As noted in my ‘Background’ post, the efforts made over the past two decades to empower victims to speak up have still not been enough to make the change needed. Looking at the facts and statistics will better explain why. There will be a lot of numbers and statistic to process, but it is necessary to get a good grasp of this topic to continue making positive changes in the right direction.
On average, there are over 433,000 victims (age 12 and older) of rape and sexual assault every year in the United States. If we break that down, that’s looking at every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Looking at the population of women specifically in the United States, about 40% of them have experienced sexual violence, and nearly 80% of those victims experienced their first assault before the age of 25. (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, n.d.) This are large numbers that should be decreasing, but they’ve actually shown an increase over the past few years. For the last five years, there has been a 1.4% to 2.6% increase in total number of sexual assault cases in the United States.
Now looking into where the issues of policy and silencing of victims stems from. The Department of Justice noted that only an estimated 19% of rapes, both completed and attempted, are reported every year. One may wonder why? Why not tell a loved one or law enforcement about what happened? Well, rape is still considered to be something that the victim should feel shame for, which has created reluctance to share their story with anyone. The Me-Too movement is a movement created to encourage victims to take not feel shame, and to take that step-in healing, whether it be telling their story anonymously, talking to a friend, putting their attackers name out, or simply by saying “Me too”. This movement took off globally in 2017, as many actors and actresses in Hollywood started speaking out about their own experiences, and many in the spotlight found themselves on the opposite end, being exposed of their sexual assault. (Me Too. Movement, 2020) This movement has done a lot of good, but it has also been ineffective in certain aspects. So many stories started being posted that many people started to doubt them – claiming that they were lying because they were speaking out years later, and demanding proof of these allegations. (Bower, 2019) Unfortunately, there often isn’t much proof of sexual assault unless immediately reported, which is not common. Despite the fact that only approximately 5% of sexual assault reports filed have been proven false, there is still a trend seen where society blindly believes the perpetrator, rather than blindly believing the victim. This is why for every 1000 rapes in the United States, 995 perpetrators will go unpunished. (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, n.d.)
This culture surrounding sexual assault, in which victims feel shamed for being a victim has taken a traumatizing experience and made it even harder. Keeping the memories of it locked inside, feeling so alone with nobody to talk to, is why approximately 70 women commit suicide every day in the United States following an act of sexual assault. (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, n.d.) That is why further change is needed.
Bower, T. (2019, August 27). The #MeToo Backlash. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2019/09/the-metoo-backlash
Me too. Movement. (2020, October 16). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://metoomvmt.org/
Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence