Earlier this week, I referenced a CDC study on rape statistics as part of my post about tiresome mansplainers and harassment. It was pointed out that this particular study was potentially problematic in the narrow way it defined the rape of men. Fair enough — and I agree that from my reading and experience, the actual number of male rape survivors is significantly higher than the CDC found in their study.
So let’s bring in some additional data. Looking through these statistics, please keep in mind that no single study is perfect. Also remember that rape tends to be underreported, due to a combination of factors including shame, fear, lack of support from friends & family, aggressive victim-blaming from law enforcement and the judicial system, confusion over rape myths and the definition of rape, and more.
- “9 of every 10 rape victims in 2003 were female.” (Source)
- A U.S. Department of Justice study in 2005 estimated 15,130 male victims of rape/sexual assault, and 176,540 female victims. (Source)
- “The first and most inclusive set of measures we present are the number and percentage of undergraduate women who reported being a victim of attempted or completed sexual assault of any type before entering college (15.9% ) and since entering college (19.0%).” (Source – study did not examine male victims of rape)
- “1 in 6 women (17 percent) and 1 in 33 men (3 percent) reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.” (Source)
- “In 1994 victims reported about 1 rape/sexual assault victimization of a female victim for every 270 females in the general population; for males, the rate was substantially lower, with about 1 rape/sexual assault of a male victim for every 5,000 male residents age 12 or older. Overall, an estimated 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault were female. Nearly 99% of the offenders they described in single-victim incidents were male.” (Source)
- Another U. S. Department of Justice study found that 95.4% of single-offender rapes/sexual assaults were committed by men. (2.9% were committed by women, and in 1.8% of cases, the gender of the rapist was unknown.) When multiple offenders were involved, then the offenders were all male in 89.6% of cases. (Source)
- “In a single year, more than 300,000 women and almost 93,000 men are estimated to have been raped [in the U.S.]” (Source)
“[E]stimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8%.” (Source)
- The U.S. Department of Justice has consistently found that only about 1 in 4 rapes are committed by strangers. (Source)
I could go on all day, but I’ve got a doctor appointment to get to. My takeaway from everything I’ve read over the years, as well as my personal experiences and interactions, is that:
- No single study is perfect.
- Rape is too damn common.
- Women are far more likely to be raped/sexually assaulted than men.
- Men are also raped and sexually assaulted. This is a real and valid problem too, and male victims are just as deserving of support.
- Men are far more likely to commit rape/sexual assault than women.
- Most rapes/sexual assaults are committed by friends, romantic partners, or family members, not strangers.
And of course, no matter how many studies you cite, no matter how many people share their stories and experiences, there will always be people — often but not exclusively guys, in my experience — who get extremely defensive and refuse to believe it.
October 3, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
I think it’s also important to include data on the tens of thousands of rape kits that go unprocessed in this country. A CBS This Morning report, this morning, gave a figure around 20,000 per year but I didn’t catch their source.
October 3, 2014 @ 3:51 pm
Hi, Jim. When I saw your headline I thought you might be writing about the shocking survey information that was released at our local university this week, and which has been getting national publicity.
Here’s a link to yesterday’s local newspaper: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/32230270-75/survey-1-in-10-female-students-at-uo-say-they-have-been-raped.html.csp?sp-tk=0552491F4D171FC8877940EF34FD76DB548028A93EC47A7E250D75A81BB0608BFA3494A1BF1800D9759751C54B693AA534CC72234CE7259F5FA4845FA2E88B81F2D71A36E439EB6AFB226498642DA9290C39B01ACB825F01AE0C59270A398D5EF8F7F412983FF28DD9AD6F30CC9F8203C268DF53C995C8F523EF5D6323503C63E6CD6E67CD621BE28F662196AA7E4873192E165E
If that turns out to be behind a pay-firewall, then there’s also this, with less detail:
Jim C. Hines
October 3, 2014 @ 3:57 pm
I hadn’t heard about that particular article, but it’s not out-of-line with other studies I’ve seen about rape on college campuses.
October 3, 2014 @ 5:45 pm
I find it interesting that the term “epidemic” is often used to describe rapes on college campuses nowadays. While rape is clearly common, the use of the term troubles me, because it implies that this is some sort of spike or aberrant thing, or something that’s developed recently. I strongly suspect rates were similar back when I was at university, and probably long before. The difference was, we didn’t define many of these things as rape.
There was something called “lurking” that fraternity guys sometimes talked about at my university. When a guy picked up a drunk girl at a party and brought her up to his room, he might leave his curtains open a crack, or leave a peep hole uncovered, so his buddies could “lurk” outside his room and watch. And there were tales about things that were done to unconscious women in fraternity house basements and so on too. But no one called it rape, and there was no social media on which to record these occurrences, so we mostly dismissed the lurking stories as idle bragging. The victims rarely talked about their experiences openly (and if they did, their accounts were often dismissed because they’d been drunk and had probably consented without remembering that they had).
The result of talking about the rapes that are happening now as if it were a recent spike in occurrences (aka an epidemic) is that some people start looking for a proximal explanation that may be completely off base. “This generation is just too spoiled and entitled, and kids today lack empathy” is a common refrain I hear (or see on social media) some of my age peers muttering. It’s not impossible that “kids today” are worse in some way, but I suspect this “spike” in rape cases is because (as woefully inadequate as it still is) reporting has improved, some victims are willing to talk about it, and the presence of cell phone cameras and social media has brought some particularly egregious cases into the public eye.
I think that if we ever create a climate where everyone really understands what rape is, and if we get really good at supporting victims, we’re going to see a huge jump in reported occurrences. And I suspect this is one of the reasons why the universities and police departments aren’t at the forefront of creating a more nurturing environment for victims–they aren’t up to dealing with all the work this will create for them.
October 3, 2014 @ 10:39 pm
Good point, Erica. It would be better to say it’s endemic (also sadly true).
October 4, 2014 @ 2:25 am
Erica: Yes, I do think this generation of young women are different. The women on college campuses today have all grown up with the ideas of feminism, equality and empowerment. They have grown up with the idea that injustice should be called out and to “say something”. Young women are fearless and much more vocal in a manner that our generation was not and we helped them become this way.
October 5, 2014 @ 12:46 am
Actually I count it as two generations, as we in the 80s thought we grew up with liberation and the ERA was not quite dead. But look under the surface and the only big change is that they are so stupid to leave more evidence in a video world.
October 6, 2014 @ 7:54 am
Another data point for you… here’s a post that links to a study about male rape in prison, which is probably the most underreported category of all and may skew all the statistics.
October 6, 2014 @ 7:56 am
Grr, typing too fast… my comment should have said “male rape in the military”.