The risks we encounter

One of the basics that I stress to students all the time is, “You are responsible for your own personal safety.” I believe nothing is more true—or important—than your recognizing your role in keeping safe.

Read these surprising facts about the dangers we all face. Then, you should be able to understand why I constantly reinforce the idea of personal responsibility to all of my students.

Some groups more likely to experience violence

Violent crime has decreased significantly since the mid-1990s. However, between 2016 and 2017, the latest years for which data are available, there was a nationwide increase of violent crime among several major demographic groups. They include:

 victims today

Source: Criminal Victimization, 2017. Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2018;

Assaults in connection with robberies

Although violent crime has decreased dramatically over the past two decades, our fear of being robbed by someone using strong arm tactics, a gun, or a knife is still highly justified. Some compelling facts:

  • More than 50% of robbery victims are attacked by total strangers.
  • Attackers are most likely to strike between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Most seek cash, jewelry, phones, laptops, or other personal items.
  • Robberies are most often committed in public places. More than 40% of robberies take place on public streets. Another 23% occur in buildings. Among the most dangerous places to be at night are:
    • Businesses which stay open late and make mostly cash transactions (e.g. convenience stores, bars, fast food restaurants, laundromats, gas stations)
    • Places that provide cover or opportunities for potential attackers to loiter (e.g. bus stops, train stations, gas stations, ATMs).

More rape victims today

Forcible rape has not declined in recent years. Between 2013 and 2017, the latest years for which data are available, the number of reported forcible rape cases in the U.S. has increased steadily:

more rape victims today

Source: “5 Facts About Crime in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Jan. 3, 2019;

Facts about sexual assault

Many myths surround sexual assault and rape. Some can represent significant danger to women. For example, a woman may feel safe drinking at a bar with a man she knows. Actually, she is far more likely to be attacked by an acquaintance than by a man she hasn’t met.

Here are some key facts about sexual assault, along with the sources of each, so you can learn more, if you wish:


1 in 5 women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Some 18.3% of all women (more than 22 million) have survived a completed or attempted rape.

Approximately 1,270,000 women are raped each year. Another 6,646,000 are victims of other sexual crime, including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, or unwanted sexual experiences.

Source: Department of Justice 2010.


Only 11% of rapes are committed by total strangers. Of those women who have been sexually assaulted, 40% were attacked by an intimate partner and 41% have been assaulted by an acquaintance.

Source: Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., et al. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Sexual assault is not about lust and passion. It’s about power and control.

Source: Groth, A., Burgess, W., & Holmstrom, L. Rape: Power, anger, and sexuality. American Journal of Psychiatry, 134(11), 1239-43.


Most rapes do not occur in public places. 55% of rape or sexual assault victimizations occur at or near the victim’s home, and 12% occur at or near the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance.

Source: Planty, M., Langton, L., Krebs, C., Berzofsky, M., & Smiley-McDonald, H. (2013). Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics.


Between 20% and 25% of college women are victims of forced sex during their time in college. Fully 27% say they’ve had unwanted sexual contact.

Source: The sexual victimization of college women (NCJ 182369). (2000). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice:


Drugging women’s drinks often precedes rape or sexual assault. 1 in 13 college students report experiencing at least one incident in which they know or suspect someone put a drug in their drink without their knowledge.

Drugging is not just a problem for college students; it happens to single women of all ages. It also largely goes unreported—because so-called date-rape drugs (such as GHD) impede the victim’s ability to recall details of the attack. [That’s why it’s essential to watch your drinks and food when you’re at a bar or restaurant with a new date or even someone you know casually.]

Source: Dr. Suzanne Swan, psychology professor at the University of South Carolina; in


Rape is the most under-reported crime. Roughly 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.(1) On college campuses, 90% go unreported.(2). That means most sexual predators continue to assault women with little fear of being caught.

Sources: (1) 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:
(2) ) The sexual victimization of college women (NCJ 182369). (2000). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice: