Brazil’s rape culture in numbers

The mass rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week has shocked Brazil.

Videos and pictures of the crime were widely shared on social media before the victim could notify the police, including photos of the teenager bleeding with comments of celebration by the rapists.

No one has been charged yet and the police officer leading the investigation has reportedly asked the teenager if she “is used to group sex”.

The crime has caused an outpouring on social media, with human rights campaigners arguing on whether there is a rape culture in Brazil.

In a poll by Brazilian Forum for Public Security last October, nine in every ten women surveyed said they were afraid of sexual violence. The most frightened were black female, with 70 percent saying they were scared they could be sexually attacked.   

According to official figures, there were over 47,000 cases of rape in Brazil in 2014 alone, one in every 11 minutes. But the total number could be much higher. According to estimates by Ipea, a government-led think-tank, only 10 percent of the attacks are reported to the police.

DataWrapper - Rape

The worse figure is from Roraima, Brazil’s northernmost state, where a rate of 55,5 cases has been reported in every 100,000 people. The figure is twice higher than the national average.

In the map below the reported cases are distributed by state. The darkest the colour, the highest the rate of attacks. Click here for the interactive version and find out rates and total number of cases per state:

Planilha 2 (1)

Children and teenagers

Figures from Violence Map show that the rate of cases involving those under 19 are much higher than of sexual attacks involving adults.

Cases against young people in locations such as Acre is almost three times higher than the national average.

A sample of 12,087 cases only collected in 2011 by the Health Ministry showed that 70 percent of the assaults were against children or teenagers, according to a report by Ipea. Half of the victims were under 13.

Bills in Congress could make health care harder for victims

A new bill by conservative lawmakers could make even harder for rape victims to receive health care after assaults.

A new legislation presented last year by former Lower House speaker Eduardo Cunha aims to change the current law that allow legal abortion to women who have been raped. Brazil already has one of the toughest legislation restricting the procedure.

If the new rules are passed, women would need to prove they have been raped even before they could get the after pill in public hospitals. Abortion penalties are also set to increase.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics: why thinking critically about numbers is imperative

There is a popular sentence that says: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Well, as an MA student trying to pursue a career in data journalism I don’t entirely agree with the statement. But the phrase, popularized by the great Mark Twain, is a remind that when dealing with numbers a good dose of skepticism and critical thinking is imperative.

Recently when analysing datasets I could experience how you can create incorrect conclusions when manipulating numbers with not enough thought.

The first dataset was about HIV in the UK. After Nigel Farage’s polemic statement, I wanted to check what was the incidence of new HIV infections while patients were in the UK.

Proportion: a basic and useful concept of statistics

I downloaded a dataset from Public Health England (PHE) about the last nine years of HIV infections and care in the UK.

The dataset specifies the proportion of infections acquired while the patient were in the UK per category: men who have sex with men, heterosexual contact, drug injecting use and “others”. My goal was to find out if there was a trend in HIV infections – and if so, what it was.

I started my analysis focusing on the number of infections per category per year. Then problems appeared.

When looking at the numbers, there was a rise in the number of gay men who had been infected in the UK over the years and a sharp drop of heterosexual people who had contracted the virus while in the country.

HIVwrongchart

It seemed that more gay people were acquiring the disease in this country and less heterosexuals were being infected while being here.

That would be completely fine if not for one reason: it was not telling the whole story.

The big drop in diagnosis amongst heterosexual people was due to a sharp fall in the number of infections amongst this group. It did not mean that less heterosexual people were being infected in the UK.

In fact, the proportion of heterosexual people infected in this country has risen sharply over the past years, from 31 per cent in 2004 to 57 per cent in 2013. And despite the uptrend for gay men seen in the graphic, the proportion of cases UK-acquired had diminished.

In 2013 the proportion of total infections UK-acquired was 66% – an increase from the 48% in 2004. The proportion had increased, despite the fact that the number of infections had dropped.

The correct analysis is here.

Comparisons: getting the numbers right

Recently I have done an analysis about the homicide rate in Brazil. My goal was to check if there was any difference in the way violent crimes affect white and black people.

Again a notion of proportion, a fairly basic principle of statistics, was very necessary.

