Washington, DC - Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.
CDC’s goal is to stop sexual violence before it begins.
Understanding Sexual Violence
Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent through use of force or alcohol/drug facilitation.
If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE.
Other forms of sexual violence are:
- Non-physically pressured unwanted sex
- Unwanted sexual contact (intentional sexual touching), or
- Non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences (such as verbal sexual harassment)
Please see our Sexual Violence Definitions webpage for more detailed information about the sexual violence types and their definitions.
Sexual violence can be committed by anyone:
- A current or former intimate partner
- A family member
- A person in position of power or trust
- A friend or acquaintance
- A stranger, or someone known only by sight
Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems. For example, victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence:
- Contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Get information at RAINN.
- Contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.
CDC’s Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence
Sexual Violence can be prevented. CDC’s technical package, STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence, can help states and communities prevent sexual violence. A technical package is a collection of strategies that represent the best available evidence to prevent or reduce public health problems such as violence. STOP SV is a resource to guide and inform decision making about prevention in communities and states.