Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sexual Violence Declining in the U.S.; How Can the Jewish Community Replicate This?

From the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):
The 2006 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) ... shows continued evidence of the remarkable decline in sexual violence in the U.S. over the last 14 years.


“Sexual assault has decreased by two-thirds since 1993. This continued downward trend indicates that tremendous progress has been made in the fight against sexual violence. The dramatic cultural shift in public awareness and attitudes about rape, combined with tougher crime policies, has resulted in great strides towards our goal of eliminating sexual violence,” said Scott Berkowitz, president & founder of RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. “Thanks to public education programs and media attention, Americans have come to understand that rape is a violent crime and should be treated as such. In fact, the FBI ranks it as the second-most violent crime, trailing only murder.”


Other NCVS findings reveal more promising news: The percentage of sexual assaults that were reported to police averaged 41.6% over the last five years. This is an increase of more than 35% from the reporting rate for the in 1993-1997. This is excellent news because reporting to the police is the most effective tool that exists to prevent future rapes; every time we lock up a rapist, we're preventing him or her from committing another attack.


Despite the fact that the NCVS data show that we’ve made great progress, there is still much work to be done in the fight against sexual violence. In fact, every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
Read the full article

This is excellent news for the U.S. society in general. I wonder how these statistics are reflected in the Jewish community. The quote above by Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN, attributes the decline to "dramatic cultural shift in public awareness and attitudes about rape, combined with tougher crime policies". Though there is much greater awareness today in the Jewish community than there was five years ago, there is still much work to be done and much resistance to overcome. Also, the tougher crime policies are of no use if the crimes aren't reported, as they often aren't.

This article provides a clear model for the Jewish community to follow in order to similarly benefit from a decrease in sexual violence:
1. More awareness and a shift in attitudes toward sexual violence
2. Reporting crimes to the police

I call upon the leaders of the Jewish community to facilitate these changes within the Jewish community so that we, too, can see a decrease in sexual violence. I believe that it's a matter of life and death, because being a victim of sexual violence is a form of death.


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