Changes in Society’s Views Regarding Domestic Sexual Assault Since 1995 Until Today

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In sexual assault within the domestic setting, violence is committed by a boyfriend, girlfriend, former or current spouse, or a partner in an intimate relationship. Often sexual violence by an intimate partner causes sexual harm to people in relationships. Since 1994, the rate of serious intimate partner violence against males declined by 64%. Similarly, the rate of serious intimate partner violence against females declined from 1994–2001 while declining further to between 0.4 – 1.0 victimizations for each 1,000 through 2011. For females, the rate of serious intimate partner violence lowered to 72% while that of males declined to about 64%. Changes in sexual assault in domestic settings since 1995 to date are attributed to increased awareness of the negative consequences, and low reporting of abuse cases owing to shame, fear, and guilt.

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Increased Awareness of Negative Consequences of Domestic Violence

On one hand, lowered rates of sexual partner violence since 1995 indicate increased awareness of the need to avoid sexual assault among intimate partners. Additionally, the lowered domestic sexual assault cases supported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that it is a preventable public health issue impacting numerous Americans. According to Karla and Bhugra (2013), culture and sexual violence interact and determine social perception.  In societies where culture tolerates a certain degree of sexual violence within the domestic setting while condemning other forms of domestic violence on the other hand, the perception changes are slow as culture promotes resistance. In such societies, the decrease in sexual violence against women within the domestic setting change gradually. However, in societies like where culture does not tolerate any form of sexual violence against women within the domestic setting, the rates of prevalence have lowered as sexual coercion is considered illegal (Catalano, 2013).

Increased Number of Unreported Domestic Violence Cases

Conversely, for most intimate sexual violence victims, the shame associated with reporting sexual assaults causes emotional suffering that prompts some victims to remain silent. Shame has made most people fail to disclose and seek for help, implying that the intimate partner sexual violence may never be detected and the victim suffers in isolation (Karla & Bhugra, 2013). Consequently, the victim’s core perception of identity and self is affected over time and cause humiliation, disgust, and negative comparisons with others, while eroding one’s self-esteem and promoting acute or chronic post-traumatic syndromes. Guilt often accompanies shame following intimate partner sexual violence within domestic setting. Unlike shame that affects the core self, guilt impacts specific behaviors or actions that the victim understands as being responsible for causing the sexual assault, unlike the whole self.

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The Effects of Abuse on Victims and Their Children

Sexual abuse of victims affects their social and community lives, psychological and emotional being, and physical being. The most common short-term and immediate outcome is fear. Following a sexual assault by intimate partners, victims tend to be intensely anxious, especially with relation to the reminders of the attack. Fear also relates to contracting HIV or other STIs or being pregnant. The long-term psychological and emotional impacts include feeling of low self-esteem, guilt, self-blame, and trauma. The feelings can last forever or over long time durations (Bennice, Resick, Mechanic, & Astin, 2003). Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders are also very common and evidenced in nightmares, depression, avoidance behaviors, intrusive thoughts, and anxiety or mood disorders. Physical implications result virginal damage, sexual or reproductive health disorders, and headaches among others. Finally, social and community implications on the victim affect how they relate to the community and those close to them, avoidance of social situations, and regular feeling of vulnerability among others.

Symptoms of Domestic Violence and Intervention Techniques

The major domestic violence symptoms include unexplained sexual and health reproductive injuries; reluctance to speak around partners; overly controlling partners; suicide attempts and ideation; and post-traumatic stress disorder (Bennice et al., 2003). The major intervention techniques include speaking to the patient and informing them there is no excuse to sexual violence; providing information regarding domestic violence; assisting patient to make a safety plan; and providing the patient with a list of referral information

Types of Support For Domestic Violence Victims and Offenders

For victims and offenders who are husband and wife, the major support is confidentiality by keeping certain information and communications safe. The victim should also be provided autonomy and safety such that they should not be exposed to unwarranted public scrutiny. Medical professionals, advocates, and law enforcement handling sexual assault cases in protected relationships are required to maintain confidentiality (Bennice, Resick, Mechanic, & Astin, 2003). Other forms of support include counseling and advocacy programs; protective guardianship for elders and shelters for battered women; caregiver support programs; and educational programs for those at risk. Victims and their children can also be subjected to treatment and prevention interventions.

Conclusion

Over the years, the prevalence of sexual assault by intimate partner has decreased. From the discussion the decline in the cases of sexual assault within the domestic setting could be due to increased awareness of the negative consequences of the violence and the decline in the number of sexual assault cases reported within domestic setting. Often, the information involved is too personal and owing to shame, fear and guilt, the victims may opt that such information should not be shared. Consequently, the victims may experience confusion, frustration, and pain, thus requiring necessary support from all those involved in handling domestic violence sexual assault cases including advocates, law enforcers, and medical professionals.

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  1. Bennice, J., Resick, P., Mechanic, M., & Astin, M. (2003). The relative effects of intimate partner physical and sexual violence on post-traumatic stress disorder symptomatology. Violence Vict., 18(1), 87-94.
  2. Catalano, S. (2013). Intimate Partner violence: Attributes of victimization, 1993–2011. United States: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  3. Karla, G., & Bhugra, D. (2013). Sexual violence against women: Understanding cross-cultural intersections. Indian J Psychiatry, 55(3), 244–249.
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