Beyond the Backlog: The Costs of Sexual Violence

Many of us are aware of the personal costs of sexual violence. We may have seen friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues navigate their lives in the in the aftermath of sexual assault or abuse. Maybe a roommate had a lock put on her bedroom door in order to manage her fear, a co-worker may have become distracted at work and seemed depressed after a “bad date” or someone in our own family may stop attending family events to avoid his perpetrator. People that experience this type of abuse suffer in varied and disparate ways, but there is a commonality in that harm is done and the personal costs are steep.

A new produced and distributed by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence outlines some other costs of sexual violence. The document addresses the economic, health care and systems costs associated with sexual violence. It notes that:

  • Each rape costs approximately $151,423;
  • In 2008, violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5% of all health care costs, or up to $750 billion total;
  • Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims, with total estimated costs at $127 billion a year (excluding the cost of child sexual abuse);
  • Sexual abuse interferes with women’s ability to work.

While these figures are dispiriting, there are ways to mitigate these costs and other consequences of sexual violence. The article goes on to state:

“A 2006 study found that when victims receive advocate-assisted services following assaults, they receive more helpful information, referrals, and services and experience less secondary trauma or re-victimization by medical and legal systems (Campbell, 2006). Furthermore, the same study found that when advocates are present in the legal and medical proceedings following rape, victims fare better in both the short- and long-term, experiencing less psychological distress, physical health struggles, sexual risk-taking behaviors, self-blame, guilt and depression.”

At Joyful Heart, we know that how a community responds to survivors is crucial to healing. The initial response can support a survivor on her path to recovery or decrease his feelings and of isolation and hopelessness. Sexual assault advocacy services support survivors in reclaiming a positive sense of self, pursuing the justice that makes us all safer and rediscovering the world and their own bodies as caring and loving places. These services are also cost effective, as they can prevent complex, long-term health problems and they also contribute to increased prosecution rates.

This report reminds us that sexual violence costs us all. We are affected in a number of ways–as individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities–but supportive interventions can mitigate the devastating consequences of violence. We all have a role to play in constructing and supporting such interventions by donating to our local rape crisis center, supporting policies and funding that make services available or just being a compassionate friend, family member or colleague.

Please find the entire document with citations here. For a list of crisis and support centers throughout the United States, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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