Rape PTSD / Sexual Assault PTSD

The statistics for rape and sexual assault are alarming, both in the United States and worldwide. They are alarming to the degree that as a society, we've become anesthetized to the sobering realities of rape, and it's tragic after-effects on survivors. It is a taboo topic. Few survivors of sexual assault or rape, both men and women, feel comfortable sharing their stories of survival. There is a valid fear of stigmatization, victim-blaming and victim-shaming, and disbelief from both personal contacts and law enforcement. Victims of rape and sexual violence, no matter what the circumstances, are NEVER at fault. Don't suffer in silence. Even if anonymously, reaching out and educating yourself can help relieve the feelings of isolation and shame. Survivors stand strong together.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated against women and girls in the United States between 1992 and 2000 were not reported to the police. Only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes, and 26 percent of sexual assaults were reported.
— National Institute of Justice

In other words, the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities, and the VAST MAJORITY of rapists never serve jail time. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network paints these statistics clearer:

Sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, with 68% still being left unreported. Why Will Only 2 Out of Every 100 Rapists Serve Time? The majority of sexual assault are not reported to the police (an average of 68% of assaults in the last five years were not reported). Those rapists, of course, will never spend a day in prison. But even when the crime is reported, it is unlike to lead to an arrest and prosecution. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 2% of rapists will ever serve a day in prison.
— RAINN.org

Where does that leave Rape & Sexual Assault Survivors?

Many survivors suffer the effects of rape or sexual assault for the rest of their lives. For reasons not completely understood by psychologists, more rape victims ultimately develop PTSD than do combat veterans.

Rape PTSD Statistics

The most widely studied psychological consequence of sexual assault is PTSD. Data from a large-scale study comparing the effects of different types of traumatic events suggest that the experience of a sexual assault may be more likely to lead to PTSD than other types of traumatic events (6). In this study, 45% of the women who reported having experienced a rape met criteria for PTSD. This was significantly higher than the 38.8% rate of PTSD among men who had experienced combat. Sexual assault appeared to be extremely difficult for men as well (65% of men who had been raped met criteria for PTSD), but the proportion of men in the study who experienced a rape (0.7%) was significantly smaller than the proportion of women who did (9.2%).
— US Department of Veterans Affairs

Awareness is the first step. According to the CDC and reported by The Washington Post, "nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped. An estimated 19.3 percent of women have been raped at one point in their lives. Additionally, nearly 2 percent of men have been raped; nearly 44 percent of women and 23 percent of men have experienced some other form of sexual violence; and 15 percent of women and nearly 6 percent have men have been stalked."

These numbers are difficult to process. Standing in a room with a gathering of 20 friends or family, or professional colleagues, assuming 10 are female and 10 are male, 2 of your female friends in this room have been raped. 4 of your female friends and 2 of your male friends in this room have experienced sexual violence. Citing these statistics, one of your female friends in the room likely has Rape related PTSD, and the other sexual violence survivors, male and female, are at high risk.

This page is dedicated to Rape PTSD, but doesn't account for the dozens of other categories of trauma that can trigger PTSD. Rape and sexual assault and related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness must happen. If you are survivor, today there is more and more support to be found online, in peer groups, on social media and via vital resources like RAINN. You can find other survivors to anonymously talk to. You can read others' stories of survival. You can find loud voices calling for attention. You are not alone.

GET HELP: If you or someone you know has experienced Rape or Sexual Assault, or you think you might be suffering from Rape PTSD, contact:

  • RAINN: the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization: https://rainn.org
  • New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault: Fact Sheet on Rape Related PTSD

Resources cited on this page:

  1. Washington Post and the CDC: Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped
  2. RAINN: Reporting Rates
  3. National Institute of Justice: Reporting of Sexual Violence Incidences
  4. US Department of Veterans Affairs: Sexual Trauma: Information for Women's Medical Providers