Coordinated Community Response Column

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted is to know the facts about this very serious crime. Sexual assault is a crime usually thought to be associated with youthfulness, but victims are not chosen because of their age or beauty.

Another myth regarding sexual assault is that sexual assault only happens in large cities, when in fact it happens in both urban and rural communities.

One out of four females and one out of six males will be sexually assaulted. And in 90 percent of reported cases the victims knew their offender and 33 percent occur in the victim’s own home. Lastly, another myth is that false allegations of rape are common; it is estimated that two to three percent are false reports.

Sexual assault is really about “power and control” and “vulnerability” therefore children, youth, the disabled and elderly are at high risk of sexual assault.

Door County has a large population of older adults, nearly 20 percent of the population is more than 65 years old and 16 percent of people in that age bracket have self-care or mobility issues. The primary reason for sexual assault of older adults is “vulnerability,” physical frailty or diminished ability to defend self, need for assistance, congregate setting or living alone.

Many older adults may have conflicted feelings if the abuser is a family member and may have a difficult time reporting. If dementia or cognitive impairment are present and they lack personal power, the vulnerability increases. They may not be aware of services and options and believe disclosure will be discounted.

Many of our elderly today also grew up in an environment where sex wasn’t talked about and the shame or embarrassment of being sexually violated makes it too difficult to talk about.

Door County is very fortunate to have services available to victims and their families, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services including support, advocacy, access to medical services, advocacy with law enforcement and the criminal justice system with follow up for additional services.

Support our most vulnerable citizens by helping them to be safe and encouraging them to report sexual assault and help make our community safer for everyone.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.