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Ask 10,000 Men About “Forced Sex,” And Rape Statistics Start to Make Sense

When asked, one in four men admitted to committing sexual assault

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“The Rape of the Sabine Women,” Pietro da Cortnoa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the United States, one in five women say that they’ve been sexually assaulted. In an international survey, one in three women say that they’ve been the victim of intimate partner violence, sexual or otherwise. Most often, the rapists is someone the victim knows. That the incidence of rape is high, and that sexual violence is a real threat to women worldwide, should be without question. But this reality is often questioned.

It’s convenient to argue that women lie about rape, because otherwise, a disturbing question comes up: Who is committing all these atrocious acts? Accounting for the widespread prevalence of sexual violence means, essentially, admitting that perpetrators of sexual violence must be much, much more common than we’d like to think. That is, unfortunately, the reality, as described by a recent study reported today by the Associated Press.

According to the study, which surveyed more than 10,000 men from six countries (Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea), around a quarter of all men admitted that they’ve sexually assaulted a woman, reports the AP. In most cases the victim was their wife or girlfriend, but one in ten said that they’ve raped someone who wasn’t their partner.

The key to getting men to open up was that they were not specifically asked about rape. Instead, they were asked in a sideways way. “The word “rape” was not used in the questions, but the men were asked if they had ever forced a woman to have sex when she wasn’t willing or if they had ever forced sex on someone who was too drunk or drugged to consent.”

The surveys were not carried out in the United States, which makes it difficult to compare across cultures. But, according to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, “one in twelve male students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape.” And, according to the AAETS, only two percent of “acquaintance rapes” get reported to police.

More from Smithsonian.com:

A Survey of Women With Broken Bones Shows the Prevalence of Domestic Abuse

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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