I don’t get it.

In 2002, the issue of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church by Catholic priests came to light in America. Much of the abuse had been of children between the ages of 11-14, and had occurred decades earlier.

Worse, the Church knew about many of these allegations and had simply moved the offender to a different parish in a different part of the country. These revelations sparked enormous outrage worldwide, and resulted in well over 3,000 civil lawsuits against the offenders and the Catholic Church.

Beginning in 1991 with the Tailhook Scandal, we learned that sexual assault is a common occurrence in the nation’s military. We learned that an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year, and that 15 percent of female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from “military sexual trauma” (the Department of Defense term for the impact of sexual assault that occurred within military service).

One to two percent of enlisted men have also experienced sexual assault during their military service.

That is, of course, outrageous and must not be tolerated.

We have had congressional hearings, the Department of Defense did extensive research and developed new response services and protocols, and the Military Justice Improvement Act was included in this year’s National Defense Authorization act.

That bill proposed removing the prosecution of serious crimes (including sexual assault) from the military chain of command, since survivors cited the chain of command as one of the disincentives to report sexual assault, especially when the offender was part of that chain. While the bill did not pass, it is likely to be reintroduced in 2015.

In 2011, we learned that Jerry Sandusky, as assistant coach at Penn State University, was accused and then convicted of 52 counts of sexual abuse against children, some of which occurred on the grounds of Penn State. And, some Penn State officials knew about the allegations and did not do much to deal with the problem.

Again, that revelation ignited great outrage across the country.

Earlier this year, President Obama called attention to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses and established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

The president’s memorandum establishing the task force reveals that 1 in 5 women and a “substantial number of men” experience attempted or completed sexual violence while in college, and states that “more needs to be done to ensure safe, secure environments for students of higher education.”

Again, that awareness sparks enormous outrage and a call to action to address the issue.

So, I should be celebrating the outrage because it is about time that we connected with the horror of sexual violence and its impact. And seriously, I do. Every day.

But here is the part I don’t get: What about the 89,000 rape cases that are reported in the U.S. annually and the 60 percent of cases that occur but are not reported? What about the children who are sexually abused, not by a priest, but by a family member, a sibling, a relative, a neighbor? What about the people who are assaulted, not by a fellow service member or commanding officer, and not by a fellow student on a college campus, but in their communities, in their neighborhoods, in their cars, in their homes?

Where is our outrage about that?

Why are we not having public protests and congressional hearings and presidential task forces to address the horrific sexual violence that is affecting 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males in this country?

And I wonder, how do those survivors feel about all of this?

Do they feel invisible? Do they feel unsupported? Do they feel that their lives and their experiences are worth less than the lives of those who suffered sexual violence in the church, in the military, or on a college campus?

I suspect that survivors are glad that people are paying attention to sexual assault and sexual abuse within institutions, and so am I. I suspect they applaud any effort to help survivors of sexual violence and to draw attention to the problem, and so do I.

At the same time, thinking about the sexual violence that they endured in their everyday lives and the impact that they have struggled to overcome, thinking about the lack of attention or support that they experienced, and feeling shame from the blame that was often heaped upon them, survivors might not understand why we are not outraged about that, for them.

Neither do I.

Marty McIntyre is executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services works to prevent and eliminate sexual violence and promote healing and empowerment for people of all genders and ages who are affected by rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, stalking and sexual harassment.

The agency serves Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, plus the communities of Bridgton and Harrison.

The 24 hour response line is 1-800-871-7741 (voice) and 1-888-458-5599 (TTY).

For more information about SAPARS, go to sapars.org


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