Nearly one in five U.S. women has been a victim of sexual assault
Nearly one in five U.S. women has been the victim of a rape or attempted rape at some time in her life. In addition, one in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This landmark report paints a clear picture of the devastating impact that these violent acts have on the lives of millions of Americans,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement accompanying the release of the results.
The survey also found that one in six women has experienced a stalking that made her very fearful or believed that someone close to her would be harmed or killed.
Based on the results, researchers calculated that on average 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking every minute. In a year, that translates to more than 12 million women and men. More than 1 million women reported being the victims of a rape or an attempted rape in the 12 months prior to the survey, officials said.
Of women who have been victimized, almost 70 percent experienced some kind of violence from an intimate partner before the age of 25. And about 80 percent of female rape victims were first raped before age 25.
But domestic violence is not limited to women, according to the survey. About one in seven men has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, and one in 19 men has experienced stalking at some point.
“This report highlights the heavy toll that sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence places on adults in this country,” said Linda Degutis, who heads CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The results come from a national representative telephone survey of 16,507 U.S. adults and mark the first of what will now become an annual survey of domestic violence.
Advocacy groups said the statistics underscore the severity of the problem.
“The prevalence of sexual and intimate partner violence is staggering,” said Ester Soler of Futures Without Violence, a San Francisco-based group. “The CDC survey findings also show a strong link between violence and health problems. And given that victimization is starting younger, we need to do more to prevent violence with intervention programs for children and adolescents.”
The lifetime estimate of one in five women is “very close to previous estimates,” said Scott Berkowitz of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, a Washington-based group. The estimate of 1.3 million rapes per year is “vastly higher” than many other studies, Berkowitz said. But he noted that the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which is much larger, reported only about 200,000 sexual assaults per year.
“So I’d be cautious in interpreting the new data or accepting it as an accurate depiction of the extent of the crime,” Berkowitz said. “That said, CDC, DOJ and other studies all show that this is an incredibly violent crime that impacts nearly every family in America. So in that sense, this affirms what we’ve long known: We’re a long way from solving the problem of sexual violence in America.”