1 in 5: Rape Statistics

By now, you've probably heard the statistic that 1 in 5 women in college will be raped. You've probably also heard that's false. I've heard a lot of backlash against feminists recently for "falsifying statistics."

So where did the 1 in 5 number come from? Well, feminists didn't make it up, it's a real number that got misconstrued. It was a survey done among senior undergraduates at two universities, not a national study. The survey found that 1 in 5 (19.8%) women has experienced rape or unwanted sexual contact, like forced kissing or groping (things that constitute assault). If we ignore the sexual assault, the number of women that've been raped drops to 1 in 7 (14.3%), and only counts completed incidents (not attempted). Before you jump all over that number, let's remember that this is a survey, it had a mediocre response rate and it's possible people weren't truthful. (1)

So what are the actual statistics? Let's look at the 2013 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The rate of rape or sexual assault for female students between 18-24 years in 2013 was only 4.4 out of 1000 (compared to 4.3 for non-students of the same demographic). That's a HUGE difference from the 1 in 5 claim. That study also found that on college campuses, the rapist was more likely to be a male (in 97% of cases, compared 91% for non-students), and victims were much less likely to report it (only 20% did,  compared to 32% of non-students). Now let's say these numbers are perfectly, flawlessly true (they aren't), and let's say we can generalize these numbers to an entire population (we can't). Even though it's significantly less than 1 in 5, is it acceptable that 10,416 female students were raped or sexually assaulted on college campuses in 2013? Absolutely fucking not. (2)

If we just focus on women in college, we're ignoring a much bigger picture. So let's broaden our focus a bit and consider the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the CDC in 2010. Now we're getting closer to the 1 in 5 number again. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) of women have been raped (including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and drug facilitated forced penetration) at some point in their lives. Nearly 1 in 2 (44.6%) have experienced some form of sexual assault (including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and unwanted sexual experiences). (3) That's fucking horrifying. 

Let's just review that one more time. The CDC found in 2010 that nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%). That's almost 22 million women. THAT'S HORRIFYING.

Look, the prevalence of sexual assault is decreasing (to be specific, sexual assault has fallen by 49% in recent years). That's awesome. But it's not enough. There are 293,066 victims (age 12 or older, male and female) of rape and sexual assault each year. 98% of rapists will never get jail time. Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer from depression, PTSD, abuse alcohol and drugs, and contemplate suicide. (4) None of this is ok.

So will 1 in 5 girls be raped during their time at college? No, probably not. Does that mean that rape isn't a problem? Absolutely not. Do not use the 1 in 5 statistic to end a conversation about rape. Because firstly, if you're honestly more bothered by inaccurate statistics than rape, you need to reevaluate, and secondly, it's not as far off as you think.

1. http://time.com/3633903/campus-rape-1-in-5-sexual-assault-setting-record-straight/
2. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf
3. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf
4. https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims


  1. dem citations doe

  2. Consider staying away from guys that you've been warned are bad news; otherwise, you are just asking to get hurt physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. It's like purposely walking into a lion den...are you really going to trust that the lion isn't going to wake up and bite your face off?

    In the end, you have to practice what you preach. If not, you are just an unreliable source sitting on a high horse.

    1. Let's keep on the statistics path, shall we? Look at the CDC research again. 12.5% of rapes were perpetrated by family member. 51.1% are from a current or former intimate partner. The problem isn't walking into a lion den, it's people women already trust and have built relationships with.

      I'm not going to dignify the second half of that beyond pointing out that all my sources and statistics are cited from reliable research.

    2. Holy hell this is some victim blaming if I have ever seen it. No one. Ever. EVER. Is asking to get raped. You are what is wrong with rape culture in America anon. Should people be careful? sure. But to blame a victim is absurd. Also like whats up with that personal attack? Seriously uncool.

  3. To the second Anonymous: I agree that people should generally stay away from others who are generally bad news. However, while saying people should stay away from potentially dangerous guys at first makes sense, to women, every guy is potentially dangerous. Every man is possibly a 'lion', if you will. Men that you haven't been warned about could also be bad news. Also, should we really be comparing sentient human beings with self-control to wild animals? I'm only asking because I want to know whether I should bring a raw steak on my next date.

  4. I don't have as much information as Reagan does, but I can say from personal experience/accounts from those close to me that women are most typically assaulted by someone they know/trust. It is never the victim's fault, you could be the best "lion tamer" in the world and still be assaulted. It's never fair to put the blame on them.

  5. If sexual assault has fallen by 49%, but it's still at 44%... does this mean it used to be 88%? (88x.49 ≈ 44)

    1. So I took that number directly from RAINN (https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/frequency-of-sexual-assault), and they cite the same NCVS that I cited above. Directly from that study "Since 1993, the rate of violent crime has declined from 79.8 to 23.2 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older". I'm not sure if that's where they got the number, so feel free to look at the 2013 numbers yourself (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv13.pdf). RAINN is a pretty reputable source.

  6. Okay, let me try again...

    Hi, I'm Taryn. (Anonymous #2)

    1. Nothing I said was meant to "hate on" this specific blogger (who is unknown to me...so I don't know why y'all are assuming I supposedly know something about this person that I obviously do not). It was just advice to all readers and writers in general based on what I've learned from my past experiences. Didn't think I had to use citations from my own life to qualify my casual comment. Feel free to ignore my advice, and I'll just let you make/learn from your own mistakes.

    2. I NEVER said it's everrrr the victim's fault. I essentially said: "don't be stupid." I've been stupid in the past (whether it came to whom I placed my trust in or doubting my own instincts), and I've regretted it. During those instances I didn't blame anyone but myself. Now I don't walk the streets of Memphis by myself once it gets dark or go places alone with drunk guys, etc...Now I realize it's just common sense.

    3. I wasn't actually comparing human beings to animals. I was just giving a silly analogy to make y'all think. Unfortunately, y'all just jumped to conclusions because you obviously have some sort of preconceived notion as to what kind of person I am and what I've experienced in my lifetime.

    4. People always see what they want to see...interpret things the way they want to interpret them...create drama whenever they can. The world doesn't revolve around you (or me).

    Glad I was able to arouse some sort of conversation around this though. I was under the notion that this would be a safe place to have this sort of conversation, and I thought my advice would be welcome. Unfortunately, I will not be returning to this blog any more due to the hostility. Back to my cubicle life...

    1. Taryn, you're right, people will interpret things the way they want, and if you no longer want to read my blog, you're free to do so, and I'm sorry you felt attacked.

      The notion of telling victims "don't be stupid" puts the blame on them. Even if you do walk by yourself or hang out with drunk guys, it never makes it your fault. Victim blaming can make it difficult for victims to come forward and report what happened, and it's a huge problem, so I'm glad people call it out when they see it.

      I carry pepper spray on me because it makes me feel safer. There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself. But even if you don't, or trust the wrong people, or get into a bad situation, getting assaulted or raped is never your fault, and you shouldn't blame yourself. When I was assaulted, I didn't have any way to protect myself. Do I regret that? Of course I do. Do I blame myself? No. What happened was not my fault.

    2. Last thought:
      There is a big difference between being a victim and actively making a choice & regretting it later. In my previous post I was referring to the latter. The examples I spoke of after that were merely examples of what I do now to keep myself safe. I realize now that even though I'm young, I'm not indestructible.

      If you can't agree with what I have just clarified then I suppose we shall agree to disagree. My life experiences have given me a Wise Mind and I am content with my own opinions. I thank you for the conversation.