Relationship Concerns and Sexual Violence

Relationship violence is a prevalent issue in many lives. It affects both genders, and people of all socioeconomic classes, races, and religions.

Relationship Violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses fear and intimidation to establish power and control over the other partner, often including the threat or use of violence. This abuse happens when one person believes they are entitled to control another. It takes many forms, including verbal, physical, and emotional. Relationship violence can and does occur in any type of intimate relationship – dating, marriage, family, or roommate situations.

Warning Signs

Has my loved one been raped?

  • Is she suddenly having flashbacks or nightmares?
  • Is she exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression [see above]?
  • Is she displaying sudden aggressive behavior?
  • Does she sometimes seem out of touch with her surroundings?
  • Does she have excessive feelings of guilt?
  • Is she abnormally socially withdrawn?

Is my loved one in a dangerous relationship?

  • Does your loved one’s significant other display possessiveness and extreme jealousy?
  • Does the relationship isolate her from family and friends?
  • Does her significant other control her behavior?
  • Does he expect perfection from your loved one and put them down in public?
  • Does he always blame her for problems?
  • Does she become quiet when he is around, and does she seem afraid to make him angry?
  • Does he expect sex roles to be rigid?
  • Does he explode in anger?
  • Does she often cancel plans at the last minute?

How can I help a loved one who has been raped?

  1. Be clear that the rape or assault was not the survivor’s fault. No one ever asks to be raped or assaulted. Raping someone is a conscious decision made by the perpetrator. Even if the survivor exercises bad judgment, she/he did not deserve to be raped—no one does.
  2. Believe the survivor. Feeling that she is believed by family and friends is essential for a rape survivor’s recovery. She has to overcome many obstacles to be able to speak out about what has happened. Allow the survivor to know you are open to hearing about her feelings and experiences. Although it may be painful for you to hear about what happened, letting the survivor know you are willing to enter those difficult places with her is important.
  3. Do not question or judge what the survivor had to do to survive. During a rape/sexual assault, victims are forced to make instant life threatening decisions. These decisions should not be criticized later. Survivors may not always scream or fight back. Their survival is evidence that they handled the assault the best way they could. Expressing to the survivor that you are thankful that she is alive enables her to feel more secure about her judgments.
  4. Be respectful of the survivor’s decisions. Often a survivor will not want to report the assault to the police. While you may not always agree with these types of decisions, respecting and supporting the survivor is very empowering. Supporting a survivor in this way enables her to feel in control of her life, a feeling that was taken away during the assault.
  5. Validate and protect the survivor’s feelings: anger, pain, and fear. These are natural responses to traumatic experiences. The survivor needs to express them, feel them, and be heard. Protecting the survivor’s confidentiality or anonymity is an important step in gaining her trust.
  6. Express your compassion. If you are feeling outrage, compassion, or pain, share these emotions with the survivor. There is nothing more comforting than genuine human response. Be cautious, however, that your responses are not too overwhelming for the survivor. Often family and friends of survivors feel compelled to “go after” the perpetrator. These feelings are very real and very understandable. However, they can be channeled in more non-violent ways.
  7. Encourage the survivor to get support. In addition to offering your own caring, encourage her to reach out to others. You can help find someone with whom she can talk. (Rape crisis centers have sexual assault/rape counselors.) Similarly, you may have many feelings about the rape/assault. Consider getting support for yourself, too. You will need to take care of yourself in order to be supportive of the survivor.
  8. Get help if the survivor is suicidal. Most survivors are not suicidal, but sometimes the emotional pain of the assault/rape is so devastating that they may want to kill themselves. If you are close to a survivor who is suicidal, get immediate help for her. By…
  9. Resist seeing the survivor as a victim. Continue to see the person as a strong, courageous individual who is reclaiming her/his own life.
  10. Accept that there may be changes in your relationship with the survivor. The person you love is changing, and you may need to change in response. Patience on your part is crucial to her healing process. Healing is a slow process that cannot be hurried.
  11. Educate yourself about sexual assault/rape and the healing process. If you have a basic idea of what the survivor has experienced, it will help you be supportive. Talking with other survivors, supporters of survivors, and/or utilizing services designed to help survivors will help you gain knowledge. It is also important to educate yourself about the rape and sexual assault laws in your state.


How can I help a loved one in an abusive relationship?

