Publish by: Theophilus Izobofolo
Sexual assault in the world today has become an epidemic we differ to address. The numbers alone are stunning; nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime. And the numbers don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell of the physical, emotional and psychological scars that a victim can carry for life. They don’t speak to the betrayal and broken trust when the attacker is a friend, a trusted colleague or a family member. And they don’t give voice to the courage of survivors who work every day to put their lives back together.
An overview of the problem:
1. Women and girls are the vast majority of the victims.
2. Men and boys are also at risk but minimally
3. Women of all races are targeted but some are more vulnerable.
4. Most victims know their assailants.
5. The vast majority (nearly 98%) of perpetrators are male.
6. Young people are especially at risk.
7. Repeat victimization is common.
Rape and sexual assault can take a profound toll on survivors who often suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health problems that can be long-lasting. Women who have been raped or stalked by a perpetrator or assaulted by an intimate partner are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and are also more likely to suffer from chronic pain, frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping than non-victims. They are also more likely to test positive for a high-risk HPV infection.
Survivors also suffer from a wide range of mental health problem; including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They also suffer behavioral challenges such as; substance and alcohol abuse, smoking and high-risk HIV behavior. Survivors of rape and sexual assault are also more likely to attempt or consider suicide.
Campus sexual assault: a particular problem
Sexual assault is a particular problem on college campus. The dynamics of college life appear to fuel the problem, as many survivors are victims of what’s called “incapacitated assault”: they are sexually abused while drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated. Perpetrators who drink prior to an assault are more likely to believe that alcohol increases their sex drive – and are also more likely to think that a woman’s drinking it signals that she’s interested in sex. Most college victims are assaulted by someone they know, especially in incapacitated assaults. College survivors suffer high rates of PTSD, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse, which can hamper their ability to succeed at school.
The economic costs
Although the economic costs of rape and sexual assault are hard to quantify and the data is limited, the existing research indicates that the costs are great. Various research studies have examined the quantifiable cost per rape, accounting for such costs as medical and victim services, loss of productivity, and law enforcement resources. They also generally agree that intangible costs, such as decreased quantity of life, though difficult to monetize, are also a necessary part of the cost calculus for sexual assault.
Criminal justice response
Arrest rates for sexual assaults cases are low. Some police officers still believe certain rape myths (e.g., that many women falsely claim rape to get attention), which may help account for low rates. Similarly, if victims do not behave the way some police officers expect (e.g. crying) an officer may believe that she is making a false report. Sexual assault cases can be difficult to investigate because of the effects of the trauma itself. Victims sometimes have difficulty recalling the event alongside having short memory loss, memory fragmentation, impaired verbal skills and delayed recall. Whatever the reason, many victims have lost faith in the system, and believe they were ill-treated by those who should be on their side. Some victims’ report that law enforcement officers actively discouraged them from reporting, asked questions about their sexual history and dress, and overemphasized prosecution for false reports.
Taking action to break the violence
Despite the important and unprecedented work done by many agencies and individuals, there is much more to do.
1. Supporting survivors/victims.
2. Improving the criminal Justice System.
3. Specialized training for law enforcement and procedure.
4. Sexual assault forensic evidence.
5. Comprehensive awareness education to young people about sexual assault.
6. Enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they do not confront sexual violence on the campuses.
7. Working with male gender to change social norms.
8. Addressing sex trafficking.
9. Addressing the intersection between HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities.
In April 2012, President Barack Obama said; “It is up to all of us to ensure victims of sexual violence are not left to face these trials alone.
President Obama’s advice:
Too often, survivors suffer in silence, fearing retribution, lack of support, or that the criminal justice system will fail to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must do more to raise awareness about the realities of sexual assault by;
- Confronting and changing insensitive attitudes wherever they persist.
- Enhance training and education in the criminal justice system and
- Expand access to critical health, legal, and protection services for survivors.