What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is the use of sexual actions and words that are unwanted by and/or harmful to another person. Some of these actions are defined as crimes by Minnesota statutes. Some experiences of sexual violence are hurtful violations of personal boundaries but may not rise to the level of a crime. However, that does not diminish the victim's experience of being harmed. Sexual violence is widespread, can happen to anyone at any age, and threatens women and girls from a very young age. Sexual violence is wrong and harmful.
We can reduce acts of violence and abuse that use sex as a weapon by learning and sharing the facts.
What causes sexual violence?
As a coalition, we recognize that there are multiple causes, some related to individual pathology of offenders, and most related to a culture that in some ways supports, condones or ignores sexually violent messages and/or behavior. Some call this a “rape culture” and point to exploitive images of women and children in the media, the status of women and children in our culture, and the assumption of sexual availability of women, as examples of a "rape culture.” While it is impossible to agree on a single source for the cause of sexual violence, we can agree that this is a multidimensional issue that requires response on several fronts.
Sometimes the terms “sexual abuse” and “sexual assault” are used interchangeably with “sexual violence.” Generally, sexual abuse refers to the repeated sexual violation of a child by a family member or other. Sexual assault is the term most commonly used in Minnesota in reference to those instances that are called “rape.” Read more about how Minnesota law defines sexual assault or abuse (criminal sexual conduct).
Types of sexual assault
Statistics about sexual violence
While statistics can provide valuable information, they must be reviewed with a critical eye. Statistics are often taken out of a fuller context and may not provide the clearest picture. The statistics shared here are chosen to give you a general sketch of the issue of sexual violence in Minnesota and in the US. Use them carefully and consult the links which will connect you to additional research and data about sexual violence.
You may also be interested in this report: The Cost of Sexual Violence in Minnesota.
Sexual violence is widespread, as national statistics show
- Nearly 1 in 5 women - or nearly 22 million - have been raped in their lifetimes.
- 1 in 71 men - or almost 1.6 million - have been raped during their lives.
- 1 in 6 women have been stalked during their lifetime. 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking in their lifetime.
- 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner while 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
- Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11-17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10).
- About 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.
- 28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
- 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long term impacts related to the violence experienced in this relationship such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and injury, while 35% of men report such impacts of their experiences.
- Women of all races are targeted, but some are more vulnerable than others: 33.5% of multiracial women have been raped, as have 27% of American Indian and Alaska Native women, compared to 15% of Hispanic, 22% of Black, and 19% of White women.
- In data from 2005-2010, most rape or sexual assault victims (78%) knew the offender.
- The vast majority (nearly 98%) of perpetrators are male.
- The percentage of rape or sexual assault victimizations reported to police declined to 35% in 2010, a level last seen in 1995.
- In 2005-10, females, age 34 or younger, who lived in lower income households, and who lived in rural areas experienced some of the highest rates of sexual violence.
- In 2005-10, in 11% of rape or sexual assault victimizations, the offender was armed with a gun, knife or other weapon.
In Minnesota, sexual assault threatens women and girls beginning at an early age
- By the time Minnesota girls graduate from high school, about 12% report a date-related sexual assault. By the time they finish college, 29% of Minnesota females have been sexually assaulted. And by mid-life, 33% of Minnesota women have experienced a rape crime – approximately one in three.
- An estimated 60% of teen first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape, or attempted rape.
- 23 to 30% of Minnesota girls face harassment or “hostile hallways,” in school.
- Sexually abused girls are three times more likely to have an emotional or mental health problem lasting more than a year, twice as likely to suffer from depression, and three times more likely to hurt themselves on purpose.
- In Minnesota, 41 to 49 percent of all rapes reported between 2001 and 2005 resulted in an eventual arrest.
- Sexual violence costs Minnesota almost $8 billion annually.
Other populations are also at higher risk of being raped or sexually assaulted, including people with disabilities, the LGBT community, prison inmates (of both genders), and the homeless. Undocumented immigrants face unique challenges, because their abusers often threaten to have them deported if they try to get help.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Centers for Disease Control, 2011
Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action, White House Council on Women and Girls, 2014
Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 2013 Report
MN Women's Foundation, Status of Women and Girls in MN, 2010
MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as cited in the Wilder Report, 2007
Cost of Sexual Violence in Minnesota Report
What are consent, force and coercion?
Consent: Free and active agreement, given equally by both partners, to engage in a specific sexual activity. Giving in is not the same as giving consent! Consent is not present when either partner:
- Fears the consequences of not consenting (including use of force)
- Feels threatened or intimidated
- Fears being "outed"
- Is coerced
- Says no, either verbally or physically (e.g., crying, kicking or pushing away)
- Has communication barriers that prevent the person from understanding what is being said
- Has differing abilities that prevent the person from making an informed choice
- Is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs
- Lacks full knowledge or information of what is happening
- Is not an active participant in the activity
- Is under the legal age of consent
Force: Minnesota statute defines force as the threat of bodily harm which causes the individual to reasonably believe that the threat could be carried out immediately, or the infliction of bodily harm, either of which cause the individual to submit to unwanted sexual behavior.
Coercion: Minnesota statute defines coercion as words or circumstances that cause a person to fear that the other will inflict bodily harm, or confine the person. It also means the use of physical size or strength which causes the person to submit to an unwanted sexual act.
When talking about coercion, victims identify that they have been badgered, tricked, threatened with being "outed," kept from eating, sleeping, leaving, using the bathroom, or otherwise held hostage until they quit resisting. Not all coercive acts fall under the statutory definition, but that does not deny a victim's right to identify an experience as coercive. Giving in to coercion is not the same as giving consent!