April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time devoted to increasing awareness of the pressing problem of sexual assault and educating people about how to prevent it.
Strikingly, U.S. statistics reveal that one sexual assault occurs every two minutes. Think about that – in about the time that it takes you to read this post, another victim will be sexually assaulted.
The good news is that the rate of sexual assault in this country has actually decreased by more than 50 percent since 1993 – thanks in large part to the efforts of those in the violence against women movement who have worked tirelessly to end violence, raise awareness, and advocate for better laws.
But while the gains have been impressive, our work is far from over.
In the spirit of awareness, we should all be equipped with the facts on sexual assault. Myths surrounding sexual assault are commonplace, and unfortunately one of the consequences is that the severity of sexual assault is often denied and victims are left without the support they need. So this April, arm yourself with facts and join the fight against sexual assault.
Here are ten things you should know about sexual assault:
1. Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
- Here’s the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey –there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.
- There are 525,600 minutes in a non-leap year. That makes 31,536,000 seconds/year. So, 31,536,000 divided by 237,868 comes out to 1 sexual assault every 133 seconds, or about 1 every 2 minutes.
2. Nearly 1 out of every 5 American women has experienced rape at some time in their lives.
- This adds up to a total of almost 20 million women, and these estimates may actually be low due to underreporting and poor documentation of sexual assault cases.
3. About 9 out of every 10 rape victims are female.
- Women are are over 14 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men.
4. Men can be victims, too: About 2-3% of American men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
- Approximately one in every ten rape victims are male.
- 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault.
5. About 1 in 6 (15%) of sexual assault victims are children.
- 29% are age 12-17.
- 44% are under age 18.
- 80% are under age 30.
- 12-34 are the highest risk years.
- Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape or attempted rape.
- 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 report having been sexually abused.
- 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 report having been sexually abused.
6. Most victims know their assailant.
- Among female rape victims, perpetrators are most likely to be intimate partners (51.1%) or acquaintances (40.8%), followed by strangers (13.8%) family members (12.5%). (Note: numbers do not add up to 100% because some victims have experienced more one than rape or sexual assault).
- Among male rape victims, perpetrators were reported to be acquaintances (52.4%) and strangers (15.1%).
7. College-age women are particularly at risk
- In a nationally representative survey of adults, 37.4% of female rape victims were first raped between ages 18-24.
- In a study of undergraduate women, 19% had experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.
8. The effects of sexual assault are severe and long-lasting
Victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
9. Rape results in approximately 32,000 pregnancies each year
- In a study of female victims of partner violence who filed a protective order, 68% reported they were raped by their intimate partner and 20% reported a rape-related pregnancy.
10. False accusations of rape and sexual assault are exceedingly rare.
- Extensive research reveals that false rape reports comprise just 2% of all reported rapes.
- The actual percentage of false reports is likely even lower, given that sexual violence is among the most underreported of all crimes.
All of us have a role to play in stopping the preventable scourge of sexual violence. You can help by sharing these facts and confronting myths when you hear them. For more ways to get involved in the fight against sexual violence, click here.