Sociocultural Factors

Age. Sexual assault is more likely to occur at younger ages. For example, the NVAWS found that more than half of female victims and almost three-fourths of male victims were raped before the age of eighteen. Young women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four experience rape four times as much as other women.9 Additionally, one study estimated that up to 25% of college women will be sexually assaulted during their college-age years.10 Research also indicates that individuals who are sexually assaulted at a younger age are at a greater risk of being sexually revictimized later in life.11

"Looking back on it, I was so young when it happened. He really took advantage of that."

—Twenty-eight-year-old Latina woman

Although the majority of sexual assaults occur to the young, some older adults are also more vulnerable to experiencing a sexual assault. Because of barriers to reporting, it is difficult to gather a reliable estimate of the prevalence of elder sexual abuse.12 As with other forms of sexual assault, elder sexual abuse may occur at the hands of strangers, acquaintances, family members, or partners. Additionally, vulnerable elder adults may also be assaulted by unrelated care providers and other residents in elder care settings. Most often, elder sexual abuse victims are female, physically frail, and may have dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment, thus increasing their vulnerability to assault.13

Race and ethnicity. The NVAWS found that racial/ethnic minority and nonminority women and men had approximately the same rates of experiencing rape (19% versus 17.9% for women; 3.4% versus 2.8% for men). However, when specific racial and ethnic backgrounds were examined, some important differences emerged. American Indian/Alaska Native women were more likely than women from any other group to have been raped during their lifetimes, with 34.1% reporting at least one rape experience. Mixed race women reported the second highest level of rape victimization (24.4%), followed by African American women (18.8%), non-Hispanic white women (17.9%), Hispanic white women (11.9%), and Asian/Pacific Islander women (6.8%).3 Additionally, rates of sexual assault disclosure and reporting across different racial and ethnic backgrounds may vary due to cultural concerns and values, fear of racism, language barriers, immigration concerns, and lack of information regarding the U.S. legal system.

Sexual orientation. Although there is limited information about the rates of sexual assault against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, researchers have estimated that 3% to 7% of LGBT individuals have experienced a bias-related sexual assault by either strangers or ac-quaintances.14 Additionally, the rate of bias-related sexual assaults against LGBT individuals appears to be on the rise,15 even though these incidents frequently go unreported to the legal system because of concerns about sexual orientation-related biases within that system.14

Disability. Estimates of sexual assault against individuals with either physical or developmental disabilities vary, but in general it appears that individuals with disabilities are significantly more likely to experience a sexual assault relative to the general population. For example, women with a disability are estimated to experience sexual assault at twice the rate of women without a disability.16 Moreover, up to 83% of women and 32% of men with a developmental disability suffer sexual assault during their lifetimes.16 Unfortunately, many of these cases may go undetected due to considerable reporting barriers.

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