Warning: This blog talks about the incidence, demographics, and aftermath of sexual assault and rape, with comments addressed to writers.
Yes, the statistics are appalling. Depending on the study you read, 20-25% of women are raped by the time they turn 44 (as compared to 8% of men). And depending on the questions asked, many behaviors that could be considered sexual assault or rape aren’t included. For example, some studies define rape of women as forced vaginal sex, whereas men are asked whether they‘d been coerced to have vaginal sex with a woman, or anal or oral sex with another man. Countries at war experience higher incidence of rape than countries at peace.
For writers, such statistics are a potential indicator of the readers who might identify with a particular scenario. And here again, writers need to know the facts in order to make judicious decisions about going with or against the norms.
The less higher education you have, the more likely you are to be raped.This is true for both women and men.
Native American women and women in Alaska are more likely to be raped than other women.
People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault.
People ages 12-34 are at greatest risk for rape and sexual assault.
Prostitutes can be raped.
Nearly half of all rape victims, male and female, are raped by acquaintances. Of these, about half are intimate partners.
55% of rapes and sexual assaults occur at or near the victim’s home, and 12% occur at or near the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance.
However, rapes and sexual assaults can occur in any setting, among all social strata and ethnic groups—i.e. anyone, anywhere.
Physical violence isn’t the most common type of force used to coerce women into sex. Approximately 44% of women said they were pressured into sex “by his words or actions, but without threats of harm.” Women reported being physically held down, pressured by the physical size or age of the rapist; threats to end the relationship or spread rumors about the victim; or insulting the victim’s appearance or sexuality. Although alcohol is often involved, verbal pressure was more important.
The Aftermath of Rape and Sexual Assault
54% or more of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. The Pentagon estimates that in the military, unreported assaults are 80-90%.
Nationwide, tens of thousands of rape kits in police evidence custody go untested.
People who have been sexually assaulted will not necessarily be hysterical or crying. Some may laugh, some may cry, some may show no emotion at all.
13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
94% of women who are raped exhibit symptoms of PTSD over the following two weeks, and 30% report such symptoms 9 months later.
A raped woman is twice as likely to become pregnant compared to one having consensual sex.
Hanover Safe Place has a handout that outlines possible aftermath of sexual assault for victims that could be a valuable resource for writers wishing to depict realistic aftereffects.
Last but not least, writers can benefit from tips on how to support a survivor of sexual assault. Your character(s) can act in the ways advocated if among the good guys, or do the opposite if exacerbating the aftermath of the assault.
BOTTOM LINE FOR WRITERS: Consider the dark side of relationships as fertile ground for evoking stress, tension, and crises.