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Rape and Sexual Assault

Definition: Sexual Assault and Rape are crimes of violence that use sex as a weapon to overpower and to degrade.

Sexual Assault Description

Sexual assault encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including rape or attempted rape, as well as other forms of unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact.

Sexual assault can include:

  • Actual or threatened physical force, coercion, intimidation, or pressure
  • Being forced to watch porn against one’s will
  • Being touched against one’s will regardless of what body parts
  • Being prevented from using a condom or other protection during sex

Coercion can include:

  • Using threats (i.e., if you don’t do this, I’ll get you in trouble)
  • Intimidation (with looks, gestures, or body language)
  • Encouraging or forcing a person to drink or do drugs
  • Using a weapon
  • Underlying threat of violence (e.g., if there’s been violence in the past)
  • Not respecting someone saying “no” or “stop”

Non-consensual sexual contact can include:

  • Bring pressured, intimidated or forced  to do sexual things against one’s will
  • Being incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol
  • Changing mind about engaging in sexual activity

Rape Description

Rape, a specific type of sexual assault, involves any forced, manipulated, or coerced penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth, by a penis, finger or other object.

Legal definitions of rape vary from state to state, but most states define rape as non-consensual sexual penetration.

A rapist can be a stranger or someone the victim knows including a spouse, date, or family member.

Anyone can be a victim of rape or sexual assault including men, women, and persons who are gender-non conforming or transgender.



Statistics and Facts

Rape and Sexual Assault Statistics

Statistics describing the prevalence of rape and sexual assault vary due to differences in definitions and methods used from study to study.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3% of survey respondents) have been raped at some point in their lives. (CDC, 2010)
  • Nearly 1 in 71 men (1.4% of survey respondents) have been raped at some point in their lives. (CDC, 2010)
    • Data on sexual violence against men may be underreported.
  • This translates into 22 million women and 1.6 million men. (CDC, 2010)

Perpetrators of Rape and Sexual Assault

  • Most victims of rape reported being raped by someone they knew. (CDC, 2010)
    • 1% of female victims of rape reported having been raped by an intimate partner. (CDC, 2010)
    • 8% of female victims of rape reported having been raped by an acquaintance. (CDC, 2010)
    • More than half of male victims reported having been raped by an acquaintance. (CDC, 2010)
    • 1% of male victims reported having been raped by a stranger. (CDC, 2010)

Prevalence of Rape and Sexual Assault

  • Nearly 80% of female victims of rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25. (CDC, 2010)
  • More than a quarter of male victims of rape (27.8%) experienced their first rape before the age of 10. (CDC, 2010)
  • Between 1995 and 2013, women between the ages of 18 and 24 had the highest rates of rape and sexual assault victimizations. (BJS, 2014)
    • Among this age group, the rate of rape and sexual assault victimization was 1.2 times higher for non-students (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000). (BJS, 2014)
  • Rape and sexual assault go largely underreported. (NJC, 2014)
    • 6% rape and sexual assault crimes were reported to law enforcement in 2014. (NJC, 2014)

Barbara Ellis: Embodying the Safe Horizon Vision

For over a decade, Director of the Manhattan-Bronx Community Program Barbara Ellis has helped survivors of all violence, including rape and sexual assault. Read how her approach to work embodies Safe Horizon's mission and vision.
Read About Barbara →

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