Caring for Sexual Assault Victims and their Families — A Focus on the Case of Indiana State

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Caringfor Sexual Assault Victims and their Families — A Focus on the Caseof Indiana State

  1. Social Problem/Issue

  1. Definition of the Problem

Sexualassault is one of the critical issues that the society across theworld is grappling to address. Sexual assault describes an incidencein which an individual is forced or coerced to engage in sex againstown will, which also includes non-consensual sexual touch(Langhinrichsen-Rohling,Foubert, Brasfield, Hill and Shelley-Tremblay, 2012).According to National Violence Resource Center (2015), rape isessentially a form of sexual violence and includes acts such asforced kissing, forced and drug-facilitated rape, sexual abuse,groping, and torture involving sex. In law, sexual assault isconsidered a statutory offense in many countries, although thedefinitions tend to be varied and, to some extent, tend to includeforms of sexual harassment such as prolonged staring and whistling(Garrity,2012).

Regardlessof the legal conceptions, sexual assault has far-reachingconsequences on the victims and the society. Indeed, as noted byLanghinrichsen-Rohling,Foubert, Brasfield, Hill and Shelley-Tremblay (2012),sexual assault is a destructive crime. A typical rape incident isaccompanied by psychologically, emotionally and physically effects,some of which can be so overwhelming that the affected persons mayneed assistance. Adverse forms of sexual assault such as rape and useof sex for torture may result in trauma, infection of sexuallytransmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, among other socialproblems (National Violence Resource Center, 2015).

  1. Extent of Problem

Thestatistics on sexual assault show that the problem is rampant,transcending genders, sexual orientation, races, ages, andethnicities. According to National Violence Resource Center (2015),about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 72 men are raped at some occasion intheir lifetime. As significant as 47 percent of lesbian, 74 percentbisexual women and 42 percent of heterosexual women have encountereddifferent forms of sexual violence, other than rape. The situation isnot any different for men. The statistics reveal that 41 percent ofgay, 48 percent of bisexual men, and 21 percent of heterosexual menhave also experienced at least of one of the different forms sexualviolence other than rape. The female gender accounts for the largestpercent of rape victims. The statistics reveal that as significant as91 percent of the victims are women, compared to 9 percent of male(National Violence Resource Center, 2015).

Ofall these incidences of sexual assault, at least 1 in 10 women hasbeen raped by intimate partners on course of their relations,characterized by attempted and completed penetration, andalcohol-facilitated penetrations. Besides, at least 1 in 46 men hasbeen coerced or forced to penetrate an intimate partner at somemoment in the life. It has also been noted that 80 percent of thevictims are assaulted by a person they knew, with 8 percent of therapes occurring at workplaces (National Violence Resource Center,2015).

Childrenare also not spared from the problem. According toLanghinrichsen-Rohling,Foubert, Brasfield, Hill and Shelley-Tremblay (2012),at least 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse beforethey come of age. About 34 percent of the perpetrators of childsexual abuse are family members. As significant as 13 percent offemale victims report having experienced it while at the age of belowten years, while 30 percent experienced it between the ages 11 and 18years. About 28 percent of the male victims reported being sexuallyassaulted while below the age of 10. The male and adults populationsare overrepresented as the primary perpetrators of sexual abuseagainst children, accounting for 96 and 76.8 percent respectively(Yeater&amp O`Donohue, 2012).Moreover, National Violence Resource Center (2015) has observed thatwell over 326,000 children are at the risk of commercial child sexualexploitation.

Thestatistics on the financial costs and consequences of the rape arealso documented. According to Foubert,Newberry, and Tatum (2013),a normal rape incidence costs about $151,423. Rape is much morecostly than any other form of crime experienced in the US, costing anaverage of $127 billion per year. Other forms of sexual assaultaccount for an average of $94 billion per year, which is still highcompared to other crimes such as murder, which costs an average of$91 billion. The sexual assault victims (82 percent of female and 37percent of male) experience short-term and long-term psychologicalproblems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Moreover, at least 1in 9 of victims of completed rape is infected with sexuallytransmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV.

