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According to a new report released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every minute of every day, 24 people in the United States are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. This means that every year more than 12 million women and men experience these types of violence, which has a devastating, and sometimes lifelong, impact on victims.
The CDC gathered this disturbing information using the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, or NISVS, one of the agency’s latest public health surveillance systems. It is the first survey of its kind to provide both national and state-level prevalence estimates of violence.
The survey concluded that, in their lifetime:
- Nearly one in five women have been raped;
- One in four women, and about one in seven men, have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner; and
- One in six women have experienced stalking that made her fearful or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed.
Across all forms of violence, the vast majority of victims knew their attacker.
Dr. Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, points out that even though much victimization begins early in life, the consequences can last a lifetime. The survey revealed that women and men who experience rape, stalking, or physical violence are more likely to report health problems. These health problems range from headaches to chronic pain to difficulty with sleeping to poor physical and mental health.
Not only does the survey shed light on the devastating extent and impact of rape, it also helps to refute commonly held misconceptions. For example, common rape myths include that men cannot be raped, and that strangers lurking in the bushes largely perpetrate rape, neither of which is true.
The survey also found that more than one-quarter of male victims of rape experience their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger. It is a particularly pertinent statistic in light of recent high-profile child sexual abuse cases that many people find upsetting and others find hard to believe.