Friday, April 1, 2016

The Prevalence of Sexual Violence: Results from a Population-Based Sample

Sexual violence can cause severe mental and bodily harm. This is the first study of a population-based sample in Germany to assess both the frequency of the subjects’ having experienced sexual violence and the frequency of their having manifested sexually aggressive behavior themselves.

2513 persons (of whom 2422 were over age 18 and 91 were aged 14 to 18) were asked about their experiences with sexual violence in the past 12 months, either as the person committing sexual violence or as the victim of sexual violence at the hands of other adults or similarly aged adolescents.

0.6% (n = 6) of the men and 1.2% (n = 16) of the women surveyed, and ca. 5% (n = 4) of the adolescents surveyed, reported having been the victim of some kind of sexual violence. 1.5% (n = 15) of the men and 1.0% (n = 13) of the women reported that they themselves had manifested sexually aggressive behavior. Women were over-represented and adolescents underrepresented in the sample, in comparison with the overall population.

These findings suggest that the prevalences of experiences of sexual violence and of sexually aggressive behavior are markedly underestimated in official crime statistics, particularly with respect to events in which women commit sexual violence and men are victims of it. Prevalences were assessed in this study from self-reported information; the findings may thus have been distorted by a tendency on the part of the informants to give answers they thought would be socially acceptable, particularly with respect to their own sexually aggressive behavior. Moreover, the small overall number of events complicates the interpretation of the findings.

Key Messages
  • In 2015, 2513 persons in a population-based representative sample were asked questions about sexual violence.
  • 0.6% of adult men and 1.2% of adult women reported having experienced sexual violence in the last 12 months.
  • 1.5% of adult men and 1.0% of adult women reported having behaved in a sexually aggressive way themselves in the last 12 months.
  • The present survey yielded higher percentages of women as perpetrators and of men as victims of sexual violence than the official crime statistics.
  • Increased sensitivity for the prevalence of experienced sexual violence can help the affected persons obtain the help they need.

Full article at:

By:  Marc Allroggen, Dr. med.,*,1 Miriam Rassenhofer, Dipl.-Psych.,1 Andreas Witt, Dipl.-Psych.,1 Paul L Plener, PD Dr. med.,1 Elmar Brähler, Prof. Dr. rer. biol. hum.,2,3 and Jörg M Fegert, Prof. Dr. med.1
1Department of Child- and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ulm University Hospital
2Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Leipzig University Medical Center
3Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
*Klinik für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie/Psychotherapie, Universitätsklinikum Ulm, Steinhövelstr. 5, D-89075 Ulm, Germany,

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