Herald-Whig View

Sexual assault awareness campaign is about changing culture

Posted: Apr. 11, 2017 1:45 pm

All too often, it is the unspoken crime. Also far too often, it is an unreported crime.

Sexual assault knows no boundaries. The impact of sexual violence affects all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes and professions.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, providing a much-needed spotlight on this problem. Some eye-opening revelations connected with sexual violence in the United States:

º The National Sexual Violence Research Center reports that 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. One in 71 men have.

º Almost 50 percent of women and 20 percent of men have experienced some sort of sexual violence victimization other than rape. This could include sexual harassment or unwanted sexually related contact.

º An even more alarming figure shows that 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement officials, largely because many victims do not want to face the scrutiny or embarrassment that often accompanies a case involving sexual violence.

Women and men alike also fail to report sexual assault because of the concern about not being believed, the shame often attached to such an incident, or fear of retribution by the alleged attacker or attackers.

The National Sexual Violence Research Center says a startling 74 percent of adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew and 21 percent of the acts were committed by a family member.

More than half of rape or sexual assault cases occur at or near a victim's home. A high percentage also occurs at or near the home of a friend, relative or acquaintance.

Sexual violence might include force, threats, manipulation or coercion. The act of sexual assault might also be verbal. Those who sexually abuse usually target someone they know -- a friend, classmate, neighbor, co-worker or relative.

Sexual violence happens in all communities. Ignoring these acts or downplaying their impact is not the answer.

The long-range hope of campaigns such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to create a change in the culture of how such acts are perceived, including believing victims when they come forward. While that will not solve the entire problem, it would be a needed first step.