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Nancy White Jul 20, 2012

When the Legal Client Becomes the Victim – I am Seeking Answers

I live in the Midwest (Missouri) and have been enduring over 100 degree weather now for too many days. Not only am I unmotivated, but all my outdoor plants have died. My yard has a few weeds and my grass lies dormant. Snow has never sounded so good. In the middle of this horribly hot summer I have had an experience that I will never forget. A mentally ill client, with legal problems herself, has become a victim of a horrendous crime. She opened the front door to her apartment in the middle of the night and was brutally beaten and raped.

I have worked within a jail system for most of my adult life. I have worked with inmates who have committed the crime of assault. Some of these inmates have suffered from a mental illness and some have not. Most cases have involved drugs or alcohol. I can’t remember ever knowing a victim, as well as I know this victim, until now.

As the victim/client works through her trauma with a trained, licensed counselor, my staff is also offered counseling. I am seeking answers even though it is the alleged perpetrator that I am accustomed to working with. Our jails are full of men and women who have allegedly assaulted.

The National Institute of Justice says research on sexual violence indicates that—
Sexual violence may occur in any type of relationship, but most perpetrators of sexual assault are known to their victims. Among victims ages 18 to 29, two-thirds had a prior relationship with the offender. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that 6 in 10 rape or sexual assault victims said that they were assaulted by an intimate partner, relative, friend or acquaintance.
Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than are men. The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) sampled 8,000 women and 8,000 men and found that 1 in 6 women (17 percent) and 1 in 33 men (3 percent) reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.
Women are significantly more likely than men to be injured during an assault. In one NIJ-funded study, 31.5 percent of female rape victims, compared with 16.1 percent of male rape victims, reported being injured during their most recent rape.
Sexual violence may begin early in life. Researchers also found that among female rape victims surveyed, more than half (54 percent) were younger than age 18; 32.4 percent were ages 12–17; and 21.6 percent were younger than age 12 at time of victimization.
Early abuse and later victimization. Although child sexual abuse before age 13 is not by itself a risk factor for adult sexual victimization or domestic violence, girls who were victimized before turning 12 and then again as adolescents (ages 13–17) were at much greater risk of both types of victimization as adults than any other women.
The only answer that I have right now is that it appears that we need to keep our children safe. Thank you for reading this and have a good week!

Nancy White is a counselor who has spent much of her professional life working in corrections.

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