A Look at the Issue

Every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Sexual violence affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. This means we all know someone who has been affected by sexual violence. There are many types of sexual violence, including rape, child sexual abuse, and intimate partner sexual violence—and other crimes and forms of violence may arise jointly in these instances. Sexual violence can have psychological, emotional, and physical effects on a survivor.

What is sexual violence?

The term “sexual violence” is an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. 

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How does sexual violence affect our communities?

Among Utah adults, those who have experienced sexual violence have significantly higher rates of negative health outcomes compared to those who have not experienced sexual violence.

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What influences someone’s experience with domestic violence?

A variety of other factors can impact how a victim experiences abuse, and how they access to services once they leave their abuser, from technology to housing, and more.

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What is sexual abuse?

The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

Attempted rape or Rape

Attempted Rape is an incomplete sexual act, where sex is attempted but is unsuccessful. Rape is a complete sexual act or sexual intercourse. Rape can also include acts of coercion, circumstances where the survivor is unable to consent to intercourse, or where the survivor is uninformed of information that may change their decision to proceed with the intercourse with this partner. It can also include any intercourse that occurs within an imbalanced power dynamic. Partners can also be the victim of spousal abuse and rape.

Legal Definition: Any form of penetration, no matter how much or where on the body this occurs. It includes the victim being forced to penetrate the abuser.

Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

Nonconsensual sexual contact involves touching or hurting another’s sexual or other private areas.

Legal Definition: The touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her age or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental incapacity.

Other forms of sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can also take the form of an abuser forbidding their partner from using birth control, often with the intent to conceive, another form of power and control. Or, an abuser may force or pressure a survivor to end a pregnancy. These tactics are sometimes referred to as reproductive abuse or reproductive coercion. Other tactics of sexual abusers can include preventing their partner from protecting themselves against STDs, refusing to use condoms, coercing their partner to perform sex acts in front of children, taking advantage of their partner sexually, forcing their partner to provide sexual acts to the abuser’s friends, family, or anyone else that they may know.

There are many forms of sexual abuse, and this is not a completely comprehensive list. If you or someone you know may have been a victim of sexual violence, please contact
RAAIN raain.org Call 800.656.4673
Rape Recovery Center https://www.raperecoverycenter.org 1 (888) 421-1100

What is Force?

Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Abusers may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.

There are many forms of sexual abuse, and this is not a completely comprehensive list. If you or someone you know may have been a victim of sexual violence, please contact
RAAIN raain.org Call 800.656.4673
Rape Recovery Center https://www.raperecoverycenter.org 1 (888) 421-1100

How does sexual violence affect our communities?

We know that sexual violence affects our communities across the state in disparate and troubling ways. Within our communities, there will be at least one person we know who has experienced sexual violence in some form, even if we are not directly aware of it. Conversations within our communities are critical to ending and preventing sexual violence, as it will take a community effort, awareness, and education. Acknowledging, and speaking about the real issue of sexual violence in our communities, allows our survivors to be seen and empowered. It is the first step we have to take to work towards ending sexual violence.

Risk factors for experiencing sexual violence can include social norms that support sexual violence like male superiority or sexual entitlement. It may also be due to weak laws and policies related to sexual violence and gender equity. We’re working to close service gaps, break down barriers to access, and driving conversation. An individual’s gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, and more can uniquely impact how they experience sexual violence and access services.

Utah Statistics

– Utah rape rates are 33% higher than U.S. rape rates.
– Half of those arrested for sexual violence perpetration are under the age of 25.
– Three out of every four sexual assaults go unreported to police.

Many acts of sexual violence may go unreported because individuals fear retaliation, believe the police won’t do anything to help, believe it was a personal matter, or didn’t believe it was important enough to report. Secondary victimization through a victim’s negative interactions with the criminal justice system also contributes to under-reporting rates and can lead to increased feelings of trauma for someone who has experienced sexual violence.

Statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center show that the prevalence of false reporting for sexual assault crimes is quite low. Between 2% to 10% of reports are false. This indicates that men are more likely to experience sexual violence than have a false report filed against them, in their lifetime.

Community Health Impact

Among Utah adults, those who have experienced sexual violence have significantly higher rates of negative health outcomes compared to those who have not experienced sexual violence. This includes higher reported rates of binge drinking (16.6% vs. 10.2%), smoking (13.4% vs. 4.9%), physical disabilities (15.9% vs. 3.5%), poor physical health (28.6% vs. 13.4%), mental disabilities (26.5% vs. 9.1%) and poor mental health (42.8% vs. 15.5%).

Victims of sexual violence may have immediate effects as well as long-term devastating effects on their lives. The trauma resulting from sexual violence may disrupt the survivor’s life in many ways—their ability to work, complete everyday tasks, or even stable personal relationships.

Men and Sexual Violence

Studies in Utah suggest one in 25 men experience rape or attempted rape during their lifetime.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly a quarter or 24.8% of men in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

Indigenous Communities and Sexual Violence

One segment of Utah’s population that is at the greatest risk is Native Americans who are twice as likely to experience sexual assault as all other races. Forty-one percent of sexual assaults of Natives are committed by a stranger.

