While sexual assaults of minors may not make the national news very often, minors in rural areas are frequently sexually assaulted, according to Professor Daniel Pollock. Pollock's recent article "Sexual assault of minors in rural areas: The role of departments of human services." Two such cases have made the local news in the Traverse City, Michigan area in the past two weeks. Thus, the question about how many minors in other rural communities are affected resonates with me.
Megan’s Law, adopted in 1996, created a nationwide sex offender registry. The law prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park and requires registration with local police authorities and notification of past victims of the offender’s presence in the neighborhood. This, Pollock states, is not enough protection for children living in rural areas.
Pollack makes three important points: First, most rural victims know their abuser / perpetrator, thus the principal sexual offenders in rural areas are not registered sex offenders. Second, it is impossible to know how frequently sexual violence in rural areas is underreported because the offender is a relative or family friend. Third, the exact definition of “sexual violence,” “sexual assault,” and similar terms, varies by state.
Pollack identifies many barriers to services in rural areas, including, but not limited to: lack of personal transportation and limited access to public transportation; lack of anonymity; the fact that victims in rural communities are more likely to be acquainted with or related to the perpetrator; limited legal, medical and counseling services in many rural communities, and lack of culturally-relevant supportive services.
Pollack provides a comprehensive initial “to-do” list for departments of human services to ensure that victims’ needs are more adequately met. See: Pollock, Daniel. "Sexual Assault of Minors in Rural Areas: The Role of Human Services Departments." Policy & Practice 73(3), (2015): 32-33, (Accessed June 3, 2015)
Professor Pollack's article, may be downloaded here. Download Sexual assault of minors in rural areas
Daniel Pollack is a professor at the School of Social Work, Yeshiva University in New York City, and a frequent expert witness in child abuse, foster care, and adoption cases. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-960-0836.