One in 35 Iowa women aged 18-44 will experience sexual violence, according to research from the Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) in the University of Iowa College of Public Health published in the August edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In addition, over 55,000 Iowans experienced sexual violence in 2009. Of these, nearly three of every four were female and one in ten was under age 18.
[Photo: Dr. Corinne Peek-Asa]
“Incidence and Cost of Sexual Violence in Iowa” enumerates not only the incidents of sexual violence in Iowa, but also details the results of a cost analysis to estimate the direct and indirect cost of sexual violence in the state.
“Sexual violence cost Iowans $4.7 billion in 2009,” says report co-author Dr. Corinne Peek-Asa, director of the IPRC and UI professor of occupational and environmental health. “That amounts to $1,580 per resident.”
According to Dr. Peek-Asa, this estimate included $4.44 billion in indirect costs and $265 million in direct costs. In the same year, government spending totaled an estimated $100.6 million as a result of sexual violence in Iowa, more than half of which ($55.3 million) was spent on perpetrators and little ($0.9 million) on prevention.
“The largest cost was due to the pain, suffering, and quality of life losses of victims and their families,” says Dr. Peek-Asa. “When talking about sexual violence, we have to take into account part of the costs of STDs, pregnancy, suicidal acts, and substance abuse, in addition to lost work, property damage, and other indirect costs more commonly associated with these acts.”
“More alarming is that we do very little to prevent the acts of violence in the first place,” continues Dr. Peek-Asa. “Less than 1 percent of state and federal funds were spent to prevent sexual violence. We simply must do more.”
Research has shown that sexual violence can be prevented before it occurs. Investing in comprehensive prevention programs that address its root causes will help ensure that victims and offenders receive prompt treatment to reduce the risk of later victimization or future offenses. Prevention programs also help organizations adopt policies that promote the safety of victims and accountability of perpetrators, and that everyone understands the beliefs that condone or minimize sexual violence.
This work was supported by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center and Iowa Department of Public Health. The following agencies assisted in gathering information used for this work: Iowa Department of Corrections; Iowa Department of Human Rights, Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning; Iowa Department of Human Services; Iowa Department of Justice, Crime Victim Assistance Division; and Iowa Department of Public Safety.