How Many Women Are Sexually Assaulted? [Rape Statistics 2022]

In this article, we check out the statistics on how many women are sexually assaulted or raped, how common it is in the US and worldwide, and its lasting effects on women.

Sexual assault is, unfortunately, one of the most pervasive crimes women experience worldwide. 

Many try to dismiss or minimize sexual assault by blaming victims or claiming it occurs less often than it does. 

This article explores the statistics about sexual assault and rape, how common it is, and the lasting effects on victims and society as a whole. 

Top Sexual Assault Statistics You Should Know:

  • By their mid-twenties, 1 in 4 young women will experience some form of violence from an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 US women have experienced some form of rape in their lifetime (21.3% or an estimated 25.5 million.
  • More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
  • Up to 83% of developmentally disabled adult women are victims of sexual assault.
  • Rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion).
  • 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

Victims of Sexual Violence: Worldwide

Sexual violence is widely pervasive, according to various studies by international organizations. Here’s what the stats say:

  • Violence against women exists in every country and culture around the globe, causing harm to millions of women and their families worldwide, and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. (The World Health Organization, 2021)1
  • 1 in 3 women is subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, or sexual violence from a non-partner, across their lifetime. This makes up around 736 million women worldwide.  (The World Health Organization, 2021)1
  • By their mid-twenties, 1 in 4 young women will experience some form of violence from an intimate partner. (The World Health Organization, 2021)1
  • Violence is most commonly perpetrated against women by their intimate partners, affecting around 641 million women worldwide.
    • Around 6% of women globally report being sexually assaulted by someone other than their husband or partner. (The World Health Organization, 2021)1
  • 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020, and 58% of them died at the hands of an intimate partner or family member (47,000 of 81,000 total deaths.)
    • This is roughly equal to a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes by someone in their own home.  (The United Nations Office Of Drugs and Crime, 2021)2

Next, we’ll look at regional statistics on sexual violence. 


Sexual Violence in Regional and Country Data

The rates of intimate partner violence vary significantly in different regions and countries. The highest rates occur in the least developed countries, but many developed nations experience high rates of sexual violence as well. 

Below is a breakdown of the data by subregions:

Region
Rate of Intimate Partner Violence
Oceania
51% of women
Melanesia 
41% of women
Micronesia 
41% of women
Polynesia 
39% of women
Southern Asia 
35% of women
Sub-Saharan Africa 
33% of women
Northern Africa
30% of women
Western Asia
29% of women 
Northern America
25% of women
Australia and New Zealand
23% of women
Latin America and the Caribbean
25% of women
Northern Europe
23% of women
South-Eastern Asia 
21% of women
Western Europe
21% of women
Eastern Asia 
20% of women
Eastern Europe
20% of women
Central Asia
18% of women
Southern Europe
16% of women
  • An average of 37% of women experience intimate partner violence in the Least Developed Countries (The World Health Organization, 2021)1

All regional data sourced from The World Health Organization, 2021.1

Is America an exception to these stats? Let’s find out.


Sexual Violence in America

According to these statistics, the United States experiences sexual violence as frequently as many other countries. Native Americans are particularly vulnerable, experiencing significantly higher rates of sexual assault than other races in the country. 

Here’s what various US agencies have learned about sexual violence in America:

  • Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. (US Department of Justice, 2020)3
  • There are 463,634 rape and sexual assault victims each year in the United States (age 12 or older). (US Department of Justice, 2020)3
  • 1 in 5 US women have experienced some form of rape in their lifetime (21.3% or an estimated 25.5 million. Of these women:
    • About 13.5% experienced forced penetration.
    • 6.3% experienced attempted forced penetration.
    • 11.0% experienced alcohol/drug-facilitated penetration at some point in their lifetime. (CDC, 2015)4
  • 1 in 3 female rape victims were raped for the first time between 11-17 years old. (CDC, 2015)4
  • 1 in 8 female rape victims reported that it occurred before age 10. (CDC, 2015)4
  • 16% of women experience sexual coercion at some point in their lifetime. (Approximately 19.2 million women, or 1 in 6 of all women in the US.) (CDC, 2015)4
  • 37% of US women experience unwanted sexual contact (e.g., groping) in their lifetime (approximately 44.3 million women) (CDC, 2015)4

