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In Year Two of #MeToo, Fears About Sexual Assault Remain

In Year Two of #MeToo, Fears About Sexual Assault Remain

Story Highlights

  • Twenty percent of Americans worry about being a victim of sexual assault
  • Concerns about being a sexual assault victim are stable since 2000
  • 36% of women vs. 4% of men worry about falling prey to sexual assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's been just over a year since the #MeToo movement began, which revealed and prompted firings over cases of sexual assault and harassment committed by celebrities, politicians and other notable public figures. But as the movement heads into its second year, the percentage of American women who say they "frequently" or "occasionally" worry about being a victim of sexual assault has edged up from last year to 36%, the highest this figure has been since 2011. By contrast, just 4% of men worry this frequently about being a victim of sexual assault, little changed over the years.

Line graph showing frequency of worry about sexual assault among men and women, 2000 to present.

These results are from Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 1-10. While worry about sexual assault ranks low among all Americans on the list of 13 crimes measured in the poll and ranks last among men, it is the sixth-most-worrisome crime for women. The current 36% of women who worry is two percentage points below the all-time high of 38% registered in 2003.

Overall, 29% of women vs. 19% of men say they rarely worry about being a sexual assault victim, leaving only 33% of women vs. 75% of men saying they never worry about it.

Among all U.S. adults, 20% of all Americans say they frequently or occasionally worry about being a victim of sexual assault, matching the average Gallup has recorded since it first asked the question in 2000.

Line graph showing frequency of worry about sexual assault, 2000 to present, currently 20%.

Data from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 18.3% of women and 1.4% of men were the victims of rape at some point in their lifetime. Gallup, by contrast, in a separate question asks Americans only about the past year, and the latest update is that 1% of U.S. adults (including 2% of women and 1% men) say they were sexually assaulted in the past 12 months. The Gallup question does not define sexual assault for respondents.

Bottom Line

The recent increased attention paid to sexual assault and harassment, which were front and center in this fall's Supreme Court nomination hearing and massive employee walkout at Google, have touched on an issue that many have concerns about. One in five U.S. adults -- including more than one in three women -- worry about being a victim of sexual assault.

Gallup's trend on worries about this type of crime has been stable over nearly two decades, even as this runs counter to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which show that the incidence of sexual assault fell from 1993 to 2015. Similarly, Americans have often perceived greater levels of crime even as the actual crime rates drop.

As worries about sexual assault continue, the issue has gained prominence in some areas of Americans' views. Last year, Gallup found that nearly seven in 10 Americans say sexual harassment in workplaces is a "major problem" -- up from 50% in 1998.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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