In 2017, there were 2,587 reported incidents of sexual assault in Arkansas. That number includes forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, statutory rape and incest. There were 359 arrests for sexual assault crimes that same year, which is an arrest rate of 14% and shows quite a disparity between reported incidents of sexual assault and arrests.
Reported incidents of sexual assault do not provide a true representation of the problem and according to the data from the Behavioral Risk Factor surveillance System, 13%, or 136,600 women in Arkansas have experienced sexual violence, as well as almost 2%, or 16,800 of men. Perhaps most disturbing is data on youth in Arkansas. Adolescents and young adults are at a much higher risk for sexual assault. The percentage of respondents in Arkansas for the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (AR YRBSS) indicating they had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse has been steadily increasing since 2001, over the past 16 years; it has increased from 9.7% to 19.2%. In addition to being forced to have sexual intercourse, Arkansas student’s also experienced sexual dating violence at higher rates (7.8%) compared to students nationally (6.9%). In addition to experiencing sexual assault, Arkansas student’s also experienced physical dating violence at higher rates (12.1%) compared to students nationally (8%). Additionally, students in Arkansas engaged in behaviors often associated with higher risk for violence than students nationally, such as having sexual intercourse before age 13 (Arkansas 4.9%, United States 3.4%).
Arkansas faces some unique challenges in terms of preventing sexual violence. According to the 2000 census, over 54 million people in the United States live with a disability. This represents 19% of the population. In Arkansas, data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) indicates that around 26.7% of adults living in the community have some type of disability. The 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) listed the following statistics of the social and economic status of non-institutionalized people with disabilities in Arkansas. That year, the prevalence of disability was 17.0% compared to the United States of 12.8%. In other words, in 2016, 498,000 of the 2,938,800 individuals of all ages in Arkansas reported one or more disabilities. Among the six types of disabilities identified by the ACS, the highest prevalence rate was for Ambulatory Disability, 9.8%. The lowest prevalence rate was for Visual Disability, 3.3%. The overall percentage of males with disability of all ages was 17.2% and females with a disability of all ages was 16.8%.
In terms of presenting the entire picture of sexual violence in Arkansas, these statistics, though most likely conservative, still provide an account that is a serious social and public health problem affecting the health and welfare of many Arkansans. The identified risks and data listed in the narrative provide only a selection of risk factors for sexual violence and point to the continued efforts and programs needed to help impact sexual violence prevention within the state.
This project seeks to reduce sexual assault through primary prevention efforts. This will be done by increasing the capacity of local funded programs across the state in the five public health regions in order to create environmental and community-level changes that result from utilizing a standard curriculum for sexual violence awareness and prevention.