The Stigma of Sexual Assault: It is Pervasive
We live in a world that doesn’t like to talk about sexual assault. Sexual violence is grossly under-reported to the authorities, victims are blamed and persistently stereotyped by society and the media, and there is a general lack of understanding about the extent of the problem and the true nature of the crime.
There are many reasons why people do not report sexual assault, and most are related to stigma. Victims often feel embarrassed and ashamed, and fear being blamed. Despite the fact that they have been violated, victimized and injured, they worry that they will be judged and held responsible for what happened to them. How do we remove the stigma so victims can regain control and heal?
Sexual Assault Affects Everyone…
- – Sexual violence crosses all races, genders, ages, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Every year, there are more than 290,000 victims (over age 12) of rape and sexual assault.
- – More than one-third of all women have experienced stalking, physical violence, or rape by an intimate partner in their lifetime and 7 million women report being physically assaulted or raped by their former or current partner each year.
- – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men have been raped during his or her lifetime.
- – Nearly 30% of women and 10% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact; an estimated 12% of women and 6% of men have been sexually coerced.
High School & College
- – In a nationwide survey, 7.3% of high school students (ratio of female to male 2:1) report having been forced to have sex.
- – 1 in 5 women report an attempted or completed rape during their college experience.
- – Among college students and non-students, survivors report knowing the offender in 80 percent of sexual assault and rape cases.
- – Fewer than 20% of rape and sexual assault survivors seek assistance from victim services agencies: a clear affect of stigma.
The High Cost and Long Term Affects of Sexual Assault
- – Rape is the most costly crime to victims in the U.S. Medical costs, lost earnings, pain, suffering and lost quality of life total more than $127 billion per year.
- – A 2013 survey of rape crisis centers reported that 35% of survivors were unable to receive the full range of services needed to resolve their experience of sexual violence.
- – Rape results in about 32,000 pregnancies each year.
- – At least 80% of rape survivors suffer from chronic physical or psychological conditions.
- – Trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis (BV,) gonorrhea, and chlamydial infection are the most frequently diagnosed infections among women who have been sexually assaulted.
- – Sexual violence is also linked to negative health behaviors, including alcohol abuse, drugs, smoking and risky sexual behavior
The number of sexual assaults have fallen by more than 50% in recent years. While we are making progress, we are a very long way from lifting the stigma experienced by survivors or solving the problem of sexual violence. Every two minutes another American has been sexually assaulted.
Sexually assaulted? Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline to speak over the phone with someone who can help: 800-656-HOPE (4673.)
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