Sexual Assault Focus Of This Month


4/5/04 Sexual Assault Focus Of This Month
Rape and sexual assaults are not crimes of passion and lust; rather, they are crimes in which the aggressor uses power and control to instill fear, dominate, punish and humiliate victims.

It is a sad commentary for a so-called civilized society that a month, such as April, is set aside as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. After all, how civilized can a society claim to be when there are so many rapes and sexual assaults?

Based upon U.S. Justice Department definitions, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (www.rainn.org) says that rape is forced sexual intercourse, including incidents where penetration is by a foreign object.

RAINN also says sexual assault includes a range of victimization distinct from rape and attempted rape. This also includes verbal threats.

No matter what definition is used or what statistics are cited, the United States cannot be proud of its problem with rape and sexual assault.

In fact, as of 2003, the United States had the highest rape rate among countries that reported such statistics: four times more than Germany, 13 times more than England and 20 times more than Japan, states Men Against Sexual Assault (www.sa.rochester.edu/masa/stats.php).

Statistics point to a troubling reality of American life.

RAINN says that one out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape, for a total of nearly 18 million women.

In 2002, seven out of every eight rape victims were female.

Approximately 15 percent of rape victims are under the age of 12, 29 percent are age 12 to 17, 44 percent are under the age of 18 and 80 percent are under the age of 30.

Most rapes are not committed by strangers. RAINN says approximately 48 percent of victims are raped by a “friend” or acquaintance, 30 percent by a stranger, 16 percent by an intimate, 2 percent by another relative and in 4 percent of the cases the relationship is unknown.

Indeed, it is a very sad commentary about our society. Despite all the good that is around, we have some troubling reminders that we have a long, long way to go.

As the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center (www.sbrapecrisiscenter.org) says, “Women can and do a lot of things to protect themselves. We can take self-defense classes; we can listen to safety tips on television; we can communicate with clarity and say ‘no’, but none of these will prevent a rape. The fact remains that only men can prevent rape. And it is men’s responsibility to do so.”