April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime and nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced other forms of sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Approximately 1 in 21 men have been made to penetrate someone else, and 13% of women and 6% of men are sexually coerced in their lifetimes. Our ultimate goal is to call attention to and stop sexual violence before it begins and to start conversations about how to prevent sexual violence.
Many Victims do not Disclose Sexual Violence
Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the 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.
Sexual violence also includes:
- Unwanted sexual contact, and
- 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. 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, free, confidential, 24/7 and 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:
- Define the problem
- Identify risk and protective factors
- Develop and test prevention strategies
- Assure widespread adoption
The ultimate goal is to stop sexual violence before it begins.
- Page last reviewed: March 31, 2014
- Page last updated: March 31, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs