Speaking for the Victims: The Role of the Sexual Assault/Rape Victim Avocate

Linda K. Bradlyn, California State University at Northridge

Incidents of sexual assault and forcible rape remain among the least reported forms of interpersonal violence, according to the National Crime Victimizations (NCVS) survey and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data. For example, 1995 Bureau of Justice figures indicate that of more than an estimated 355,000 rape and sexual assault victimizations, only approximately 110,000 were reported to law enforcement. A significant majority of the research into the causes, conditions and characteristics of sexual offenses, offenders and victims examines the sexualized nature of these crimes. This essay considers rape and sexual assault in a deeper context as an act of war, a gender-based, hate-motivated form of violence and how it is supported by societal organizations such as the media, criminal justice system and other cultural institutions. Rather than limiting the exploration of rape as an isolated single-perpetrator or gang-related street crime, sexual assault must be considered from a global perspective and the ways in which entire populations offend examined at the institutional and systemic levels. Despite the so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1970's, discussing the topic of sex remains bound by taboo. By expanding the categorization of rape and sexual assault beyond the sexual realm, forthright dialogue is greatly facilitated and effective educational programs enable prevention, treatment and victim services to be created and made more accessible to the public.

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Updated 05/20/2006