Prevalence and Incidence of Rape Among Women
Various studies—by different researchers using different methodologies—have yielded significantly different numbers regarding the prevalence of rape and sexual assault, and this can be confusing.
One large scale national survey, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), uses telephone surveys of a representative sample of the U.S. population to arrive at prevalence of sexual violence. In 2016, NISVS found that 1 in 5 women have been subjected to rape in their lifetime.1
Different studies yield significantly different numbers regarding the prevalence of rape and sexual assault and this can be confusing.
The FBI collects nationwide crime data through the Uniform Crime Reporting System (UCRS) to which 18,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country contribute data. Data from 2015 show approximately 214,232 rapes were reported to law enforcement and 22,863 resulted in an arrest, which is approximately 10.5%. However, there are many law enforcement agencies that do not send their data to the UCRS, and most victims do not report at all, so the FBI’s number is only a partial view of the reality.
More comprehensive studies come from Dr. Dean Kilpatrick and his team at the Medical University of South Carolina National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center, among the most highly regarded researchers in this field. The Center produced the ground-breaking Rape in America study in 19922 and a follow- up community study titled Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study in 2007.3 About their 2007 study they concluded:
“Our findings indicate that about 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the U.S. have ever been raped during their lifetime. This includes an estimated 18 million women who have been forcibly raped, nearly 3 million women who have experienced drug-facilitated rape, and 3 million women who have experienced incapacitated rape.
During the past year alone , over 1 million women in the U.S. have been raped: over 800,000 who have been forcibly raped, nearly 200,000 who have experienced drug-facilitated rape, and about 300,000 who have experienced incapacitated rape.
Although this study offers limited insight into changes in the prevalence of rape over time, our estimates do not appear to support the widely held belief that rape has significantly declined in recent decade.”
1. Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Basile, K.C., Walters, M.L., Chen, J., & Merrick, M.T., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2014), Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Victimization: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6308.pdf