Sexual assault is a major issue in the United States.
Many private and government agencies — the FBI, the CDC, the US Department of Justice, and organizations like RAINN — round up statistics on rape and sexual assault, but the estimates are wide ranging: some place the figure as high as 1.9 million cases per year, and others as low as 90,185. Moreover, studies have shown that only about one-third of these crimes are reported to authorities, making concrete figures hard to pin down.
Using averages from all of these reports, and taking into account those crimes which go unreported, we came up with our own estimate: every year in the US, roughly 627,700 victims are sexually assaulted.
That’s an astonishing figure. In the charts below, I’ve put it into perspective.
There were more victims of sexual assault last year alone than people killed in motor vehicle accidents since 2000
There are more victims of sexual assault in the US each year than people who live in many major cities
There are more victims of sexual assault in the US each year than there were attendees at one of history’s biggest music festivals
There are more victims of sexual assault each year than every soldier killed in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined
There are more victims of sexual assault each year than total residents of some US states
Sexual assault victims from a single year would completely fill the seats of Major League Baseball’s 12 biggest stadiums
In fact, if America’s estimated 627,700 annual sexual assault victims were a municipality, it would be the 28th-most-populous city in the United States — and the 800th-most-populous in the world. As its own country, it would outrank 66 others in terms of population.
And this is just what one year of sexual assault in the United States looks like.
My colleagues at Vox have written a substantial amount on sexual assault and rape in America. For additional context and deeper analysis on the subject, I recommend reading the excellent pieces below:
- We why don’t believe rape victims (Emily Crockett)
- On how victims of sexual abuse respond to trauma and social stigma (Emily Crockett)
- On false rape allegations (Dara Lind)
- Some of the common mythology surrounding sexual assault and rape cases (Jenée Desmond-Harris)