A survey released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found widespread instances of rape, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence among American women and men.
The report estimates that 19.3 percent of women in the United States (more than 23 million) have been the victim of rape, 43.9 percent have experienced some other kind of sexual violence, and 31.5 percent had experienced violence by an intimate partner.
The survey found that many men have also been victims—an estimated 1.7 percent of men have been raped, 23.4 percent have experienced other types of sexual violence, and 30.9 percent have experienced non-sexual violence by an intimate partner.
CDC researchers estimate that 27.3 percent of women and about one in ten men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during their lifetimes. Unwanted sexual contact includes completed or attempted forced penetration; alcohol- or drug- facilitated penetration; being made to penetrate a perpetrator; being coerced into unwanted penetration; or experiencing unwanted kissing, fondling, or other non-penetrative behaviors. About three in ten women and 23.4 percent of men reported unwanted sexual experiences that did not include physical contact such as being flashed or forced to view sexually explicit material.
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“The numbers are overwhelming but not surprising — we hear from thousands of survivors every week on the National Sexual Assault Hotline,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the the Rape, Abuse, and Incest, National Network (RAINN). “The trauma that a survivor experience from this crime can last a lifetime if left untreated — that’s why it’s so important that we do everything we can to bring attention to the crime and make sure we hold perpetrators accountable.”
The data comes from the second annual National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and was collected between January and December 2011. Researchers conducted in-depth telephone interviews with a random sample of more than 12,000 men and women 18 or older.
Respondents were asked whether they had experienced sexual violence, intimate partner violence, or stalking in their lifetime as well as in the 12 months prior to the survey. Those who reported having been a victim of violence were asked questions about the incidents. The results suggest that most victims experience their first incident of rape or violence before the age of 25 and that the majority of incidents are committed by an intimate partner.
Regardless of the victim’s gender, most perpetrators of rape were male. In fact, 99 percent of female rape victims had only male perpetrators, as did 79.3 percent of males who were raped.
For female victims of other forms of sexual violence, most perpetrators (94.7 percent) were also male, but for male victims—including 82.6 of those forced to penetrate the perpetrator, 80 percent who experienced sexual coercion, and 54.7 percent who experienced unwanted sexual contact—many of the perpetrators were female.
The majority of victims of all types of sexual violence knew their perpetrators. Almost half of female victims of rape (an estimated 46.7 percent) had at least one perpetrator who was an acquaintance, and 45.4 percent of female rape victims had at least one perpetrator who was an intimate partner.
More than half of women who experienced alcohol- or drug- facilitated penetration considered the perpetrator an acquaintance. Among male rape victims, 44.9 percent of perpetrators were an acquaintance and 29 percent were an intimate partner.
In incidents of sexual violence other than rape, the relationship of the perpetrator was more varied. For example, among men forced to penetrate a perpetrator, an estimated 54.5 percent were made to do so by an intimate partner and 43 percent by an acquaintance.
The report also examined stalking and non-sexual violence among intimate partners. It estimated that 15.2 percent of women (18.3 million women) and 5.7 percent of men (nearly 6.5 million men) have experienced stalking during their lifetimes that “made them feel very fearful or made them believe that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.”
Most victims of stalking knew their perpetrator.
Non-sexual intimate partner violence is also very common in the United States, according to the survey. An estimated 31.5 percent of women and 27.5 percent of men experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, with 22.3 percent of women and 14 percent of men experiencing at least one incident of severe violence such as being slammed against something hard, punched, beaten, kicked, or burned on purpose.
The CDC notes that all of these forms of violence can lead to serious consequences such as physical injury, poor mental health, and chronic health problems.
For some, the long-term consequences include hospitalization, disability, or death. Because most victims know their perpetrators and experience the first incident of violence at an early age, the CDC suggests that prevention efforts begin early and focus on healthy relationships:
CDC seeks to prevent these forms of violence with strategies that address known risk factors for perpetration and by changing social norms and behaviors by using bystander and other prevention strategies. In addition, primary prevention of intimate partner violence is focused on the promotion of healthy relationship behaviors and other protective factors, with the goal of helping adolescents develop these positive behaviors before their first relationships. The early promotion of healthy relationships while behaviors are still relatively modifiable makes it more likely that young persons can avoid violence in their relationships.