CDC report: 1 in 5 women have been raped

The percentage of female rape victims has jumped significantly. This should be surprising -- but it's not

By Jenny Kutner

Published September 5, 2014 7:55PM (EDT)

         (Richard Potts)
(Richard Potts)

It has been estimated that approximately 1 in every 6 American women has been raped in her lifetime. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an unfortunate amendment to that estimate: According to new statistics, 19.3 percent of women -- nearly 1 in 5 -- have been raped.

The CDC estimates looked not only at "completed forced penetration," but also at other forms of sexual violence including attempted rape, unwanted sexual contact, non-contact unwanted sexual experiences (such as being flashed or forced to view explicit images) and sexual coercion. According to the center's definition, sexual coercion includes non-physical pressure into performing an unwanted sexual act ranging from "kissing and fondling" to penetration. Twice as many women experienced some other form of sexual violence as were raped. 

Additionally, the report also considers "completed alcohol- or drug-facilitated penetration" in its definition of rape, because -- contrary to a confused prevailing attitude -- having sex with someone who cannot and/or does not consent is, indeed, rape. The CDC estimates that over 11 million women were raped with the aid of drugs or alcohol in 2011 -- approximately 40 percent by a current or former intimate partner, and well over half by an acquaintance. The information plainly indicates the need for increased (or simply existent) sexual assault prevention measures at places like colleges and universities, where a disproportionate number of these assaults are likely to occur. 

Ultimately, the report concludes with what we already know: "women, in particular, are impacted heavily during their lifetimes" by rape and sexual assault. This is not something we should have to continue to be told, nor is it a fact that should be adjusted only to increase the number of women who are "impacted heavily." It's simply a fact that should not be.

Jenny Kutner

MORE FROM Jenny KutnerFOLLOW @JennyKutner