Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking in Arkansas

By: Kaylyn Presley Hager

The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Journal, the William H. Bowen School of Law, or UA Little Rock.

Arkansas is a poverty-stricken state and ranks among the 5 states with the highest poverty rates in the country, 19.2% in 2014. 19 counties experience extreme poverty with a poverty rate of 25% or greater. Given the high poverty rates, there are few resources available, either in the public or private arena, to adequately address sexual assault, human trafficking, and domestic violence.  In 2017, there were 650 cases of sexual assault reported in Arkansas. Given that only a third of sexual assault cases are reported, presumably, the number of actual sexual assaults that actually occurred in 2017 was in the thousands. Sexual assault has many emotional and psychological short term and long-term effects. According to the DOJ, 30% of women who were raped report symptoms of PTSD, 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide, 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide and approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. Unfortunately, the effects of sexual assault extend beyond the impact to the victim. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public Specifically, survivors are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs. According to a study by the CDC, the lifetime economic burden of rape per victim is $122,461.

From 2007 to 2017, there were 812 calls human trafficking calls in Arkansas, leading to 203 cases filed. This year alone, at least 145 calls, leading to 42 cases of human trafficking. Thus, the number of Arkansas human trafficking cases being reported in on the increase.

On September 13, 2017, the National Census of Domestic Violence Services conducted a study during a 24-hour survey period. The census collected information from 27 programs in Arkansas. During this period, 212 Hotline Calls were answered, averaging 9 calls an hour. Survivors made 150 requests for services, including shelter, transportation, childcare, legal representation, and more—that could not be provided because programs lacked the resources to meet the survivor’s needs. The census also found out that in the past year, 7 local programs in Arkansas laid off or did not fill 10 staff positions. 40% of these positions were direct service providers, such as shelter staff or advocates. By losing these positions, there were fewer advocates to answer calls or provide services. 23% of DV survivors attempt suicide.

ACASA is a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations working together toward the elimination of sexual violence and advocating for sexual assault victims’ rights and services. ACASA provides cohesion, vision and resources to members, while working to change public attitudes and beliefs surrounding sexual violence issues. They envision a world free of sexual violence in which men and women together assure that all human beings are treated with dignity and respect for their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual integrity. Through collaborative action, the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault advocates for the rights and needs of persons affected by all forms of sexual violence.

ACASA coordinates with the Arkansas Commission of Child Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence and 26 other organizations, including representatives from Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Department of Health, the state police, and the Department of Corrections, to work to find solutions in addressing issues related to serving victims in a trauma informed, victim centered way.

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