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Criminal Justice, Gender, Human Rights

Facts about sexual violence in the United States

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Because sex crimes tend to be under-reported, the full extent of the problem in the United States is not always apparent. The National Violence Against Women Survey found that, on average, 17.6% of women and 3% of men in the United States will be raped in their lifetimes.

A 2009 research brief produced by the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Justice, “The Facts about Sexual Violence,” summarizes a variety of studies and surveys on the issue.

Key points in the brief include:

  • Among high school students, 11% of the females and 4% of the males reported having been forced to have sex.
  • The chances of rape are especially high for young women. Women between ages 16 and 24 are four times more likely to be raped as compared with the rate for all women.
  • For women who are raped, some 24.5% of incidents involve a spouse or ex-spouse, or current live-in or previous cohabitating partner.
  • During their lifetimes, 34% of Native American women report an attempted or completed rape, as do 18.8% of African-American women, 17.7% of white women, and 6.8% of Asian American women.

The report notes that a variety of negative longer-term consequences result from rape, including mental health problems, lost work time and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tags: crime, sex crimes, Native American, African-American, domestic violence

    Writer: | Last updated: May 20, 2011

    Citation: “The Facts about Sexual Violence” University of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Justice, August, 2009, PDF.

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the University of Minnesota and U.S. Department of Justice report "The Facts about Sexual Violence."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Review the issue-related NPR story "Campus Rape Victims: A Struggle for Justice."

    1. If you were to incorporate further findings from the report, what key points would you add?

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.