Sexual Violence: Facts & Figures
The term "sexual violence" refers to a specific constellation of crimes including rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, child molestation, sexual coercion, sexual harassment and sexual assault; “sexual assault” broadly refers to any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from touching and groping to attempted rape.
In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women (19.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) have been raped at some point in their lives, and an estimated 43.9% of women and 23.4% of men experienced other forms of sexual violence during their lifetimes. Most female victims of completed rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25, and 42.2% before the age of 18. College aged women ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence, and women of the same age who are not enrolled in college are four times more likely. Furthermore, women and girls in Oregon are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than the national average.
Sexual violence can have a devastating impact on a person's life, livelihood and relationships. More than 70% of rape and sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe socio-economic distress resulting from their victimization, compared to victims of aggravated (57%) and simple (46%) assault. Approximately 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the assault.
For sexual assault survivors, feelings of guilt, shame, denial, anger and fear are common, and in the aftermath of the crime, many victims mistakenly blame themselves for what happened to them. Because most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor (like an acquaintance, classmate, co-worker, family member, or significant other), the assault not only results in a terrible invasion of bodily integrity and personal liberty, but a betrayal of trust as well.
Unique Challenges and Barriers to Justice
Most victims will suffer in silence for years, too burdened with embarrassment to disclose what happened, or unable to comprehend the impact it has had on their lives. The vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported; for example, the National Institute of Justice reports that only 26% of sexual assaults were reported to police between 1992 and 2000, and a third of women in another study did not report their victimization to anyone.
For those who do report the assault, their trauma is often compounded when those they trusted with the truth - such as police, partners, spouses, friends, relatives, school administrators, teachers, healthcare workers and others - disbelieve them, blame them for the assault, or express more concern for the perpetrator's well-being than the victim's own. Institutions like schools, universities, corporations and even government or state-run entities may engage in policies or practices which minimize, conceal and thereby contribute to sexual violence while simultaneously disempowering, disregarding, and endangering victims. If the rapist happens to be famous, wealthy, well-liked or highly regarded within a particular community, and/or if the survivor's privacy is not adequately protected, the backlash in the aftermath of a report can be both swift and severe.
Whether or not to report a sexual assault to law enforcement is a deeply personal decision. Notifying law enforcement allows the survivor the opportunity for protection and vindication through the criminal justice system: the perpetrator may arrested, prosecuted, and ultimately convicted of the crime, which can be an extremely healing experience for some crime victims.
Unfortunately, however, the criminal justice is not without its flaws, especially when it comes to the treatment of sexual assault survivors. For example, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) survey of sexual assault survivor advocates, attorneys, and service providers in 2015 revealed that over 80% of respondents reported police frequently do not believe victims, engage in victim blaming, or simply do not take reports seriously, and as a result, dismiss reports or do not take sufficient action. Even if an arrest is made and charges are brought, few will result in prosecution or conviction. Moreover, the prosecuting attorney’s duty is to the state, not to the victim; as a result, despite state and federal guarantees of crime victims’ rights, the government’s interests sometimes conflict with victims’ individual needs.
How We Can Help
The civil justice system can provide survivors with more opportunities for recourse and redress than the criminal justice system alone. Whether it’s by pursuing a personal injury suit for compensation, ensuring equal treatment by employers, or holding institutions accountable for their failure to prevent or mitigate the harm of sexual violence, we at Graves & Swanson LLC believe in using the power of the civil justice system to help survivors through dark and difficult times.
In particular, Graves & Swanson LLC partner Jacqueline Swanson has dedicated her career to advocating tirelessly on behalf of sexual assault survivors, regardless of whether or not they report to police. For example: in 2015 and 2016, she helped pass laws in Oregon extending the criminal statute of limitations for sex crime victims, and in 2016, she assisted in drafting key rape kit reform, resulting in the passage of “Melissa’s Law” in Oregon, and the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights in Congress. Jackie has also represented sex abuse survivors bring civil lawsuits to hold perpetrators and institutions (which aided, abetted, or allowed the sexual violence to occur in the first place) accountable, and allow the victims to seek compensation for their harms.
At Graves & Swanson LLC, our policy is to trust survivors and believe victims, and we do everything we can to help empower our clients to make the decisions that are right for them. If you are interested in scheduling a confidential appointment and consultation, please call us or click the button below.