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The Basics

Sexual violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. Each year, millions of women, men, and children report completed or attempted sexual acts against their will. These reports are likely underestimates because victims fear being blamed, attacked again, or not being believed. The good news is that sexual violence can be prevented.

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Risk Factors

A person’s experiences and relationships can contribute to the risk for perpetrating sexual violence. Key risk factors for perpetration include general aggressiveness and acceptance of violence, exposure to family violence, weak community sanctions against sexual violence, and social norms supportive of sexual violence and male sexual entitlement.

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Protective Factors

Research is helping identify factors that help decrease the likelihood of sexual violence perpetration. Parental use of reasoning to resolve family conflict, emotional health and connectedness, and empathy and concern for how one’s actions affect others serve as protective factors.

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Victims, families, and communities all feel the effects of this devastating issue. Repeated or single incidents of sexual violence can negatively impact health, causing life-long problems, such as chronic pain, sexually transmitted infections, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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More information from CDC and credible sources can support your efforts to stop violence before it starts. Explore these resources to help start, guide, and strengthen your approach to improving the health and well-being of people and the community where they live.

* The titles of these documents changed in July 2023 to align with other Prevention Resources being developed by CDC's Injury Center. The original titles are noted in each document's suggested citation section.


Innovative and ongoing research gives the evidence and insight needed to prevent violence. Consult these trusted data sources to better assess how risk and protective factors influence people’s lives and impact where they live, work, and play.

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  • National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

    The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey is an ongoing survey that collects the most current and comprehensive national- and state-level data on intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking victimization in the United States.

Published Date: July 22, 2019; Last Reviewed: Sept 15, 2023

Source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention