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Rape and Sexual Assault Up Again in 1999, Continue to Buck National Crime Trend

Sex Crimes Still Down 1/3 Since 1993, But Up Since 1995

According to the 1999 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) just released by the US Department of Justice, the total number of rapes, attempted rapes and sexual assaults increased to 383,000 last year, up 50,000 from 1998's 333,000 total attacks. The number of completed rapes increased by about 30,000, while the number of attempted rapes declined by about the same number. The number of sexual assaults rose by 50,000. Overall totals increased by 13.3%.

The annual NCVS, considered the country's most accurate crime gauge, is based on interviews with 77,750 people age 12 and older. NCVS does not count assaults on children under age 12, but does count all other crimes, whether or not the victim reported the attack to the police.

While NCVS is the nation's largest crime survey, there are still relatively few rape victims in its sample. Thus, data are most reliable in showing trends over several years. Researchers at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which conducts the survey, caution that they have less confidence in data for any individual year or for demographic subgroups, because of the small sample size.

Despite last year's increase, sex crimes have fallen by about one-third since 1993, the year NCVS was overhauled to better account for rapes and sexual assaults.

Total rapes and sexual assaults have fallen 32% since 1993, with completed rapes down 40%. However, most of the decrease came between 1993-1995. Since 1996, the trend has reversed--rapes and sexual assaults have actually increased as other violent crimes keep falling. The combined total of completed and attempted rapes and sexual assaults has gone up by 21% since 1996, while sexual assault is up by 60%.

The increase in rape in 1999 bucked the national trend, which showed total violent crime dropping by 10% across the nation.

Some other findings from the 1999 NCVS (figures combine completed and attempted rapes and sexual assaults):

  • 69% of victims knew their assailant, versus 54% for victims of all violent crimes.

  • A weapon was present in only 5% of rapes. In those cases, the weapon was equally likely to be a gun or knife.

  • Rape is the most underreported violent crime. 28.3% of rapes were reported to police in 1999, down from 31.6% in 1998. Among all violent crimes, 44% of victims reported their attack to police.

  • About 89 percent of victims were female, 11 percent male. Of every 1000 women 12 and over, 3.0 were sexually assaulted or raped last year. For men, the rate was 0.4 per 1000.

  • Young women and poor women continued to be far more at risk of an attack than any other demographic group.

    For every thousand people 12 and over (male and female), 1.7 suffered a sexual attack last year. Among teens 16-19, 6.9 per 1000 were sex crime victims, with rates remaining high for people 24 and under. For those age 35 and older, the rate of attack plummets to less than one person per 1,000.

    People living in households with an income under $25,000 are about three times more likely to be sexually attacked than those living in households making more than $25,000.

  • Blacks were more likely to be raped than whites--2.6 per 1,000 people versus 1.6 per 1,000, respectively.

For more complete details of NCVS you can download a copy of the complete report.

Provided by RAINN


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The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. With a national perspective and broad reach, RAINN is a trusted resource for media, policymakers and the public. Additionally, RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. Comprised of more than 1,000 local affiliates, the hotline has helped more than half a million victims of sexual assault since 1994. For more information, please visit the RAINN website at www.rainn.org


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