April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in South Carolina and nationwide and, while the month is almost over, we need to raise awareness about this problem every month. I wanted to let you know what our office is doing, and what all of us can do, to raise awareness and reduce sexual assault. The answer can be summed up by the theme for this year, which is, “I Ask.”
What does that mean? It means asking for consent. It means asking, how can I teach my children or grandchildren about consent early? It means asking how power impacts consent, and it means asking for consent before sending images or video of the exposed body or sexual text messaging.
You may feel uncomfortable about talking to your children about consent or feel that they’re too young to need to know, but the statistics here in South Carolina show why it’s so important. In our state, the group with the most reported cases of sexual battery is ages 10 to 17 years old. The second-most is birth to 10 years old. Combined, most sexual battery is occurring from birth to 17 years old in South Carolina, based on 2017 data.
It’s not just in our state, though. Nationwide, a majority of victims are 12 to 17. Of all the victims under the age of 18, 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under the age of 12, while 66% are age 12 to 17.
The numbers are staggering.
• Every 98 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
• 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
• About 3% of American men – or 1 in 33 – have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
• From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies found strong evidence that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
It’s a serious subject to discuss with children, but it teaches them what inappropriate touching is and what they should do if it happens, specifically that they should tell a parent or trusted adult.
Meanwhile, our office is diligently prosecuting sexually violent crimes across the state. Our goal is to consistently enforce South Carolina’s sexual assault laws to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes and to support survivors. Our office is also currently supporting the formalization and expansion of 17 Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) across the state through protocol development, statewide and local training, and community engagement.
The national sexual assault hotline is 1-800-656-4673 and can connect victims of sexual assault to help and services in their local area. Victims should call that number after first calling 911 for immediate assistance.
Keeping in mind this year’s theme, “I Ask” that all of us work together to teach our children about asking for consent and what that means.
South Carolina Attorney General