Sexual violence remains underreported in the United States

Sexual violence remains underreported in the United States

Reported sexual assault and violence remain significantly lower compared to other reported violent crimes in the United States. 

The number of rape and sexual assaults reported has maintained low over the past two years. Compared to other violent crimes committed and reported within the U.S., rape and sexual assault often go unreported to authority.

Women and people assigned female at birth have dealt with oppression from governing bodies and authority for decades. The current topic of discussion has been the possible overturn of Roe vs. Wade which would allow abortion to be banned in most U.S. states including Ohio. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Consitution shall protect a women’s choice to have an abortion without government restriction, yet reproductive rights are being challenged by governing bodies once more.

“Safe abortions do exist and people will continue to get them whether it’s legal or not,” said Olivia Geiser, a Boston, Massachusetts resident.

If Roe vs. Wade becomes overturned, it will impact the rights of women and those assigned female at births ability to have access to safe and legal abortions, access to birth control, and more.

Denied access to abortion will also influence individuals affected by rape or incest. 

“Can you imagine being raped by a family member, then being forced to have the child who then could have severe mental issues? Then because America hates disabled people, that child will be pushed aside because governing bodies made the mother have the child. It’s a terrible cycle,” said feminist Marley Lieberman of Cleveland Heights.

Reproductive rights are being tested by governing bodies and this influences the number of reported sexual assaults and sexual violence against pregnant people. 

When discussing why sexual assult and sexual violence go unreported, gender is something that comes into question, said lead advocate Arissa Shupe of Townhall II.

“On average it can take a woman two years to come to terms with the fact that they were sexually assaulted, but for men, it can take up to 20 years, so theirs a big difference just based on fear and shame, societies views on what is masculine and feminine, stigma with sexual assault and mental health in general,” Shupe said.

Townhall II, located in Kent, provides 24-hour emergency services to those within Portage County in need of support. Townhall II has a crisis helpline and works with victim advocacy for various topics, including sexual assault and sexual violence. 

Despite instant access to sexual assault helplines, like the one at Townhall II, many victims choose to not report sexual assault and sexual violence to the police.

Reporting a sexual assault is a lengthy process, said Sgt. Matt Buzzard of the North Canton Police Department

“It can be, from initial report to final court proceedings, months or in some cases years. The time investigating an assault varies depending on the availability of witnesses, the time it takes for lab results of evidence submitted for DNA sampling, and the time it takes for a DNA rape kit to be collected and then processed, Buzzard said. Certain steps of the investigative process also might require search warrants which take time to write, process, and serve.”

The number of sexual assaults and violence has remained around 20 people per year, of which were mostly women, he said.

“Sexual assaults are very complicated matters. Victims often feel embarrassed, ashamed and fearful. They are also fearful of so many people knowing about the incident, and potentially facing their attacker or being subjected to a trial,” said Lt. Lewis of the Kent Police Department.

The Kent Police Department reported seven cases of sexual offenses in 2020 and that number increased to 15 cases reported in 2021.

Ohio sexual assault and sexual violence numbers remain higher than most U.S. states.

Based on data from the World Population Review on sexual assaults reported, a large percentage of rapes go unreported. This means the number of sexual assaults that actually happen are above the estimated 5,000 shown below.

Sexual Assaults go unreported based on diversity issues, said Taylr Ucker-Lauderman, Chief Officer of Communications and Engagement at Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. 

“If we think about race a lot of people in various communities, for example, the black community, sometimes do not have trusting relationships with the police, Ucker-Lauderman said. They’ve had negative and harmful experiences with the police, so why would they go to them to report something that has happened.”

Ohio Alliance to end Sexual Assault is a federally designated anti-sexual violence coalition. Each state in the United States has designated coalitions for domestic violence and sexual violence. Some of them are dual, but Ohio has separate ones. OAESV is responsible for training and technical assistance for the local rape crisis centers. When centers need continued education, OAESV helps. OAESV works with legislatures to get the public policy that is helpful for survivors and more funding for centers in Ohio.

“Prevention of sexual violence is possible. There is something that everyone can do to take part, even at the smallest level of how they think about and discuss sexual violence,” Ucker-Lauderman said.

If you have been affected by sexual assault or sexual violence, resources are available. Contact Townhall II in Kent at (330) 678-3006 or OAESV at (888) 886-8388. The National Sexual Assult helpline is 1-800-656-4673. RAINN ((Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Contact them at (800) 656-4673.

“Getting out into the community and talking to people to reduce the stigma revolving around sexual assault and violence is a good start to educating the public,” Shupe of Townhall II said.  

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