Politics

One in Three U.S. Women Worry About Being Sexually Assaulted

One in Three U.S. Women Worry About Being Sexually Assaulted
by Jeffrey M. Jones

Story Highlights

  • 34% of women worried, up from an average 30% in 2013-2015
  • Younger women worry more than older women
  • Increase was apparent before Trump tapes were released

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Thirty-four percent of U.S. women say they worry "frequently" or "occasionally" about being sexually assaulted. That percentage essentially matches the 33% average in Gallup's 17-year trend but is up slightly from an average 30% who worried from 2013 through 2015. Relatively few men (5%) worry about being sexually assaulted.

Trend: Concern About Being a Victim of Sexual Assault, by Gender

Gallup's annual Crime Poll was conducted Oct. 5-9, which included two days before and three days after the Oct. 7 release of audiotapes of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making references in 2005 to kissing and touching women without their consent. The release of the tapes had no apparent immediate effect on women's worry about being sexually assaulted -- the percentage worried was already up from 2013-2015 levels in Oct. 5-6 polling and was no higher in Oct. 7-9 polling.

The audio recording of Trump has made sexual assault and the treatment of women more generally a major issue in the presidential campaign. Trump attempted to dismiss the conversation as nothing more than "locker room talk." Last week, however, several women came forward accusing Trump of making sexual advances on them without their consent. Trump has denied those accusations.

Younger women report a greater level of concern than older women about being sexually assaulted -- 42% of women under the age of 50 say they worry at least occasionally about it, compared with 25% of women aged 50 and older. That age gap has been the norm in Gallup's polling on the matter, with an average 38% of younger women and 26% of older women concerned since 2000.

Overall, 20% of all U.S. adults say they worry frequently or occasionally about being sexually assaulted. The current percentage is back up from a low of 16% last fall, and matches the historical average in Gallup's trend dating to 2000, mostly because of an increase in women's concern.

Trend: Concern About Being a Victim of Sexual Assault

One Percent in U.S. Report Being Victims of Sexual Assault

As part of its annual Crime survey, Gallup also asks Americans whether they have been the victims of specific types of crimes, including sexual assault. Typically about 1% of Americans say they or a member of their household has been a victim of sexual assault within the past 12 months, and slightly less than 1% say they, personally, were the victim. That is a lower household victimization rate than for other violent crimes tested, including physical assault (3%) and armed robbery (2%).

Gallup data from 2000 to the present, encompassing more than 15,000 interviews, indicate that women -- particularly younger women -- are more likely to say they themselves or a member of their household has been sexually assaulted. Slightly more than 2% of women younger than 50 say a member of their household has been the victim of sexual assault, including just over 1% who say they were personally the victim.

Last 12 Months: Been Victim of Sexual Assault
Based on aggregated data from 15 polls conducted between 2000 and 2016
Respondent personally Respondent or other household member N size
% %
All U.S. adults 0.6 1.2 15,197
Women 0.9 1.6 7,621
Men 0.3 0.7 7,576
Women 18 to 49 1.2 2.2 2,970
Women 50+ 0.5 0.9 4,504
Men 18 to 49 0.5 0.9 3,504
Men 50+ 0.2 0.5 3,985
Gallup

These data indicate that greater worry among women -- particularly younger women -- is consistent with their greater likelihood of being sexually assaulted.

Implications

Although the sexual assault issue has been prominent in the campaign this past week, the release of the Trump tapes does not appear to have affected women's concerns about their own risk of being a sexual assault victim, at least as of Oct. 9. More Americans, and more women, are concerned about sexual assault than in recent years, but that may just reflect a return to more normal levels of concern after those levels dipped between 2013 and 2015.

Typically, sexual assault has not ranked among Americans' top crime concerns -- with theft of credit card information, identity theft, burglary and car theft usually ranking higher. The lesser concern about sexual assault may have more to do with the frequency of the crime than the seriousness of it. Along these lines, Americans also worry less about being murdered than about crimes involving theft or damage of property, for example.

But Americans as a whole also worry less about sexual assault because it is primarily a concern held by women, with few men worrying about it, whereas for most other crimes the gender gap in worry is smaller or nonexistent.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct 5-9, 2016, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


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