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Sexual Violence

Three womenPrevent sexual assault before it starts.

Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men.

In the United States, 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.

Our ultimate goal is to call attention to and stop sexual violence before it begins.

Understanding Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim's will or involve a victim who is unable to consent.

Group of women

If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE.

Sexual violence also includes

  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences (such as verbal sexual harassment)

Sexual violence can be committed by anyone.

  • A current or former intimate partner
  • A family member
  • A person in position of power or trust
  • A friend or acquaintance
  • A stranger, or someone known only by sight

Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems. For example, victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence:

  • Contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Get information at RAINN.
  • Contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.

Working to Prevent Sexual Violence

CDC uses a 4-step approach to address public health problems such as sexual violence.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Identify risk and protective factors.
  3. Develop and test prevention strategies.
  4. Assure widespread adoption.

The ultimate goal is to stop sexual violence before it begins.

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