in the area that garnered a lot of media attention," Abodo told ATTN:.

It's difficult to get accurate data about sexual assault.

In 2013, the FBI changed its definition of rape from “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will" to “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 takes into account offenders and victims of both genders and various types of non-consensual penetration. The numbers mentioned in this article refer to the number of rapes that fall under the revised definition.

ATTN: previously reported that one in four women experienced an unwanted sexual encounter on college campuses, according to a 2015 study. Only a fraction of women who are sexually assaulted on campus or elsewhere report the incident to police.

Inside Higher Ed Sexual Assault

As smartphones are increasingly integrated into our day-to-day lives, it's becoming more common to tweet about local news items and incidents of sexual violence in our communities. But it goes without saying that not everyone who is aware of a sex crime tweets about it, and not every tweet that uses language that could pertain to a sex crime is actually talking about one.

Recently, Apple partnered with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network to program its iPhone digital assistant, Siri, to direct sexual assault victims to resources and hotlines.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can learn more on the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.

You can also view the full Abodo study on its website.