October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; a time to consider the violence in our society, among them sexual assault. The statistics are grim. Every 78 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. These are not necessarily the acts of strangers; in eight out of 10 rape cases, the victim knew the perpetrator.
Sexual violence is a complicated topic. It happens in every community and affects people of all genders and ages. Sexual violence is defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact. This includes words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without consent. A person may use force, threats, manipulation or coercion to commit sexual violence.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. In the U.S. one in three women experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime, and 91 percent of the victims of sexual assault and rape are female.
The statistics for children are even more grim. Only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is ever reported to the authorities. More than 12 percent of women who have been assaulted were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape experience.
According the the NSVRC, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Between 20 to 25 percent of college women are victims of forced sex during their time in college.
A 2002 study at one university revealed that 63.3 percent of men who self-reported acts qualifying as rape, or attempted rape, admitted to committing repeat rapes. Nearly two-thirds of college students experience some form of unwanted sexual harassment in the campus environment.
Nationally, rape is the most under-reported crime. The NSVRC reports that more than 67 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Instances of false reporting are low; there is little benefit to victims of reporting it, due to the social stigma of doing so. On average, fewer than 400 of 1,000 instances of sexual assault are reported, and only 37 of those reports will result in charges and only six perpetrators will do prison time.