Sexual Violence: “That’s Not Cool”

The Women’s Center provides crisis intervention, counseling and many other services to sexual assault victims

Sexual violence exists amid a complex web of societal beliefs, attitudes and responses. It is composed of behaviors that range from off-color jokes and objectifying someone to rape and sexual human trafficking. Some of these behaviors, such as debasing sexual humor or sexual harassment, may be presented as innocuous, yet set the stage for increasingly misogynistic, devastating and violent behaviors.

The spectrum of sexual violence includes attacks such as sexual battery/forcible rape, incest, child molestation/sexual abuse, sexual coercion, marital rape, military sexual assault, sexual human trafficking and sexual harassment, which includes physical actions or non-physical gestures or comments.

“Sexual violence in any form is often devastating. These crimes inflict trauma to survivors’ physical and mental health and robs them of their sense of safety and trust,” explains Sue Kiley, M.S., LMHC, Ph.D. candidate and director of programs at The Women’s Center. “Whatever the circumstances, no one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted.”

Established in 1975, The Women’s Center, now operating facilities in Melbourne and Titusville, helps over 10,000 abused women and children annually who turn to the center as a resource for counseling services, financial assistance, career guidance, job training, transitional housing and victim advocacy.

One in six American women and one in 33 men have been victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports an average of 207,754 sexual assault victims ages 12 or older each year. Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12. More than 17 million American women have been victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. About 3 percent of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.

“Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends or family members,” explains Kiley. “Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, use of drugs or alcohol, pressure or tricks.”

Approximately 67 percent of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows (93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.) Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the world. Less than 39 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement, with males being the least likely to report a sexual assault, according to RAINN.

SEXUAL ASSAULT: BY THE NUMBERS

Although statistics can’t convey all the impact that sexual violence has on victims and their families, or to society in general, they can help us understand this crime and provide a glimpse into how many people are victimized and who they are. Source: RAINN.org

  • One in six women and one in 33 men have been victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime.
  • One in three girls and one in six boys will be a victim of some kind of sexual violence before the age of 18.
  • Women, men and children are victims of these crimes; nine out of 10 rape victims are female.
  • About 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18. Fifteen percent are under the age of 12.
  • 67 percent of sexual assault victims know their assailant. Ninety-three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. This is called acquaintance rape.
  • The majority of perpetrators of sexual violence are male, whether the victim is female or male.
  • More than 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Although reporting has increased by one-third since 1993, rape is still the most under-reported crime in the world. Fifteen out of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT ON THE VICTIM?

“In addition to the loss of a sense of safety in the world and betrayal of trust, many victims suffer from depression and/or post traumatic stress disorder following a sexual assault. For child and teen victims, they also suffer a loss of innocence and feelings of isolation from their peers,” says Kiley.

She further explains that victims may experience nightmares and avoidant behaviors causing them to engage in self-injury, increase the use of alcohol and/or drugs, suffer eating disorders and exhibit suicidal behavior.

“Childhood sexual abuse is especially complicated because of the power differential between the adult and child, because of the negotiations that must occur between adult and child, and because the child has no way to assimilate the experience into a mature understanding of intimacy,” says Kiley, adding that male victims have special issues because the perpetrator is most often another male and there is less support or understanding for these victims.

For all, victim blaming by family, friends and society adds another layer of victimization. In addition to the impact on victims’ emotional well-being, the prevalence of sexual violence also has wide-reaching impact on other cultural problems. Rape is responsible for 11 to 20 percent of teenage pregnancies, for increased substance abuse and for school/occupational difficulties.

“There is hope, however,” says Kiley. “Community-based sexual assault programs and victim advocacy programs provide education, hotlines, crisis intervention services and counseling. These resources help reduce incidences of sexual violence, help to increase understanding and support for victims, and assist the victim of sexual violence to move from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor,’ where there is tangible healing and a life in which the sexual assault no longer defines them.”

 

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.