Sunday, August 28, 2005

Letters to the Editor - Convicted abusers just tip of the iceberg

Baltimore Sun - August 28, 2005

It's important for there to be stricter laws regulating convicted sex offenders. But the proposed laws are only a Band-Aid to a much larger problem ("Governor promotes sex-crime measures," Aug. 21).

These proposed laws pertain only to convicted sex offenders. And it's important for residents of Maryland to be aware of the fact that the majority of sex offenders have not been convicted of their crimes.

As we all know, childhood sexual abuse and rape of adults are often crimes of secrecy and silence. The problem is compounded by the fact that only 32 percent of sexual assaults against people 12 or older are reported to law enforcement.

According to another study, 84 percent of respondents who identified themselves as rape victims did not report the crime to authorities.

And according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the majority of survivors of sexual violence are afraid to report sexual assault to the police.

Reasons include fears that reporting could lead to further victimization by the offender; fears of other forms of retribution by the offender or by his or her friends or family; concerns about the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of an offender who may be a family member or friend and on whom the victim or others may depend; concerns about others finding out about the sexual assault or about not being believed; and concerns about being traumatized by the response of the criminal justice system.

Vicki Polin
The writer is executive director of The Awareness Center Inc., the Jewish coalition against sexual abuse and assault.

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