Data from the National Survey of Family Growth, an annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that 1 in 16 women consider rape their first sexual encounter. That’s an estimated 3.3 million women across the United States.
The average age of assault victims was 15, and the average age of their assailants was 27. This suggests a recurring abuse of power-dynamics; older men are grooming young women into sexual submission. It gets scarier. Approximately 26 percent of victims said they were physically threatened during the encounter, and 46 percent said they were physically held down.
What’s worse is that researchers believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. Only women ages 18 to 44 were surveyed, meaning that older victims of sexual violence are not included in this data. This data was also collected before the popularization of the #MeToo movement, so it’s likely that the stigma against victims of sexual violence would have discouraged honesty.
“I do believe that this is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed,” says Dr. Laura Hawks, the main author of the study. “Because every week, thousands of women are experiencing rape as their first sexual experience.”
Since the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Winstein broke in 2017, sparking the culture-changing #MeToo movement, more awareness has been raised about the epidemic of sexual violence against women than ever before.
Even though it has been two years since #MeToo became a global phenomenon, we are now seeing significant backlash towards this movement. Many of its critics have called the #MeToo movement a “witch hunt,” claiming that men are being unjustly prosecuted for crimes that cannot be proven, while others are simply skeptical of the movement’s relevance in 2019. However, this study proves that the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment is still a major concern.