As part of the National Violence Prevention Hotlines (NVPH), part of our focus is to prevent sexual violence by interacting with individuals that are thinking about committing such acts. The purpose of this is to help individuals well before they commit themselves to a lifetime of needless pain as well as potential victims. Below we will dive into the statistics of sexual violence, the effects, etiology, and what can be done to change outcomes. The purpose of this is to increase your knowledge about how often these acts occur, why they happen and how the NVPH can intervene to decrease the problem at its source.
Sexual violence and assault is a major issue in the United States. As part of the safety measures taken in the US to increase awareness of this problem, RAINN has complied data on sexual violence that is committed in the United States. Currently each year, the average number of individuals that are affected by sexual assault (including rape) sits at approximately 463,000 people. In addition, individuals most at risk are between the ages of 12-34. Furthermore as of 1998, more than 17.5 million women have been victims of attempted or completed rape in the United States (RAINN, 2023).
Effects of Sexual Violence
As we think about the number of individuals that have been sexually assaulted since 1998, we could take that number and end our inquiry however there are very important reasons that we should not. The long-term effects of victims that have been sexually assaulted is another crucial factor in the lexicon of our health care system. Not only are these violent crimes terrible for the victims at the time of incident but the lasting effects also have a massive impact on the healthcare system due to trauma and diagnoses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (which can occur immediately or months after a sexual assault). These factors also effect how much Americans pay into their healthcare premium each month. This truth can be a barrier for others needing to obtain services due to healthcare premium discrepancies.
These lasting effects that may require treatment are self-harm, STIs, substance abuse, mild-extreme dissociation that includes depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, unwanted pregnancies, sleep disorders, and suicide (RAINN, 2023). These healthcare pathologies and more come in addition to post traumatic stress, which is an obvious effect for many after experiencing sexual assault (Dworkin et al., 2017). The lasting effect of sexual violence is something that victims live with in a very serious way.
So where does sexual violence come from and why does it continue? There have been many myths that have been pushed into our society such as tactics that increase victimization and placing this blame on the individual that has been sexually assaulted. The unfortunate pattern of blaming the victim decreases accountability to the individual committing a violent non-consensual act. This may be due to many reasons, but is not a topic for this article. As it relates to the etiology of sex offending there are 4 main characteristics that can determine whether someone is at risk of sexually offending: sexual arousal, thought processes, emotional control, and personality problems (Faupel, 2023). As a society we are currently failing to identify preventative measures to help individuals dealing with such issues to be able to find a place of understanding through addressing emotional issues through talk-based therapy and trauma informed counseling. Thus, sexual violence is rampant and is rarely prevented. Our systems tend to react after the crime has occurred. Even worse, many in our society deny that sexual violence is an issue.
In addition to these factors, the items that perpetuate these ideas and denialist attitudes are related to rigid adherence to gender-based stereotypes, or the perpetrator has experienced similar or dissimilar abuse within their family of origin or other interpersonal relationship dynamics (Rutgers University, 2023). Often, when we as people experience traumas (whether similar or dissimilar) we seek ways to feel in control. If one’s personal trauma is not resolved internally, some may seek external control over others—thus resorting to sexual violence.
What Do We Do with All of This?
One of the most impactful things that we can do with this information is fund the National Violence Prevention Hotline! The NVPH places its attention on helping individuals that are dealing with conflicts related to their desires to commit sexually violent acts and are struggling with finding an answer to resolve it. People contemplating sexual violence could have free anonymous help online or on the phone to help deescalate them or refer them to local therapeutic resources—making them less likely to act out. The impact that NVPH would have on our society both interpersonally and financially would allow the other money not funding the NVPH to address more prevention strategies that help people instead of condemning them, post-crime. It is important to recognize that these acts should not be tolerated, and they should be prosecuted, yet someone that struggles with desires to commit sexual violence should be helped before they act to decrease any future crimes. As we know, reacting after a crime doesn’t stop all of someone’s future crimes, it only pauses them until one is no longer incarcerated.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of wanting to harm someone else, please reach out to The National Violence Prevention Hotline so that we can help connect them with services in their area to help them address the problems they are dealing with before it becomes a problem for the rest of us!
Dworkin, E. R., Menon, S. V., Bystrynski, J., & Allen, N. E. (2017). Sexual assault victimization and psychopathology: A review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 56, 65-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2017.06.002
Faupel, S. (2023). Etiology of adult sexual offending. Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking | Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. https://smart.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh231/files/media/document/etiologyofadultsexualoffending.pdf
RAINN. (2023). Effects of sexual violence. RAINN | The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence
RAINN. (2023). Victims of sexual violence: Statistics. RAINN | The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
Rutgers University. (2023). Why does sexual violence occur? Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance – Rutgers University | Division of Student Affairs – New Brunswick. https://vpva.rutgers.edu/sexual-violence/why-does-sexual-violence-occur/