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Sexual assault costs victims up to $3 million in lost education, earnings

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Gillian Smith

After a tumultuous 51-49 procedural vote moving the confirmation process forward, the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court following testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh and a week-long FBI investigation into sexual assault accusations.


Liz Karns

Senior Lecturer, Social Statistics

Liz Karns is an epidemiologist and lawyer who teaches statistics at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). Karns researches the often-unseen economic dimension of sexual assault: the millions of dollars a woman can lose in lifetime earnings after her education or career is derailed.

Karns says:

Making a decision to report sexual misconduct is difficult and time-consuming. The time spent deciding to whether to report, reconsidering whether it was the right decision, anticipating the barriers ahead are all lost hours.

“A victim can face financial losses adding to $2,937,860 over a lifetime. Costs start the day of the assault and often add up to $3,200, which includes a $1,000 emergency room visit, transportation and clothing replacement. A month later, the victim might forfeit $3,750 tuition due to a dropped course. Costs such as counseling, health appointments and relocation can add up to $4,960. Costs by the end of the semester grow to $11,960, including $2,500 of financial aid loss and $3,750 in time lost and impact of the investigation.

“By year's end, costs add to $66,000 ­– $60,000 in lost tuition, addiction spending and treatment totaling $5,600 and insurance costs of $340. When the hypothetical victim forsakes a career as a registered nurse and becomes a nurse aide, her total lifetime earnings are nearly $3 million less than if she had stayed on her original career plan.

These costs are directly experienced by the victims of sexual misconduct. Despite the availability of criminal and civil court methods to shift the economic burden, perpetrators of sexual misconduct are rarely held accountable for the high lifetime costs to the victim."


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