Know your enemy
Interpersonal violence is highly complex, with many causes and variables. There are some things, however, that can provide insight and direction into possible ways to help individuals recognize, transform, avoid, and survive potential conflict situations. The following posts and pages dig into what is going on out there, and look for clues to how we can make a difference!
Safer than ever
In general, we are safer than ever! Almost all measures for crime show significant decreases, and there's been a consistent reduction in measures for over a decade. In general, data indicate our communities are experiencing a time of increasing communication capacity and safety.
Reductions in sexual violence
Looking specifically at rape and sexual assault crimes, these are also showing a decrease of 63% over the last decade or so. Our individual bodies seem to be safer than they have been in the past. With ongoing awareness, intervention, and prevention campaigns against sexual assault, hopefully this number will continue to decrease!
A closer look
When comparing trends, a disturbing pattern seems to exist. While there are drastic rates of decline in many areas of reported crime, the rate of decrease in sexual violence is relatively flat when compared to other forms of violence. Our communities are getting safer, but there seems to be a visible lack of progress concerning rape and other forms of sexual violence. The lack of progress concerning reducing occurrences of rape likely has cultural roots in how we entertain, educate, and encourage each other. Addressing the cultural elements entrenching rape must be a priority for everyone empowered to create and change culture.
Something's Missing Here
Our physical property and our bodies -- our physical "selves" -- are safer than ever, but there is a sense that this safety is not complete. We can see trends and numbers showing our increasingly safe spaces, yet there seems to be a pervasive threat to who we are.
- As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape
- As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape
- Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault
- 1 in 6 women experience, or are targeted, by sexual violence
- By age 18, 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted
- As many as one-third of all high school and college-age young people experience violence in an intimate or dating relationship.
- Physical abuse is as common among high school and college-age couples as married couples.
- Every 98 seconds in America, an American is sexually assaulted.
- From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse
- On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
The frequency at which sexual assault and sexual violence occurs is blood chilling, and speaks to a broader issue than just "occurrence of a crime."
Through the looking glass of abuse
There is a noticeable difference when you compare sexual violence to other violent crimes; the rates of decline don't seem to match. To attribute causality to this would take a much more robust study, but there are some things that are noticeable concerning sexual violence.
The Center for Disease Control defines sexual violence as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. The CDC then provides specific examples or interpretations of this definition that do not need to be repeated here. The core element of this violence is the unilateral and total imposition of control over another human.
Through committing sexual violence, a perpetrator maliciously controls their victim's behavior, movements, expressions, and experience of the moment. The perpetrator violently rewrites another person's narrative, forcing them to play a subservient role and follow a spiteful and harmful script over which they have no ownership.
There are many reasons perpetrators may choose to violate others, all of which I am unable to understand. Research clarifies that regardless of personal motivation, sexual violence revolves around control:
- Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power and control. Sexual assaults are not motivated by reproductive/sexual desire for intercourse
- Sexual offenders are “ordinary” individuals who sexually assault victims to assert power and control over them and inflict violence, humiliation and degradation - the goal is to exert control over another.
- Many victims love their partners despite the abuse, blame themselves, or feel as if they have no support system or resources outside of the relationship and so they feel as if they can’t leave - they are trapped by the controlling, abusive "other."
As a society, we all pay for sexual violence through lost relationship potential. The abused are likely to face many obstacles to fully engaging in social, economic, and cultural participation required for human societies to thrive. Sexual violence threatens to transform our social, economic, and cultural landscape into that of isolated individuals. Victims of this abuse are more likely than non-victims to experience the following mental health challenges:
Drug Abuse Legacy
- People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public, about 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
- 6 times more likely to use cocaine
- 10 times more likely to use other major drugs
Mental Health Impact
- About 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
- About 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
- 94% of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the two weeks following the rape
- 30% of women report PTSD symptoms 9 months after the rape
- 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide
- 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide
- Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime
- 38% of victims of sexual violence experience work or school problems, which can include significant problems with a boss, coworker, or peer
- 37% experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime
- 84% of survivors who were victimized by an intimate partner experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school
- 79% of survivors who were victimized by a family member, close friend or acquaintance experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school
- 67% of survivors who were victimized by a stranger experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school
It is in everyone's best interest to address the issue of sexual violence & control-as-crime; but what, exactly, is it, who does it affect, and how can we work to make things better?
Acknowledging the impact of sexual violence on women
Women receive the highest amount of sexual violence in our society - and throughout the world. While the facts and figures can speak to the scale of the issues, the pain caused by sexual violence is not measurable through numbers.
