Sexual abuse affects more people than you think. Chris Anderson explains, and compels us to take action.
Would you believe me if I were to tell you that there is a public health crisis in the US that impacts over 130,000,000 million people that is rarely talked about? Would you believe me if I told you this public health crisis is a direct result not of a germ or virus, or some toxic chemical spilled into our ecosystem, or too much sugar in our diets, or too much vaccination (or not enough) of our children? What if I told you this epidemic was rather a direct result of our own behavioral choices?
Over 40% of the population suffer from a disorder that greatly increases risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety disorder, a shorter overall lifespan, and significantly degraded quality of life, yet this the true scale of this epidemic remains largely unknown and unacknowledged.
The name of this epidemic is sexual abuse. While we break records raising funds and awareness for ALS (a cause which I wholeheartedly and financially support, incidentally) only about .0039% of the population will be diagnosed with ALS. Meanwhile millions of victims of sexual violence struggle to be heard, seen, and supported. Over 40% of people have been or will be sexually victimized that’s over 132,000,000 survivors in the United States alone.
Want to know how I got that number?
The gender split in the US is approx. 51% female/49% male (using 2012 Census data the precise split is 50.6% female – 49.4% male)
Let’s presume a representative sample of 100 people – 51 women and 49 men. How many are victims of sexual violence?
62.9% of females experience some form of sexual victimization during their lifetime (according to 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey)
62.9% of 51 = 32.07
23.6% of males experience some form of sexual victimization during their lifetime (according to 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey)
23.6% of 49 = 11.56
So, the total number of persons in the representative sample who we can estimate have been or will be sexually victimized in their lifetime is
32.07 + 11.56 = 43.63
So we can estimate that approximately 43% of the population will experience some form of sexual victimization in their lifetime.
43% of the US population (using 2012 Census data) is 132,795,610.
We cannot turn a blind eye to this problem any longer. We can no longer afford to pretend that only women experience sexual violence, and only men perpetrate it. Sexual violence is not a women’s rights issue, it is not a men’s rights issue. It is a human rights issue.
Sexual violence is perhaps the single most harmful public health issue that we face. Survivors are a significantly increased risk for depression, anxiety disorders, impaired interpersonal relationships, inability to trust, substance abuse and even health disorders like heart disease and diabetes.
However, sexual violence is not a death sentence. When survivors can get access to proper support, and are given hope that healing is possible. Currently, we live in a world where sexual violence remains largely hidden from view. Survivors are shamed, silenced, and bullied. That this happens is a choice. And it a choice we can learn to stop making.
If you are a survivor, know that you are not alone, it was not your fault, it is possible to heal, and that it is never too late.
If you are the partner, friend, or colleague of a survivor, please know that one of the most important things you can do to help support someone who has been sexually victimized is to simply believe them.
And if you have perpetrated sexual violence in the past, turn yourself in. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. There are resources out there and interventions that can help you look at your behavior and grow. You owe it to yourself to learn why you choose to harm other people. You owe it to the persons you have victimized to learn why what you did was wrong. And you owe it to society to stop being a toxic influence on our communities.
Photo: Flickr/Taber Andrew Bain