The Bill Cosby and Donald Trump sexual assault allegations, and the numerous media reports chronicling the pervasiveness of sexual assaults on college campuses, have placed this issue at the forefront of public discourse.
It is as if Americans are experiencing a sudden epidemic of sexual violence in this country. In actuality, according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 2010-2014 National Crime Victimization Survey (2015), sexual violence has decreased in the United States by 74 percent since 1993.
However, this does not diminish the horrific social impact of sexual violence. The BJS reported in 2013 that roughly 285,000 Americans over the age of 12 are sexually assaulted or raped each year – 90 percent of them being female. That translates into a sexual assault occurring every two minutes nationwide—and the victims are from all sexual orientations.
The National Social Violence Resource Center (NSRVC) reports that each rape costs $151,423—and this translates into rape being the most costly crime in America coming in at $127 billion annually followed by assault at $93 billion.
The scope of this problem can be measured by sexual violence on our college campuses. NSVRC says that 1 in 5 women will be raped during their stay in college, and that 90 percent of them will not report the crime. This 90 percent non-reporting statistic dwarfs the 63 percent of the non-reporting rate of sexual violence in the general population.
Texas citizens were stunned recently by a sexual violence scandal that engulfed the state’s elite Baylor University football program. Nineteen football players have been accused of sexual assault or rape since 2011. The university’s hierarchy has demanded change not only in the football program but in the way university officials handle sexual assault cases.
And just what happened at Baylor?
It’s an ongoing story:
In May, football coach Art Briles and Baylor University President Ken Starr were both fired. Reports began to circulate about the rape accusations. As the story gained more attention, additional troubling details were revealed, including gang rape accusations.
The public soon realized the scandal was not confined to the university football program. Texans learned that rape and sexual assault have become a major issue at Baylor – just as it has at many other colleges and universities around the country.
From 2009-2011, no rapes or sexual assault cases were reported at Baylor at all. In 2015, that number spiked to 23. The university is currently under investigation for how it handles sexual assault cases.
Why the sudden avalanche of accusations?
When One Victim Comes Forward…
Do recent statistics properly reflect the scope of the problem?
Research has shown, as evidenced in the UW-Madison rape case, that once one accusation has been made, it is easier for other victims to come forward, share their stories, and also accuse an individual of sexual assault.
This means that victims might not come out with their stories until years – even decades – after an incident has occurred.
The Donald Trump/Bill Cosby accusers are prime examples of this phenomenon. Some of the accusations leveled by these accusers date back a decade or more with one against Cosby dating back to 1965.
An accusation that arises after decades tends to make any ensuing investigation and possible prosecution incredibly complicated. Jurors represent the general community, and many in the general community do not understand why a victim waits years or decades before reporting incidents of sexual violence.
We want to reiterate here, as we have in the past, that accusations of sexual assault often do not come out immediately after the incident.
A guide for Pennsylvania judges cites many reasons why sexual assault victims delay in reporting, including: “fear of retaliation by the offender, fear of not being believed, fear of being blamed for the assault, fear of being ‘revictimized’ if the case goes through the criminal justice system, belief that the offender will not be held accountable, wanting to forget the assault ever happened, not recognizing that what happened was sexual assault, shame, and/or shock.”
These reasons make it easier to understand why one victim might wait until another victim has come forward to voice their own accusation.
How the Statute of Limitations Fits In
If someone comes forward with a sexual assault accusation years after the incident allegedly occurred, it does not mean that he or she will be able to press charges or take the incident to court. The statute of limitations, or the amount of time a victim has to press charges, can prevent them from taking criminal or civil action if they delay their accusation.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Texas is 10 years. For federal incidents of sexual assault, the statute of limitations is 5 years. However, if allegations involve a victim who is a minor, the statute of limitations is lifted.
Being accused of a sex crime can ruin a person’s record and reputation. Penalties may include years in jail and permanent residency on the sex offender registry. Contact a Texas sex crimes lawyer for information on how you can fight the sex charges against you.