The Silenced Women An Investigation on Reporting of Violence Against Women Open Access
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How does public mobilization affect reporting of violence against women (VAW)? I investigate this question in light of a brutal gang rape incident that took place in Delhi in December 2012 and catapulted all of India into a public outcry. Protests and demonstrations of an unprecedented magnitude broke out across the country, marking a social shock. I document evidence on the impact of this social shock on reporting of VAW. In doing so, I utilize a set of difference-in-difference models, exploiting regional variation in exposure to the shock, which is measured by proximity to the focal district (i.e. district where the incident took place). Treatment is assigned based on 2 types of proximities, physical proximity (measured by road networks) and social proximity (a multi-dimensional measure that compares locations on an array of baseline socio-economic indicators). Estimates from both models yield a counter-intuitive result; districts that were closer to the focal-district witnessed a higher rate of VAW post-incident. The increase in VAW is finding is surprising, especially in light of various legislative and policing measures that were undertaken to mitigate it and may be reconciled by a mechanism where the increase is stemming from rise in reporting rather than surge in incidence. To substantiate this thesis, I furnish evidence on retrospective reporting of VAW, using a unique repository of complaints I compiled, which records daily crime data at incident-level. This evidence suggests a 12 p.p. increase in retrospective reporting of rape, post-incident. These findings inform us on the role of public mobilization in encouraging reporting of VAW - a grave global issue subject to considerable pervasive under-reporting.