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Sexual assault impacts community

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By The Staff

Sexual assault is a social problem that affects every community in our nation. It affects children, women and men. It does not matter the age, religion, socioeconomic status. Rape is the most under -reported crime in America.

Rape requires more than pointing out the problem. Rape requires a communitywide partnership and focusing on the victims.

Dr. Lisabeth Sunders-Medlock reported the following statistics in “Against Their Will Assessment 2008”: The annual sexual assault victim costs are $127 billion (excluding child sex abuse cases), followed by assault at $93 billion per year, murder (excluding arson and drunk driving) at $61 billion per year, and child abuse at $56 billion per year (Miller, Cohen & Wierama/1996). The average rape or attempt rape costs $5,100 in tangible, out-of-pocket expenses. Medical and mental health care to victims represents the bulk of these expenses. However, if rape’s effect on the victim’s quality of life is quantified, the average rape costs $87,000 annually (Miller, Cohen & Wierama/1996).

The Uniform Crime Report (UCR), a compilation of annual crime statistics for the United States prepared annually by the FBI, defines forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a person forcibly or against that person’s will, or when a victim is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent.” Attempts to commit rape are included in this category. One offense is counted for each victim of forcible rape. Statutory rape and other forms of rape that do not meet the UCR’s narrow definition are not counted as rape under the UCR program.

According to the 2006 South Carolina UCR:

- There were 1,810 forcible rapes reported in the 2006 crime index.

- The number of forcible rapes committed per 10,000 persons was 4.2 statewide.

- The relationships of victims to offenders within the family represented 16 percent of the total; outside the family but known to the victim 58.4 percent; strangers 14.5 percent and unknown relationships 11.1 percent.

When you know a victim’s name, face and family, it is hard to accept the reality that rape occurs in our community. It could be your sister, daughter, friend or neighbor. The U. S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey reports that one of every six American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Our responsibility as a community goes far beyond the reporting of rape. We should focus on protecting our children and women from the trauma of abuse or assault. When a child is traumatized, this occurrence is life long and with it comes many other problems such as mental illness, drugs and alcoholism.

Our efforts should be consistent on prevention and elimination of abuse and assault. Of female rapes or sexual assaults, 73 percent were assaulted by someone they knew and 26 percent were assaulted by a stranger, according to the 2008 National Center for Victims of Crime. A study of sexually assaulted adult males found that more than 10 percent of male victims had cognitive disabilities, according to Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2004.

As we recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, be sensitive to the needs of victims and your community. Please know that our children need our support and protection against perpetrators. The teal ribbons you see displayed downtown represent Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Help us protect our community against rape.

Our annual Child Safety Day is planned for June 7 at Lancaster High School from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please bring your children for safety information, nutrition information and lots of fun. Everything is free to the public and sponsored by the Lancaster community.