Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reader's Choice: Cigarettes and Sexual Violence

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me with interesting articles, statistics, and topics of interest. Today, I'm focusing on an article that was sent to me. This is something I'd very much like to implement--a sort of Reader's Choice. So, if you come across interesting reads, films, etc. that will educate us, help us break barriers, and grow, send them on. And, I'd certainly love if anyone is interested in guest posting sometime. This is a forum for everyone.

The title of the article for today's Reader's Choice reads, "In US, more women were raped last year than smoke cigarettes." I received this article from a close friend who reads the blog often. She, too, is passionate about making change.  This article summarized the findings from a study that begin in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and continued into 2011. 1 in 5 women are estimated to have been victims of rape.  For 80% of the victims, their first rape occurred before the age of 25. And, the majority of victims knew their perpetrator.

When I teach about sexual violence, my students and I often talk about what rape looks like. Who are perpetrators? Who are victims? What is "real rape"? Real rape embodies the false idea that rape most often occurs at the hands of a male stranger, dressed in all black, who jumps out of the bushes, and forces himself on his female victim. Real rape, though, is not what occurs most often. It presents a false image and discredits the experiences of women who find themselves victimized by those they know and trust.

This information comes at an interesting time given the change in how 'rape' is defined.  We now include non-forcible assault and crimes against men. This is huge. For instance, under the past conceptualization of rape, Jerry Sandusky would not be considered. After all, his violence was against little boys.  But, under our new definition, we move to discredit "real" rape. Just think for a moment though; the statistics above are from before this change in definition. Just imagine how the numbers would skyrocket in the next annual report. And, sexual assault is remains the most underreported crime in the United States, so we must also consider this when thinking about the statistics.

1 in 5.  Think about the women in your life. 1 in 5 has experienced rape. This is a violation of women's rights that impacts everyone. We are that woman. We know that woman.

By arming ourselves, our communities, our society, and our government with this information and considering the new changes in definition--maybe now we can finally make effective change in the treatment of sexual violence. We can no longer overlook the impact sexual violence has.

Other important statistics to consider:

  • Every 2 minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
  • 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement
  • Among high school students, 9.3% of black students, 7.8% of Hispanic students, and 6.9% of white students reported that they were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives (2008)
  • In a nationally representative sample, 60.4% of female and 69.2% of male victims were first raped before the age of 18.

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