According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a person is sexually abused every 73 seconds in the United States. When sexual abuse happens, it causes lasting damage to the victim. The physical and mental turmoil experienced both during and after the attack can be overwhelming and leave the victim unsure of what to do next.
While the attacker may face criminal charges for breaking the law, these proceedings do not provide compensation for the medical treatment, counseling, and emotional distress the victim can face over time.
Though the definition varies, sexual abuse includes any type of unwanted sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Acts such as molestation and/or unwanted sexual advances can be considered sexual abuse. Cases of abuse often involve inappropriate uses of power and many additional contributing factors, including authority, age, physical size, and coercion.
Institutional Sexual Abuse
Institutional sexual abuse refers to abuse committed by a person in a position of power within an institution such as a church, school, or youth service organization. Many victims of institutional sexual abuse are children.
While many institutions have begun to be held accountable, institutional sexual abuse remains a major problem in the United States. The states have begun to enact laws making it easier for abusers to be held accountable, including extending the time limits within which victims can file a civil claim. Common forms of institutional sexual abuse include:
- Sexual abuse in religious institutions: Religious and clergy sexual abuse is sadly not a new concept for many. Places of worship are not immune from institutional abuse. Currently, three of the United States’ largest religious institutions are involved in clergy sex abuse scandals.
- Sexual abuse in schools: Though we trust teachers and other school faculty members to keep our children safe, unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sexual misconduct by adults against young students can occur in the private and public school systems, as well as daycare facilities and on college campuses.
- Sexual abuse in youth organizations: Organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of America can have a positive impact on the children they serve. When sexual predators find their way within these organizations, they can prey upon innocent victims, causing major lifelong psychological trauma.
Workplace Sexual Abuse
Each and every person has the right to work in a safe environment. Workplace sexual abuse violates this right and can result in a wide range of overwhelming emotions. These can include the fear of job loss or opportunity, shock, confusion, self-blame, and anger. This often leads the victim to feel unsafe and unsure about whom they can trust in their workplace.
Unfortunately, workplace sexual abuse is a major problem. A study of women in the workforce found 38% have experienced sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace. Though a gender-neutral offense that can span economic classes, workplace abuse is especially common in highly competitive and male-dominated sectors, such as entertainment and politics.