More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime. This includes — • 56.1 percent who have experienced sexual violence. • 55.5 percent who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. • 48.8 percent who have experienced stalking. • 66.4 percent who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native men (81.6 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime. This includes — • 27.5 percent who have experienced sexual violence 43.2 percent who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. • 18.6 percent who have experienced stalking. • 73.0 percent who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

Two Spirit/LGBTQI

“Two-spirit” refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity

Three different reports reflect a diverse set of statistics about violence experienced by the Two Spirit community. A Diné Policy Institute study noted that in 2015, 18% of Navajo LGBTQI experienced physical violence within a 6-month period. Additionally, the Transgender Survey from 2015 reported 49% of Trans Native youth (K-12) were physically attacked. Lastly, the NCVAP 2016 study, reported 15 IPV-related Native Two-Spirit homicides from the 2,032 reports of IPV, and 19% experienced physical violence. Very little research exists about the Indigenous LGBTQI Two Spirit community. Extant evidence, however, suggests there are incredibly high rates of violence perpetrated against this community. We know very little about this community as it relates to this crisis in Utah.

Restoring Ancestral Winds is a tremendous resource to our community as they tirelessly work to advocate for our indigenous communities through culturally competent and informed approaches to service delivery, advocacy, community building, and more. Learn more about the resource partner below.

Sexual Violence and the LGBTQIA Community

A new Utah Department of Health survey has found that Utah residents who are members of the LGBTQIA community are more frequently victims of sexual violence than heterosexual people.

Close to half of bisexual people and a third of lesbian or gay people surveyed (2016) reported experiencing sexual violence at some time in their life, compared to less than 9 percent for those who identify as straight.

Transgender people face extraordinary levels of physical and sexual violence, whether on the streets, at school or work, at home, or at the hands of government officials. More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color.

Sexual Violence and Disabilities

People with disabilities have one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the United States. Furthermore, we rarely talk about how sexual abuse affects this population. It is important to note that statistics and data regarding sexual abuse of people with disabilities vary from source to source because of the low reporting rate.

The Justice Department’s data show that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be the victim of sex crimes than people without disabilities.

Around 80% of women and 30% of men with developmental disabilities have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and half of those women have been assaulted more than ten times.

Some disabilities can put people at a higher risk for sexual abuse. For example, a person who needs to be assisted with basic daily activities is often reliant upon their caretaker. This can lead to an imbalance of power, which can be used to force or coerce the person with the disability into engaging in non-consensual sexual activities. Some abusers may even take away their victim’s means of communication (i.e. their phone or computer). In many cases, it can be difficult for people with disabilities to report an incident of sexual abuse, even if they desire to do so. Authorities or law enforcement may not take an accusation seriously, or have trouble believing complaints from people with disabilities. At other times, it can be too difficult for a person with a disability to communicate the abuse. Additionally, people with more severe disabilities may not be able to comprehend what happened to them or realize that an act of abuse was in fact wrong. This speaks to the issue of consent.

In a recent lawsuit in Utah, a disabled student and her family sued a private school for mishandling a 2017 sexual assault allegation. The student, said “she froze in fear when the boy who had been her friend began assaulting her,” a response reported by many sexual assault victims. She described how her disability makes her largely unable to physically fight back against an abuser. She has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that affects her strength and balance, making it harder for her to do things like walk without assistance. To “solve the problem,” administrators at the school held a meeting with the rest of her class where they shared details of the off-campus allegations. Administrators would not help the 17-year-old girl enforce a protective order against her classmate.

If you know someone who is experiencing sexual abuse-or who you think may be experiencing abuse-you can report it by calling 911 or contacting your local police station. And if the person has a disability, you can contact the Department of Human Services or the Department of Social Services.

How are different demographics impacted by sexual violence?

Demographics can complicate how a survivor accesses services, the consequences of abuse, and long-term stability and health. In certain cases, these realities may prevent a survivor from accessing services altogether, in part due to fear or misunderstanding of the resources available.

Health & Intimate Partner Violence

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence (IPV) bear long-term implications for women’s mental, emotional, physical, and reproductive health. The health impacts of gender-based violence may be acute or chronic, and those impacts may be seen and felt long after the violence has stopped. The effects of violence are often compounded by poverty, racism, and restricted access to comprehensive health services, which make seeking help and healing much harder for some survivors.

Immigration & Intimate Partner Violence

Like women across race, nationality, and other marginalized identities, immigrant women are at high risk of experiencing gender-based violence. In addition to the risk of violence, immigrant women experience increased barriers to fleeing abuse due to a complex set of factors. Among those are language barriers, fear, or confusion about U.S. legal systems, financial abuse, and social isolation.

Technology & Intimate Partner Violence

In a recent survey of victim services providers, 97% indicated that victims who seek their services were being harassed, monitored, or threatened by perpetrators misusing technology. Understanding the impact of abusers’ misuse of technology, the types of technology misused, and the ways in which technology can be used to assist survivors is therefore crucial to providing survivor support.
While harassment, threats, and intimidation are not new tactics in the world of stalking, domestic, and sexual violence, abusers are increasingly using technology to monitor, harass, threaten, intimidate, impersonate, and stalk their victims, making it difficult for survivors to find physical safety and eroding their sense of safety. In addition, it is not uncommon for abusers to misuse multiple technologies at once, while also using non-technological abusive tactics.

Housing & Intimate Partner Violence

Housing domestic violence and sexual assault survivors is central to helping survivors rebuild their lives. The connection between violence and homelessness for women is staggering. Abusers often use isolation and economic abuse to control their victims, making it difficult to find safety. Shelters across the state of Utah seek to provide housing and safety for victims of domestic violence in their communities.

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