The Risk of Sexual Assault in the Home During a Pandemic

Shara Kaszovitz standing in front of Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center

By Shara Kaszovitz

When someone thinks about sexual assault, they often imagine a scene in which a stranger sexually assaults woman in an alley late at night.  Although these acts do occur, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, including intimate partners, friends, caregivers, or even family members, some of whom live in the same home.  With the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders to combat it, the risk of sexual assault within a home has increased.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 33 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner and, according to the Department of Justice, 34 perfect of child sexual abuse cases reported to police are perpetrated by a family member.  However, due to under reporting, the actual incidents of sexual assault by someone in the home is thought to be higher.

According to an article by NPR, when stay-at-home orders began in March, the RAINN hotline had an increase in contact from minors, with the majority reporting sexual abuse by a family member in their home. This is as a result of perpetrators having more access to victims since they are not going to school, work, or other places outside the home. Additionally, financial stress and psychological stress related to a catastrophic event, have been linked to an increased risk of domestic violence as well.

Furthermore, the pandemic has also made it more difficult for victims to get help since perpetrators have more opportunities to check a victim’s computer and phone, making reaching out for help dangerous. In fear of also catching the COVID-19 virus, victims might not go to the police, hospitals, or their local rape treatment center. Children and vulnerable adults are also having little to no contact with those who might suspect and report sexual abuse, such as counselors, doctors, and teachers.

Nevertheless, there is help: police have not stopped responding to calls, domestic violence shelters and rape treatment centers remain open, and hotlines are working whether via a phone or online.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, please know that your experience matters, you are not alone, and there are people ready to help.

If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, or if you have questions or need help, call Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center’s confidential helpline at 305-585-7273 or visit https://jacksonhealth.org/rape-treatment/. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are not able to contact a resource yourself, reach out to a trusted person who can help you get safe or who can provide you with emotional support.  And if you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

Established in 1974, the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Medical Center is the only center of its kind in Miami-Dade County. It is named after women’s rights activist and Florida Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, Roxcy O’Neal Bolton. Since then, the center has provided emotional and medical services to more than 70,000 people.

Below is a list of additional resources and a link to safety planning tips.

Shara Kaszovitz, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center. She has worked with individuals and families of different ages and backgrounds in settings ranging from alternative school to assisted living facility. Shara can be contacted at shara.kaszovitz@jhsmiami.org