Fast Facts: Sexual Assault

The Stigma of Sexual Assault: It is Pervasive

We live in a world that doesn’t like to talk about sexual assault. Sexual violence is grossly under-reported to the authorities, victims are blamed and persistently stereotyped by society and the media, and there is a general lack of understanding about the extent of the problem and the true nature of the crime.

There are many reasons why people do not report sexual assault, and most are related to stigma. Victims often feel embarrassed and ashamed, and fear being blamed. Despite the fact that they have been violated, victimized and injured, they worry that they will be judged and held responsible for what happened to them. How do we remove the stigma so victims can regain control and heal?

Sexual Assault Affects Everyone…

  • – Sexual violence crosses all races, genders, ages, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Every year, there are more than 290,000 victims (over age 12) of rape and sexual assault.[1]
  • – More than one-third of all women have experienced stalking, physical violence, or rape by an intimate partner in their lifetime[2] and 7 million women report being physically assaulted or raped by their former or current partner each year.[3]
  • – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men have been raped during his or her lifetime.[4]
  • – Nearly 30% of women and 10% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact; an estimated 12% of women and 6% of men have been sexually coerced.[5]

High School & College

  • – In a nationwide survey, 7.3% of high school students (ratio of female to male 2:1) report having been forced to have sex.[6]
  • – 1 in 5 women report an attempted or completed rape during their college experience.[7]
  • – Among college students and non-students, survivors report knowing the offender in 80 percent of sexual assault and rape cases.[8]
  • – Fewer than 20% of rape and sexual assault survivors seek assistance from victim services agencies: a clear affect of stigma.[9]

The High Cost and Long Term Affects of Sexual Assault

  • – Rape is the most costly crime to victims in the U.S. Medical costs, lost earnings, pain, suffering and lost quality of life total more than $127 billion per year.[10]
  • – A 2013 survey of rape crisis centers reported that 35% of survivors were unable to receive the full range of services needed to resolve their experience of sexual violence.[11]
  • – Rape results in about 32,000 pregnancies each year.[12]
  • – At least 80% of rape survivors suffer from chronic physical or psychological conditions.[13]
  • – Trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis (BV,) gonorrhea, and chlamydial infection are the most frequently diagnosed infections among women who have been sexually assaulted.[14]
  • – Sexual violence is also linked to negative health behaviors, including alcohol abuse, drugs, smoking and risky sexual behavior[15]

Slow Progress

The number of sexual assaults have fallen by more than 50% in recent years.[16] While we are making progress, we are a very long way from lifting the stigma experienced by survivors or solving the problem of sexual violence. Every two minutes another American has been sexually assaulted.


Sexually assaulted? Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline to speak over the phone with someone who can help: 800-656-HOPE (4673.)


[1] U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 2009-2013.

[2] Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury PreventiZon and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[3]U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (July 2000). Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N.

[4] Breiding, MJ, Smith, SG, Basile, KC, Walters, ML, Chen, J, Merrick, MT. Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. MMWR, 2014;63 (No. SS-8).

[5] IBID

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance-United States, 2013. MMWR, Surveillance Summaries 2014;63 (no. SS-3). Available from http://

[7] Fisher BS, Cullen FT, Turner MG. The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice; 2000. Publication No.: NCJ 182369.

[8] Langton, L., and Sinozich, (2014.) S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Rape And Sexual Assault Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013. (accessed March 28, 2015)

[9] IBID

[10] Miller, T. R., M. A. Cohen, and B. Wiersema. “Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look.” (1996).Washington, D.C.; National Institute of Justice Report, U.S. Department of Justice.

[11] National Alliance to End Sexual Violence 2013 internet survey of rape crisis centers from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and two territories where-we-stand/costs-consequences-and-solutions (accessed March 28, 2015).

[12] “Sexual Violence.” Center for Disease Control. Violence Prevention/pdf/ SV-DataSheet-a.pdf (accessed March 28, 2015).

[13] “The Campus Sexual Assault Study.” National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (accessed March 28, 2015).

[14] The Center for Disease Control,

[15] Brener N.D., McMahon P.M., Warren C.W., Douglas K.A. Forced sexual intercourse and associated health-risk behaviors among female college students in the United States. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1999; 67(2): 252-259.

[16] U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 1993-2013.

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

Future Spotlight Topics:


May 2015 – Food Restrictions

June 2015 – Alzheimer’s Disease

July 2015 – Criminal Records

August 2015 – Skin Conditions

September 2015 – Deafness

October 2015 – Dwarfism

November 2015 – PTSD

December 2015 – Religion

January 2016 – Socio-Economic Status

February 2016 – Eating Disorders

March 2016 – Learning Disabilities

April 2016 – Substance Abuse

May 2016 – Older People

September 2016 – Albinism