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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

A Closer Look At: Sexual Assault

“It already is bigger than everything else. It lives in front of me, behind me, next to me, inside me every single day. My schedule is dictated by it, my habits by it, my music by it.”

– Daisy Whitney, The Mockingbirds

Every 2 minutes someone in America is sexually assaulted which equates to nearly 240,000 assaults per year. 1 out of every 6 American women and 1 out of every 33 American men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Shockingly, 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12. Contrary to what many people think, about 66% of survivors of sexual assault know their perpetrator and in juvenile cases that percentage increases to 93%.

Sexual assault can be defined as one person forcing another person to have sex or perform sexual acts through coercion, manipulation, threats, physical restraint, or physical violence. It also includes touching or grabbing intimate body parts for sexual gratification. Sexual assault is not just a crime of sex, rather it is a crime of power and control where sexual activity or contact is used to dominate or hurt the victim.

Survivors of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide. 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Reasons for not reporting include: fear of blame and consequences, avoidance of retraumatization due to the stressful process of reporting, shame, and embarrassment just to name a few.

If someone discloses to you that they’ve been sexually assaulted there are a few things you should keep in mind. The first thing is that you may be the only person that they have told or will ever tell in their lifetime. With that in mind, try to listen non-judgmentally to their story and without adding your own advice or opinion. Tell them that you believe them, ask them what they would like to do, and empower them to make their own choices.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and wants additional support, the Riverview Center is here to help. The Riverview Center is the sexual assault service provider for Linn, Benton, and Jones Counties. The Riverview Center provides legal and medical advocacy as well as peer counseling for survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. The Riverview Center has trained sexual assault peer counselors that help survivors and their loved ones navigate healing through an exploration of coping skills, community supports, safety planning, or any other resources and referrals that might be needed. Their local business number for these counties is 319.540.0080. You can also utilize their 24-hour crisis and support hotline which is 888.557.0310. If you are interested in volunteering for the Riverview Center, please email To learn more about sexual assault you can visit; the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at; or the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA) at

This article was co-written by Melissa Paulsen & The Riverview Center.

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