Sexual Violence in Chicago

Sexual violence in Chicago is a significantly under-covered crime in Chicago and is only really covered if the media can exploit and sensationalize the event.Sexual Violence

Today we chat with Executive Director Erin Walton and Director of Programs and Policy Sarah Layden from Resilience. Our discussion covers defining what exactly is sexual violence, how often it occurs, and the Chicago/Cook County justice system’s response.

Despite how the Chicago media covers these crimes most sexual violence perpetrators are known to the survivor. This reality is proven both in what advocates from agencies like resilience see everyday in their work supporting survivors and national level survey research like the National Crime Victimization Survey.

While the gap has slightly narrowed in recent years for many years the gap between known and unknown offenders was 9-1. In our 2013 study on a year of domestic violence and sexual assault coverage in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times we learned that less than 4% of the articles on sexual assault were about assaults at the hands of known offenders. This is obviously completely opposite of how they occur in Chicago.

The issue with the problematic media coverage is that if the only types of sexual violence that is represented in the news is ultra violence stranger assaults this will lead to the false belief that less violent assaults committed by known offenders is not really a crime. This is why it is important for the Chicago media to responsibly cover the range of sexual assault in Chicago.

The important work done on the streets and in the hospitals every day by advocates for survivors is definitely an ignored part of our justice system. There are far too many facets of the justice system that traditional crime reporters only call on when they find out about an incident that can be exploited and sensationalized for clicks.

This is why we are so happy that Erin and Sarah decided to sit down with us for this vital discussion.

Author: Tracy SiskaTracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.

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