Women often don't label their sexual assaults as rape. Our experts can explain.

Women often don't label their sexual assaults as rape. Our experts can explain.

October 11, 20181 min read

Many sexual violence survivors do not label their experiences as rape but instead use more benign labels, such as “bad sex” or “miscommunication.” Laura C. Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, led a review of 28 academic studies to estimate how often women who’ve been sexually assaulted do not label their experience as rape. 

Across the studies, the researchers find that 60.4 percent of women, on average, did not recognize their experience as rape even though it fit the definition — an unwanted sexual experience obtained through force or the threat of force or a sexual experience they did not consent to because they were incapacitated. 

“This finding has important implications because it suggests that our awareness of the scope of the problem may underestimate its true occurrence rate, depending on the type of measurement,” the authors write. “This impacts policy reform, allocations of mental health services, survivors’ perceptions of their experiences, and society’s attitudes toward survivors.” 

For more information on this study, visit: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1524838015576391 

Laura C. Wilson is available to speak with media regarding this topic and study. To contact her, simply click on her icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Laura Wilson
    Laura Wilson Associate Professor and Director of Safe Zone

    Dr. Wilson focuses on post-trauma functioning, particularly in survivors of sexual violence and among minoritized communities.

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