Rape and Sexual Assault
Virginia L. Schiefelbein
University of California, Davis
Often termed “The Silent Epidemic, ” rape is an unfortunately common occurrence in contemporary America (Ullman & Knight, 1993). It is estimated that 7% to 16% of children and adolescents experience forced sexual intercourse before age 18 (Miller, Monson, & Norton, 1995); moreover, 332,000 to 812,000 U. S. women are raped each year (Ledray, 1986). Rape, as well as other forms of sexual assault, is clearly a major problem in this society and others (Choquet, Darves-Bornoz, Ledoux, Manfredi, & Hassler, 1997), but there is no clear consensus on its causes, the best way to prevent it, or even how to define it. Nevertheless, in this chapter I present our current state of understanding about this crime and the crisis it creates for young victims.
For the purposes of this chapter, I focus on nonconsensual sexual contact between people of similar age; because of differences in legal, causal, and prevention issues, I do not address sexual contact between adults and children nor between members of the same family (incest). In addition, most of this chapter refers to a heterosexual context in which the male is the offender and the female is the victim, although male rape and same-sex assaults do occur.
In order to be consistent with the majority of writing on this topic, 1 use the term uictim in this chapter regardless of whether the assaulted person survived. A few authors use the more empowering term suruiuor for those who are not killed during the assault and uictim only for those who are murdered.