Sexual Assault has increased at a disturbing rate, becoming one of the most commonly committed crimes in the United States. What’s even more disturbing, is that it is also the most underreported. Looking at the numbers, over 433,000 people 12 years and older will become a victim of rape and sexual assault in the United States. (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, n.d.) With so many incidents occurring, one might suspect that there would be charges against the perpetrators to match; unfortunately, that is not the case. It is estimated that for every 1,000 rapes, only 230 are reported to police, 46 result in an arrest, 9 are referred for prosecution, 5 result in a felony conviction, and 4.6 result in incarceration. (The Criminal Justice System: Statistics, n.d). In other words, for those 1,000 rapes, a whopping 995 perpetrators will walk free. Not only are perpetrators getting away without facing legal consequences, they are often still able to live their life as if nothing happened, while their victims are left to suffer in silence. Victims are left with both immediate and long-term physical issues, between the physical injury that can occur during the assault, to the increased risk of sexual and reproductive health issues. Victims are also at risk for developing a plethora of mental health issues, which are just as serious, if not more serious. Many suffer from issues such as: depression, panic attacks, self-harm, PTSD, eating disorders and substance abuse. Their social well-being also often takes a hit, as victims tend to pull away and isolate themselves from loved ones, finding themselves scared of everyday life. All of this can eventually lead to worse, ultimately having their sexual assault be the cause of death by suicide, HIV infection or others. (Effects of Sexual Violence, n.d.)
With sexual assault being such a heavy and serious crime, it is important to work as a nation in creating a culture that punishes those who commit such offences, as well as, creating an environment that allows us to break down the stigma attached to being a victim, and offer more safe spaces to seek help. This starts with:
- Bettering education on sexual assault at schools and with outreach programs
- Placing more “safe houses” for victims where they can be treated and talk with others to not feel so alone
- Tightening and strengthening laws
First breaking down the process of bettering education, there are already many organizations in existence that are dedicated to solving the widespread problem of sexual assault, such as RAINN and the NYCAASA, or The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. These educational organizations are a great thing, however, we should work on putting educational courses into more middle and high schools, as many sexual assaults occur before the victim even reaches 18. These courses should focus on teaching about consent, educating on the various forms of sexual assault, what to do if you find yourself a bystander, and promoting healthy relationships and sexuality.
Using government funding to create better environments is another essential step in creating a better culture for victims. By supporting victims, we will see less long-term effects on these women and men. This can be done by creating more government funded centers for victims, that provide services in treating both physical and emotional problems caused by their assault. All 50 states should be required to have Sexual Assault Centers placed within a certain radius, as this will decrease the number of sexual assault related disorders and deaths. Having these “safe houses” to not only seek treatment, but also not feel so alone, could drastically improve the victim’s situation.
Lastly, breaking down the importance of tightening and strengthening laws is a bit of a no-brainer. Of the perpetrators who are actually accused, many simply receive a “slap on the wrist”, walking away with little to no jail time. This is damaging to victims, as well as, those who might one day become one. Laws surrounding sexual assault and rape must be tightened and strengthened nationwide so that victims can receive the justice they deserve. In order to do this, lawmakers must work together to create universal procedure, laws and consequences. Strengthened laws definitely won’t eliminate rape and sexual assault entirely, but seeing those who are guilty receive a proper punishment will likely reduce cases and encourage people to speak out.
The Criminal Justice System: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system
Effects of Sexual Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence
Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence