Justice News

Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Bea Hanson Speaks at the Department of Justice Sexual Assault Awareness Month Event
United States
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Good Afternoon and Welcome. Thank you all for being here to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We are honored to have Department of Justice Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) Associate Director Michelle Brickley, Ms. Indira Henard from the DC Rape Crisis Center and Mr. M.E. Hart from Hart Learning Group with us today.

Rape and sexual violence is a serious problem facing women, men and our communities.

Results from the recently released CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives; this includes completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and alcohol or drug facilitated completed penetration.

Trends in victimization show that rape and sexual violence begins early in life. Approximately 80% of female victims experience rape before the age of 25 and almost half experienced the first rape before age 18.

What is more startling is that women raped as minors are more likely to be re-victimized as adults. About 35% of women raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early history of rape.

The majority of this violence is committed by serial and multi-faceted offenders. Multiple studies have documented that between 33% and 66% of rapists have also sexually attacked children, and up to 82% of child molesters have victimized adults.

Over the past couple of years OVW has made a concerted effort to prioritize sexual violence by providing grants to address the gap in services and resources for victims and survivors of rape and sexual violence.

Currently, the vast majority of supportive services available to victims of sexual assault are offered through agencies that provide services to domestic violence victims or multi-service organizations that provide a wider variety of social services to a particular community.

We have found through our 17 years of providing grants to organizations and talking to service providers and victims across the country that these dual and multi-service agencies are often weighted heavily toward meeting the need of domestic violence victims with minimal dollars and staff time dedicated to serving sexual assault survivors.

One way OVW is addressing this service and resource gap was through the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative. SADI was developed to determine best practices for expanding and enhancing sexual assault services in dual or multi-service agencies.

In continuing the mission of OVW to provide federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women and strengthen services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking OVW is excited to announce a recent victory in how rape is defined within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system.

The new definition of rape is “the 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 consent of the victim.”

This definition is responsive to calls of law enforcement officials and sexual assault advocates and the needs of victims and survivors, and would not have been possible without the strong support of Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

OVW is committed to continuing our partnership with the FBI, state and local governments, tribal communities, and stakeholders to assist with the transition by providing training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and others.

OVW will assist states and localities in explaining any increases in reported rapes by: Reassuring the public that they are better informed and that the change represents a clearer picture of reality that will help improve public safety.

Though it will take time to be fully implemented, the new definition makes an immediate impact by telling victims, perpetrators, and members of the public that all rapes count.

OVW is encouraged by the Department of Justice’s commitment and response to address gaps in rape and sexual violence awareness, prevention and prosecution. Please help me welcome Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West.