Sexual Assault in America
In 2005, there were 188,960 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault according to the 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. Of these, 67% were under the age of 18.
Less is known about the frequency of rapes perpetrated against men. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that about 5% of sexual assaults are perpetrated against male victims. Because many of these attacks occurring daily go unreported and unrecognized, sexual assault can be considered a silent-violent epidemic in the United States today.
Rape and Assault Facts
- 17.6% of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17.
- 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date.
- The FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.
- In the National Violence against Women Survey, approximately 25% of women and 8% of men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetimes. The survey estimates that more than 300,000 intimate partner rapes occur each year against women 18 or older.
- Every two minutes, somewhere in America someone is sexually assaulted.
- One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
- Rape victims often experience anxiety, guilt, nervousness, phobias, substance abuse, sleep disturbances, depression, alienation, sexual dysfunction, and aggression. They often distrust others and replay the assault in their minds, and they are at increased risk of future victimization.
- According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 260,000 rapes or sexual assaults occurred in 2000; 246,180 of them occurred among females and 14,770 among males.
- About 81% of rape victims are white; 18% are black; 1% are of other races.
- Females ages 12 to 24 are at the greatest risk for experiencing a rape or sexual assault.
- Almost two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger. (38% of perpetrators were a friend or acquaintance of the victim, 28% were an intimate and 7% were another relative)
Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence
Myth: "It can't happen to me." Rape is an isolated, infrequent event that only happens to certain kinds of people: attractive, young women, women who are promiscuous or provocative.
Fact: Anyone can be sexually assaulted. Studies show that "victims" include infants to people in their nineties, lesbians/gays, people with disabilities, and people from every racial, ethnic, religious, economic and social background.
Myth: "She asked for it." Women often provoke rape by their own behavior: wearing low-cut or tight clothing, going out alone, staying out late, being drunk, using drugs, kissing, etc.
Fact: No one asks to be sexually assaulted. Nor does anyone's behavior justify or excuse the crime. People have a right to be safe from sexual violation at any time, any place and under any circumstances. The offender, not the survivor, must be held responsible for this crime.
Myth: Most offenders are African-American men.
Fact: Over 90% of sexual assaults occur between people of the same ethnic or racial background. The myth of the black rapist is rooted to the racist history of our country.
Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers at night in out-of-the-way places.
Fact: Familiar people and safe places are more dangerous. As many as 80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows. Over 50% of sexual assaults occur in the home and as many occur during the daytime as happen at night.
Myth: Women frequently "cry rape".
Fact: Women don't lie about rape. The FBI reports that false accusations account for only 2% of all reported sexual assaults. This is no higher than false reports for any other crime.
Myth: Only women can be raped.
Fact: It is currently estimated by the FBI that one out of ten men are victims of adult sexual assault. Other researchers have found that between one of four and one out of seven male children are sexually abused.
Myth: Date rape only happens between people who just met or don't know each other well.
Fact: Rape has nothing to do with how well the person knows the assailant. It's not uncommon for a person to be raped by someone she or he has been dating for a long time, or by a former lover, or by a spouse.
Myth: The best way for survivors to get over a sexual assault is to act like it didn't happen, to put it behind them, get on with their lives and be 'normal' again.
Fact: Speaking out about sexual assault might be an essential part of the recovery process for survivors. However, no survivor should ever be forced to speak, publicly or privately, before they are ready. Every survivor is the expert on their own recovery. For many, recovery becomes an ongoing process of healing, change and empowerment. All survivors have a right to the support and validation of friends, family, and service providers, no matter where they are in their individual healing process or how long ago the assault occurred.
What to do if you are a victim of sexual assault or rape
Save Evidence. Do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. Do not change clothes if possible. The hospital staff will collect clothing as evidence. Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the attack.
Call the Police. Even if you do not want the abuser arrested. The police report can become evidence of prior assaults, which might prove helpful in future prosecutions. The attacker will not be notified that you made a report. The report should be made as soon as possible.
Seek Medical Attention. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to be examined, treated for any injuries, and be screened for possible sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) or pregnancy. The doctor will collect evidence using a "rape kit" for fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the attacker may have left behind.
Talk to Someone. Call a friend or family member that you trust. You can also call a crisis center or hotline to talk with a counselor. Many police department's can provide a victim assistance counselor. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional.