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COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Sexual Assault Prevention Takes Awareness

Apr 30, 2021 08:14AM ● By Editor
By Molly Hicken, Cook County Attorney of Cook County MN - April 30, 2021

April, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness month. Generally, sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual contact, including penetration or touching. The act of sexual assault may or may not include the use of actual physical force. The use of alcohol or other mood-altering drugs is often involved in the commission of this crime. 

Sexual assault is prevalent in all sectors of society, and disparately impacts women and girls. According to a 2011 study, an estimated 19.3% of women in the United States and 1.7% of men have been raped in their lifetimes ("rape" defined in this study as attempted or completed nonconsensual penetration).[1] It is a myth that rapes are typically committed by strangers. Very few female victims are raped by someone they don't know. More than half of female victims reported being raped by an intimate partner, and 41% reported being raped by an acquaintance.[2] Twenty-one of every one thousand people was victimized by sexual assault in 2019 (the last reporting year), down from 23 in 2018.[3] Native Americans are at the greatest risk of sexual violence, twice as likely to experience a rape or sexual assault compared to all races.[4]

Sexual assault is a public health concern because of the toll it takes on victims. Experiences of sexual violence are associated with poor short- and long-term physical and mental health outcomes.[5] Furthermore, this crime presents an economic burden estimated at $122,461 over the lifetime of a victim, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control in 2017. These costs are made up of expenses related to treating medical conditions, financing the criminal justice response, and property loss and damage, among others. When multiplied by all 25 million reported victims of rape in the United States, the CDC study calculated the lifetime cost of sexual assault, nationwide, at $3.1 trillion.[6] One trillion of these dollars are spent from government budgets.

In Cook County, sexual assaults are investigated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by the Cook County Attorney’s Office. Deputies receive special training in investigating sexual assaults to reduce re-traumatization of victims. Victims often hesitate to report sexual assault, or decide never to report at all, because of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and confidentiality. Victims also fear that they will not be believed. 

Resources are available to help victims process the trauma of sexual assault and guide them through an investigation or prosecution where applicable. Victim-service agencies are public or private organizations that provide help to victims of crime. In Cook County, there are three contacts for victims. Grand Portage Human Services and Violence Prevention Center are both trained to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence. The Victims Services unit of the Cook County Attorney's Office assists victims in cases brought forward for prosecution.

·       Grand Portage Human Services: (218) 475-2166

·       Violence Prevention Center: (218) 387-1262 or (218) 387-1237 or [email protected]

·       Cook County Attorneys Office Victim Services: (218) 387-3669

Preventing sexual assault is possible. The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault asks people to take the Rosemary Pledge, an agreement to begin taking small, actionable steps towards prevention. Find out more at

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service

[1] Breiding MJ, Smith SG, Basile KC, Walters ML, Chen J, Merrick MT. Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization--national intimate partner and sexual violence survey, United States, 2011. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2014 Sep 5.

[2] National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2019 Summary Report).

[3] Bureau of Justice Statistics survey (2019).

[4] Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-2012 (2013).

[5] Breiding MJ, Smith SG, Basile KC, Walters ML, Chen J, Merrick MT at 1-18.

[6] Degue, S. (4 December, 2018). The cost of rape: Applying an economic burden estimate to advance prevention. NSVRC Blogs. National Sexual Violence Resource Center. 

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