Some facts about sexual assault

atodd's picture

Last month was national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, not that folks in Ouray County need an occasion lately to raise awareness of the topic.
We have five current sexual assault cases connected with Ouray County, each at various points of progress in the court system.
A plea has been submitted in one, with the court’s acceptance and sentencing still to come. Two others await trial and/or possible pleas, as well. Yet two others, which didn't occur in the county but are alleged to have been committed by Ouray County residents, are just beginning the legal process.
Three of these cases are alleged violations against minors. All of the accused/convicted are men.
I had a conversation with one of the alleged victims last week. What do you say, other than if it's true, you hope for justice and healing? I can never understand what the victim of sexual assault goes through.
But the Colorado Bureau of Investigation offers some profiles of those who commit these crimes.
If victims find the process of healing to be a nearly impossible, if not impossible, feat, then so do those who commit these crimes find it highly unlikely for it to be a singular event like this in their lives.
According to the CBI:
    •    Most sex offenders engage in "crossover" behavior; i.e., when an offender acts outside of his or her usual deviant sexual interest. An offender may be caught for one type of offense but is at a higher risk to commit another type of offense involving a victim of a different age, gender, or race.
    •    A study on 143 sex offenders in treatment at the Colorado Department of Corrections who underwent polygraph testing showed that of the convicted rapists, 50 percent also had child victims, and of the convicted child molesters, 82 percent also had adult victims. Of those who assaulted non-relatives, 62 percent also had victims who were relatives (Ahlmeyer, Heil, McKee and English 2000).
    •    The way sex offenders select victims is often more influenced by opportunity and access than by preference in victim type.
    •    Research shows that most convicted sex offenders have committed many sexual assaults before they are caught (English et al, 2000).
    •    Most sex offenders are male. Female offenders account for less than 10 percent of reported sex offense cases (FBI 2006).

Sexual assault statistics are overwhelming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed, attempted or alcohol/drug-facilitated rape.
Of these, 42 percent of victims experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18 years.
In Colorado, the rate for experiencing any sexual violence by a perpetrator for women is 23.8 percent, which is higher than the national average of 18.3 percent.
All sorts of health issues accompany victims of this violence. Victims frequently report any of the following: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, flashbacks, divorce, loss of sexual interest, loss of concentration, sleeping disorders, headaches, chronic pain, poor physical health and suicide.
Unlike 22 other states, Colorado does not have a law prohibiting sex offenders from residing close to schools, parks or other areas where children usually congregate. Some local Colorado jurisdictions have adopted restrictions, however.
Ouray and Ridgway do not have restrictions. As Ouray Police Chief Justin Perry said, "Unless there is an order from the courts or a protection order in place, there is no restriction on where the sex offender can live." He noted that "violent sexual predators" will have restrictions in place that are outlined by the courts, but otherwise he believes once a convicted offender has been rehabilitated and reintroduced to the community, constitutional and civil rights allow that person the freedom to choose where he or she wants to live.
Citing a 2004 Colorado Department of Public Safety report, the CBI points out reasons for not having such restrictions. Child molesters in Colorado who re-offended sexually did not live closer to schools or daycare centers than those who did not re-offend. It also cites a Minnesota Department of Corrections study that evaluated 224 sexual offenders who were re-arrested for new sex crimes. The study found that over 65 percent of new sex crimes were perpetrated on a victim the offender knew, and none of the cases involved an offender who made victim contact near a proximate school, park or daycare. The state of Iowa found, after implementing proximity restrictions, that thousands of sex offenders became homeless or transient, and those that did not register or could not be found more than doubled when the law was enacted.
Some myths and facts, cited and provided by CBI:
Myth: the majority of offenders are in prison. Fact: In Colorado, only 16.2 percent of all felony offenders are sent to prison.
Myth: Most sex crimes are reported. Fact: The majority of sex offenders are not caught or detected. Less than 30 percent of sex assaults are ever reported. Between only 1 and 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases are reported.
Myth: You can "spot" a sex offender. Fact: There is no "typical" sex offender.
Myth: Most offenders have a long rap sheet. Fact: Most sex offenders have no documented criminal history.
Myth: Sex crimes are acts of impulse. Fact: Studies show 75 percent of sex offenses are carefully planned.
Myth: Sexual assaults occur in dangerous places. Fact: Approximately 85 percent of assaults in Colorado occur at either the offender's or the victim's residence.
Myth: Most sex crimes are committed by strangers. Fact: 93 percent of child abuse victims know their abusers.
Myth: Most victims "ask" for it. Fact: Sex offenders typically use power and control to dominate victims.
The chance for repeat victimization by offenders, obviously, is high. However, the CBI reports that sex offenders who lack stable housing and access to steady employment are at a higher risk to re-offend. Harassing an offender, it states, is counter-productive to the goals of the community and may cause offenders to go underground and not register.
We may have missed officially noting Sexual Assault Awareness Month last month, but with the facts above, it's clear that every month should be cause for awareness.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at atodd@ouraynews.com or 970-325-2838.