Sexual assault prevention is a cause long championed by women. As the chief victims of the crime are female —about 90% of rape survivors are female — rape has often fallen into the category of "women’s issues." Since 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the country have been sexually assaulted, it is clear that this issue affects all Americans. Whether they are family members, close friends, or just acquaintances, all of us know survivors of sexual assault, even if we aren’t aware of it. This makes sexual assault prevention a human issue, not just a women's issue. We are all responsible for making every effort we can to prevent this heinous crime.
Luckily, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a chance for us, regardless of gender, to inform ourselves of the realities of rape in the United States. Sexual assault continues to be one of the most underreported crimes in the country, and the silence wrapped around victims can lead us to be complacent.
The good news is that anyone can help break this silence. To begin, all we must do is educate ourselves on the facts and make sexual assault a part of our conversations about safety and justice. We can open the door for survivors to come forward with their stories and receive justice for their suffering. Here are a few statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network that shed light on the subject:
1. 54% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police.
An average taken over five years resulted in an estimate that only 46% of all sexual assaults perpetrated ever make it as far as the authorities. The silence surrounding this crime is immense, and comes from a history of victim blaming and rape culture in the United States. Imagine if only 46% of murders or robberies were ever reported — it would compromise the security of other potential targets of these crimes, as well as be unfair and oppressive to those already victimized. The under-reporting of sexual assault has all of these outcomes, but the silence also results in decreased awareness of the problem, creating a cycle of ignorance.
2. Someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes.
Despite lack of reporting, sexual assault does occur regularly. While the assaults may not be spread equally over time, about 201,754 people are raped yearly in the U.S., which divided over the 525,600 minutes in a year leaves us with the one rape every two minutes statistic. This means that for the six minutes it takes you to skim this article, three people are raped. For every forty minutes you spend making dinner for your family, 20 people have been assaulted. It is fair to say, then, that rape is a far from rare occurrence.
3. 73% of assaults are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows.
Everyone fears the rapist jumping out in the middle of the night and attacking vulnerable women walking home alone. While this does happen, the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by acquaintances, friends, and even the significant others of survivors. These are the kinds of sexual assaults that never get reported. Survivors experience guilt and confusion regarding assaults from people they trusted, and even loved.
4. Rates of sexual assault have decreased by 60% sing 1993.
There is hope. With education and advocacy, we have made great strides in just two decades. Continuing to learn and talk about sexual assault will bring this crime out of the shadows, where it can be dealt with as effectively as any other criminal offense.