According to a study of 9,086 women by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center5 in 2010:

  • Over half (51.1%) of female rape victims are raped by an intimate partner.
  • 40.8% of rape victims are raped by an acquaintance.
  • About 18.3% of women experience contact sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • 30.6% of women experienced physical violence, with 21.4% experiencing severe physical violence.
  • 10.4% of women experienced stalking during their lifetime.
    • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2010)5

Native Americans experience significantly higher rates of sexual assault when compared to other races in the US:

  • Native Americans age 12 and older experience 5,900 sexual assaults per year on average (US Department of Justice, 2004)6
  • Native Americans are twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault compared to all races. (US Department of Justice, 2004)6
  • When Native Americans are assaulted:
    • 41% of sexual assaults are committed by a stranger
    • 34% are committed by an acquaintance
    • 25% are committed by an intimate partner or family member 
      • (US Department of Justice, 2004)6

Younger People Are at the Highest Risk of Sexual Violence

Various studies have shown that younger people are the most likely to be assaulted, with over half of all reports occurring between the ages of 18-34. Here are the statistics:

  • Between 9-32% of women report they were victims of sexual abuse and/or assault during their childhood. (WCSAP, unspecified)7
  • The majority of sexual assault victims are under 30:
    • 15% of victims are aged 12-17
    • 54% are aged 18-34
    • 28% are aged 35-64
    • 3% are age 65 and older
      • (RAINN, unspecified)8
  • 1 in 3 female rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old, and 1 in 8 female rape victims reported that it occurred before age 10.
    • (CDC, 2015)4
  • 22% of victims were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32% were between the ages of 12 and 17. (CDC, 2011)9

Women and Girls Experience Sexual Violence at High Rates

It may come as no surprise that women are the most common victims of sexual assault and rape. These statistics also show that younger women are significantly more likely to be assaulted as well.

  • Young women aged 18-24 are 4 times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in general.
  • Women of the same age who are college students are 3 times more likely.  
    • (US Department of Justice, 2014a)10
  • 90% of adult rape victims are female, and 82% of all juvenile victims are female.
    • (US Department of Justice, 2002)11
  • Young women ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. (US Department of Justice, 1997)12

Sexual Assault and College Women

Several separate studies show that very few college women report rape when it occurs:

  • Only 11.5% of college women in the study reported their most recent/only rape experience to authorities. (Journal of American College Health, 2012)13
  • Of rapes involving drugs and/or alcohol, only 2.7% of rapes were reported. (Journal of American College Health, 2012)13
  • More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2000)14

Of college students who were raped:

  • 18.7% received medical attention after the rape
  • 17.8% sought help or advice from an agency that assists rape victims
  • 51.9% of those who reported their rapes received medical attention
  • 44.4% of those who reported sought help from an agency that assists rape victims
    • (Journal of American College Health, 2012)13

Locations Where Sexual Harassment and Assault Occur

Sexual harassment doesn’t just occur on the street. Here are the most common locations women have experienced sexual harassment:

  • 66% of women experienced sexual harassment in a public space, like on the street or in a store.
  • 38% of women experience sexual harassment in their workplace.
  • 35% have experienced it in their home or residence.
  • 33% at a nightlife venue.
  • 30% at their pre-K to 12th-grade school.
    • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15

When looking at how many places people said they had experienced sexual harassment and assault:

  • 88% of women reported experiencing it in more than one location
  • 1 in 4 women (24%) had incidents across 6 to 10 locations
  • 18% of women said they had experiences in 4 to 5 locations
  • Around 22% of women said they had experienced sexual harassment and assault in 2 to 3 locations
    • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15

Sexual Violence for Women with Disabilities

The most vulnerable among us are also the most commonly abused, according to these studies. Women with disabilities are more likely than women without disabilities to report experiencing assault:

  • 40% of women with disabilities reported experiencing sexual assault compared with 23% of women without disabilities. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • Up to 83% of developmentally disabled adult women are victims of sexual assault. (Johnson, I., and Sigler, R., 2000)16
  • Women with disabilities are raped and abused at least twice as often as the general population. (Dick Sobsey, 1994)17

Other Forms of Sexual Violence

Rape and sexual assault are not the only forms of sexual violence. Here are the statistics on other forms of sexual violence, including physical, verbal, and cyber: 

  • The most common form of sexual harassment is verbal and is experienced by 77% of women. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • 62% of women report experiencing physically aggressive forms of sexual harassment:
    • 51% of women said this included being sexually touched in an unwelcome way.
    • 34% of women report being physically followed.
    • 30% of women report being flashed or shown genitals against their will.
      • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • Below are the most frequent forms of sexual harassment and assault for women:
    • 65% report whistling, honking, making kissy noises, “Pssst” sounds, or leering/staring aggressively. 
    • 59% report being told things like, “Hey Baby,” “Mmmm Sexy,” “Yo Shorty,” “Mami/Mamacita,” “Give me a smile,” or similar comments in a way that is disrespectful, unwanted, or made them feel unsafe. 
    • 51% report someone purposely touching them or brushing up against them in an unwelcome, sexual way.
    • 46% report being called a sexist slur, like “Bitch,” “Slut,” “Cunt,” “Ho,” or “Thot.”
    • 43% report someone talking about their body parts inappropriately or offensively (such as your legs, crotch, butt, or breasts), being told sexually explicit comments (ex: “I want to do BLANK to you”) or being asked inappropriate sexual questions.
      • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • 41% of women report cyber sexual harassment (via text, phone, online).
    • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • Nearly 1 in 6 women (16.0%, or 19.1 million) in the U.S. were victims of stalking at some point in their lifetime. (CDC, 2015)4

Sexual Violence Is Costly

Sexual violence is one of the most economically expensive crimes, according to reports:

  • Estimates put the lifetime cost of rape at $122,461 per victim. This includes medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs. (CDC, unspecified)18
  • Rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion). (Miller, T. R., Cohen, M. A., & Wiersema, 1996)19

False Reports in Sexual Violence

Some claim that false reports inflate the number of cases of sexual assault against women. Still, studies have repeatedly shown that these cases are rare:

  • According to the National Sexual violence resource center,  between 2% and 10% of sexual violence reports are false:
    • 7% of cases were classified as false In a multi-site study of 8 U.S. communities (140 of 2,059 cases).
    • 8% of cases in a 2005 study by the British Home office were classified as false by the police department of 2,643 sexual assault cases.
    • Of 850 rapes reported to the Victoria Police between 2000 and 2003, only 2.1% were found to be false.
    • 483 cases were studied by the Home Office in 1996, and an estimated 10.9% were false allegations.
    • Of 116 rapes investigated by the Toronto Metropolitan Police Department in 1970, 6% were found to be false reports.
      • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2009)20

Adverse Effects of Sexual Violence

There are many adverse effects of sexual violence on the victims. Here are the most common outcomes people report experiencing after experiencing sexual violence.

  • Sexual Violence perpetrated by an intimate partner was associated with higher PTSD scores than violence perpetrated by a stranger.
    • (BMC Public Health, 2018)21
  • 31% of women feel anxiety or depression after a sexual assault.
    • 23% said they changed their regular route or regular routine.
    • 15% said they ended a relationship due to the abuse.
    • (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018)15
  • 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. (US Department of Justice, 2014b)22
  • People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public. Victims are:
    • 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
    • 6 times more likely to use cocaine
    • 10 times more likely to use other major drugs
      • (US Department of Justice, 1992)23
  • 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape. (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992)24

Why Do Women Get Sexually Assaulted?

Victim blaming is a common form of minimizing or dismissing sexual assault. However, studies have shown that this attitude and response have a negative effect on the reporting of sexual assaults.

  • Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.
    • (Southern Connecticut Southern University, unspecified)25
  • On average, 60.4% of women did not recognize their experience as rape, even though it fit the definition.
    • Rape is defined as an unwanted sexual experience obtained through force or the threat of force or a sexual experience they did not consent to because they were incapacitated.
    • (Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 2015)26
  • 13% of respondents who experience rape or sexual assault express shame (i.e., self-blame, humiliation, or fear of public scrutiny) in their narratives.
    • (Feminist Criminology, 2010)27
  • The top three perceived barriers to reporting rape are:
    • Shame, guilt, and embarrassment
    • Confidentiality concerns
    • Fear of not being believed
      • (Journal of American College Health, 2006)28

