Study Finds 17 Percent of Women Between 18 and 30 Have Been Raped

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: December 17, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A study looking at the prevalence of sexual assault among 1,014 women between 18 and 30 found that 38 percent had experienced sexual victimization and nearly half of that group had been raped, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

Of the 383 women who reported sexual victimization, 174 reported being raped. Thirty-six percent of the 383 -- or 138 women -- reported multiple incidents of sexual assault.

"Nearly half of the women reporting victimization reported that they were raped, either due to physical force or because they were too incapacitated to resist," said Maria Testa, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study. "Other types of sexual victimization reported included verbally coerced intercourse, attempted rape and unwanted sexual contact."

Testa added, "We know that women who have experienced victimization are at greater risk of it happening again. We are examining how prior risky behaviors play a role in multiple occurrences. We also want to know if women start drinking or exhibit risky behaviors in response to the victimization."

Testa is a senior research scientist at RIA, as well as an adjunct associate professor in the UB School of Social Work and a research associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. Her colleague on the study was Jennifer A. Livingston, Ph.D., RIA project staff associate.

A majority of the women in the study -- 609, or 60 percent -- reported experiencing no sexual aggression. Subjects, who were chosen randomly, were asked to report on sexual aggression experiences that occurred since age 14.

Women who reported one or more incidents of sexual aggression were asked a series of questions about the most recent incident, including how the incident came about, who perpetrated the incident, how they responded, and how traumatic the incident was, both at the time it occurred as well as at the present time.

Women were asked to respond on a six-point scale ranging from 1 for "not at all traumatic" to 6

for "the most traumatic thing possible." Trauma was higher immediately after the incident (4.09) compared to present time (2.84). At the time of the interview, rape incidents were rated as more traumatic than other kinds of sexual aggression experiences.

The study, published in the September issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, was supported by an award of $1,585,322 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Women living in Buffalo and the immediate suburbs in Erie County between 2000 and 2002 participated in this first part of a three-part study examining alcohol and sexual behavior. The characteristics of participants were representative of the community -- 75 percent were white and 17 percent African-American. Approximately 95 percent were high-school graduates.

Ongoing research by Testa and colleagues is testing the efficacy of an intervention designed to prevent sexual assault among young women.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.