Article  Human Dignity  Sexual Abuse

5 facts about sexual assault

In the United States, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an observance to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent it.

Here are five facts you should know about sexual assault in America:

1. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the acts that are included under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.

2. A study conducted by the Justice Department found that about 20 million out of 112 million women (18 percent) in the U.S. have been raped during their lifetime. This includes an estimated 18 million women who have been forcibly raped, nearly three million women who have experienced drug-facilitated rape, and three million women who have experienced incapacitated rape.

3. Only about 16 percent of all rapes are reported to law enforcement. Victims of drug-facilitated or incapacitated rape were less likely to report to the authorities than victims of forcible rape. Some of the reasons for not reporting rape to law enforcement included: not wanting others to know about the rape, fear of retaliation, perception of insufficient evidence, uncertainty about how to report, and uncertainty about whether a crime was committed or whether harm was intended. Injury was reported for 52 percent of forcible rape incidents and 30 percent of drug-facilitated or incapacitated rape incidents were assessed. Medical care was received following 19 percent of forcible rape incidents and 21 percent of drug-facilitated or incapacitated rape incidents. In a high percentage of forcible rape, drug-facilitated and incapacitated rape incidents, the perpetrators were known to the victim.

4. A 2014 RAND National Defense Research Institute study based on survey data of military members estimated that about 9,000 to 13,000 male service members were sexually assaulted. (Although that is a higher total number than assaults on female service members (about 8,000), women had a higher percentage of sexual assaults (4.9 percent) than men (one percent of active-duty men).) The researchers estimated that in 2014, approximately 20,000 of the U.S. military's 1.3 million active-duty members experienced one or more sexual assaults in the past year.  This figure includes assaults by other service members, civilians, spouses or others.

5. A 2014 survey taken on 27 institutes of higher learning found that 11.7 percent of students reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation since enrolling at the school. Females and students identifying as LGBTQ have significantly higher rates of this type of victimization than males. Undergraduates also have much higher rates than graduate or professional students. One of the more important risk factors for nonconsensual sexual contact is the use of alcohol and drugs. Among undergraduate females, about as many individuals reported penetration by incapacitation (5.4 percent) as by physical force (5.7 percent). For sexual touching, a larger percentage of the undergraduate females reported being physically forced when compared to being incapacitated (12.8 percent vs. 6.6 percent). There are small percentages that report that both force and incapacitation occurred (e.g., 1.7 percent of undergraduate females).

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