According to a newspaper article in the New York Times, “…almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime…” says Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. If one believes the figure is very high, then reflect on the fact that a great number of women never report rape: “60% of sexual assaults are not reported.” Even more frightening is the fact that “every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted” (RAINN).
With all the news coverage on Bill Cosby and his alleged sexual assaults on over fifteen women, the topic of sexual assault, specifically rape, begs the question, why? What type of society accepts, forgives (97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail (RAINN) and tolerates this horrid crime?
We are a civilized country. Aren’t we? We tell the rest of the world we are. Don’t we? When we hear of women in other countries being sexually assaulted, we are outraged. We demand something be done. We say the population is lacking justice, yet what have we Americans done differently? Research seems to show that those who commit sexual crimes tend to return again and again to prison more so than individuals who committed other crimes (Dr. Ron Sanchez, Supervising Psychologist at Utah State Prison). So, why aren't our jail terms longer? More severe?
I know of several cases of sexual abuse where the criminal has never seen a courtroom because the victims feared they would be judged rather than the abuser. Many of the news stories regarding college sexual assaults report the same belief. Young girls would rather suffer in silence than tell authorities. In some cases, even when they do tell college officials, they are refrained from taking further action.
So, what do we do? How do we change our society to respect women? How do we encourage women to come forward? Think of the Bill Cosby cases. These women are coming out many years later and are now being judged because they waited. I cannot answer why they waited. They may have a variety of reasons not the least of which may be that when they were younger they feared what would be said about them not the rapist. Many say they were drugged, which may indicate they lacked memory of the incident for many, many years. Therapy may have helped bring the truth to light. We don’t know.
I do know, from personal experience, that declaring a sexual assault to the outside world is very, very difficult. The victim is never looked at as solely a victim. She may be viewed as the motivator. No other crime that I know of has similar conditions. One who is a victim of a mugging is considered a victim. If one’s house is broken into, we all feel terrible for the victim, but when a woman is raped or sexually assaulted, we wonder what she said, what she wore, what she did, etc. Maybe, that’s why so many stay silent.
The legal system defines rape, “Rape is a crime of violence and control,” and then in the next breath the courts demand to know, “what was she wearing?” It’s a crime, a violent crime. Let’s leave it at that and let’s treat it as that. Let’s treat rapists as we would murderers and put them away for a very long time, so they can’t kill again because they do kill. They kill the spirit. They kill the soul. They kill that wonderful gift of peace.© Natala Orobello