Adolescents Who Have Ever Been Victims of Rape

Publication Date:

Dec 26, 2018

Key facts about adolescents who have ever been raped

  • The proportion of high school students who report they have ever been raped (physically forced to have sexual intercourse) has remained relatively constant over the past couple of decades—from 7 to 9 percent.
  • In 2017, older female students were more likely than younger females to report forced sexual intercourse. Among twelfth graders, 14 percent reported forced sexual intercourse; the comparable figure was 12 percent among eleventh graders, 11 percent among tenth graders, and 8 percent among ninth graders.
  • In 2017, 11.3 percent of female high school students, and 3.5 percent of their male peers, reported having been raped at some time in their lives.

Trends in adolescents who have ever been raped

In 2017, 7 percent of all students in grades 9 through 12 reported having been raped at some time in their lives. Since 1999, the first year in which data were collected, percentages have remained relatively constant—from 7 to 9 percent. However, the survey question’s wording in 1999 differed slightly from that in subsequent years, so trends should be interpreted with caution (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

Female high school students were more than three times as likely as their male counterparts to report having been raped, at 11.3 and 3.5 percent, respectively, in 2017. This gap has been fairly consistent over time (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

In 2017, there were no marked differences in incidence of rape by race or Hispanic origin. In the past, reports of rape among female Hispanic students were higher than among any other group, but those rates decreased from 15 percent in 1999 to 11 percent in 2017. However, in 1999, question wording differed slightly from later years, so this trend should be interpreted with caution (Appendix 1).

*Hispanic students may be of any race.

Differences by grade

Among females in 2017, ninth graders (8 percent) were less likely than older students to report forced sexual intercourse (compared with 11 percent among tenth graders, 12 percent among eleventh graders, and 14 percent among twelfth graders). Among males, twelfth graders had a higher reported rate of forced sexual intercourse (4.8 percent) than ninth graders, tenth graders, and eleventh graders (2.7, 3.5, and 2.8 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

2017 estimates of rape among high school students (grades 9 to 12) for select states and cities are available from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf (tables 34 and 35).

International estimates

There are no international estimates available for rape prevalence among adolescents. However, a 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) study on sexual violence against women found widespread variation in the prevalence of women ever forced to have sexual intercourse with an intimate partner. The highest rates were found in Ethiopia and provincial Bangladesh (46 percent), while the lowest rates were reported in Serbia and Montenegro (4 percent). No estimates are available for forced sex among non-partners.

For more information, see www.who.int/gender/violence/who_multicountry_study/summary_report/summary_report_English2.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 2001–2017: S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). YRBS Youth Online Data Analysis Tool [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx.
  • Data for 1999: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2000). Youth risk behavior surveillance – United States, 1999 [Table 8]. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 49(5). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS4905.pdf.

Raw data source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of High School Students Who Report They Have Ever Been Raped: Select Years, 1999–2017

Background

Definition

This indicator reports the percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 who answered yes to the following question: “Have you ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to?”

In 1999, the question was phrased differently: “Have you ever been forced to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to?”

Some states are not included in the national estimates because they did not participate in the YRBS. Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have never participated in the YRBS. Other states have participated in the YRBS, but not every year. Information on which states did not participate in the YRBS each year is available at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/2017_hs_participation_history.pdf.

Note that this definition is different from the one used for rape/sexual assault in the DataBank indicator “Violent Crime Victimization.”

Citation

Child Trends Databank. (2018). Adolescents who have ever been raped. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=adolescents-who-have-ever-been-raped