April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The goal of these campaigns is to raise awareness of sexual assault in the U.S. so people understand the reality and severity of the issue as well as the implications is has on individuals, families and communities. Spreading awareness is the first step to garnering support for the fight against sexual assault.
What You Need to Know about Sexual Assault
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year. This means over 800 Americans are sexually assaulted every single day and on average, another American is assaulted every 107 seconds. Even more shocking are the ages of the victims and the number of crimes that go unreported to the police:
- 44% of are under age 18
- 80% are under age 30
- 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
- 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual contact that a person is coerced or forced into against his or her will. According to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014, nearly one in five women has experienced rape or an attempted rape in her lifetime. But women are not the only ones victimized by sexual assault – studies show that one in six men also experience some form of unwanted or abusive sexual experience in their lifetime.
Men, women and children are impacted by sexual assault every single day. The trauma resulting from these tragic events often extends far beyond the event itself, affecting their mental, emotional and physical health. Victims of sexual assault, no matter their gender nor age, are more likely to experience severe long-lasting consequences such as posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addictions, relationship difficulties, and difficulties in school or work.
Child Sexual Abuse
You may have noticed in the statistics above that nearly half of sexual assault victims are under 18. Let me rephrase that to ensure you really understand what that means: almost half of sexual assault victims are KIDS.
Vulnerable, trusting and naïve, kids are often an easier target for abusers than their adult counterparts. Perhaps the most significant difference between sexual assault involving adults and sexual assault involving children are the tactics used by the perpetrator. Often, abusers do not need to use physical force to engage children in sexual abuse and maintain their silence – children are typically “groomed” and manipulated by the abuser first. The abuser may use games, gifts, deception, or threats to coerce and confuse the child into engaging in the abuse and/or not telling anyone.
Here’s a breakdown of how age is related to sexual assault cases:
- 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12
- 29% are age 12-17.
- 44% are under age 18.
- 80% are under age 30.
- 12-34 are the highest risk years.
- Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
Perhaps even more shocking than the amount of sexual assault victims who are children is that 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. Think about that for a second – almost every single case of child sexual abuse (9 out of 10) is perpetrated by someone who the child knows – probably someone who the child even trusts. Imagine what that does to a child – their ability to trust shatters and their self-esteem plummets because someone who is supposed to protect and love them is hurting them instead.
- 34.2% of attackers were family members.
- 58.7% were acquaintances.
- Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
The trauma resulting from child sexual assault is severe and long-lasting. Recovering from these tragedies is a long and arduous process, requiring extensive therapy and support. Nearly half of the girls here at Excelsior Youth Center have been victims of sexual assault – every day, we see the long-lasting consequences of these tragedies and know that recovery take time and intense collaborative effort by the victim and her support system.
For more information, visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).