Though it occurred many years ago, I’ll never forget the day when, as a teacher, I walked into the woman’s lounge at school and found a rape victim, a young student, collapsed on a couch, her taffy colored hair cascading over a blue, velvet cushion. With her pupils thrown far back into her head, all I could see were the whites of her eyes.
One teacher sat perched on a stool beside her, attempting to calm the girl’s arms and legs. They jerked wildly about her, as though they were being prodded with electric wires. For a moment, I stood frozen, wondering how to help. Then, another woman rushed into the room. In her arms, she carried two, grey woolen blankets meant to keep the girl warm. As she brushed past me, our eyes met. I could see her features were taut, as if someone had shouted “fire” in a quiet room. Mine must have looked the same. Both of us knew we were witnessing the aftermath of shock, one as violent and real as any encountered on a battlefield. To predict that the violence done to this child would torment her the rest of her life didn’t require a medical degree.
Hers was one cost rape induces. The emotional cost. There is another. Martha Burk details the economic impact sexual predators in our society. (“The Price of Rape,” by Martha Burk. MS, Winter 2019, pgs. 46.)
According to Burk, roughly 300,00 rapes and sexual assaults occur in the United States every year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the financial impact for the country to be $270 billion annually. That not only includes medical treatment for victims and time lost from their jobs, but also dollars necessary to prosecute and incarcerate the guilty. In addition, victims often require extended medical or psychological attention. The CDC projects their collective debt, over the course of their lives, to be about $39 billion. On an individual basis, a study out of Cornell University reports, “A college student who is sexually assaulted pays an estimated $2,937,960 in lifetime costs.” (Ibid, pg. 11.)
Unfortunately, Congress continues to underfund The Violence Against Women’s Act, (VAWA), passed in 1994. If it were fully funded, researchers believe the $48 million budget dedicated to care for rape victims would benefit society to the tune of $14.8 billion dollars, annually. With more women in the Congress perhaps we will see a willingness to provide victims of rape the assistance they need. Let’s hope so.