Despitethe high prevalence, Garrity(2012)acknowledges that sexual assault is the most underreported crime,noting that well over 64 percent of the sexual assault incidents gounreported to the police station. The case of underreporting of rapeamong children tends to be higher, in which only 12 percent of sexualabuse is reported (National Violence Resource Center, 2015). The highlevel of underreporting essentially implies that the costs andconsequences of sexual assault are more adverse than it is estimated.

  1. Literature on History of Problem, Causes of the issue and ways of dealing with the issue

Theliterature on sexual violence is documented, touching on thehistorical developments and trends in the interventions. Forinstance, Yeaterand O`Donohue (2012)notes that sexual assaults are as old as human existence, but thesociety only started becoming attentive to the issue during theindustrialization era, which was characterized by the markedenactment of laws to protect people, especially women, from sexualviolence. In the US, however, forms of sexual assault such as rapewere seen to be legitimate during colonization and slavery,especially when committed against the female slaves and members fromnative races. The society would later react sharply throughactivists. Sexual violence is rated as one of the most outstandingissues in the public health sector. Surveys by interestedinstitutions indicate that the number of rape cases in men and womenhas risen to a staggering 1.9 million in the year 2011. Likewise, anapproximate 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have undergone or experienceforms of sexual violence. Of all the sexually related crimes, rapeaccounts for the highest cost to the victims. As such there is direneed to come up with a comprehensive strategy to prevent the vicewhile at the same time offering justice and support to the victims.In several states, sexual violence prevention teams have beenestablished, and Indiana is not an exception. The primary goal is todevelop plans that prevent this form of crime. Using the publichealth approach is one of the best ways of attacking this problem.This is mainly because it focuses on the provision of comprehensiveprimary prevention programs. Additionally, the objectives shiftpartly from risk reduction to primary prevention tactics. Individualpro-social understanding, attitudes, knowledge, and skills arecritical components in this campaign. We cannot also fail toacknowledge the role played by organizations such as the Centers forDisease Control (CDC) and others regarding funding, education,provider training and a host of various social services to thecommunity. From a historical perspective, the society was blinded bythe notion that sexual violence happened to women alone. This was dueto the common nature of events during the war in the 20th century.The negligence to address the problem earlier and the lack ofindications and measurements of the magnitude of its effects led tothe widespread practice of this crime. It was only until later thatthe governments and states considered sexual violence as a seriousissue. By defining it and criminalizing the act, it was then realizedthat both men and women could be victims of such.

Toa large degree, the discussion of sexual assault featured strongly asone of the key agitators of struggle against slavery, for womenrights and end to racism. Over time, the United States acknowledgedsexual assault as a serious issue and embarked on a journey of legalchanges (such as enactment of laws to punish and deter offenders) andsocial welfare changes to support the victims. Although the attentionof addressing sexual assault was historically directed at women andgirls, rapid reforms have been embraced, and men have also beenincluded (National Violence Resource Center, 2015). Indiana and otherstates have worked together to develop principles that define how thevictims can be assisted and also how the perpetrators of sexualviolence can be brought to justice. Apparently, the key to preventionof sexual abuse is founded on primary prevention strategies. Theprinciples work towards ensuring that first-time execution of thecrime and ill-treatment have been efficiently prevented. To achievethis, there is the need to reduce all the possible risk factors thatcan be modified. At the same time, the protective factors areenhanced. Without evidence-based planning, implementation, andassessment, nothing much can be achieved. Professionals haveindicated that this issue is not confined to government andlegislative bodies. The entire population has to be included throughthe incorporation of behavior change. Emphasis has also been placedon the utilization of surveillance tools to identify the currenttrends, and monitor progress. Informing program decisions is acritical aspect of handling sexual violence. The Centers for DiseaseControl purport that men are responsible for the greatest percentageof sexual abuse acts in the society today. This doesn’t mean that asignificant number of the males are criminals. On the contrary,surveys indicate that it is only a small population that commits aseries of multiple sexual assaults. It is at this juncture that theconcern about bystander intervention is raised. Apparently, aconsiderable number of men take part or belong to cultures thatsupport violence against women. The utilization of bystanderintervention approach has not been fully embraced in all regionsalthough more and more awareness and education programs continuebeing rolled out.

