In Texas, 20% of women and 5% of men are victims of sexual assault (Busch, Bell, DiNitto, & Neff, 2003). However, only 18% of these sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies report their crime statistics to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which informs us about prevalence on a national level. As of 2012, the UCR’s new definition of rape is, “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim” (DOJ, 2012). The new definition now includes all victims, not just women, and removes the requirement for physical force, which was formerly only "forcible". The expanded definition will help to provide a better understanding of the scope and volume of sexual assault crimes.
Definitions vary by state, and in Texas, sexual assault is defined as unwanted oral, vaginal, and anal sex and unwanted sexual contact with other objects (Texas Penal Code, 2011). The definition determines the elements of the criminal offense which must be met to prosecute the crime and obtain justice for victims.
Sexual Assault Kits
A sexual assault kit (otherwise called a forensic medical exam) is an integral piece of evidence that can move a case forward to prosecution. Victims in Texas have the option to receive a medical forensic exam at no cost, with or without making a report to law enforcement. This allows victims to preserve important evidence and take the time they need to decide whether to report (Busch-Armendariz, & Cook Heffron, 2011).
Perpetrators of this crime often use threat, force, or coercion to commit sexual assault and rape. They can be strangers, acquaintances, intimate partners, and family or community members. Perpetrators often commit the crime multiple times throughout their lives (Lisak & Miller, 2002).
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. A person chooses to perpetrate sexual assault against another in order to control and dominate the victim. Despite this, victims of sexual assault and abuse often feel guilt, shame, and self-blame. These feelings may inhibit a victim from reporting the crime or reaching out for help. Even when able to make a police report, victims can feel depressed, anxious, and reluctant to seek further help (Campbell, 2005; Campbell & Raja, 2005).
The trauma of sexual assault may result in impaired brain function in the portion that regulates emotion and memory (Herman, 1997). This may impact the victim’s ability to recall events and to express “appropriate” emotions, or those emotions we may anticipate. Although there are common reactions, there is no “correct” way to feel or act after sexual assault, and reactions vary widely among victims.
National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
Busch, N., Bell, H., DiNitto, D., & Neff, J. (2003). A health survey of Texans: A focus on sexual assault. Retrieved from The University of Texas at Austin, The Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault website: www.utexas.edu/ssw/dl/files/cswr/institutes/idvsa/publications/study.pdf
Busch-Armendariz, N., & Cook Heffron, L. (2011). Non-report sexual assault evidence program: Forging new victim-centered practices in Texas. Retrieved from The University of Texas at Austin, The Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault website: http://www.utexas.edu/ssw/dl/files/cswr/institutes/idvsa/publications/NRSAFE.pdf
Campbell, R. (2005). What really happened? A validation study of rape survivors' help-seeking experiences with the legal and medical systems. Violence And Victims, 20(1), 55-68. doi:10.1891/vivi.2005.20.1.55 http://psychology.msu.edu/vaw/core_faculty/rebecca_campbell/Articles/Campbell_2005.pdf
Campbell, R. & Raja, S. (2005). The sexual assault and secondary victimization of female veterans: Help seeking experiences in military and civilian social systems. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 97-106. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2005.00171.x
Department of Justice. (2012). Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Revisions to the Uniform Crime Report's Definition of Rape. Washington, DC: Department of Justice. Retrieved on July 1, 2012, from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/January/12-ag-018.html
Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence - from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: Basic Books ISBN Number: 0-465-08730-2.
Lisak, D. & Miller, P. M. (2002). Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists. Violence And Victims, 17(1), 73-84. doi:10.1891/vivi.188.8.131.52638 http://www.wcsap.org/sites/www.wcsap.org/files/uploads/webinars/SV on Campus/Repeat Rape.pdf
Texas Penal Code, Section 21 (2011). Retrieved June 26, 2013, from http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.21.htm