- Nine (9) of 10 people experiencing sexual violence will be women and girls.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted)
As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape
- 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 90% of adult rape victims are female,
- Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
- Women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
- Women ages 18-24 who are NOT enrolled in college are 4 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
- One (1) in 9 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
- 1 in 7 women are stalked by an intimate partner
- 1 in 6 college women have been sexually abused in a dating relationship
- 1 in 5 Women are raped – 47% of those by a known person, friend, or intimate partner
- 1 in 4 dating teens is abused or harassed online or through texts by their partners
- 1 in 3 college women experience an abusive dating relationship
Acknowledging women does not dismiss men
Men certainly are also at risk of rape and sexual violence as well, though the rate of attack is significantly lower. Of males attacked, a specifically noted at-risk group are college aged males.
- One (1) out of every 10 rape victims are male
- As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape
- About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime
- 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
- Male students ages 18-24 are five times more likely than non-students of the same age to experience sexual violence
Violence Against Children & Teens
Most people who find themselves facing a rape or sexual assault attack situation are below the age of 30. Many of these ages fall in the years in which we form our identities and seek relationships. These attacks not only threaten our bodies and minds in the moment; they threaten the future of who we will be!
When looking at children - individuals not yet 18 years of age - who face these attack situations, the large majority are age 12 to 17. At least 2 of 3 children who experience a rape or sexual assault attack situation are in this age range.
Violence Against LGBTQ Individuals
The LGBTQ population is at high risk for sexual violence - And that's NOT okay!
- Between 20 and 35 percent of LGBTQ couples experience domestic violence.
- LGBTQ youth report a 30 percent incidence of dating violence, compared to 9 percent for heterosexual students
- 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
- 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
- Nearly half (48 percent) of bisexual women who are rape survivors experienced their first rape between ages 11 and 17
In addition to often being denied the right to simply exist in public spaces, transgender students are at higher risk for sexual violence
- One (1) in 2 transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives
- 12 percent of all transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff
- In a 2009 NCAVP report by 50 percent of people who died in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people were transgender women
- 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males,
When working towards the resolution of an issue or problem, the facts need to be correct. If the information or beliefs about the problem are wrong, then the solution will be wrong. In the case of protecting from sexual violence, there's no margin of error for "wrong."
- Almost all sexual assaults occur between members of the same race.
- In the USA, 57% of assaults are committed by individuals labeled as "white."
Focusing on a self-defense strategy to protect against strangers leaves a large gap in defensive awareness and abilities when it comes to sexual violence and rape culture.
- A devastating total of 3 out of 4 rapes are committed by an individual known to the victim.
- Only 4% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone deemed to be a "stranger."
- In all, 79% of rapes committed involve a perpetrator or perpetrators who are known to the victim.
- Studies show that approximately 80%-90% of women reporting sexual assaults knew their assailant.
With younger individuals, teaching stranger-danger based self-defense curriculum to protect against sexual violence is an even more misguided approach. When looking at sexual violence committed against minors:
- 93% of victims knew the people who raped them.
- 59% of the abusers were known acquaintances
- 34% were family members
- 7% were strangers to the victim
Out of the yearly 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated/found strong evidence by Child Protective Services (CPS), the perpetrator was most often the parent:
- 80% of perpetrators were a parent
- 6% were other relatives
- 5% were "other" (from siblings to strangers)
- 4% were unmarried partners of a parent
Where is the danger
Similar to the distraction of stranger-danger, the threats we face often find us closest to where we assume they will not take place.
- The majority of assaults occur in places ordinarily thought to be safe, such as homes, cars and offices
- Roughly 67% of rape and sexual assault cases occur in a home or family environment; the defender's home or that of a relative.
- 48% of individuals attacked were sleeping, or performing another activity at home
- 29% were traveling to and from work or school, or traveling to shop or run errands
- 12% were working
- 7% were attending school
Armed to the teeth, or just armed with teeth?
A central element of You Defense is allowing the defender (you) to determine the level of threat posed by any attacker or any item wielded by that attacker. Information on weapons used in assault is meant to inform and prepare participants, not dictate their responses or judge threats for them!
- Roughly 11% of rape and sexual assault cases involve the use of a weapon.
- Of those involving weapons, 6% involved guns, 4% involved knives, and 1% involved weapons categorized as "other."
- In a large majority of cases -- 2 out of 3 -- the attackers use what is referred to as "personal weapons," such as hands, feet, teeth, etc.
- Most situations will involve a single attacker; 90% of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by a single perpetrator.
Information gathered from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network.
Information gathered from:
- RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network,
- Victim Connect,
- US Department of Justice,
- National Review,
- PEW Research Center
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center,
- Southern Connecticut State University
- Human Rights Campaign,
- Center for Disease Control,
- Office of Justice Programs
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,
- National Domestic Violence Hotline,
- Safe Horizons