Jeremiah 8:18 NIV
I have a sobering Valentine’s Day message. I wish to share with you a burden that is heavy on my heart.
By profession, I am a Mental Health Counselor and a large component of my practice is with women who were sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted as adults. Boys and men do not escape such abuse, but are far more reticent to report. They’re more likely to end up in drug court or jail rather than in a therapist’s office.
When you’re attending church, a ballgame, or shopping this weekend, be aware that roughly 25% of the women there were sexually abused before the age of eighteen. There are children near you who are currently being sexually abused. If they do tell someone, it is often years after the occurrence. Many of these girls and women will NEVER tell anyone.
You will likely to be standing in line, or sharing a pew or bleacher, with perpetrators. Most will never be confronted with their crimes, and those who are will escape conviction due to “lack of evidence.” There’s no DNA test for the damage done to a human heart and spirit. If convicted, the sentence will not reflect the life-long devastation wrought on their victim and her family.
Many people are baffled that victims often don’t report. “Why didn’t you scream?” “Why didn’t you tell someone?” Perpetrators tell children, “Don’t tell anyone or you’ll get in trouble.” “If you tell, I’ll hurt your mommy (brother, sister, YOU).” Big sisters will often endure abuse in the hopes that younger siblings will be left alone.
Women rarely scream for help because they are frozen in fear. Violence—even threats—is a powerful silencer. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by people the victims know. Imagine breaking the silence and telling on a relative, pastor, neighbor, family friend, husband or boyfriend; now an entire family is affected. Will you be believed, or accused of lying? (“The rate of false reports of rape is approximately 2%-3% which is no different than for other crimes.”).
Ironically, “22% of all women say that they have been forced to do sexual things against their will, where only 3% of men admit to ever forcing themselves on a woman.”
Shockingly, “The United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics (13 times higher than England; 20 time that of Japan).”
Sadly, “18% of women who reported being raped before age 18 said they were also raped after age 18.” These women are not “asking for it” by how they act or dress. They are dramatically more vulnerable than non-victims and perpetrators easily find and target them.
Despairingly, those who have the courage to pursue prosecution of their perpetrator, will be further emotionally wounded by painful experiences with medical personnel, law enforcement, the legal system and media. Sitting in a court room with a perpetrator is a nightmare. If they’ve been assaulted by someone they have previously had consensual sex with, they will probably settle out of court; juries are stymied by this dilemma. It’s better to settle for a lesser conviction than to see one’s offender walk free.
Survivors numb their emotional pain via eating disorders and abusing drugs and alcohol. They suffer from long term depression and anxiety disorders. If they ever establish a loving relationship, their love life will be scarred by the abuse. Husbands and boyfriends often do not understand the long term consequences of abuse and, in frustration, push for sex, further wounding the women they love—and their relationship.
All is not well this Valentine’s Day. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses, and romantic dinners cannot heal these bleeding hearts.
Compassion, patience, a listening, nonjudgmental ear, are healing ointment and protective bandages—dispense liberally. There’s no greater gift.
Sexual Assault Statistics, Men Against Sexual Assault, University of Rochester http://sa.rochester.edu/masa/stats/php
Bureau of Justice: Crime and Victim Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict.htm
Bureau of Justice Statistics Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/abstracts/rsarp00.htm
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, http://www.rainn.org
Violence Against Women Online Resources: Document Library, http://www.vaw.umn.edu/library/sexualassault/
WHO (World Health Organization): Gender-based Violence, http://www.who.int/gender/violence/en/