The Prevalence of Sexual Violence


Does rape happen at Harvard? Yes. In fact, although Harvard has a reputation for having a 'different' atmosphere than other universities, there is absolutely no indication that rape happens any more infrequently at Harvard than it does anywhere else.

The following statistics were taken from Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and can be found on RAINN's statistics page.  Many of the statistics from RAINN come from the United States Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey.  For information from the 2000 survey, please click here.  Or, for the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice statistics, click here


Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.

In 2000, there were 261,000 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

Of these 261,000, 114,000 were victims of sexual assault, 55,000 were victims of attempted rape, and 92,000 were victims of completed rape. [2000 NCVS.]

Because of the methodology of the National Crime Victimization Survey, these figures do not include victims 12 or younger. While there are no reliable annual surveys of sexual assaults on children, the Justice Department has estimated that one of six victims are under age 12. [Child Rape Victims, 1992]

Have you heard about crime declining? It’s true (as best we can tell). While figures for any single year are considered somewhat unreliable because they are based on a small sample size, the more-reliable longterm trend looks good. Since1993, rape/sexual assault has fallen 52%.  Click here for a two-page summary, compiled by RAINN, of sexual assault statistics, 1993-2000. 

Women are victims
Men are victims
Children are victims
The Color of Rape
Silent victims
The rapist isn’t a masked man
And he’s not hiding in the bushes
The best safety advice: grow old
The criminal
The punishment

Women are victims

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. [Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998.]


In 1999, nine out of every ten rape victims were female. [1999 NCVS]


While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked:


Lifetime rate of rape/attempted rape (women):


[NVAWS 1998]







Asian/Pacific Islander:


Am. Indian/Alaskan:


Mixed race:



Men are victims

About three percent of American men —- a total of 2.78 million men—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. [Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women 1998.]

In 1999, one in every ten rape victims were male.[1999 NCVS]


Children are victims

About 44% of rape victims are under age 18. Three out of every twenty victims (15%) are under age 12. [Sex Offenses and Offenders. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1997.]

Seven percent of girls in grades five to eight and twelve percent of girls in grades nine through twelve and said they had been sexually abused. [Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls, 1998.]

Three percent of boys in grades five through eight and five percent of boys in grades nine through twelve said they had been sexually abused. [Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Boys, 1998.]

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. [Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2000]

In 1995, local child protective service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse; of these, 75% were girls. Nearly 30% of child victims were between the ages of 4 and 7. [US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Child Maltreatment, 1995.]


The Color of Rape

Among people 12 and older, about 83.5% of the US population is white, and 82.5% of rape victims are white; 13.3% of victims are black, compared to 12.3% of the population; and 4.2% of both victims and the population are of other races. [2000 NCVS.]

Blacks are about 10% more likely to be attacked than whites. In 2000, there were 1.1 victimizations per 1,000 white people, and 1.2 victimizations per 1,000 black people. [2000 NCVS.]


Silent Victims

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.


The rapist isn’t a masked man

And he’s not hiding in the bushes…

[Statistics in this section are from: Sex Offenses and Offenders. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, February 1997:

About four out of ten sexual assaults take place at the victim’s own home. Two in ten take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative. One in ten take place outside, away from home. And about one in 12 take place in a parking garage.

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.

43% of rapes occur between 6 pm and midnight. 24% occur between midnight and 6am. The other 33% take place between 6am and 6pm.


The Dangers of Youth

15% of victims are under age 12
29% are age 12-17
44% are under age 18
80% are under age 30

Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years. Risk peaks in the late teens: girls 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. [2000 NCVS.]


The Criminal

The average age of rapists at arrest is 31. Fifty-two percent are white; twenty-two percent of imprisoned rapists report that they are married. [SOO, 1997]

Juveniles accounted for about 16% of forcible rape arrestees in 1995 and 17% of those arrested for other sex offenses [SOO, 1997]

In about one out of three sexual assaults, the perpetrator was intoxicated—30% with alcohol, 4% with drugs. [Alcohol and Crime. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998]

In one study, 98% of males who raped boys reported that they were heterosexual. [Sexual Abuse of Boys, Journal of the American Medical Association, December 2, 1998]

About 6% of rapes involved the use of a weapon—three percent used a gun, and three percent used a knife. 80% of victims reported the use of physical force only, and 10% were unsure. [2000 NCVS.]


The Punishment

72% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Those rapists, of course, never serve a day in prison. [1999 NCVS]

If the rape is reported to police, there is a 50.8% chance that an arrest will be made.

If an arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution.

If there is a prosecution, there is a 58% chance of a felony conviction.

If there is a felony conviction, there is a 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail.

So, even in those 28% of rapes that are reported to police, there is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.

Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5%—one out of twenty— of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free.

[Probability statistics compiled by NCPA from US Department of Justice statistics. See]

For more statistics and links to all primary sources, see RAINN’s Statistics Archive.

For information and resources on sexual assault, rape and drug-facilitated sexual assault, please visit

For more information and statistics, visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.