Sexual violence is something no person, male or female, should ever have to experience. It is a life-changing event. The trauma after an experience like this can last for a long time, especially if it is never discussed. Sex-related crimes are one of the most unreported crimes around the world.
Sexual violence includes sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. These crimes are being reported more than ever before. We are taking steps to listen to and protect victims. In 2018, the self-reported incidence of rape or sexual assault more than doubled from 1.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 2017 to 2.7. This does not mean there were fewer sex crimes before 2018, this means victims are speaking out. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives. These statistics are staggering. One problem with the statistics out there is they are difficult to compile. A major problem with sexual offenses is the laws vary greatly from state to state. A crime committed in one state may not even be a crime in another. State laws differ on whether rape must involve physical force or threats of physical force, and so on. Even when using national standards, such as the categories reported by the 17,000 police departments submitting Uniform Crime Report data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is impossible for each officer in each department to use the same exact criteria to decide how to classify a crime. We need to work on defining sexual violence crimes. The differences in laws from state to state leave some victims with no rights and no justice.
Substances and Sexual Violence
There are no conclusive estimates as to the number of drug-facilitated sexual assaults that occur each year. However, nationwide law enforcement reporting indicates that the number of assaults appears to be increasing. Many drug-facilitated sexual assaults are not reported. Victims often are reluctant to report incidents because they may feel embarrassed, guilty, or sometimes feel responsible. Making it even more difficult, most of the drugs typically used in the sexual assaults are rapidly absorbed and metabolized by the body. That means those drugs become undetectable in routine urine and blood drug screenings. Sexual assaults have long been linked to the abuse of substances, primarily alcohol, that may decrease inhibitions and render the victim incapacitated. Besides alcohol, the drugs most often used by the perpetrator during a drug-facilitated sexual assault are GHB, Rohypnol (a benzodiazepine), ketamine, and Somas, and other benzodiazepines, like Xanax or Klonopin. These drugs often render victims unconscious—an effect that is quickened and intensified when the drugs are taken with alcohol. Drinking with these substances is dangerous because the mixture can cause a blackout. Heavy drinking can cause blackouts, but when benzodiazepines are put into the mix it can cause a blackout much quicker with less alcohol. That means a potential victim can consume two drinks and still become extremely inebriated or unconscious. A person can also become a victim after taking such a drug willingly. Because of the sedative properties of these drugs, victims often have no memory of an assault, only awareness or sense that they were violated.
It does not matter if you are a drug addict or alcoholic or not. These crimes are serious and it is never the victim’s fault. Addiction does not make any crime against you less than. Turning to drugs or alcohol after an assault does not help the healing process. Studies have shown victims of sexual assault are more likely to turn to substances. Victims are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and a staggering 26 times more likely to turn to drugs.
The trauma of being violated in a sexual way can be consuming. It can leave a victim feeling ashamed, guilty, even alone. These experiences can lead to flashbacks, nightmares, and horrible memories. The trauma can feel so heavy it can change your view on the world. Victims are left with feelings of a lack of safety or trust. Some victims do not tell anyone about the abuse or attack for years or at all. This trauma is not one to be carried alone. If these crimes go unreported, the perpetrators are free to walk around and possibly hurt others. The #MeToo movement has helped make massive strides in helping to change the ideas around sex crimes and harassment. One of the biggest effects of the #MeToo movement has been to show Americans and people around the world how widespread sexual harassment, assault, and other misconduct really are. As more and more survivors spoke out, they learned they were not alone. And people who had never had cause to think about sexual harassment before suddenly saw how much it had affected their coworkers, children, parents, and friends. Knowing you are not alone can help begin the healing process. Therapy is highly recommended for victims of sexual assault.
There is never any justification for these types of crimes. The trauma does not have to be your to carry alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling- reach out. It truly can help.