What is Sexual Violence?


Sexual violence occurs any time a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual contact, whether attempted or completed. [1]
Studies tend to focus on the incidence of rape, but the reality is that there are many forms of sexual violence. Rape is a narrowly defined subset of criminal acts with a sexual component that can and do happen in Utah.
Forms of sexual violence include: rape, rape of a child, aggravated sexual assault, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, sodomy, incest, sexual battery (unwanted touching), indecent exposure, and voyeurism. For a complete list and legal definition of all sexually related crimes in the state, please consult the Utah Criminal Code.
Rape and sexual assault are rarely committed by strangers. Most often the assault is committed by a family member (31%), intimate partner (21%), friend, neighbor, babysitter, acquaintance, co-worker (35%), or a stranger (13%). Child victims are very rarely abused by strangers. Children under the age of 12 most often report being abused by a relative, and teens report abuse at the hands of an acquaintance or an intimate partner (dating violence). [2]
How often does sexual violence happen in Utah?


One in three women in Utah report that they have been a victim of some form of sexual violence in her lifetime and one in eight women report being raped. [2]

A rape was reported every 9.5 hours in Utah in 2009. [6]

Although Utah has a low rate of violent crime as a whole, for the past 10 years our state has had a rape rate (reported rapes per 100,000 females) that is higher than the national average. [3]

Salt Lake County has one of the highest average rape rates in the state at 93 per 100,000 females compared to 70 per 100,000 in Utah. [3]

In 2009, 8% of female high school students and 6% of male students in Utah reported that they were physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. [3]

The 2006 Utah Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System found that one in eight, or 12% of women and one in fifty, or 2% of men reported that they had experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. [3]

Who are the victims?

Sexual violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time.

Women and girls are more likely to be the victim of sexual violence than men and boys.

The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) found that 18% of female respondents and 3% of male respondents reported being a victim of rape or attempted rape. [7]

Sexual violence starts early in life and more than half of reported assaults in the NVAWS occurred before the victim reached age 18 (women 60% and men 69%). [7]

Males and females are victims of sexual violence. However, studies often focus on the incidence of rape among women and girls. With few studies looking at male survivors and capturing all forms of sexual violence, it is hard to know how many males in our local community are survivors of sexual violence.

However, a study of men and women in California found that 25% of the female respondents (1 in 4) and 16% of male respondents (1 in 6) reported being a victim of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by an adult. It would follow that — with the findings of female respondents so close to that of 2007 Rape In Utah Survey —  we could estimate that 1 in 6 men is a survivor of childhood sexual violence in Utah (not including men victimized as adults). [4]

The NVAWS respondents were asked to identify their race/ethnicity and the data found that the percentage of women raped in their lifetime by race or ethnicity are: 18% Caucasian, 12% Latina, 19% African-American, 34% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 25% mixed race, and 7% Asian. [7&8] Note: compare these percentages to US Census demographics in 1995 when this study was conducted to know the frequency per capita.

Eighty-seven percent of survivors surveyed in Utah were victimized by someone they knew, including family members and relatives, friends and acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, and intimate partners. [2]

What is the cost of sexual violence?

We know rape and sexual assault impact the victim’s long-term health and quality of life. We also know that few offenders are ever held accountable for their actions — leaving the survivor and community to live with the consequences and impact of a sex offender’s criminal behavior. We also know that the cost of rape and sexual violence is high — at $127 million per year — rape has the highest annual victim cost of any crime in the nation. [10]

For the survivor

The consequences for victims of rape and sexual assault are lifelong and can profoundly impact physical and mental health.

Being assaulted as a child has a compounding effect as the child enters adulthood. Girls raped as children (before the age of 18) are twice as likely to report being raped as an adult. [7]

The National Women’s Study found that victims of rape and sexual assault have been found to be:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from a major depressive disorder.
  • 4 times more likely than a “non-victim” to contemplate suicide and 13 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs to numb the emotional pain. [9]

Sexual violence has a negative effect on the lifetime experience of both male and female victims. The above-mentioned California study (Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim) found that both male and female victims of childhood sexual abuse were impacted to a similar degree and reported long-term social and health problems in their adult lives, such as divorce and marital problems, substance abuse, depression, and suicide attempts. [7]

For the rapist or offender

In Utah we are doing a poor job of holding sex offenders accountable. The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice found that less than 3% of sex offenders in Utah are held accountable to the state for the criminal act of rape and sexual assault.[2]
The 2007 Rape In Utah Survey found that only 12%, or 1 in 10, of victims of rape and sexual assault reported the crime to police. This translates into 10 out of 100 offenders were reported to police. See 2007 Rape In Utah Survey (#2 in Data Sources below) for reasons that victims didn’t report.

Of those victims who reported a sexual assault to police, 44% said that charges were filed against the offender. To use the numbers above, in 4 out of the 10 reported cases charges were filed against the rapist or offender.

Of the same victims who reported the assault to police, less than 3 (27%) of the rapists or sex offender was found guilty or pled guilty at the end of the criminal justice system. Once again, using the same numbers as above – less than 3 out of 100 offenders were held accountable for their criminal actions.

What to do with these sobering statistics?

Join the movement to end sexual violence. It will take each of us doing our part to not tolerate – implicitly or explicitly – rape and sexual assault in our community.

Volunteer for the Rape Recovery Center or one of the other rape crisis programs in the state.

Sign up to stay connected through social media on Rape Recovery Center’s website. We will pass on current information and news about sexual violence.

Educate yourself, your family, and your friends about how to prevent sexual violence.

Teach your children to have healthy relationships free of violence.

Only elect leaders – to Congress and at the state and local level – who demonstrate that they understand the issue of sexual violence in our community.

Ask your elected officials and leaders to support sexual violence prevention work in our schools and communities.

Elect and re-elect policy makers who vote to fund federal and state programs that support survivors of sexual violence.

Insist your elected officials have policies and practices in place to hold offenders accountable.

Currently the State of Utah does not fund sexual violence prevention programs, nor do we (tax payers through state dollars) fund services to victims through organizations like the Rape Recovery Center. Send the message that you don’t agree with funding priorities that fail to put our children and families first.

Want more information or statistics?

A few good places to look include the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Utah Department of Health, or the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Data Sources for Rape Recovery Center statistics page:
[1] Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Sexual Violence Protect Yourself With the Facts
[2] Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, 2007 Rape in Utah: A Survey of Utah Women
[3] Utah Department of Health, Indicator-Based Information System
[4] One in Six
[5] Center for Disease Control and Prevention
[6] Utah Department of Pubic Safety, 2009 Crime in Utah
[7] National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequence of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey
[8] Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Women of Color & Sexual Assault
[9] National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, The Mental Health Impact of Rape
[10] U.S. Department of Justice, Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look, 1996