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The Scope Of Rape: Incidence And Prevalence Of Sexual Aggression And Victimization In A National Sample Of Higher Education Students.

M. Koss, C. Gidycz, N. Wisniewski
Published 1987 · Psychology, Medicine

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Because of inadequacies in the methods used to measure sexual assault, national crime statistics, criminal victimization studies, convictions, or incarceration rates fail to reflect the true scope of rape. Studies that have avoided the limitations of these methods have revealed very high rates of overt rape and lesser degrees of sexual aggression. The goal of the present study was to extend previous work to a national basis. The Sexual Experiences Survey was administered to a national sample of 6,159 women and men enrolled in 32 institutions representative of the diversity of higher education settings across the United States. Women's reports of experiencing and men's reports of perpetrating rape, attempted rape, sexual coercion, and sexual contact were obtained, including both the rates of prevalence since age 14 and of incidence during the previous year. The findings support published assertions of high rates of rape and other forms of sexual aggression among large normal populations. Although the results are limited in generalizabil ity to postsecondary students, this group represents 26% of all persons aged 18-24 in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines rape as "carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her consent" and reports that 87,340 such offenses occurred in 1985 (FBI, 1986). However, these figures greatly underestimate the true scope of rape because they are based only on instances reported to police. Government estimates suggest that for every rape reported, 3-10 rapes are committed but not reported (Law Enforcement Assistance Administration [LEAA], 1975). Likewise, it is difficult to obtain realistic estimates of the number of men who perpetrate rape because only a fraction of reported rapes eventually result in conviction (Clark & Lewis, 1977). Victimization studies, such as the annual National Crime Survey (NCS), are the major avenue through which the full extent of the crime is estimated (e.g., Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJS], 1984). In these studies, the residents of a standard sampling area are asked to indicate those crimes of which they or anyone else in their household have been victims during the previous 6 months. These rates are then compared with official crime statistics for the area and the rate of unreported crime is esti
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