By Kaitlyn Fischer.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are topics that many people intentionally avoid. Not just because of the horrifying facts and realization of it all – like the fact that a quarter of women in the United States suffer from domestic violence – but because the stigma associated with it is truly astonishing.
People suffer from domestic violence in every country. A 2005 study showed that 31% of women in India had experienced domestic violence just twelve months prior, and 8.3% had dealt with sexual violence. The numbers rise when you look at Pakistan; as of 2008, in between 50 and 90 percent of their women have endured some form of abuse.
In America, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college alone with only 1% of their assailants actually being punished. Out of female college age rape victims, 34% are physically forced, 57% are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 4% are drugged without their knowledge. Women are also most likely to be raped during their first two years of college. 4% of undergraduate men also experience sexual assault, which is an important fact that is too often ignored.
A 2002 study that interviewed college men showed that 6% of the men had attempted or committed rape, with most of them being repeat offenders who committed up to five or more assaults each. In fact, 63% of college men who committed rape admitted to being repeat offenders, and 70% of them admitted to committing other acts of violence such as domestic abuse.
It’s no wonder that women in every country feel unsafe, especially when sexual assault from strangers isn’t the only danger they face; A survey conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control showed that one in four women have reported being physically beaten by their intimate partner and one in six have reported being stalked in America alone. The study also showed that one third of women had been victims of various assaults and that an estimated 1% – equivalent to 1.3 million – of women are expected to be victims of rape or attempted rape per year, not including other forms of abuse or assault. It also showed that 1 in 7 men had experienced violence at the hands of their intimate partner and 1 in 71 had been raped.
80% of female rape victims are assaulted before the age of 25, and almost half said that they had been raped before the age of 18, with 35% of underage rape victims also becoming adult rape victims. It isn’t just strangers that are raping them either, despite common belief. More than half of female rape victims were raped by intimate partners, and 40% were raped by someone else that they knew. Men reported that more than half of the male rape victims were raped by someone that they knew as well.
And these statistics are only based on the assaults that are reported; 54% of rapes go unreported. And the victims are left with long-term problems; everything from PTSD, anxiety, depression to STD’s and pregnancy – 32,000 pregnancies every year in the U.S., to be exact. And if the victim decides to complete the pregnancy, her rapist can sue for custody and visitation rights in 31 states, forcing her to possibly be involved with him for the rest of her life.
So now, since we have established how common rape truly is, let us ask ourselves why.
Firstly, a large majority of rape kits go untested or take a significant amount of time to be tested. After a lab in Detroit, Michigan closed down in 2008, more than 11,300 untested rape kits were found left on the shelves. Although this percentage has lowered thanks to previous Vice President Joe Biden and New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance announcing a $79 million dollar initiative to help end the rape kit backlog, tens of thousands of rape kits are still suspected of going untested. It is also hard to prove that a rape took place if the assailant used contraception or did not need to use physical violence (this case can occur when the victim is previously unconscious, was drugged, etc.).
Secondly, many sexual assault and domestic abuse cases are not reported (as previously stated). This is often out of fear of authorities not taking them seriously or acting in a suspicious or shaming manner when taking their report. Victims are also pressured to remain silent by both their rapist and also by other people in their life, often threatened or blamed for the assault that occurred.
Thirdly, many rapists do not spend a very significant amount of time behind bars if they are even convicted, to begin with. In the Brock Turner case that took place in the year of 2015, the Stanford student was granted six months in prison for three felonies – a sentence that should have had him incarcerated for years. And to make matters worse, he was released after serving just three months of his sentence – a punishment that is beyond unjust.
With rape culture acting out an important role in every woman’s day to day life, it is disturbing to think that more methods of protection and attempts to lower the statistics are not set in place. With that being said, there are some; Four college students from North Carolina State University – Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tyler Confrey-Maloney and Tasso Von Windheim – have invented a nail polish that will detect common drugs used to render women vulnerable and unconscious when the painted nails are placed and stirred throughout the drink she has been given. The nail polish – which has been named Undercover Colors by its founders – is not yet available, but the team is currently raising money and working towards its launch. You can join them here: http://www.undercovercolors.com/
There is also a pair of underwear in development by a clothing company named AR Wear that locks in order to prevent rape. The underwear – which have to be removed with two hands – prevent the attempting assailant from restraining the victim with his hands, allowing her a chance to fight back and hopefully escape. The product comes in underwear, shorts, and pants, none of which have been released to the public yet. The New York women were inspired to create the clothing after experiencing attempted rape and feeling unsafe in their own city. They have been working to raise money on Indiegogo in order to launch the line.
Women have also been taking a stand rather than taking precaution. Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student, made headlines when she carried the mattress that she was raped on around her college campus in a protest to remove her rapist from the university. After she came forward, two other women did as well, proving that her assailant was a repeat offender. However, their rapist was not found responsible for these attacks and was allowed to stay at the school, proving the lack of justice that many assault victims face.
As a part of an art project that she created for a class at Nebraska Wesleyan University, student Emma Krenzer made a piece which highlights the map of sexual assault by posting images with paint smeared across her naked body in various colors, showing who had touched her and where.
With men and women standing up against rape culture, we are allowing ourselves to experience power and justice even if no one else gives it to us. This group of advocates needs to grow.
Living in an unsafe world is a horrible reality for a large majority of this world’s population – so let’s all work together to change that.