Unfortunately, we often find that the most vulnerable among us is most susceptible to being forced/coerced into sexual contact: often children and the elderly. As caregivers and responsible adults, we always do our best to ensure that we are placing these groups into the safest environments. However, these groups remain at risk for becoming victims of sexual assault.
The term “sexual assault” refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim, according to The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Forms of sexual assault include: attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, or penetration of the victim’s body. In the state of Ohio, the victim of this crime does not need to be able to prove physical resistance to the offender in prosecutions under certain sections [Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2907.02; see also id. § 2907.01 (definitions); id. §§ 2929.14, 2971.03, 2929.18 (punishments)]. Upon approval by the court, the victim may be represented by counsel in proceedings under Rape in the First Degree.
Children are most at risk of sexual abuse in settings outside of the supervision of their parents or guardians, such as: day-care centers, churches/other religious facilities, foster care, preschool, and medical facilities. In fact, approximately 93% of child victims knew their perpetrator. From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services found evidence that 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual abuse, however, because sexual assault is not always reported (in total, out of every 1,000 assaults, only 310 are reported to the police), the number is likely much higher than this. Some signs that a child may have been assaulted are signs of trauma to the genital area (unexplained bleeding, bruising, blood on the sheets), bedwetting (if the child has already outgrown these behaviors), sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age, not wanting to be left alone with certain people, nightmares, or excessive fearfulness, among others. The effects of child sexual assault can be devastating for both the victim and his/her family. Victims of child sexual assault are four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse, and three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults.
Those who are elderly or are physically or mentally unable to protect themselves are also at a high risk of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the sexual assault of elders and adults unable to protect themselves is poorly understood and under-researched. Often, these victims cannot communicate their disapproval of the behavior against them. Typical signs and indicators of sexual assault against the elderly and adults unable to protect themselves include: problems walking or sitting, torn/bloody/stained underwear, bruises to the genitals or inner thigh, bleeding from the anus or genitals, panic attacks, symptoms of agitation, social withdraw, or engaging in inappropriate or unusual activities. Common perpetrators include friends, nursing aids, nursing home assistants, family members, and other types of care providers.
Rinehardt Law Firm empowers victims by giving them a voice, along with the tools and assistance needed for victims to make decisions on how to proceed. Often, victims and families are overwhelmed by sexual abuse, and dealing with immediate issues that victims face can be stressful for victims and their families. The attorneys at Rinehardt Law Firm take your side by laying out the roadmap for victims to take control over their situation.
It is hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after sexual assault. If someone touches you in a way that is not okay, or shows you something that makes you feel like you are not safe, you do not have to keep it a secret. It is not right, and it is not your fault. The most important step you can take is to tell someone that you trust. The National Sexual Assault helpline is (800.656.4673) or you can chat online at online.rainn.org