The dataset I was analyzing had the number of homicides per colour per year from 2010 to 2012 for 5565 municipalities in Brazil. I did a quick pivot table to get the homicide numbers per state and per skin colour.

PivotTableYoungCrime

The numbers were shocking in itself. More than 23,000 thousand young black people were killed in Brazil in 2013. The total number was visibly higher than the 6.806 white young people killed in the same year.

But being Brazil a country with a larger population of black people, how could I compare the two values?

I used the rate formula “fact per 100,000 population“, which is a rate used by demographers in Brazil and by the United Nations when analyzing certain stats, as crimes one.

However, dividing the total number of homicide by 100,000 people wouldn’t neutralize incorrect conclusions. The rule with rates is that, to be a true rate we must try to have only those at risk in the denominator.

There are states in Brazil, such as Bahia, Amazonas e Pará, where the black population accounts for 80 per cent of the inhabitants. In such places, crimes were likely to affect more black people simply because they were the majority.

The solution for a more accurate picture: compare the crimes against black people within the black population and compare the crimes against white people within the white population.

Such analysis made possible, for example, to see that, in the state of Santa Catarina, even though the total number of homicides against white people were three times higher than the number against black people, the homicide rate per 100,000 was still higher for black people.

TableauSantaCatarina

What I learnt from these episodes: numbers can’t be detached from the whole picture. Proportions are more important than real numbers and you may mislead your audience if you don’t present the context where your numbers are inserted.

Want to know more?
Here are some resources:

How to lie with statistics. Darrell Huff (1950, still relevant).
Basics of statistics.Jarkko Isotalo (2007).
The essential concepts of statistics. Scott Adams.   

The Deadly Reality for Young Black People in Brazil

If you are a young black citizen in Brazil, your chance to be killed is 282 per cent more if you were born white.

Depending on where you live, the chance is 10 times higher.

According to the latest data available about homicides in Brazil, 23,140 black people aged 15-29 were killed in the country in 2012. That means 82 black young people were murdered in every 100,000 black inhabitants.

The rate for young white people is equally alarming: 29 people in every 100,000 white population were killed in the country in 2012.

Both numbers are much higher than the acceptable rate of 10 cases in every 100,000 people by the World Health Organization (WHO). Above this rate, the organization considers violence to be epidemic.

HomicideEthinicityAge

Brazil crime rate is astonishingly high: 56,337 citizens were killed in the country in 2012. That means 156 people were murdered every day, a number that makes Brazil one of the most violent in the world. Young people have accounted for almost half of the victims.

The map of violence

Homicides affect young black and white people in different ways depending on where they live.

In Alagoas State, in the Northeast of Brazil, the homicide rate is of 192 cases in every 100,000 black young people. That is 10 times higher than the rate registered among the young white population. Alagoas is also the third poorest state in Brazil, and ranks 25th amongst the 27 federative units in the list of GDP per person.

In the map bellow it is possible to see what are the states with higher homicide rates. Check the interactive version for visualizing numbers and rates for each state.  

BrazilCrimeMap

The disparity in how crimes affect more dramatically black communities has led the International Annisty to create the campaign “Jovem Negro Vivo” (Young Black Alive) to fight what the organization calls “indifference” in the Brazilian society.

In the video, youths who are murdered become merely invisible.

The high rate of crimes involving black and poor communities is being analyzed by the Lower Chamber. A Commission has been installed based on the Map of Violence, a study conducted by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, from Flacso Brasil.

Waiselfisz said about the commission:

“The majority of homicides [in Brazil] happens among relatives, neighbors and friends for trivial reasons. With the wide circulation of weapons, any conflict becomes lethal. And, most seriously, there is the institutional tolerance to blame the victim. We are unable to institutionally address violence. Rates [of  murder] are only increasing.”

The Commission has been installed in a moment that the Senate tries to change the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.

Waiselfisz believes changing the law is not a solution for violence in Brazil:

“We have about 600,000 people jailed in Brazil and more killings. We never had so many prisoners and have more homicides. Changing the law isn’t effective. We have very good laws, such as the Statute of Children and Adolescents, but these laws are not applied.”