Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Only one in 50 women who have been raped reports the crime to the police.
Although both women and men may be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, women are the victims of the vast majority of these crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 85% of violent victimizations by intimate partners between 1993 and 1998 were perpetrated against women. Women are between 13 and 14 times more likely than men to be raped or sexually assaulted; for instance, in 1994, 93% of sexual assaults were perpetrated against women. Four of five stalking victims are women. Data on male victimization do not show that males experience comparable victimizations and injury levels, do not account for women who act in self defense, and do not measure financial control, intimidation, and isolation used by perpetrators of domestic violence against women.
The gender issue is foremost in sexual assault issues, and is usually background in general victimization. The unique cultural bias and shaming that accompanies rape cases needs its own focused opposition. The history of rape law is a history of the law used as a tool to protect rapists, rather than the raped. The anti-rape movement confronts, as it must, the cultural myths that uniquely exist in the context of rape. Manipulation of these myths, along with humiliation and victim blaming, are typical informal defenses to rape charges. Blaming victims in rape cases may be an effective means to secure acquittal. In contrast, blaming a robbery victim is typically ineffective because robbery is unaccompanied by the same pernicious cultural myths. The nature of stigma and abuse in rape cases is profound and unique, a criminal process that mistreats and excludes other types of victims also inflicts secondary victimization.
In 2002, there were 247,730 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). A total of 17.7 million women have been victims of these crimes. In 2002, one in every eight rape victims were male. 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims knew their attacker; 34.2% were family members and 58.7% acquaintances. Only seven percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.
One of the most startling aspects of sex crimes is how many go unreported. The most common reasons given by victims for not reporting these crimes are the belief that it is a private or personal matter and that they fear reprisal from the assailant.
• In 2001, only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials — about one in every three. [1999 NCVS]
• Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant.
• Approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance; 30% by a stranger; 16% by an intimate; 2% by another relative; and in 4% of cases the relationship is unknown.
• About four out of ten sexual assaults take place at the victim’s own home. More than half of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within one mile of their home or at their home.
• In one study, 98% of males who raped boys reported that they were heterosexual.
• Rapists are more likely to be serial criminals than serial rapists. In one study, 46% of rapists who were released from prison were rearrested within 3 years of their release for another crime -- 18.6% for a violent offense, 14.8% for a property offense, 11.2% for a drug offense and 20.5% for a public-order offense.
• 61% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Those rapists, of course, never serve a day in prison.
So, even in the 39% of attacks that are reported to police, there is onl