Research on Sexual Violence

Research on sexual violence

Sexual violence statistics and health outcomes

From The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report (NISVS 2010)

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in the US (nearly 22 million) have experienced rape
  • 1 in 71 men (nearly 1.6 million) have experienced rape
  • 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college
  • Women of all races are targeted, but some women are more vulnerable
    • 33.5% of multiracial women
    • 27% of American Indian/Alaska Native women
    • 22% of black women
    • 19% of white women
    • 15% of Hispanic women
  • 98% of perpetrators are male
  • Populations at higher risk include LGBTQ individuals, individuals with disabilities, and prison inmates


Physical health outcomes

  • 58% of female victims of sexual assault/battery sustain injury (Planty, Berzofsky, Krebs, Langton & Smiley-McDonald, 2013)
  • Women who have experienced sexual violence are more likely to suffer health problems, including:
    • Chronic pain, asthma, headaches, sleep issues, diabetes (NISVS 2010)
    • Smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension (Cloutier, Martin & Poole, 2002)
    • Sexually-transmitted infections, injection drug use, alcohol abuse (Wingood, DiClemente & Robinson, 2009)


Mental health outcomes

  • Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (Coker, Davis, Arias, Desai, Sanderson, Brandt & Smith, 2002)
  • >50% of individuals raped under the influence of alcohol or drugs develop lifetime PTSD (Zinzow, Resnick, Amstadter, McCauley, Ruggiero & Kilpatrick, 2012)
  • Five times as likely to suffer depression (Zinzow et al, 2012)


Campus Sexual Assault

  • 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college (The Campus Sexual Assault Study (CSA), 2007)
  • Incapacitated assault- sexual assault while the victim is drunk, passed out, or under the influence of drugs- is particularly common (Kilpatrick, Resnick, Ruggiero, Conoscenti & McCauley, 2007)
  • College survivors suffer higher rates of PTSD, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse (Kilpatrick, 2007)
  • On average only 12% of student victims report assault to law enforcement (Kilpatrick, 2007)


Justice Response

  • Sexual assault is extremely underreported
    • Around 36% of rapes and/or sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement (Planty, 2013)
    • The rate of male report of sexual assault is even lower (Hart & Rennsion, 2003)
  • False report is extremely rare
    • Only 2-10% of reported rapes are false allegations (Lisak, Gardinier, Nicksa & Cote, 2010)
  • Prosecution and conviction rates are extremely low
    • 2/3 of victims have their legal cases dismissed (Campbell, Wasco, Ahrens, Sefl & Barnes, 2001)
    • Only 12% of reported rapes lead to an arrest (Planty, 2013)
    • There is an enormous backlog of rape kit testing, hindering prosecution (Ritter, 2011; Nelson et al, 2013)


Understanding the perpetrator

Men are more likely to commit sexual violence in communities where sexual violence is not punished (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2004). It is for this reason that community members must SPEAK OUT against sexual violence. While there is no one profile that fits all offenders, researchers have found a number of risk factors for sexual violence, particularly on college campuses.

  • Contributing factors to sexual violence in campus culture (Warshaw & Parrot, 1991; Sanday, 1996; Carr & Van Deusen, 2004)
    • Rape myths (e.g., rape is usually committed by a stranger; rape only happens after 2 AM)
    • Rigid gender role socialization (e.g., men should be more aggressive than women; women should be more passive than men)
    • Negative gender-based attitudes (e.g., women are worth less than men)
    • Lack of sanctions/punishment following sexual violence
    • Peer tolerance (e.g., rape culture)
    • All-male membership groups (e.g., fraternities; athletic teams)
  • Rate of rape on college campuses (male self-report)
    • College men acknowledge forced intercourse at a rate of 5-15% and sexual aggression at a rate of 15-25% (Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski, 198; Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss and Tanaka, 1991)
    • In a large sample, 8.8% of college men admitted they had committed rape or attempted rape (Ouimette & Riggs, 1998)
  • Attitudes towards rape on college campuses
    • In a 1981 sample confirming previous research, 21-35% of males indicated some likelihood of committing rape if they would not be caught (Malamuth, 1981)
    • College male rapists tend to believe that rape can be justified under certain conditions (e.g., if dinner is paid for) (Kanin, 1985)
  • The role of alcohol
    • College rapists report providing alcohol to victims in order to facilitate the assault (Abbey, McAuslan & Ross, 1998)
    • Alcohol is both a factor leading to and excuse for sexual aggression by college men (Abbey, Zawacki, Buck, Clinton & McAuslan, 2001)
    • Perpetrators who drink prior to an assault are more likely to believe that alcohol increases their sex drive and are more likely to think a woman's drinking signals an interest in sex (Zawacki et al, 2003)
    • Alcohol is a mediating variable (e.g., it explains) high rates of rape by fraternity and athletic team members (Koss & Gaines, 1993)