Young Women at Highest Risk for Rape, Sexual Assault

Young Women at Highest Risk for Rape, Sexual Assault

Rape and sexual assault remain serious problems in the United States and the vast majority of victims are women, with those ages 16 to 24 experiencing the highest rates of this violence, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Released on Septmber 2, Criminal Victimization, 2008 finds, “The greatest disparity between violent crimes committed against males and females in 2008 was in the percentage committed by intimate partners.” The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) defines intimate partners as current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends and finds that intimate partners were responsible for 23 percent of violent crime (rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated or simple assault) against females, and three percent of violent crimes against males, last year.

Nearly two in three female rape and sexual assault victims (63 percent) were victimized by a non-stranger (classified as intimate partners, other relatives, friends or acquaintances), the new report finds. Intimate partners were responsible for nearly one in five rapes and sexual assaults (18 percent) committed against females. All male victims of rape and sexual assault in the survey were victimized by an intimate partner, friend or acquaintance.

Only two in five incidents of rape or sexual assault (41 percent) were reported to the police.

The report analyzed violent and property crime rates from 1999 to 2008, finding that the overall violent crime rate declined by 41 percent over that decade, with rates of rape and sexual assault declining by 53 percent. There was no statistical difference between violent crime rates in the United States in 2007 and 2008.

“While the overall decline in violent crime, including rape and sexual assault, from 1999 to 2008 is encouraging, it remains a pervasive problem,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “We must do much more to stop this violence, and focus on young women, age 16 to 24, who continue to suffer the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. It is indisputable that there is a vast, unmet need to prevent teen dating violence.”

Soler continued, “As a nation, we have identified prevention programs that help stop domestic and sexual violence, and services that are effective in protecting victims. But we aren’t taking those programs to scale and implementing them as widely as we should. In fact, in some ways we are going backward. California Governor Schwarzenegger recently eliminated the state’s Domestic Violence Program, domestic and sexual violence programs around the country are in danger of being cut or eliminated by state legislatures, and Congress has yet to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act. If we want to continue the progress of the last decade, that must change.”

The NCVS collects information on nonfatal crimes, reported and not reported to the police, against persons age 12 or older from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households. During 2008, 42,093 households and 77,852 individuals were interviewed twice for the NCVS.

Read Criminal Victimization, 2008 here.

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