Rape is unlawful sexual activity typically involving sexual intercourse done forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will. Rape is a global problem.
It is estimated that approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. In most countries with data available on rape, less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence seek help. Less than 10% seek assistance from law enforcement.
Because many women who experience sexual violence seldom report or come forward about their incidences, exact rape numbers are challenging to report. While many countries have laws against the act of sexual assault and violence, many of them are insufficient, inconsistent, and not systematically enforced.
While people mostly hear about rape and sexual assault against women, men around the world also experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape every day.
Women ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault, and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape. In the United States, 70% of rape is committed by someone the victim knows.
South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world of 132.4 incidents per 100,000 people. According to a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council, approximately one in four men surveyed admitted to committing rape. Although the Parliament of South Africa attempted to amend and strengthen all sexual violence laws with the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act in 2007, the rates of reported rape, sexual abuse of children, and domestic violence have continued to rise.
The United States has a rape rate of 27.3. As in many other countries, rape is grossly underreported in the United States due to victim shaming, fear of reprisal, fear of family knowing, cases not being taken seriously by law enforcement, and possible lack of prosecution for the perpetrator. Only 9% of rapists in the US get prosecuted, and only 3% of rapists will spend a day in prison. 97% of rapists in the United States will walk free.
Many of the countries with high rape statistics need to look beyond just legislation to fix the problem. These countries need to look at the deep, systematic dysfunction of their cultures and social norms that have not prevented and do not prevent sexual violence.