The “rape” buzzword has been circulating heavily over the last few years, becoming almost impossible to ignore. The #MeToo movement, beginning in 2016, illuminated the widespread prevalence of sexual assault, with activists prompting calls to increase prevention measures and education, while also encouraging open dialogue. With millions of people from all around the world spreading this hashtag on every social media outlet, this issue of sexual assault moved from late-night discussions among trusted friends at a dive bar to watching millions of people, men and women alike, take to the streets on the first day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency in early 2017.
During his reign as commander in chief, sexual assault became a widely bipartisan issue, with Republicans being swift to dismiss accusers due to a perceived lack of credibility and Democrats frantically trying to increase awareness and prevention efforts. This tango between the two parties has been ongoing since, with the Biden administration frantically trying to undo the efforts of the previous administration on this issue, and with Republicans desperately trying to hold on to fundamentalist values. The fact of the matter is that no matter one’s political affiliation, sexual assault is costing Americans trillions of dollars a year.
Recent estimates put the cost of rape at $122,461 per victim, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities such as court proceedings and law enforcement efforts, among other costs. When looking at this collectively, the population economic burden of sexual assault in this country is nearly $3.1 trillion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention itemizes this cost, reporting $1.2 trillion, 39% of total, in medical costs; $1.6 trillion, 52%, in lost work productivity among victims and perpetrators; $234 billion, 8%, in criminal justice activities; and $36 billion, 1%, in other costs, including victim property loss or damage. Furthermore, government sources pay an estimated $1 trillion, 32%, of the lifetime economic burden.
Individual and institutional spending on health care is commonplace in the United States, especially for chronic medical conditions, acute accidents, maternal health care, child wellness, etc. What’s unique about sexual assault when compared to other types of costs is that the roots of rape are not based on health promotion; rather they are based on violence. Through a massive reduction of sexual assault in this country, violent crime would not only decrease, but it would also save the government millions.
Inevitably, the partisan battles over the concept of rape itself will continue, but from an economic standpoint, the answer is clear: sexual assault in this country is a financial burden to the American people. Even if Republicans choose not to prioritize sexual assault, they do desire to decrease health care spending, aligning them with Democrats whether they morally agree or not. Moving forward, it is…