Sexual Violence

This page includes:
Definitions of sexual violence
Scope of sexual violence
Causes of sexual violence
Costs of sexual violence


Definitions of sexual violence

Sexual violence is the use of sexual actions and words that are unwanted by and/or harmful to another person. Sexual violence is violence using sex.

Sometimes the terms "sexual abuse" and "sexual assault" are used to refer to sexual violence. Sexual assault under Minnesota law can refer to rape. Generally, child sexual abuse refers to the repeated sexual violation of a child by a family member or someone known to the child.

Types of sexual violence include:

  • non-stranger/acquaintance rape
  • intimate partner sexual violence
  • marital rape
  • misuse of power by someone such as coach, teacher or therapist
  • alcohol/drug facilitated sexual assault
  • child sexual abuse
  • incest
  • elder sexual abuse
  • stalking
  • sexual bullying/sexual harassment
  • commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution of women and children, sex trafficking and sex tourism
  • systematic sexual abuse
  • prison rape
  • stripping
  • female genital mutilation
  • technology-facilitated acts including documentation of sex crimes with pictures and video
  • sexual blackmail

    Also see>
  • Sexual Violence Prevention Videos:Video of Patricia Francisco (author, survivor, teacher) speaking about sexual violence prevention (Action Team Launch, June 2008).

Top of Page

Scope of sexual violence:

Sexual violence affects everyone. Someone you know—your mother, your sister, your son or daughter, your spouse, friend, neighbor or co-worker—has been a victim. You also may know someone who has perpetrated sexual violence. Also, many people are affected as bystanders who have heard or seen harmful sexual acts. Sexual violence hurts us all.

Nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives.*

*Other sources report as many as 1 in 4 women. Note that it is important to consider each data source because victims differentially seek medical care, report to law enforcement, and/or respond to surveys. Viewing different data sources may also offer further insight in understanding sexual violence.

In Minnesota, according to the Costs of sexual violence:

  • In 2005 alone, 61,000 Minnesota children and adults were sexually assaulted, some of them more than once, for a total of 77,000 assaults. The victims would overflow the new Twins stadium.
  • Of the 61,000, 80 percent were female and 29 percent were under age 18.
  • One in 70 Minnesota children was sexually assaulted, with the highest rate among girls aged 13-17.

Almost two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. Seventy-three percent (73%) of sexual assaults reported in a 2005 survey were perpetrated by a non-stranger. Of those, 38% were friends or acquaintances of the victim, 28% were intimates and 7% were other relatives. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005)


Top of Page

Causes of sexual violence

While it is impossible to agree on a single source for the cause of sexual violence, we can agree that this is a multidimensional issue that requires response on several fronts. Some of its causes are unique to individual offenders. Others are much broader. Many of our society's norms support, condone, or ignore sexually violent messages and/or behavior. Some call this a "rape culture" or "pornified culture."

These norms include:

  • Destructive gender socialization
  • Uses of sex for power and control
  • Exploitive images of women and children in the media
  • Inequity of women and children
  • The assumption of sexual availability of women
  • Narrow definitions of masculinity/femininity


Top of Page

Costs of sexual violence

In 2005, costs of sexual violence in Minnesota totaled $8 billion, including medical and mental health care for victims, lost work and other quality-of-life issues, victim services, and some criminal justice costs. Cost per sexual assault was estimated at $184,000 for children and $139,000 for adults.

The report did not include costs of sexual harassment, pornography, voyeurism, or other forms of sexual violence. Nor did it include costs sometimes incurred by victims such as sexually-transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, suicide and substance abuse. The report also excluded some indirect costs such as family and relationship problems that arise when someone is a victim or perpetrator, re-victimization during the criminal justice process, and cost of personal and community security.


Costs of Sexual Violence in Minnesota (PDF: 126 KB/20 pages)

Highlights of Costs of Sexual Violence in Minnesota (PDF: 23 KB/2 pages)


Top of Page

The Minnesota Department of Health attempts to report all data accurately. If you discover an error, please contact us at Injury.Prevention@health.state.mn.us.
By using this system, you agree to not share these data in ways that would identify individuals or provide information on any malicious acts.