Sexual Assault Facts And Myths

Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not sexual passion. It is meant to degrade, humiliate and control. The attacker can be a stranger or someone known and trusted. It can happen to anyone, at any time, at any place. The trauma of being assaulted is a shock from which many victims never fully recover.

No matter which form it takes, sexual assault is as much a problem today as it has been throughout history. While those most at risk are people between the ages of 10 and 29, it can happen to anyone at any age.

There is no portrait of a “typical” rapist. These men (in most cases), like their victims, are all ages and come from all racial and social backgrounds. They can be college students, married, doctors, teachers, or unemployed transients. Most are not crazy or deranged people looking for sex. In fact the majority of offenders are highly intelligent, married with families and have ready access to consensual sex; but they rape to control, dominate and humiliate the victim.


  • Sexual assault continues to represent the most rapidly growing violent crime in America
  • Over 700,000 women are sexually assaulted each year
  • It is estimated that fewer than 50% of rapes are reported
  • Approximately 20% of sexual assaults against women are perpetrated by assailants unknown to the victim. The remainder are committed by friends, acquaintances, intimates, and family members.
  • Acquaintance rape is particularly common among adolescent victims.
  • Male victims represent 5% of reported sexual assaults.
  • Among female rape victims 61% are under 18.
  • At least 20% of adult women, 15% of college women and 12% of adolescent women have experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault during their lifetimes
  • Over 50% of the attacks occur in the home, and most of these are planned.
  • In 85% of the cases, some type of direct force is used, whether it is choking, beating or plain physical force. A weapon is used 1/3 of the time.
  • Rapists rarely attack once. They have one of the highest repeat rates of all criminals. More that 70% of those arrested for the crime are re-arrested within seven years.


Myth: Sexual assault is a crime of passion and lust.
Sexual assault is a crime of violence. Assailants seek to dominate, humiliate and punish their victims.

Myth: You cannot be assaulted against your will.
Assailants overpower their victim with the threat of violence or with actual violence. In cases of acquaintance rape or incest, an assailant often uses the victim's trust in assailant to isolate the victim.

Myth: A person who has really been assaulted will be hysterical.
Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to the assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, guilt, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.

Myth: Sexual assault is an impulsive act.
Seventy-five percent of all assaults are planned in advance. When three or more assailants are involved, 90% are planned. If two assailants are involved, 83%. With one assailant, 58% are planned.

Myth: Assailants are usually crazed psychopaths who do not know their victims.
As many as 80% of all assaults involve either a known acquaintance, or someone the victim has had contact with, but does not know personally.

Myth: Gang rape is rare
In 43% of all reported cases, more that one assailant was involved.

Myth: Many women claim they have been sexually assaulted because they want revenge upon the man they accuse.
Only 4-6% of sexual assault cases are based on false accusations. This percentage of unsubstantiated cases is the same as with many other reported crimes.

Myth: Persons who dress or act in a sexy way are asking to be sexually assaulted.
Many convicted sexual assault assailants are unable to remember what their victims looked like or were wearing.

Myth: All women secretly want to be raped.
While women and men may fantasize about being overpowered during sexual relations it is usually with a person of their choosing, who they trust. They are in control of the fantasy. No one wants the physical and emotional pain caused by a sexual assault.

Myth: Only young, pretty women are assaulted.
There is no such thing as a "typical victim." Both men and women are assaulted by both male and female assailants. Victims have ranged in age from newborns to 100 years old.

Myth: It is impossible to sexually assault a man.
Men fall victim for the same reasons as women: they are overwhelmed by threats or acts of physical and emotional violence. Also, most sexual assaults that involve a male victim are gang assaults, by other males.

Myth: If you do not struggle or use physical force to resist you have not been sexually assaulted.
If you are forced to have sex without your consent, you have been assaulted whether or not a struggle was involved.