New DOJ Crime Data Released: Rate of Sexual Violence Well Below Record Rates of Early- 1990s
December 17, 2008 – (Washington, DC) – The 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), released today by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), shows continued evidence of the remarkable decline in sexual violence in the U.S. over the last 14 years. NCVS is the nation’s largest and most reliable measure of crime (including those crimes not reported to police).
According to the 2007 NCVS survey, there were an estimated 248,300 sexual assaults in 2007 against victims age 12 and older. That’s a decline of almost half (49%) over the last 14 years, down from 485,000 attacks in 1993.
The new survey shows that most rape victims still do not report their attack to police. Over the last three years, an average of 40% of victims reported their rape to police. However, that is a significant improvement over the average 30% of victims who reported during the mid-90s.
This continued increase in reporting — overall, it is up by a third since the mid-90s — is promising news because reporting to the police is the most effective tool that exists to prevent future rapes; every time we lock up a rapist, we're preventing him or her from committing another attack. But despite this decade-long increase, it is important to note that sexual assault remains one of the least-reported violent crimes, well below the rates for robbery or aggravated assault.
Approximately two-thirds of victims were attacked by a non-stranger (generally an acquaintance or family member); the remaining third were attacked by a stranger.
The Department of Justice’s NCVS 2007 data was collected from about 41,000 households and 73,000 individuals age 12 or older and includes both reported and unreported crimes. Due to budgetary restraints to the NCVS program, the 2007 sample size was reduced by 14% in July 2007. BJS estimates that this change had little effect on the outcome of the 2007 NCVS survey results.
Since most rapes are not reported to police, NCVS provides the most accurate data available to analyze trends in sexual violence. The main alternative crime measure, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, counts only rapes reported to police. Because NCVS is based on direct interviews with victims, it does not include crimes against children age 11 or younger. Thus, the actual number of sexual assault victims, including children, is somewhat higher than the NCVS total. Other Justice Department research has shown that about one out of every six victims is under age 12.
For more information about the NCVS 2007 survey results, please visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE and rainn.org) in partnership with over 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country. The hotlines have helped more than 1.2 million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.