Experts explain how to come forward after sexual assault

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 230 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 13% of surveyed victims who did not report a sexual assault said it was because they believed police wouldn’t do anything.

In my line of work, I see a lot of press releases. Recently one came to me with about 4,000 words related to recently signed Missouri laws.

In the release was a bill related to sexual assault survivors’ rights signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson on July 13. I want to thank our General Assembly and governor for prioritizing this act as I think it is a great move for survivors.

Within the bill, a process is outlined requiring survivors be presented with their rights, much like a reading of Miranda Rights, before an examination or interview takes place. They are also allowed to consult with an advocate before either takes place, which can be very meaningful to a survivor of sexual assault.

The bill, which I love, also creates a task force dedicated to sexual assault as well as a portal where survivors can keep track of updated information related to the status and location of examination kits. I think this is a step in the right direction in helping reduce anxieties for survivors. Under the new law, physical evidence, even if collected from a nonreported case, is held for an additional five years, allowing survivors an opportunity to file charges later within that five-year timeframe, if they choose.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports, on average, there are 433,648 assaults every year in our country. That’s about one every 73 seconds. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 230 sexual assaults of every 1,000 are reported to police. The reasons for this are varied, but survivors often say they feared not being believed or that no charges would be filed.

As a big believer in sexual assault awareness and reporting, I think this act is a big deal because it provides more empowerment for survivors to report crimes that may otherwise go unreported. I think it’s hard for survivors to speak up, and when someone says something you should believe them.

Knowing our rights can change our lives or the lives of others in so many very important ways. I ask that everyone take a look at this new Missouri law because there are survivors everywhere, and the issue of sexual assault and its impacts affect society as a whole.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.​

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