YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts – A Voice for Women and Girls

About Sexual Assault/Violence

Sexual Violence graphic, hand of wordsWhat is Sexual Assault & Violence?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual attention, contact, or activity. Sexual violence violates a person’s trust, autonomy, and feeling of safety.

Sexual assault may involve one or more persons who coerce, manipulate, pressure, threaten, or force another person into acts of sexual activity that are against the person’s will or without consent due to age, illness, physical or cognitive disability, being unconscious, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Sexual assault is a term covering a wide range of unwanted sexual contacts and behaviors including sexual abuse, rape, attempted rape, incest, exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, fondling, and sexual harassment. Several terms such as sexual assault, rape, drug or alcohol facilitated sexual assault, and acquaintance rape have both legal and societal meanings.

When someone is sexually assaulted, they have options about what to do next, including whether or not to go to the hospital or to report the assault to the police. The decision of what option(s) to take is theirs to make, however some options are only available for a short time.

Facts about sexual assault

  • Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men in Massachusetts have ever experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men in Massachusetts have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lives.
  • More than half (51.1%) of female victims were raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% reported being raped by an acquaintance.
  • More than half (52.4%) of male victims were raped by an acquaintance, and 15.1% were raped by a stranger.
  • 76.9% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25; 42.2% experienced their first rape before the age of 18 years.
  • 27.8% of male victims experienced their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger.
  • 2,564 sexual assaults were reported to rape crisis centers in Massachusetts in 2010.
  • In 2005, in stalking cases where the victim/offender relationship was known, 28% of stalkers were current or former intimate partners.
  • In Massachusetts, 4,418 adolescents and adults are sexually assaulted each year — that’s 12 people each day and one every two hours.
  • 75% of all survivors know their assailants; 80% of all rapes occur in the home.
  • 50% of transgender people experience sexual violence, with 1 in 10 being sexually assaulted by a health care provider.*
  • In a study from 2004 that surveyed transgender survivors of sexual assault, 29% said the perpetrator had been female.**
  • 1 in 4 gay men experience domestic violence (www.gmdvp.org)

* Statistics from Forge (www.forge-forward.org)
** Due to the under reporting of sexual assault and rape, the prevalence of these crimes may be higher than statistics demonstrate.

Teen, boy, older, outside shotTeens and Sexual Violence

  • A 2005 survey of high school students found that 10.8% of girls and 4.2% of adolescent males from grades 9-12 were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives.
  • 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24.
  • Half of all reported acquaintance rapes occur among teenagers.
  • 11% of high school students and 6% of middle school students reported being physically hurt by someone they dated.
  • 58% of homeless LGBT youth are sexually assaulted (as opposed to 33% of homeless youth who are heterosexual; www.forge-forward.org)

*Due to the under reporting of sexual assault and rape, the prevalence of these crimes may be higher than statistics demonstrate.