Sexual violence is a serious public health problem in the United States and world wide! Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims are afraid to tell the police, family, or friends about the violence. In the United States, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report that they have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. In addition, nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men report that they have experienced sexual violence victimization other that rape in their lifetime. Globally, one in four women will likely experience sexual violence by an intimate partner and one in three girls report their first sexual experience being forced, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent. It also includes abusive sexual contact and noncontact sexual abuse (such as verbal sexual harassment). Child sexual abuse is also considered sexual violence.
This type of violence can be committed by anyone – a current or former intimate partner, a family member, a person in position of power or trust, a friend, an acquaintance, someone known only by sight, or a stranger.
Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term health and emotional problems. Victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious, and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
If you are, or know someone who is, the victim of sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)