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Vulnerability factors/ Risk factors for rape victims

Victim Demographics and Rape Crisis Research


Some factors:

Being the victim of child sexual abuse doubles the likelihood of adult sexual victimization (Parillo et. al., 2003) (Sarkar, N.; Sarkar, R., 2005). PTSD levels are actually higher in those who have been previously victimized than in survivors of only one assault (Follette et. al., 1996). PTSD could give the victim the appearance of vulnerability in dangerous situations and effect the ability of the victim to defend themselves.


Online resources

CDC listing of vulnerability factors for being sexually victimized

According to the CDC there are certain vulnerability factors seen in high risk-victim groups. Rape victim vulnerabilities include prior sexual abuse as a minor, being female, being under the age of 18, being Native American and alcohol or drug use.

" * Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men: 78% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are women and 22% are men (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000).
* Sexual violence starts very early in life. More than half of all rapes of women (54%) occur before age 18; 22% of these rapes occur before age 12. For men, 75% of all rapes occur before age 18, and 48% occur before age 12 (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000).
* Prevalence of IPV varies among race. American Indian and Alaskan Native women are significantly more likely (34%) to report being raped than African American women (19%) or White women (18%) (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000).
* Women in college who use drugs, attend a university with high drinking rates, belong in a sorority, and drank heavily in high school are at greater risk for rape while intoxicated (Mohler-Kuo et al. 2004)."



World Health Organization- Sexual Violence

Vulnerability factors for sexual assault:

"— being young;
— consuming alcohol or drugs;
— having previously been raped or sexually
— having many sexual partners;
— involvement in sex work;
— becoming more educated and economically
empowered, at least where sexual violence
perpetrated by an intimate partner is concerned;
— poverty." page 11


Demographics of Rape Victims


The Victims of Sexual Assault


"The statistics are according to the 1997 Sex Offense and Offenders Study, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice and 1999 National Crime Victimization Study."

Victim Characteristics


"Extracted from Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1994 Report
Summarized by Betty Caponera, Ph.D. Director, NMCSAAS"

Victim characteristics


10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Violence-Related Injury, United States, WISQARS CDC






Sexual Assault of Women Prevention Efforts and Risk Factors


"Most North American universities offer sexual assault prevention programs focusing on attitude change. However, the few program outcome evaluations suggest that these programs may not be effective. This review summarizes the research on sexual assault program evaluation. It is apparent that the most promising avenue for sexual assault prevention may be self-defense training, which is presently not an integral component of typical prevention programs. The substantial body of research on risk factors for sexual assault is also reviewed, and it is concluded that existing rape prevention programs could be improved by focusing on these factors."


Gidyez, Christine A; McNamara, John R; Edwards, Katie M (2006). Women's Risk Perception and Sexual Victimization: A Review of the Literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11, (5), pp. 441 - 456.



"Research findings suggest that sexual assault prevention programs must decrease women's optimism about low personal risk while helping them to respond to particular risks and threats once they are identified. Given the higher risk for acquaintance rape compared with stranger rape, women's alertness for risks in interactions with persons they know must be primary. Researchers generally agree that women are aware that sexual assaults occur, but they believe they are at a lower risk for sexual assault than their peers...Several studies have found that risk recognition is related to victimization status; however, other studies have found no such relationship and suggest that victimization status is related to women's behavioral responses to a potentially threatening situation, rather than their ability to recognize risk...."

Resources to research this subject:

Journals and articles

Search the NCJRS Abstracts Database

Google scholar or Findarticles

Finding books at the library

Online Libraries on sexual assault

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Search terms:

Related links: Victim blame



Macdonalds, John (2004). World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.

Sedney, Mary Anne, "rape (crime)." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (February 1, 2006).



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