Sexual Violence

Over 25 million adults in the U.S. have been raped. The "estimated lifetime cost of rape" is $122,461 per victim.

Centers for Disease Control, The Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape among U.S. Adults (2016)

Sexual violence is defined as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work. ~ WHO Report 2002

Excessive restrictions designed to control female sexuality are used to label women’s sexual expressions as transgressions, to justify victim-blaming, and to mask the high prevalence and incidence of sexual violence. Violations include being forced to watch and imitate pornography; denying the right to choose or express a different sexual orientation; forced marriage; marital rape; ‘corrective’ rape of lesbians; body modification and humiliation; cyber-stalking; mass rape in conflict zones; and more. In private and public spheres, sexual violence is carried out with reckless impunity, with appallingly low conviction rates (e.g., 10% in the U.S.) for rapists. Women and girls are overwhelmingly targeted for sexual violence; but boys, men, and LGBTQ individuals are also victimized.

Sexual violence is a critical issue that needs to be addressed in Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities because:

1. Child sexual abuse and adult assaults often stay undisclosed and/or denied proper help when disclosed.

Many women, advocates, and the female survivors they serve, have been sexually abused as children, teens, and/or adults or know someone who has; so there are long, unresolved histories for many women. Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women and girls fear they will not be believed, or feel silenced by familial victim-blaming attitudes, or find that disclosure did not lead to help and safety.

2. Compartmentalized services do not work for our communities.

Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women coming to domestic violence programs may eventually disclose their histories of sexual violence, once they have established rapport with a domestic violence advocate, and may be reluctant to go to a different program.

3. Immigrants and refugees can have traumatic histories of sexual violence.

Immigrants and refugees with childhood histories of sexual abuse in their home countries, or those using unsafe immigration routes, or escaping violence in civil or international conflict zones/wars and refugee camps, may not disclose their victimization for many years, nor would they consider going to a rape crisis center.

4. Advocate discomfort about sexual violence is a barrier to disclosure by victims/survivors.

Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander battered women often mention that their domestic violence advocates hesitate to bring up sexual violence beyond the issue of marital/intimate partner rape, but that they need a place to talk about sexual abuse by non-intimates. Domestic violence service providers can address these barriers, facilitate help-seeking and refer to appropriate resources.

5. Identifying increased vulnerability to and risk of sexual violence informs prevention and intervention.

Women and girls at certain stages in their lives, in certain jobs, and in dangerous settings can be targets for sexual violence. This does not mean that everyone in these situations is assaulted or unsafe but advocates can be alert to possible exposure. Vulnerable women and girls and potentially dangerous settings include:

  • Actresses
  • Athletes
  • Battered women
  • College campuses
  • Disaster zones (tsunami, earthquakes, floods)
  • Domestic workers
  • Elder care facilities
  • Elderly
  • Healthcare settings
  • High schools (can include predatory behavior from teachers, coaches, other authority figures)
  • Homeless women and kids
  • Immigration processes/unsafe travel routes
  • Incarcerated women
  • International Marriage Bureaus: women marrying through IMB services
  • Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender individuals, including teens and young women
  • Mentally disabled or mentally ill
  • Military wives/partners and women in the vicinity of military bases
  • Models
  • Poor women (exploited for trafficking or transactional sex)
  • Pregnant women
  • Prostituted women, teens, and children
  • Refugees in war or post-war camps
  • Religious and cultural minorities
  • Religious institutions (sexual abuse by clergy of nuns, women congregants, female and male children/teens)
  • Sex workers
  • Stalked women
  • Teens: pregnant, sexually-active teens, or runaways
  • Trafficked women
  • Wartime vulnerabilities (in civil or international wars)
  • Women with disabilities
  • Workers in exploitative settings

Resources from the API Institute

Webinar| Sexual Violence in the Workplace: Some Considerations for Domestic Violence Advocates (2013)

National Resources

The Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape among U.S. Adults

This study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the financial toll that rape takes on the country. It finds that the lifetime cost to society, including the costs of short- and long-term medical care, criminal justice system activities, and lost work productivity, is $122,461 per victim.

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

Austin TX 512.407.9020

National Sexual Assault Resource Sharing Project (RSP)

Iowa City IA 319.339.0899

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

Enola PA 717.909.0710

In the CDC 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey , in cases of rape in which the victims were female:

  • 46% of perpetrators were the victim's intimate partner
  • 48% of perpetrators were an aquaintance of the victim

“I grew up in a home where we were taught valuable lessons about not wasting money, not wasting time, not wasting an education. I am left with a wasted childhood.”

South Asian survivor of incestuous sexual abuse
The Children We Sacrifice, Grace Poore, 2000


  • Sexual Violence in the Workplace: Considerations for DV Advocates
    Slides | Recording