  1. The issue and social work values and the NASW Code of Ethics Relations

Despitethe progress the progress that the society has made, sexual assaultcontinues to be a social challenge, as revealed by the statistics.Indeed, the sexual assault problem is one the areas that social workprofession is engaged. The role of social workers comes out stronglyin their struggle to help the victims to deal, overcome, or cope withthe deep financial, psychological, and physical problems caused bythe issue. This role is in line with NASWCode of Ethics, which stipulates that the main mission for the socialwork professionals is to enhance the wellbeing of people invulnerable conditions, as well as assist people to enjoy the basichuman rights. These roles are accomplished by observing all the corevalues of the social work profession, which include worth of theindividual, competence, dignity, social justice, integrity, andservice.

  1. Goal

  1. What should be done

Inlight of the rampant of incidences and consequences of sexualassault, there is still much that the society should do to preventthe problems, as well as assist victims.

Oneof the elements that have been noted as the common cause of sexualassault is the lack of awareness about the right stand of sexualassault such that many perpetrators have pledge being ignorant of thelaw (Foubert,2012).Therefore, rather than focus on punishing to deter sexual assault,which has not been effective, the government could do better tosensitize the society about the issue. Besides, it has also beennoted that many victims of sexual assault are not aware of thegovernment social support programs available, while the social stigmaand financial barriers also play out strongly as barriers toaccessing legal and social welfare support, escalating the problem(National Violence Resource Center, 2015). Therefore, part of theprocess of helping the victims will be to increase awareness, providefinancial support, and address social stigma.

Theseview of increasing funding would be particularly welcome by socialwelfare organizations concerned about the issue, but will not becertainly welcome by politicians, who are now concerned about cuttingthe government expenditure on welfare for economic growth.Identification of the best practice programs is vital, especiallywhen providing detailed information concerning the application ofrelevant services. The process does not stop here. Service provisionmust be maintained and sustained throughout for the current peopleaffected and also for future purposes. The priorities and needs ofclients keep changing day by day. These variations have to bedetected promptly and the programs manipulated to fit the situation.Rural communities the ethnic minorities and immigrants are groupsthat require more focused efforts. Their background and socioeconomicstatus are factors that may fuel higher rates of sexual assault.Thesolution is not consolidated for victims alone. The perpetrators ofthe act must also be considered. While prison sentences and otherpunishment methods have to be dished out, other rehabilitationservices can be provided so that the individual can be assisted notto repeat the same during his sentence and afterward.

  1. NASW’s position regarding this issue

NASWconsiders sexual assault as one of the critical issues that socialwork profession must be engaged in. NASW further acknowledges thatthe problem is a complex one, which does not only require dealingwith the problems of the affected victims but also prevention of thecause. Therefore, NASW acknowledges that social support such asthrough awareness, counseling, and treatment is needed. While theissue is one of the areas of attention for social workers, many ofthese interventions are demanding and require financial support andconcerted efforts from the government and other communities such ashealthcare givers, law enforcement organizations and the society aswhole (NASW 2014). Implementation of sexual violence remedies is nota once-off thing. There must be careful assessment of needs,development of appropriate programs and policies, followed byimplementation process and finally the monitoring, evaluation andrevision depending on the evaluation data.

  1. The Significance of Selflessness as one aspect of servant-leadership in Social Work

Therole of social workers in promoting the desired change issignificant. Social workers need to be actively engaged in assistingthe victims of sexual assault to improve their lives, includingliaising and mobilizing other stakeholders in making changes toaddress the needs of the vulnerable population. At the core of rolesocial work profession in driving change is servant leadership, whichis mediated by an attribute of selflessness. As servant leaders andagents of change, social workers primarily focus on enriching thecommunities to which they belong, putting the interest of thevulnerable individuals before theirs (NASW 2014). This explanationpurports that reaching out to the societal needs requiresself-sacrifice. One cannot be able to fully realize the significanceof taking an active role in service provision until he or sheencounters a real scenario of sexual violence or assault. It is atthat particular moment that the servant-leader attribute must comeout profoundly to create an environment suitable for the assistanceof victims.

