Who Does Sexual Assault Affect?

Sexual assault affects many lives—both directly and indirectly. It can span age, sexual orientation, religion and gender, and affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that:

  • One in five women are raped in their lifetime in the United States—almost 22 million women.
  • One in 71 men are raped in their lifetime, or approximately 1.6 million men affected in the United States.1

It is a common misconception that sexual assault and rape are mostly perpetrated by strangers, In fact, most survivors know their perpetrators in some way. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 60 percent of survivors are assaulted by an intimate partner, relative, friend or acquaintance.2 This rate is even higher for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted in college.3

While sexual assault can affect anyone at any point in their life, 79.6 percent of female rape victims were under the age of 25 when the incident occurred, and 42 percent had been raped before the age of 18. This puts young people at a disproportionally larger risk of sexual assault.

Although sexual assault more commonly affects women, men are also affected. It is estimated that one in four women and one in six men experience an unwanted sexual experience in their lives.

While these numbers may seem daunting or difficult to process, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that the rate of sexual assault has fallen by more than 60 percent since 1993.4 Although we still have a long way to go, progress continues to been made in reducing and caring for survivors of sexual assault and rape. If you would like to join these efforts, learn more here.

Remember sexual assault and rape are never a victim’s fault. Sexual abuse is a crime motivated by a perpetrator’s need to control, humiliate and harm. Not fighting during an act does not mean consent. In fact, not fighting can be a means to protect a person who is being assaulted from being harmed even more. To read more about this reaction, called tonic immobility, click here.

Each person reacts to these crimes differently, and may or may not know to what extent it affects their own lives or the lives of friends and family members. To read more about the effects of sexual assault, click here.

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1 Black, M.C. et al, (2011). Black, et al. (2011).

2 National Institute of Justice. “Victims and Perpetrators.” (2010). www.nij.gov.

3 Fisher, B.S., F.T. Cullen, and M.G. Turner. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice. (2000) CJ 182369.

4 Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “How often does sexual assault occur: The Unvictims.” (2009). www.rainn.org.

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