The facts on sexual assault

Myth: sexual assault is an inconceivable act that only happens to young women that ask for it by leading guys on by flirting and dressing seductively, then reporting it to the police in order to get back at their boyfriends or to save their reputation.

This myth is based on rationalizations frequently used by perpetrators to place the blame on the victim for the crime instead of taking responsibility for their actions.

The offender of sexual assault is responsible. The victim is never to blame, no matter what they are wearing, where they are, and what they are doing.

While scantily-clad attire may be believed to bring on sexual assault, the most common articles worn by victims of sexual assault are blue jeans, followed by hooded sweatshirts.

Sexual assault remains a problematic issue in the university community. Women with some post-secondary education report rates of sexual assault double those of women with any other level of education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2012 that 37.4% of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 18-24, and a different study of undergraduate women showed that 19% experienced sexual assault, including attempted sexual assault, since entering college.

Domestic violence is prevalent among female university students with four out of five female undergraduates surveyed at Canadian universities stated that they have been victims of violence in a dating relationship.

Current or previous romantic partners are responsible for 32% of sexual assaults, with only 22% of sexual assaults committed by offenders unknown to their victims prior to the attack. Other offenders of sexual assaults include 35% who are close friends or acquaintances, while 11% are family members.

Sexual assault by domestic partners is classified separately from other offender-victim relations to ensure that spousal violence is treated as seriously as stranger violence, if not more so.

The police may arrest the offender if they believe that they have broken the law. This may be followed by a jail stay of a few hours until the bail hearing or it may be extended depending on the judge’s decision.

Only 6% of sexual assaults are reported to police, with 34% of the accused being arrested or charged. Probation is the highest form of punishment for 39% of those charged.

The low conviction rate in cases of sexual assault occurs due not only to the low rate in reporting, but also to the infrequency of physical evidence, witnesses, and high emotional trauma of court hearings.

1,397 sexual assaults occur daily in Canada, with a woman or child being sexually assaulted every six minutes. A woman is raped every seventeen minutes in Canada.  One in four women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

The majority of sexual assault victims are women or girls, accounting for 82%, while boys under the age of seventeen account for 15% of sexual assault, with 3% of sexual assault victims being men over the age of seventeen. One in ten adult men has been sexually assaulted, with the majority of perpetrators being heterosexual men.

98% of sexual attackers are men and 50% of offenders are married or living common-law, with children, and are in good standing in the community and are not mentally ill.

There is no statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault in Canada, but the sooner sexual assault is reported to police, the easier it is to convict the offender.

If victims chose not to contact police, it is recommended that victims seek medical attention to assess both internal and external injuries, test for sexually transmitted infections, and if necessary, test for pregnancy, and possibly consider emergency contraception.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and wish to seek help, contact Student Services Counsellors at 204-727-9739 or 204-727-9769.  If you need immediate mental health attention, phone the Westman Mental Health Crisis Line at 204-725-4411.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 104, Issue 3, September 17, 2013.