  1. Evaluating Goals

Theevaluation on whether the goals would have been achieved will beguided by the objectives (preventing sexual assault and assistingvictims) and focus on two scorecard indicators —quality andefficiency. As far as victim intervention programs are concerned, theevaluation will seek to measure the perceived effectiveness of sexualassault intervention programs, as well as their access and coverage.The quality and efficiency of prevention programs will be evaluatedbased on the reduced number of sexual assault incidences andperceived level of awareness concerning dealing with sexual assaultexperiences. In this regard, the evaluation processes willessentially be informed by research, which will be carried outregularly on course of the reform implementation processes toascertain their effectiveness on time and recommend on the measures.

  1. Policy/Legislation

  1. Current legislation related to the issue for the state of Indiana and at the federal level

Inthe US law (Title 10U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120),sexual assault is considered a statutory offense that is punishmentin the court of justice. The law outlines incidences that wouldamount to rape as the acts in which an individual is forced orcoerced to engage in sex against own will, which includesnon-consensual sexual touch. The Indiana State law conforms to theFederal law and stipulates that non-consensual contact, includingrape, is a criminal act (FindLaw,2015). Therefore, the prevention framework hinged legal enforcementof trying and sentencing perpetrators to punish and deter similaroffenses. The welfare support or the victims exist and are offered byboth the governmental organizations and nongovernmentalorganizations. Sexual assault is multidimensional involving health,law, culture, attitudes and politics just to mention a few. Theremust be statewide leadership founded on public health approaches,funding by the government technical assistance by researchers andother organizations as well as creation of significant state-levelcollaboration through the efforts of lawmakers and politicians

  1. The Society Stand on social policy

Inthis regard, while the society is committed to addressing sexualassault and supporting the victims, the programs are limitedregarding their scope and focus. The primary cause of this narrowscope is lack of financing to sustain the programs. At the governmentlevel, the lack of funding is attributable to lack of politicalwillpower to commit resources to the issue. At social work level, theresources are limited and organizations can only focus only a fewcritical areas. Other than the policies described above, there areadditional laws that may need to be enacted and monitored for thisissue to be solved. Communication with victims in a confidentialmanner while upholding privacy is paramount. Stalking regulations mayalso need to be applied. The roles of police officers, stateprosecutors, and lawmakers come into play. Trials against wrong-doersmay have to be handled honestly and justly so that the criminalstatutes can describe the appropriate punishment. The policies inquestion must also consider other spheres.

  1. The impact on historically oppressed populations

Individualsfrom the historically oppressed and marginalized (minority)communities are severely affected by the problem. First is thatminority population is disproportionately represented regardingvictims of rape. As Foubertand Cremedy (2012)notes, the minority populations account for 72 percent of the victimsof reported sexual assaults. Based on these statistics, Foubert,Godin and Tatum (2012)infer that because many of the victims are members of communitiesfrom low-income households, they may overly rely on social welfaresupport because they cannot meet the costs directly from theirpockets. The fact that many of the available programs are limited interms of scope and funding essentially implies that many of thevictims from low-income families do not always get the necessarysupport, suffering silently from posttraumatic stress disorder andother related health complications such as HIV infections (Foubert,2012).

  1. Implementation

  1. Legislation Programs

Severalprograms have been implemented to support the legislations and theseare primarily oriented towards providing financial assistance to thevictims. The welfare policies of sexually assaulted victims are underthe stewardship of the Indiana Office for Violent Crime Compensation,which provides funding for services rendered to the victims under theSex Crimes Victim’s Fund. The program is committed to supportingall the children, men, and women who are the victims of sexualassault, and encourages, acknowledging finance and a key constraintto access of social services.

  1. The Role of Rules and Regulations

Therules and regulations on addressing sexual assault are objective tosupport the program. Their objectivity lies on their focus towardstwo areas of interventions: prevention and social assistance to thevictims of the problem. In this case, prevention is aimed at limitingthe further occurrence of incidences, while assistance of casualtiesis intended to enable them to access the essential services torecover and lead normal lives. . Formation of sustainable alliancessuch as the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence is a hugestep in the means of assisting victims and their families as well aspreventing sexual violence through funding, education, awareness andpromotion of social systems. Collaboration through public policy,training and outreach of professionals and the public broadensperceptions and necessitates the focus on prevention rather thanperpetrator punishment.