  1. Listen without judging. Often a battered woman believes her abuser’s negative messages about her. She may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate, and afraid that she will be judged by you.
  2. Tell her the abuse is not her fault. Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There’s no excuse for it—not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealousy, or any behavior of hers.
  3. Make sure she knows she is not alone. Millions of women of every age, race, and religion face abuse, and many women find it extremely difficult to deal with the violence. Emphasize that when she wants help, it is available. Let her know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.
  4. Explain that relationship abuse is a crime, and that she can seek protection from the police or courts, and help from a local domestic violence program. Suggest that she call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for advice and referrals. TTY users can call the Family Violence Prevention Fund at 1-800-595-4TTY.
  5. Suggest that she develop a safety plan in case of emergency. It’s a good idea to keep money, important documents, a change of clothes, and an extra set of keys in a safe place, such as at a friend or neighbor’s house.
  6. Think about ways you might feel comfortable helping her. If she decides to leave her relationship, she may need money, assistance finding a place to live, a place to store her belongings, or a ride to a battered women’s shelter.
  7. Get advice. If you want to talk with someone yourself to get advice about a particular situation, contact a local domestic violence program.

*For purposes of readability, we have used 'her' throughout this article. This is not to say that men do not or cannot be victims of sexual assault and abuse--however, because women are more likely to be victims, we have used 'her.'

Sexual Violence Statistics

United States

  • Approximately 302,100 women and 92,700 men are forcibly raped each year in the United States.
  • Over 32,000 pregnancies result from rape every year in the United States.
  • Rape and sexual assault is the least often reported violent crime.
  • The closer the relationship between the victim and the offender, the greater the likelihood that the victim would not report the crime to the police.
  • Among children confirmed by child protective service agencies as being maltreated, 10% were sexually abused.
  • More than half of all rapes of women (54%) occur before age 18; 22% of these rapes occur before age 12. For men, 75% of all rapes occur before age 18, and 48% occur before age 12.
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native women are significantly more likely (34%) to be raped than African American women (19%) or White women (18%).
  • Chances of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being raped are between 50 and 95%.
  • After a rape, victims are 10 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 14 times more likely to have significant alcohol dependencies.

Colleges and Universities

  • Among college students nationwide, between 20% and 25% of women reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape.
  • Of surveyed college women, about 90% of rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker (boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance or co-worker) prior to the assault.
  • In another survey of college women, 13.3% indicated that they have been forced to have sex in a dating situation.
  • 75% of the time acquaintance rape on college campuses involves a male perpetrator under the influence of alcohol/drugs; over 50% of women victims reported being intoxicated or “mildly buzzed”.
  • Women who use drugs, attend a university with high drinking rates, belong in a sorority, and drank heavily in high school are at greater risk for rape while intoxicated.
  • Between 26.6% and 35.2% of female college students, and between 14.7% and 18.4% of male college students have been stalked.

In Utah

  • 1 in 3 women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 8 women will be raped sometime during their lifetimes.
  • 86.2% of victims were first assaulted before their 18th birthday.
  • Only 9.8% of rape victims reported to law enforcement.
  • Rape is the only category of violent crime whose rate exceeds the national average.

Sexual Violence Can Happen To Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.

Sexual assaults are not usually committed by strangers, contrary to the media's portrayal. Frequently sexual violence is committed by a parent, family member, babysitter, roommate, friend, a date, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, and it is most often someone you know and trust.

Sexual violence is not a crime of lust. It is a crime of power and control. In all cases of sexual violence, no one is to blame but the perpetrator, who must be held accountable for his or her actions. A common misconception is that sex offenders cannot control their sexual urges and are driven to commit these crimes.

No One Asks Or Deserves To Be Sexually Assaulted.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, call the Utah Toll-Free 24-Hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis and Information Line at 1-888-421-1100 to speak confidentially to a victim advocate. The Utah Valley Rape Crisis line is 801-377-5500.

Who Is Most Likely To Be A Perpetrator?

Despite stereotypes of a stranger in a dark car or a crime-ridden alleyway, the offender is most likely someone the victim knows. 90% of the time, he or she is also of the same race as the victim.

Overall, nearly all sex offenders in Utah are male. 96.6% victims of sexual assault in Utah were attacked by a male. However, while many offenders are men, not all men are offenders.

91.4% of victims were attacked by someone they knew including friends and acquaintances, family members and relatives, intimate partners, neighbors, co-workers, and babysitters.

Abusers and perpetrators of sexual violence know what they are doing and know what they want from their victim. If no one speaks out against them, they will continue. Abusers and offenders often feel little control over other aspects of their lives, so they attempt to control their partner or someone they know in order to ease this insecurity. Sex offenders may perpetrate sexually violent crimes for many reasons including attempting to regain or establish a sense of power and control.