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RISK FACTORS | Sexual Violence

Ongoing research about sexual violence is increasing our understanding about who is affected and when it occurs. We are learning more about the factors that can increase and decrease the likelihood that someone may become a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence.

Some factors that can increase the likelihood of sexual violence are alcohol and drug use, coercive and antisocial sexual fantasies and behavior, and a childhood history of sexual and physical abuse and witnessing family violence. Community and societal factors, such as acceptance of sexual violence and poverty, can also contribute to sexual violence.

Potential buffers against sexual violence include healthy sexual relationship skills, intolerance of sexual violence, and policies and other community strategies that address sexual harassment, gender inequity, and sexual violence when it occurs.

Raising awareness about the issue and ways we can all prevent it, can help us stop sexual violence before it starts. Knowing the factors that lead to sexual violence—whether they are related to individual behavior, family environments, community settings, or our society—can help communities plan prevention strategies.

To find out more about risk and protective factors for sexual violence, please visit CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention website.