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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Apr 22, 2022 10:54AM ● By Editor

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen. Submitted photo:   

By Pat Eliasen, Cook County Sheriff from Cook County MN Law Enforcement • April 22, 2022

April signifies the nationally recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a prevalent issue that individuals face, not just here in Cook County and the State of Minnesota, but worldwide. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women in the United States experienced rape or attempted rape during their lifetime[1]. Additionally, nearly 25% of men experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime[2]. If you break these numbers down into figures closer to home, the Cook County population in 2020 was reported to be 5,600. Census statistics show that gender equality was approximately 50%, indicating approximately 2,800 females in Cook County. If you apply the numbers from the NSVRC to the population in Cook County, the quantities suggest that 560 women may have experienced some form of rape and 700 men may have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 

These numbers are quite staggering when you focus them on the local level. Suppose you use the percentages from the NSRVC and compare them to the Cook County Sheriff's Office statistics. In that case, surprisingly fewer cases are reported, supporting the reality that many of these cases go unreported. In 2020, 17 cases of criminal sexual conduct were reported to the Sheriff's Office. In 2021 only eight cases were reported. This does not mean that other cases were not conveyed to other agencies within the county; this simply means that only a small percentage are investigated. 

There is also a myth that sexual assaults are typically committed by strangers or someone unknown to the victim. The NSRVC reports that over 52% of assaults are committed by an acquaintance, while only 15% are perpetrated by someone that the victim knows[3]. Most would think that sexual assault using some force is common, and it is. Another type of sexual assault is known as "sexual coercion." This is described as the constant request for sexual activities, wearing someone down with continuous advances, or sexual pressure applied by someone in a position of authority. Approximately 13% of women and six percent of men experience sexual coercion in their lifetime[4]. Sexual harassment is currently the most widespread form of sexual assault. Information from national sources shows that 81% of women and 43% of men experience some manner of sexual harassment[5].

In Cook County, there are several resources to contact if you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, coercion, or harassment. Reporting to the Cook County Sheriff's Office is recommended for all forms of sexual assault. In addition, we work closely with the Cook County Attorney's Office, Cook County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS), and the Violence Prevention Center (VPC) to investigate and preserve the dignity of victims throughout the entire case. Being mindful of the trauma already inflicted on the victims, the described agencies will work to provide the best care and highest level of service they can. Victim advocates are supplied through the VPC, and their commitment to the victims of sexual assault is nothing short of miraculous. 

It can be difficult to report that you have been the victim of a sexual assault. Sometimes, the victim does not realize they have been abused, due to intimidation or negative persuasion. If you or someone you know may have suffered an assault of this kind, please reach out to any of the agencies described above, and we can help you navigate the process. Contact information is below.

Cook County Sheriff's Office • 218-387-3030

Cook County Public Health and Human Services • 218-387-3620

Violence Prevention Center • 218-387-1237   

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] Smith, S. G., Zhang, X., Basile, K. C., Merrick, M. T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M., & Chen, J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 data brief – updated release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[2] ibid

[3] Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[4] Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[5] Kearl, H. (2018). The facts behind the #metoo movement: A national study on sexual harassment and assault. Stop Street Harassment.

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