The University of Texas’ Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault released a report last week on the prevalence of sexual assault in Texas, and the results are staggering.
Because sexual assault is such a highly under-reported crime, studies like this one are vital to our ability to understand the breadth and scope of sexual assault in our state. The survey found that 6.3 million Texans are survivors of sexual assault. That’s 33.2% of adult Texans who have experienced assault in their lifetime.
1 in 3 adult Texans has experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.
Across the country, that number is closer to 1 in 6. Certainly, this disparity could be a direct result of the improvement of research methodologies over time. When the national survey was done, over a decade ago, researchers did not yet have the tools that allowed the IDVSA to do such comprehensive work.
This is one suggestion from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) on why the results from this report show an increased prevalence in Texas, not only when compared to the rest of the country, but even compared to results in Texas from a similar study released in 2003.
“Our science to accurately measure sexual assault has evolved and an increase in public awareness over the past decade may mean that people think differently about their victimization,” Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz, the lead investigator and director of the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, explained. But advancements in academia can’t tell the whole story.
Annette Burrhus-Clay, TAASA Executive Director, said of the results: “It’s alarming that the prevalence of sexual assault has grown significantly since 2003.” According to this report, Texans are more likely to experience attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime, and this risk is increasing over time.
The report is a comprehensive snapshot of sexual assault in Texas – how often it happens, who it happens to, and how it continues to impact survivors.
In the last year, 413,000 Texans experienced sexual assault.
The researchers found that race did not play too large of a role in determining a Texan’s likelihood for sexual assault.Those who identified as Black or white were the most likely to have experienced sexual assault, 36.8% and 35.2%, respectively, but Latinx still saw an incredibly high rate of 27.9% as the lowest end of the spectrum.
The report did find significant differences where gender is concerned. Women are still twice more likely to be the targets of sexual assault than men, but men are more likely to experience sexual assault as teenagers.
College increases the likelihood of assault in Texas. Those who attended college, whether they did not complete their education or went on to pursue graduate studies, were at least 10% more likely to experience sexual assault. These statistics suggest that campus sexual assault is so prevalent that a Texan’s mere presence on a college campus increases their risk of sexual violence.
Ten percent of sexual assaults in Texas result in pregnancy. This is especially relevant in the context of the ongoing attacks on access to abortion services in Texas. Republican lawmakers have repeatedly ignored calls from advocates and their Democratic colleagues to include exemptions for victims of sexual assault in legislation aimed at curbing access to abortion services across the state.
With one in ten sexual assaults in Texas resulting in a pregnancy, this willful disregard is completely unacceptable.
Sexual assault has a lasting impact on survivors in Texas, who reported higher instances of stress, depression, health issues, and a reduced quality of life.
Despite growing awareness about the issue of sexual assault, many survivors are still quite reticent to report their assault to law enforcement.
Sexual assault is a huge problem in Texas, and without a targeted effort to interrupt cycles of violence, empower survivors, and create cultural change, Texans will continue to be at a heightened risk than our peers. This report makes clear that we have a great amount of work to do to combat sexual assault in Texas, and also that we cannot afford wait any longer to do so.