tiger-fur image

Sexual Violence

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexual violence (SV) is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone's will. SV encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching) and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act.1


Clemson University’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy includes

  • sexual assault and/or battery,

  • sexual coercion,

  • sexual misconduct,

  • domestic violence and

  • stalking.

  • 19.3 percent (or more than 23 million) women in the United States have been raped during their lifetimes.

  • An estimated 43.9 percent of women experienced sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.

  • Approximately one in four women (23.7 percent) and 10.8 percent of men are estimated to have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during their lifetimes.

  • The majority of victims of all types of sexual violence knew their perpetrators (including stalking).

  • In the United States, an estimated 15.2 percent of women (18.3 million) and 5.7 percent of men (6.5 million) have experienced stalking during their lifetimes that made them feel very fearful or made them believe that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

  • An estimated 31.5 percent of women and 27.5 percent of men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

  • An estimated 47.1 percent of women and 46.5 percent of men experienced at least one act of psychological aggression by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Info & Stats for Journalists: Statistics About Sexual Violence. (2015). Retrieved from URL 

Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. (2014, September 5). Retrieved from URL  

720 first-year female Clemson University students participated in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by faculty in Public Health Sciences and Redfern Health Center. The study used behavioral-specific questions from the Sexual Experiences Survey to assess for sexual victimization. It assesses for completed rape, attempted rape, sexual coercion (intercourse subsequent to verbal pressure or misuse of authority) and unwanted sexual contact.
When compared to national data, Clemson University data are consistent with national level data. This indicates that sexual victimization on our campus is no more or no less of a problem than other college campuses.
Findings of the study:

  • Approximately 20 percent of first-year women at Clemson University experience some type of sexual victimization:

    • 15 percent experienced unwanted sexual contact

    • 5 percent experienced sexual coercion

    • 5 percent experienced attempted rape

    • 3 percent experienced completed rape

  • Alcohol was involved two out of three times: 56 percent of women and 60 percent of men had used alcohol just prior to the incident.

  • Most women knew the offender: 37 percent were acquaintances, 32 percent were partners or romantic acquaintances, 23 percent were casual or first date and 8 percent were strangers.

  • Victims were more likely to report increased levels of depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to non-victims, so it is very important they seek help.

Thompson, M.P. & Kingree, J.B. (2010). Sexual victimization, negative cognitions, and adjustment in college women. American Journal Health Behavior, 34, 55-59.

About five percent of men commit 95 percent of campus rapes.

Characteristics of Sexual Assault Perpetrators

  • Social status and access to consensual sex

  • Engage in “hyper-masculine” behavior

  • Attitudes toward women and casual sex

  • Endorse problematic alcohol expectancies and beliefs

Strategies of Serial Predators

  • Stalking vulnerability

  • Grooming of victim

  • Intentionally increase vulnerability

  • Isolations of victim

  • Cognitive distortions

  • Do not use weapon; alcohol is primary tool

  • Use of instrumental, not gratuitous violence

Role of Alcohol

  • Enabler

  • Confounder

  • Facilitator

  • Scapegoat

How common are false reports? Like most other crimes, not common.

Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.5

The prevalence of false reporting is low, between two percent and 10 percent. For example, a study of eight U.S. communities, which included 2,059 cases of sexual assault, found a 7.1 percent rate of false reports.4 A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found a 5.9 percent rate of false reports.3 Researchers studied 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000-2003 and found a 2.1 percent rate of false reports.2

2Heenan, M., & Murray, S. (2006). Study of reported rapes in Victoria 2000-2003: Summary research report. Retrieved from the State of Victoria (Australia), Department of Human Services: PDF 

3Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False allegations of sexual assault: An analysis of ten years of reported cases. Violence Against Women, 16, 1318-1334. doi:10.1177/1077801210387747

4Lonsway, K. A., Archambault, J., & Lisak, D. (2009). False reports: Moving beyond the issue to successfully investigate and prosecute non-stranger sexual assault. The Voice, 3(1), 1-11. Retrieved from the National District Attorneys Association: PDF 

5Rennison, C. A. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992-2000 [NCJ 194530]. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics: PDF 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Info & Stats for Journalists: Statistics About Sexual Violence. (2015). Retrieved from URL 

Sexual assault victims commonly struggle with a range of emotions that make it difficult for them to report or disclose abuse. Some reasons might include the following:

  • Often, victims who do report will delay doing so for a variety of reasons that are connected to neurobiological and psychological responses to their assault.6,9

  • Victims may worry about how reporting will affect their family or friends.7 Further, they may be fearful of family fracture if the person sexually assaulting them is a family member.8

  • Some victims distrust law enforcement.

  • Completing the forensic exam or “rape kit” can be difficult for victims for many reasons.

    • It is important to know that forensic exams can be anonymous, and the victim can say “no” to any part of the exam.

    • It is important to remember that victims have rights, and crisis center advocates can help victims through the process and explain the options victims have.

    • More Information on Rape Crisis Centers in Our Area

  • Victims fear that they will not be believed or fear retaliation. Often, victims are pressured by others not to tell.

    • Many times victims don’t want to report because they don’t want to “ruin their life,” but it is important to remember the following:

      • Reporting may help other victims who were assaulted by the same person

      • Reporting may help prevent the assailant from perpetrating again on potential future victims

      • On college campuses, victims can chose to report and not move forward with a criminal or college disciplinary process*

*The only time a college disciplinary Title IX investigation has to move forward is if the assailant has previously been accused because it indicates a pattern and hostile environment that needs to be addressed.

6Archambault, J., & Lonsway, K. A., (2006). Dynamics of sexual assault: What does sexual assault really look like? (Rev. 2008 ed.). Retrieved from URL 

7Campbell, R. (1998). The community response to rape: Victims’ experiences with the legal, medical, and mental health systems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 355-379. Retrieved from URL

8Campbell, R., & Raja, S. (1999). Secondary victimization of rape victims: Insights from mental health professionals who treat survivors of violence. Violence and Victims, 14, 261-275.

9D’Anniballe, J. (2010, February). Understanding the neurobiology of trauma: The impact on children and adults. Presentation at the Deepening Our Roots: Growing Meaningful & Sustainable Sexual Assault Services in Rural Communities conference, San Diego, CA.



Sexual assault is NEVER the survivor’s fault. There are many on and off campus support services and resources available to victims of sexual assault. Click the GET HELP/RESOURCES link above to see where to go for help. 

What to Do if You Think You or Someone You Know is a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Detailed information about sexual assault, where to go for help on- and off-campus, information about SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) nurses and getting immediate medical care, your rights and options, and how to report to law enforcement and/or campus officials.

Reporting Sexual Assault

How to Talk With a Survivor of Sexual Assault

1Sexual Violence: Definitions. (2015, February 10). Retrieved from URL