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Have you been a victim of sexual assault?

Johnson City Press • Nov 20, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood icons, sports figures and prominent politicians have made the headlines in recent weeks. The accused include names like Oscar Award-winning film producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis C.K.

As Press staff writer Brandon Paykamian reported earlier this month, these allegations have spurred other victims of sexual assault and harassment to tell their own stories by posting “me too” on Twitter and Facebook. Ruth Taylor Read, chairwoman of Women Matter Northeast Tennessee, told the Press the recent scandals involving powerful men have shown a spotlight on a problem victims have long struggled with.

“We are slowly changing the pendulum swing to where women are feeling more comfortable coming forward,” Read told Paykamian. “Until recently, this society has always shamed women for coming forward.”

As an advocate for victims of sexual assault at East Tennessee State University, Read said she’s heard many shocking accounts of sexual assault from women. Even so, Read said most victims decline to take legal action against their assailants, which can skew the statistics on sexual assaults.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released a report in March that said four forcible sexual assaults were reported at East Tennessee State University in 2016. Two of those cases, however, were labeled as “cleared.”

Read said national statistics indicate that perpetrators are likely to be repeat offenders. For every 120 sex offenders, there are 1,225 victims. Statistics show offenders are likely to commit at least six acts of sexual violence.

Assistant District Attorney Erin McArdle said cases involving allegations of sexual abuse are often difficult to prosecute. Even when victims do come forward, she said, “not every case comes with forensic evidence or DNA.”

We want to hear from you. Have you been a victim sexual harassment or assault? Do you know someone who has?

Send your comments to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

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