April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It seems every year more attention is brought to the issue, so why is it still something that needs to be addressed?
According to RAINN, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63% since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.2 per 1000 in 2016.
But, it is difficult for statistics to accurately portray the true scope of the problem. Many instances of sexual abuse go unreported. Confusion, denial, fear, shame, and even repressing the memories of the event combine to keep victims from confiding to anyone, let alone reporting to the proper authorities.
In addition, the reality is that by the time victims do speak up, too much time has passed to take legal action. To combat this, the criminal statute of limitations has been thrown out in many states, including Missouri and Kansas. Now, states are working on creating Statute of Limitation Revival Laws to give victims more time to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
The more the topic is talked about, there is hope that victims will have the courage to open up, and begin to get the help they need, quickly.
What is the Cost of Sexual Abuse?
The turmoil caused by sexual assault cannot be properly compensated with any amount of money. From effecting quality of life, to medical care and mental health services, the cost of sexual abuse is monumental. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports:
- The lifetime cost of rape per victim is $122,461
- Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion), followed by assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), and drunk driving, including fatalities ($61 billion)
- 81% of women and 35% of men report significant short- or long-term impacts such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Health care is 16% higher for women who were sexually abused as children and 36% higher for women who were physically and sexually abused as children
Even if we are not victims of sexual abuse ourselves, the ramifications effect all of us.
What can we do?
Just one instance of sexual abuse is one too many. The goal is to continue the efforts made to educate the public, as well as advocate and seek justice for survivors. The more aware the public is to the issue of sexual abuse, more action can be taken.
- We can learn the signs of sexual abuse, to intervene and get help more quickly.
- We can properly teach about consent, to help people understand what is and is not permissible.
- We can inform victims of their criminal and civil rights, so they can confidently seek justice.
Let us continue in our efforts in raising awareness, and help advocate for victims to get the justice they deserve.