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About Abuse

Sexual Assault / Rape

Updated: 
August 20, 2021

What is sexual assault? How common is it?

The term “sexual assault” generally means unwanted sexual contact, often committed by force, including rape. Sexual assault or rape can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, or sexual orientation.

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 44% of women (52.2 million) and almost 25% of men (27.6 million) experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Sometimes, people are sexually assaulted or raped by strangers, but often, people are sexually assaulted by current or former intimate partners. Approximately thirty-six percent of women (43.6 million) and almost 11% of men (12.1 million) experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.1

Legal definitions for crimes related to sexual assault vary by state. We list some (not all) of the crimes related to sexual assault in each state on our Crimes page.

1The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief – Updated Release, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention