Every two minutes, someone becomes a victim of sexual assault

Between 50 percent and 90 percent of sexual assaults or rapes are not reported to police.

Lafayette’s Pam Frey is just one of millions of faces of sexual assault – one of the most underreported crimes in the nation.

Every two minutes, someone becomes a victim, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization 2007 Survey.

What’s more astonishing, Lafayette Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes said, is the number of people who admit to being, directly or indirectly, affected by sexual assault.

“You can conduct a poll in any setting, and you would be amazed by how many individuals … how many families go through something so traumatic like this,” he said.

Misty Noble-Hodge, resource center coordinator for the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, has spent years compiling a statewide database of sexual assault.

The Office of Community Services, housed under the state’s Department of Social Services, had 1,038 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in 2007, according to her findings.

In the city of Lafayette, 68 forcible rapes were reported to the FBI in 2007.

Anne Cunningham, education coordinator for Stuller Place, said social workers interview more than 400 victims from Lafayette and surrounding parishes every year.

Stuller Place, a local nonprofit organization for sexual abuse victims, also serves about 500 men, women and children yearly. Mostly women and children come, Cunningham said.

Judy Benitez, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, said the sad truth is people walk around blind to something that happens right in front of them so often.

“People think it does not happen where they live,” Benitez said. “It happens in your neighborhood. It happens in my neighborhood. It happens everywhere.

Pam Frey shows no outward signs of the trauma of repeated sexual abuse by a family member through her childhood years.

But she knows sexual abuse victims don’t wear one certain face.

“To think that this only happens to a few people,” she said shaking her head, “that’s not true. The saddest thing is there are so many of us. We are the people you sit next to in church. We are the people that you see in the grocery stores. We are the people that you meet every day, but may never know it.”

Stuller Place therapist Lisa Mount said “the stranger in a dark alley is not a real common occurrence” when it comes to sexual offenders.

About 90 percent to 95 percent of the sexual assault victims know their offenders in some way.

This familiarity factor, Mount said, is what makes the crime more prevalent because the offenders often have access to and a built-in trust with their victims.

In her 25 years of studying specifically child sexual assault offenders, UL psychology professor Valanne MacGyvers has found two categories of them – chronic and situational.

Chronic offenders are those repeat offenders who can affect up to 200 to 300 children throughout their lifetimes if they are not caught or reported, she said.

Situational offenders are one-time or rare offenders who commit the crime under the strain of certain situations.

“This happens sometimes when the mother of a family is very ill, and the father maybe turns to his older daughter for that type of attention even though it is wrong,” she said.

Female offenders are rare, MacGyvers said, but they exist.

Most perpetrators, MacGyvers said, were victims at one point in their lives.

But it’s not true that most victims become offenders, she said contesting many myths.

Benitez said remembering that offenders don’t all look or act the same is the first step to parents teaching their kids about sexual assault. Simply teaching them prevention methods are the most effective.

“People tend to try to teach their children to recognize an offender,” Benitez said. “Nobody can recognize an offender. They look just like everyone else.”

SEXUAL ASSAULTS BY THE NUMBERS

Every two minutes, someone becomes a victim of sexual assault.

The Louisiana Office of Community Services, housed under the state’s Department of Social Services, had 1,038 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in 2007.

Between 50 percent and 90 percent of sexual assaults or rapes are not reported to police.

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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