December 21ā 2011
CDC Survey Reveals Sexual
Violence Is Widespread, while Campuses Report More Sexual Assaults ó
How to Protect
Your Family and Children
Last week the Center for Disease Controlís National Center
for Injury Prevention and Control released the results
of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. The
report shows an alarmingly high rate of sexual violence and stalking
against both men and women. It also cites the underreporting of sexual
assaults, the vulnerability of child victims, and the impact that these
crimes have on our health care system, which serves victims suffering from
complications including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
These results appear to be consistent with earlier studies
released by the CDC and other reports suggesting that the nationís campuses
are experiencing an increased incidence of sexual assaults, and that such
assaults are being reported more frequently. Colleges and universities are
treating allegations of sexual misconduct with far greater seriousness than
ever before, and making greater use of formal reporting processes,
disciplinary procedures, and sanctions. All of these findings suggest that
young adults going off to college must have a clear understanding of their
rights and responsibilities in terms of dating and encounters with others.
Their future and well-being hinge upon it.
Selected Key Findings of the National Intimate Partner
and Sexual Violence Survey
Sexual Violence by Any Perpetrator
Nearly one in five women (28.3%)1 in the United States report being
raped at some point in their lives.
More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being
raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance; for male
victims, more than half (52.4%) reported being raped by an acquaintance and
15.1% by a stranger.
13% of women and 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion in their
lifetime, and 27.2% of women and 11.7% of men have experienced unwanted
Most female rape victims (79.6%) experienced their first rape before
the age of 25; 42.2% experienced their first rape before the age of 18.
Violence by an Intimate Partner
More than one in three women (35.6%) in the United States have
experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
in their lifetime.
Nearly one in ten American women (9.4%) experienced rape by an
intimate partner, and an estimated 16.9% of women and 8.0% of men have
experienced sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner.
About one in four women (24.3%) and one in seven men (13.8%) have
experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
An estimated 10.7% of women and 2.1% of men have been stalked by an
Most female and male victims of rape, physical violence, and/or
stalking by an intimate partner (69% of female victims and 53% of male
victims) experienced some form of intimate partner violence for the first
time before 25 years of age.
The report also indicates that stalking is widespread, with
one in six women reporting that they have been victimized. Repeated
unwanted telephone calls and voice or text messages were the most common
tactics experienced by both female and male stalking victims.
Reports of Sexual Violence on Campus
Both sexual violence and the reporting of sexual assaults on
college and university campuses are increasing. The University of Vermont,
for example, reported seven instances of sexual assault on campus between
August 2009 and April 2010. Additionally, ten New England universities and
colleges provided data as part of a campus grant program overseen by the
Justice Departmentís Office on Violence Against Women. These schools
reported more than 240 alleged assaults between 2003 and 2008, four of
which led to expulsions. The grant recipients in Massachusetts included
Salem State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Northeastern, Tufts, and UMass Amherst.
The Toll on Health and Productivity
Individuals who experience sexual violence and stalking are
much more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty
with sleeping, activity limitations, poor physical health, and poor mental
health than men and women who did not experience these forms of violence.
In a 2005 study using data from a national telephone survey of 8,000 women,
those experiencing physical intimate partner violence victimization
reported an average of 7.2 days of work-related lost productivity and 33.9
days in productivity losses associated with other activities per year, and
more than half of stalking victims lost five days or more of work.
All of the findings cited above suggest that sexual violence
is taking a shocking toll on the nation, and that our communities must do
far more to prevent sexual violence and its damaging consequences. But
these reports also demonstrate that parents must be aware of the risks and
consequences of sexual violence, and learn how to protect themselves and
their families in the event that they or their children are either
victimized by an abuser or face charges of sexual misconduct.
Steps to Take to Protect Your Family and Children
There are a number of steps that parents can take to help
safeguard themselves and their loved ones:
Think hard about who is alone with your children. It isnít
uncommon to find that perpetrators are boyfriends, male friends, or
acquaintances of other family members who have gained access to their
victims through pre-existing relationships.
Foster open communications. Maintaining open and trusting
relationships with our children is the best and only chance we have of
getting them to confide in us when and if they become victims of predatory
Seek help if anyone in your family is victimized or suspected of
victimizing. Be aware that conversations with a spouse or with victimsí
services providers such as physicians, psychiatrists, and social workers
are privileged, and disclosure of these conversations canít be compelled.
Be sure your college-bound student, male or female, fully
understands what behavior is acceptable when it comes to dating and
romantic encounters. Colleges and universities are taking a zero
tolerance policy toward sexual assaults and even unwanted sexual advances.
It is imperative to understand the schoolís code of conduct and
disciplinary exposure as spelled out in the student handbook. Sexual
misconduct can result in both criminal and academic discipline.
If your child is the subject of an accusation of sexual assault
and/or domestic relations violence, act immediately to effectively assert
his or her legal rights. Preventing interviews with the accused, for
example, can protect against having their statements used against them.
Once formal charges are made, even at the college or university
disciplinary level, they are extremely difficult to reverse. The school
will try to convene an academic disciplinary hearing immediately, before
the student has a chance to talk to you or appreciate the seriousness of
the charges. While withdrawal from school may have been a viable option in
the past, schools are now under extreme pressure not to allow accused
students to withdraw prior to or during a disciplinary process. And once an
adverse finding is made, the accused studentís procedural rights are skewed
significantly in favor of the institution.
* * *
findings presented in the CDCís report are for 2010, the first year of data
collection, and are based on complete interviews obtained from 16,507
adults (9,086 women and 7,421 men).