As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, my previous article provided one interpretation of definitions for sexual assault and domestic violence. With this very minimal introduction, I hoped to frame some of the statistics below. While you are reading these facts, please keep in mind that I only look at violence against women, though men and transgender individuals are often victims as well. Additionally, while I only chose sources of information I believed to be accurate and up-to-date, because sexual violence is so rarely reported (1 out of 5 of victims report instances of sexual assault to the police), the numbers are only representative of a small portion of all violence.
Who are Victims?
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
- 73 percent of female victims were assaulted by someone they knew and 28 percent of these assaults were committed by the woman’s intimate partner (Catalano, 2005).
- Women aged 16-19 years old had the highest rate of sexual victimization of any age group (Catalano, 2005).
- Women often experience domestic violence for the first time during a pregnancy.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults, promoting a dangerous generational cycle of violence that is very difficult to break (Strauss).
Instance of Violence
- According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey -- the country's largest and most reliable crime study -- there were 248,300 sexual assaults in 2007.
- This means that roughly every 2 minutes, (127 seconds) a woman is sexually assaulted in the U.S.
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime (CDC, 2000).
Effects of Violence
- Physical: Pain, vomiting, nausea, sexual dysfunction, headaches, injuries, sexually transmitted infections, death, etc.
- Emotional/Psychological: 43 percent of women experience depression (Petrak, 2002), as well as anxiety, Rape-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, nightmares/flashbacks, substance abuse, guilt and low self-esteem among other short and long term impacts.
- Societal: The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services (CDC, 2003).
- The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that sexual assault resulted in 3,204 pregnancies between 2004 and 2005 in the U.S. This number doesn’t include women who were using some form of contraception or who were not free to safely attribute their pregnancies to rape, due to the fact that they were still in a relationship with their abusive partner.
These quick pieces of information only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this vast and horrifying subject. Instances of sexual violence and domestic abuse cannot be summed up in a sentence or a number – they are far too serious, complex and personal. Remember that each number is attached to a human being; your friend, sister, mother, daughter. Each percentage or ratio represents a terrifying story that led to lasting physical, emotional and community devastation.
Worse, with our society’s tendency to condone the high prevalence of violence through inaction, lenient legal charges against perpetrators, stigmatization of victims, lack of available resources or information and a generally pro-violence media, the statistics are not improving. Educate yourself, empower yourself, protect yourself. Stay tuned for more resources on sexual assault and domestic violence.
Catalano, Shannon M. "Criminal Victimization, 2005." (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).
Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA. 2003.
Petrak, J. (2002). The psychological impact of sexual assault. In J. Petrak & B. Hedge (Eds.), The trauma of sexual assault: Treatment, prevention and practice. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.
Strauss, Gelles, and Smith, “Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence” in 8,145 Families. Transaction Publishers (1990)
Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
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Thanks for speaking out on this topic. I was raped by a boss who wouldn't take no for an answer. That was not the first - or last - time I was sexually harassed, that was just the worst case scenario. I had 3 (highly publicized) sexual harassment lawsuits, which led me to go on to write a book about sexual harassment awareness and prevention: http://www.booklocker.com/books/4397.html. I've given seminars based on the information in my book. I've done a couple of radio interviews on it, and have one coming up on the 28th of April on http://www.unspokenissues.com. PLEASE speak out. Learn your rights and the law. Knowledge IS power.April 20, 2011 - 5:33pm
Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing your own story. It is brave women like you that give others hope in their times of desperation. Keep talking/writing/speaking about your experience - for your own health and others'!
Very best,April 20, 2011 - 6:13pm