Sexual Assault Laws and Court Decisions

The following sexual assault laws have been passed in efforts to help prevent sexual violence and bring perpetrators to justice:

  • Debbie Smith Act
    • The Debbie Smith Act was passed in an effort to eliminate the backlog of untested and unanalyzed DNA evidence, by providing the resources to process evidence and add these samples into the national DNA database.
  • Clery Act
    • The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to provide greater transparency and timely warnings about crimes committed on campus, including crimes of sexual violence.
  • Campus SaVE Act
    • Campus SaVE is an amendment to the Clery Act to increase transparency requirements for colleges, guarantee rights for survivors, establish disciplinary proceedings, and require education programs.
  • SAFER Act
    • The SAFER Act supports efforts to audit, test, and reduce the backlog of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases and bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Title IX
    • Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex by educational institutions that receive federal funding.
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
    • VOCA helps victims deal with the tangible costs of surviving a crime, such as medical bills, counseling services, and lost wages.
  • (RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), unspecified)29

Conclusion

Studies have shown that sexual violence against women is incredibly common and, in many cases, is only increasing. It takes continued awareness, studies, and reporting to help spread the truth about sexual assault. 


Footnotes

  1. The World Health Organization, 2021. Devastatingly pervasive: 1 in 3 women globally experience violence – A report by WHO and the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research.
  2. The United Nations Office Of Drugs and Crime, 2021. Killings of women and girls by their intimate partners or other family members.
  3. US Department of Justice, 2020. A 2020 National Crime Victimization Survey of the US Department of Justice, collected data from 2019.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. A National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
  5. National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2010. A study obtained from 16,507 adults (9,086 women and 7,421 men).
  6. US Department of Justice, 2004. A report from the American Indians and Crime, 1992-2002.
  7. WCSAP (Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs), unspecified.
  8. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), unspecified.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 – A study on National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the CDC.
  10. US Department of Justice, 2014a.  A study on  Rape and Sexual Victimization Among College-Aged Females, 1995-2013.
  11. US Department of Justice, 2002, A report on Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement.
  12. US Department of Justice, 1997. A report on Sex Offenses and Offenders
  13. Journal of American College Health, 2012. A study of a national sample of 2,000 college women about rape experiences in 2006.
  14. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2000. A research report on the prevalence and nature of violence against women in the United States, specifically in college.
  15. National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018. A study of 1,013 American males and 996 females ages 18 and up.
  16. Johnson, I., and Sigler, R., 2000. A study on Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Intimates
  17. Dick Sobsey, 1994 –  “Violence and abuse in the lives of people with disabilities: The end of silent acceptance?”
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unspecified. “Fast Facts: Preventing Sexual Violence.”
  19. Miller, T. R., Cohen, M. A., & Wiersema, 1996. “Victim costs and consequences: A new look (NCJ 155282)”
  20. National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2009. Published research of compiled studies titled “False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault.”
  21. BMC Public Health, 2018. A cross-sectional study in general practice clinics. Participants are adult women (numbers weren’t disclosed).
  22. US Department of Justice, 2014b. A study on the Socio-emotional Impact of Violent Crime.
  23. US Department of Justice, 1992. A study of 4,008 adult women on Rape in America: A Report to the Nation
  24. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992. A study of 95 female rape victims.
  25. Southern Connecticut Southern University, unspecified.
  26. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 2015. A meta-analysis of 28 academic studies of a total of 5,917 women who had been raped at some point in their lives after age 14.
  27. Feminist Criminology, 2010. A study of 116 females and 20 males, most of whom were under age 25. Data was collected from survey respondents between 1992 and early 2000.
  28. Journal of American College Health, 2006. In a study of 215 students who participated, 54.7 percent were female from a large Midwestern university.
  29. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), unspecified. “Sexual Assault Laws and Court Decisions.”
Aliyah Moore

Aliyah Moore

Aliyah Moore (she/her) is our resident sex expert at SexualAlpha. She’s a certified sex therapist with a Ph.D. in Gender & Sexuality Studies. Aliyah is a proud Black, bi-sexual femme passionate about empowering minority voices to embrace their sexuality and identity. She loves to write about everything sexual wellness and gives no-nonsense sex and relationship advice.

Got Questions? Ping me on Twitter.