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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Updated: Jan 22

April is sexual assault awareness month. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016/2017 approximately one in four women in the United States have experienced an attempted or completed rape, as well as 4.5 million men. One in two women and one in four men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact. Only about 28% of victims of rape or sexual assault report the crime to police (Basile, K.C., Smith, S.G., Kresnow, M., Khatiwada S., & Leemis, R.W. (2022). <i>The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Sexual Violence</i>. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.). But growing recognition of the prevalence of sexual assaults in society through efforts such as the recent “#MeToo” movement may be changing that trend.

Sexual assault cases present many challenges for law enforcement officers. Disclosing a sexual assault is difficult and often re-traumatizing for the victim. As a result, many victims delay disclosing a sexual assault. Many rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, placing further pressure on him or her to keep quiet out of fear or embarrassment.

When approaching a sexual assault case, officers must be aware that people react differently to trauma. An officer’s priority should be attending to a victim’s immediate needs. Address all health and safety concerns first and help them regain a sense of control. Remember, victims have a right to accept or decline all services. It is important for officers to be familiar with each step of the criminal justice system and explain the process, creating transparency and building trust with victims during an extremely traumatic time.

Interested in learning more?

PLS offers police online self-study legal, technical, and interpersonal skills training on a wide variety of practical issues to help police officers make good decisions in challenging situations. Click here to request a free trial for your agency.

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