In 2013, 173,610 people reported rape/sexual assault victimization in the U.S. (Langton & Truman, 2013). Though the accurate reporting of rape statistics is a complicated task (due to definitional issues, less-than-perfect data collection strategies, and gross underreporting), it is estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men annually are the victim of a completed or attempted rape. As research continues to address risk factors related to rape, factors pertaining to the risk of victimization have also been identified. It is controversial to discuss risk factors for rape victimization, as it may be perceived as blaming the victim. In no way do these factors imply that an "at-risk" rape victim is in any way responsible for his or her victimization. Rapists are 100% responsible for the crimes they commit. Understanding risk factors related to victimization is important as it allows for the development of tailored, victim-centered intervention and prevention strategies.
As discussed previously, there is a long-held belief that rape only happens to certain types of people. We know better, that anyone (regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic status) can be a victim. It is also true, however, that certain segments of society are more at risk for experiencing rape. As Brownmiller (1975) reminds us, rape is a tool of power, an agent of fear, and a weapon of force against women and people with less power. Therefore, it stands to reason that vulnerable populations (i.e., those at a particular power disadvantage) are more likely to experience victimization. For example, racial minorities have a greater risk of victimization. The proportion of Black/African American women experiencing rape at some point in their lives is 18.8%, compared to 17.7% for White women. Mixed race women's lifetime rape rate is 24.4%. American Indian/ Alaska Native women are the highest-risk racial group in the U.S. with a rate of approximately 34%. That is, 1 in 3 American Indian/Alaska Native women experience rape in their lifetime (Ruggiero & Kilpatrick, 2003). There is also an association between low socioeconomic status and sexual violence. People living in poverty and lacking economic power and resources are at greater risk for sexual violence compared to their better-off counterparts. Persons with a household income under $7,500 per annum are twice as likely as the general population to experience rape and sexual assault (Bassuk et al., 2004).
There are also risk factors among specific segments of the population. Given that women are particularly at risk for rape during young adult years, researchers have sought to determine risk factors within this group. For example, Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, and Martin (2007) found the following interrelated factors to be associated with rape on college campuses:
- • Alcohol Use. This was most commonly associated with campus rape. At least half of rapes occurred when the victim, offender, or both consumed alcohol.
- • Sorority Membership. Almost 25% of all rape victims were sorority members, whereas only 14% of non-victims were sorority members.
- • Numerous Sexual Partners. Women who reported having multiple sexual partners since entering college were more likely to have reported a forced- rape victimization.
- • Freshman or Sophomore Status. The first two years of college were identified as the highest-risk years. Furthermore, the first few months of the school year were identified as the highest risk time of the academic year.
- • Day and time of the week. Like all crime, more than half of rape crimes take place on the weekend. More than half of these crimes occur between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.
- • Off-campus parties. More than half of rapes against college women took place in off-campus settings.