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For those of you that know me, I am truly passionate about trauma therapy.  My specialty is my work with sexual assault survivors and combat veterans.  I am watching the Academy Awards and am particularly moved by Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens To You” from the movie “The Hunting Ground.”  I am moved to blog for several reasons. Number 1: Why haven’t I heard of this movie until now?!  I can’t wait to see it and I WILL seek it out.  It’s such an important subject and must be placed in the hands of mainstream entertainment so the topic can be discussed as a mainstream topic.  I looked up some statistics to make it more evident why the issue of sexual assault IS a mainstream issue.

According to RAINN ((Rape, Incest, Abuse, National, Network)

  • Every 107 seconds, another sexual assault occurs
  • There is an average of 293,000 instances (victims age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
  • 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
  • 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
  • About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33— have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. From 1995-2010, 9% of rape and sexual assault victims were male. 78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.
  • 1 out of every 6 American womenhas been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization, 2010,National Crime Victimization Survey:

  • In 2010 there were 188,380 reports of rape and/or sexual assault in the United States.
  • More than half of rape and sexual assault crimes take place between 6pm and 6am.
  • Females are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault (182,000) than males (40,000).
  • Most victims of rape or sexual assault are females younger than 24 years of age.
  • Most rapes committed against women are committed by an intimate partner (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend) or someone else they know (friend, family member, acquaintance).

These numbers are focused on the American population. But sexual assault is blind of nationality, race, and gender (although it was long believed only women were sexually assaulted).  What this means is we all need to be aware that it is happening and unfortunately continues to happen.  Also, it is crucial that we understand, sexual assault happens MOST often in familiar environments.  According to the above statistics most assailants are KNOWN by their victims.  This leads me to another reason why I need to blog. Number 2: It is a great time to educate what is sexual assault? And what do we need to know about it? Here are 2 definitions I like the most:

According to the US Dept. of Justice: Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition ofsexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

According to RAINN: Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.

My Definition: Sexual Assault is a crime of power in which the victim is violated by any type of sexual behavior without his or her explicit consent.

I can go further in my definition, leading me to reason number 3 of why to comment now: The violation can lead to arrested development, altering the ability to establish and maintain healthy and adaptive relationships, and can KILL a survivor slowly over time. With that definition it is pertinent to understand the role of social education and why a film such as “The Hunting Ground” and having a power house such as Lady Gaga perform “Till It Happens To You,” is important for mainstream society.  It will hopefully open communication about how to protect ourselves from becoming a statistic but also offer support to survivors.  In my experience as a clinician the second tier traumatizing that survivors experiencing in lack of support for survivors is a major factor in not helping victims. Making sexual assault a mainstream issue will hopefully help end victim blaming and ostracizing.  Sexual assault treatment is imperative in helping victims work through the traumas they have survived and go from “surviving” to “thriving” in their personal lives.  With support and validation and competent treatment sexual assault victims can become survivors and with this film and song we will talk about it for what it is:  A real crime occurring every 1minute 47seconds in America that needs to STOP and give meaning to the word “NO.” Where victimize stop being further victimized by being blamed and have their crime minimized and overlooked.