  1. Effectiveness of Programs

Theprograms are effective, but not adequate. Garrity(2012)has observed that the incidences of sexual assault have remained moreor less the same, implying that prevention programs have not beeneffective. Besides, Foubert,Godin and Tatum (2012) havesuggested that victims who have interacted with the program serviceshave cited their limited scope. One will evaluate whether the goalswould have been achieved will based on objectives (preventing sexualassault and assisting victims) and focus on two scorecard indicators—quality and efficiency. The evaluation processes will essentiallybe informed by research, which will be carried out regularly on thecourse of reform implementation processes to ascertain theireffectiveness on time and recommend on the measures. Currently, onlya few programs have been shown to have the desired effect ofpreventing sexual assault perpetration. Ongoing reviews haveidentified the possibility that newer evidence could help in doingfar much more than what has been achieved. However, using evaluationmethodologies, some of the strategies implemented earlier can betermed as relatively active. Funding requirements are usually basedon the provision of a clear outline of how the programs will betailored to address the identified needs.

  1. Sufficiency of programs funding and effect

Theprograms are not sufficiently funded, resulting in the narrow scopeof focus for the intervention programs. At the government level, thelack of financing is attributable to lack of political willpower tocommit resources to the issue. At social work level, the resourcesare limited and organizations can only focus only a few criticalareas. However, due to the compound nature of the planning andimplementation process as well as follow-up, it is quite evident thatspecific groups identified for allocation of resources such as thosein rural areas, the underserved, immigrants, and male adolescents donot fully enjoy these programs. Research concerning best practicesfor these target groups and proper assessment will hopefully shedmore light on the right resources that will be helpful.

  1. Intended Impact

However,despite their commitment, the welfare programs have inherentlimitations such as limited scope and limited funding. Indeed, asLanghinrichsen-Rohling, Foubert, Brasfield, Hill and Shelley-Tremblay (2012) observes,the support programs tend to focus on areas such litigations andcounseling, yet they are always short-term oriented. Besides,Langhinrichsen-Rohling,Foubert, Brasfield, Hill and Shelley-Tremblay (2012)have noted that while the legal framework is elaborate to support theinterventions, the practice has tended to lay emphasis on punishmentfor retributive justice and deterrence, ignoring the power ofcommunity awareness. The Indiana Coalition against Sexual Assaultpartners with the federal government and other organizations bytargeting service providers, equipping them and ensuring that theutilization of the funds indeed uplifts the mode of service delivery.Financial resources assist in the emphasis of sexual assault advocacyfor the special victims and their families, improving education, theinclusion of the minorities and training aimed at reducing repetitionof sexual violence.

  1. Unintended Impact

Therehave been no unintended adverse consequences of legislation aimed ataddressing the issue. While the common concern about such welfareprograms is the tendency to be abused, this has not been the case.Although direct unintended impacts have not arisen, other issues thatcould have regulatory implications do exist. Confidentiality is oneof these concerns. It is not easy to maintain high levels ofconfidentiality hence providers have to take the central role inprotecting the privacy of victims. Access can also be viewed as asignificant deterrent to individuals seeking the services especiallywhen the conditions do not allow the services to be provided within agiven locality. Transportation needs and proper communicationchannels may need to be developed. The attitudes of the communitytowards sexual violence is likely to deter a victim from reportingcases of abuse. It is unlawful to discourage a victim’sdetermination to report sexual assault to the authorities. As such,the officials, community leaders, and law enforcement officers haveto work together to eliminate any case of unwanted threats orhindrance.

  1. How the society will be affected if this issue is not addressed in a comprehensive way

Ifthe issue is not addressed in a comprehensive manner, the societywill be severely affected by the rising incidences of sexual assaultbecause of inadequate prevention. Moreover, because the victims willnot be adequately supported, the increased incidences of trauma andimpunity would be expected. The quality of life of an individual or afamily is not a state that has been realized by many. Combinedefforts are required to work across the culture for prevention. TheLGBTQ community s one that experiences negative attitude in thesociety, a fact that hinders their protection against sexual assault.Failure to take care of each and every potential victim will not onlylead to higher rape cases but also cause the return of domesticviolence, increase the risk of teen dating violence, attempted rapesand other related crimes. As seen before, the physical, psychologicaland financial impacts of sexual assault will t eventually flow intothe community system creating an imbalance, fear, and concern.


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