Every 73 Seconds An American Is Sexually Assaulted

by Martha McCall
Martha McCall Martha McCall

“No amount of me trying to explain myself was doing any good. I didn't even know what was going on inside of me, so how could I have explained it to them?” ―Sierra D. Waters, Debbie.

Why should I try to explain events I can’t make sense of, or I don’t understand why it happened? I am challenged to recount an event I really want to forget and wished it never happened. I can’t remember what I said, but I did not give permission. I did not say “no” but my fighting and pushing away was not a “yes” and did not SPEAK consent. If I can’t remember every detail of this horrendous event with a logical explanation, I am guilty and not the perpetrator. I WAS VIOLATED and the most precious things I hold dear, my body, my safety, my integrity, my self-esteem, and my memories, ARE SHATTERED. I trusted him and never thought it could or would happen to me. Who can I trust to tell? How do I move forward? How can I be healed? How can I be released from the guilt and shame that was forced upon me? Where do I go for help? Where is justice?

• Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

• 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

• 72% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger.

• 73% of sexual assaults occurred in the home/residence

• About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

Sexual violence continues to be a public health crisis and is a crime that effects every population and geographic area, crossing international borders. According to Cadaret (2019), sexual violence involves any form of uninvited verbal or sexual contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, and completed rape. The Bureau of Justice of Statistics (BJS), generated a test to establish the best method to identify, report and define rape and sexual assault:

Rape - Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force and attempted rapes including verbal threats of rape.

Sexual assault - These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. It also includes verbal threats.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2019 there were 2,378 rape incidents reported by 405 law enforcement agencies which covers 98% of total population in South Carolina.

Sexual abuse is not defined or confined by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, culture, or subculture. Victims/Survivors of sexual abuse have lived in the poorest conditions, lived in the White House, lived in a castle, and may be your neighbor, family member, co- worker, church member, or best friend. I understand in times passed, sexual assault was thought to be an attack on women; however, this myth is dispelled by the exposure of abuse against boys, girls, and men who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their offender(s).

While the effects of sexual abuse on victims are unique and vary, the consequences are common among survivors. Victims/survivors of sexual abuse carry the weight of the abuse and memories that significantly effects victims’ physical, psychological, and emotional health. The physical and psychological injuries become long-term barriers and challenges for survivors and, as a result and without support, future revictimization (Walker, 2017).

The month of April is recognized nationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and a focus month for Pee Dee Coalition to bring awareness to a social issue that has been inaudible.

It is critical for victims and survivors of sexual abuse to be heard and obtain the support needed to recover and heal. In Romans 12:10 (KJV), we are adjured to be kindly affectioned to one another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.

How can you help? How can you answer victims/survivors’ questions to help support the recovery process? Victims/survivors of sexual abuse can recover. To support their voice:

• Be sensitive and listen to victims and allow them to be heard.

• Reassure victims that the abuse was not their fault and validate victims’ experience.

• Hold the offender fully accountable.

• Acknowledge victims’ strengths and ability to heal/recover.

• Thank victims for reporting and/or going through the very difficult criminal justice process.

We also have a 24-hour Crisis Line where victims/survivors can speak with a person 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you know someone who has been sexually abused or need help, SPEAK OUT and support victim/survivors SPEAKING OUT by encouraging them to call our 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-800-273-1820.