How Often Does It Happen?

Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, though women, children and some demographic groups are more frequently victimized than others. The prevalence of sexual assault goes far beyond the cases that make it to the courtroom or the evening news. Sexual assault impacts hundreds of thousands of people each year in the United States from all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. However, low reporting rates and varying research designs make it difficult to find one set of statistics that tells the whole story.

Sexual Assault in Washington

  • In 2017, Community Sexual Assault Programs in Washington served 13,398 primary victims of sexual assault and 9,175 secondary sexual assault victims.1
  • A national survey of Washingtonians between 2010-2012 found that 45% of women and 22% of men have experienced sexual violence during their lifetime.2
  • In 2016, 17.7% of 10th graders in Washington reported that they had been made to engage in unwanted kissing, sexual touch or intercourse. 3

A Study of Washington Women

The 2001 survey from which these Washington statistics were drawn focused on adult women. We know from national data that men and boys are also victims of sexual assault.4

  • 80% of Washington women's sexual assault experiences occurred prior to the age of 18.
  • More than 33% of women in Washington State have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
  • Almost 20% of these women have been the victims of multiple assaults by different offenders.
  • Only about 25% of the women who suffered physical injuries sought medical assistance, and only 33% sought counseling.

Sexual Assault in the United States

  • Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.5
  • National surveys of adults suggest that between 9-32% of women and 5-10% of men report that they were victims of sexual abuse and/or assault during their childhood.
  • 22% of victims were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32% were between the ages of 12 and 17.6
  • The majority of male and female rape victims knew their perpetrator.7
  • Of surveyed college women, about 90% of rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker prior to the assault.8

Sexual Assault within Underserved Populations

  • 43% of lesbian and bisexual women, and 30% of gay and bisexual men, reported having experienced at least one form of sexual assault victimization during their lifetimes.9
  • 34% of Native American and Alaskan Native women reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, compared with 19% of African American women, 18% of white women, and 7% of Asian American women.10
  • Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault.11
  • Women with disabilities are raped and abused at a rate at least twice that of the general population of women.12
  • A 2007 study found that 5% (or 60,500) of the more than 1.3 million inmates held in federal and state prisons had been sexually abused in the previous year alone.13


    Resources on WCSAP

    Notes and References

    1. Office of Crime Victims Advocacy
    2. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 State Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) 
    3. Washington State Healthy Youth Survey; Question 129 from the Washington State Department of Health (2016)
    4. Sexual Assault Experiences and Perceptions of Community Response to Sexual Assault: A Study of Washington State Women, 2001 from the Office of Crimes Victims Advocacy (2001)
    5. "National Crime Victimization Survey" from the Department of Justice (2007)
    6. Prevalence of individual adverse childhood experiences from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1995-1997)
    7. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011) 
    8. The Sexual Victimization of College Women from the Department of Justice (2000)
    9. The prevalence of sexual assault against people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in the United States: A Systematic Review. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 12(2), 55-66 (2011)
    10. Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey from the Department of Justice
    11. Johnson, I., and Sigler, R. (2000). Forced sexual intercourse among intimates. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15(1), 95-108.
    12. Sobsey. D,. (1994). Violence and abuse in the lives of people with disabilities: The end of silent acceptance. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co, Inc.
    13. "Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2007)