MOUNT VERNON -- What if someone were to tell you that the people you are closest to are the ones that can hurt you the most?
Within recent years, sexual crimes have been fluctuating: Sex offenses have been on the rise. A reason for that?
Growing up we were taught that strangers were the ones that we had to watch out for, but when it comes to sex offenses it is your own family and friends. “Stranger Danger” does not always apply to sex offenses within your community.
In a study, conducted by the Victims Advocate Program with help from Meghan May with The Nazarene University, sexual assault cases from the Knox County Prosecutor's Office showed 83 percent of such crimes were committed by those we consider family and friends.
The reason why sexual crimes are family- and friend-oriented is due to the fact that is that these friends and family members have already gained a victim's trust.
We tend to rule these people out because we trust them. But when this act is committed against you, who is the family going to believe? How could your family believe that your own family member did this to you?
In data collected from 2014 to 2019 for adult cases: 40 percent of sexual crimes were committed solely by family members – fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, 43 percent were committed by friends, significant others or neighbors, 10 percent were online friends (Facebook/ dating apps), 5 percent were committed by people who were considered acquaintances, and 2 percent were committed by strangers.
These percentages were from 63 cases that the Knox County Prosecuting Office indicted.
The average age in which these crimes were committed were between the ages of 18 and 30 (32 total cases), with a decline between the ages of 31-49 (13 cases) and a rise when the perpetrator is 50+ (17 cases). The average age for victims fell between the ages of 13- 17 (30 cases), while victims that were between the ages of 0-12 appeared in 22 cases. Lastly, in the cases where the victim was 18+ there were only 16 cases.
In a separate study conducted for juvenile sex offenses committed during 2014 to 2019: 56 percent of the cases were committed by family members, 36 percent were committed by friends, significant others, or classmates, 4 percent were committed by online friends, and 4 percent were committed by strangers. This data was also collected from the juvenile sex offenses within the last five years from Knox County.
In this study there were only 25 juvenile sex cases: 6 in which were dismissed and 19 juveniles plead guilty. Out of all 25 cases, none of them went to trial. The age of the perpetrator was not as distinctive as the adult study.
In seven of the cases in the juvenile study, the perpetrator was between the ages of 9-13 years old, in eight cases the perpetrator was between 14-15 years old and in 10 of the cases, the perpetrator was 16-17 years old.
What should be very eye opening is that there were 12 cases where the victim was between 4 and 8 years old.
In the next age category, there were also 12 cases where the victim was between the ages of 9 and 15 years old, while there were only two cases where the victim was above 16 years old.
With the recent rise in sexual offenses, it is important to realize where these offenses manifest. This article is not saying that sexual crimes occur in all families, but it is important to be present in people’s lives. To the people who are experiencing this, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are many resources that are available within our community. To parents, this could be happening to your child.
What is most important is that you be involved in their life. To the people of the community, check in with people see how they are doing. What we do not realize in today’s society is that a simple conversation can make a difference in our life and way of thinking.
The purpose of this article was to raise awareness on the issues that are happening around us that tend to not be noticed until years later.
Be a voice within your community, and let’s raise awareness to help end Sexual Assault. The information provided in these studies were from cases brought by The Knox County Prosecuting Office.
The Victim’s Assistance Program is a federal and state funded program that serves to provide crime victims with the information and emotional support necessary to make their way through the process of seeking justice.
April is Sexual Awareness Month. If you have been a victim, please report it. If you know someone who is a victim, let them know there are people that can help.
For more information contact Diana Oswalt, Director/Advocate for the Knox County Victim Assistance Program via email at email@example.com. or by phone 740-397-3404.