Sexual Assault Awareness

**Trigger Warning**

Nearly every 68 seconds, a woman in the United States, is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes that victim is a child. However, only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. [1] 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced completed or attempted rape during their lifetime [2] and 1 in 3 female victims of completed rape experience it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17 years of age. About half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance. Nearly a quarter (24.8%) of men in the United States experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime and about 1 in 4 male victims of completed or attempted rape, experienced it between the ages of 11 and 17.  

Rape is a heinous and repugnant act of violence that is not only brutal in the moment but scars a victim for life. It alters their idea of society and people, causing them to distrust those around them. Although that moment is brief in comparison to the multitude of events which shape a person’s life, it remains the one that is seared forever into a survivor’s soul. You remember where you were when it happened, the time of day it was when it happened; you can recall everything with acute clarity that will never vanish from your mind as much as you may want them to. And while you may be able to move past it. you won’t be able to forget it. Not ever.

It is beyond my scope of comprehension that the population within the United States at most risks for experiencing sexual violence are children. But it is. The numbers are difficult to determine because it is often not reported, however, authorities agree that the numbers are likely higher than what is even seen. Research has repeatedly shown the harmful impact of sexual abuse upon children’s physical and mental health. Although there can be signs of the trauma, it can differ

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;

Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;

During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

Victims of Crime Org

with the age of the child, while some may not show any indication at all. This is why there needs to be continued focus on prevention and communication; teaching children about body safety and healthy body boundaries as well as strengthening their communication skills about sexual matters with positivity and encouragement. [3]

There is also the problem that child sex abuse is not “uniformly designed,” so statistics may vary. [4] We also know from studies conducted in 1986 and then again in 2000, 2002 and 2005 with similar results that approximately 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported rape or attempted rape, after the age of 14. Frighteningly, children who had experienced rape or sexual assault in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience a rape or attempted rape in their first years of college.

Childhood and adolescent sexual abuse can also be detrimental to young males, resulting in the increased odds of sexual behaviours that lead to unprotected sex resulting in sexually transmitted infections and causing early teen pregnancy. Studies have shown that abused boys were significantly more likely than nonabused boys to report all three risky sexual behaviours. [5]When people and even some health providers hear about men and sexual assault, there is an almost automatic assumption that men are the perpetrators. It is not easy for men to view themselves as a victim, or as someone who has been abused. Young men who have been abused may develop a host of complex difficulties as in “struggling to deal with overwhelming memories and emotions, to establish a sense of self, of personal and relational integrity, separate from the traumatic experience and its ongoing impacts.” Something that really struck me about the difference between how men and women interpret their own sexual abuse experience is summed up beautifully in this quote:

I recognise culturally for women to talk about sexual  abuse was a risk of them appearing to others as damaged goods and so on; but for men I think it was different because it gets mixed up with gender identity and not so much for the women the self-image of a man being sexually physically able to look after yourself and the necessity of doing that and so on and so forth….I know you’ve got males who have been sexually assaulted and, because of stigmas of society, are still unwilling to get counselling and help for it.” Teram, E et al. (2006). Towards malecentric communication: sensitizing health professional to the realities of male childhood sexual abuse survivors.

Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27 (5), 499-517

One of the tragic results of a young male who has been sexually abused or assaulted is a “robbing of their masculine identity” compounding the trauma of the assault. [6] “Women do not report the same effect of the sexual abuse.” This is partly because the majority of abuse and assault on men are by men, and the majority of sexual assaults and abuse on women are by men. A victim should not have to worry about how their rape is perceived, nor suffer the confusion or pain of wondering if they are no longer heterosexual (if that is how they identified prior to the assault). Attention should be focused on the healing and on being able to come to terms with the assault and moving past it because the memories will always remain. The best we can hope for is a scar to form that reminds us of the trauma that happened, but not the continued and re-lived pain of it.

In discussing vulnerable populations at risk for sexual assault, we must then draw awareness to the LGBTQIA community. We know that there can be slightly higher rates of violence because as a community they experience “higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization, which put us at greater risk for sexual assault.” [7] There is also a higher rate of hate-motivated violence, which can take the form of sexual assault and can be experienced more prevalently upon the transgender population and more acutely among “transgender youth, transgender people of colour, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those who are involved in the sex trade.” [8] In 2011 Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, uncovered disturbing statistics. For example, “12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff; 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters.” [9]Something that should be shocking and yet sadly, is not, are those professionals who have established themselves in “helping” positions who violate the trust and become the perpetrator. Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which is more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. “Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers. Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals.” [10]Just as distressing is hate crimes. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):

Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities. . . . Many LGBTQ people also face substantial bias because they belong to other traditionally marginalized groups along other axes of identity such as race, class, incarceration history, immigration status, or ability. . . . membership in more than one traditionally marginalized community can increase targeting for severe violence.

In many of the hate violence against the LGBTQIA community, the victims are transgender women (50%), while the rest were male, many of who are non-conforming. I don’t like graphic descriptions, but in this regard, it is important to know that in these crimes, in which murder was often the result, there was sexual violence and/or “genital mutilation before or after their murders was a frequent occurrence.” [11]Hate crimes are largely more prevalent against people of colour, and so it is not surprising that in 2009 53 percent of LGBTQ hate crime victims were people of colour. “Of the 22 anti-LGBTQ hate crime murders documented by NCAVP that year, 79 percent of the victims were people of colour. As noted above, 50 percent (11 individuals) of the 2009 murders tracked were transgender women; of those, 9 were people of colour (82 percent). Of the other 11 murders of gender non-conforming people, 5 (45 percent) were people of colour.” [12]

It is my hope that this post has brought awareness to a subject that is difficult to talk about. But when there are so many vulnerable in our society, I think the only thing you can do is talk about it, write about and do all you can to inform people. It’s easy to say, “It won’t happen to me.” It’s easy to believe that you are protected in your home with locks and alarm systems. But the sad fact is that none of us is truly safe, and within your circle of friends and loved ones there may be those who are more vulnerable and you cannot protect them. However, arming yourself with information and sharing it with them, could protect them from this violence.

If you or anyone you may know has been the victim of sexual assault, please reach out.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

Hours: Available 24 hours

1-800-656-4673

HelpingSurvivors of Sexual Abuse and Assault https://helpingsurvivors.org/


Sources

[1] RAINN

[2] ASVRC

[3] The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

[4] Victims of Crimes Org

[5] Science Direct

[6] Living Well

[7] Human Rights Campaign

[8] Office of Justice Programs

[9] Office of Justice Programs

[10] Office of Justice Programs

[11] Office of Justice Programs

[12] Office of Justice Programs

One thought on “Sexual Assault Awareness

  1. Hi LKF, thanks for writing such an in-depth and researched post. It is something as a society, I think, we should be really putting more time and effort into. With our youth already struggling with mental health issues at an alarming rate, this topic seems to be a possible component that needs attention!

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