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Preventing Sexual Violence Among Young People in the United States

Preventing Sexual Violence Among Young People in the United States


Sexual violence is common. It is costly and devastating for individuals and communities. It is also preventable. CDC is leading the field by

championing research that addresses critical gaps and informs prevention efforts in our states and communities. One innovative approach—

empowering bystanders to prevent sexual violence—has gained increasing attention from public health and sexual violence prevention

professionals, educators, school administrators,

and policymakers. CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention is advancing knowledge in this area through multiple research initiatives that examine

how and when bystander training works to prevent sexual violence among young people.


CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and other sources show that:

• About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of contact sexual violence* in their lifetime.

• 1 in 5 women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. • Sexual violence impacts young people.

For example, 41% of female rape victims report that they were first raped before age 18.

• Sexual violence can cause short- and long-term

physical and psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

• CDC estimates that rape costs more than

$122,000 per victim across their lifetime, one third of which is paid for by government sources such as the U.S. criminal justice system.

*Includes rape, being made to sexually penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, and unwanted sexual contact. Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention

National Center for Injury

Prevention and Control

CDC’s STOP SV Technical Package highlights several

key strategies that communities and states can use

to prioritize sexual violence prevention activities that

are based on the best available evidence.



CDC’s research has greatly increased our

understanding of what works to prevent sexual

violence. One key strategy identified by CDC for

preventing sexual violence focuses on training

individuals to be active bystanders.

Bystander training motivates and teaches young

people to:

• speak out against attitudes or behaviors that

support violence;

• provide help when they see behavior that puts

others at risk; and

• take steps to safely and effectively intervene

when possible.

Past research has indicated these are promising

ways to reduce risks for sexual violence among

college students. CDC’s recent research has

evaluated whether these programs also prevent

sexual violence in younger students.

• The Green Dot program trains young people to

intervene when they see attitudes and behaviors

that may put people at risk for violence. Although

initially developed and tested with college

students, a recent CDC-funded study found that

Green Dot reduces the likelihood that young

people in high school will commit sexual violence

or be victims. Current CDC-funded research is:

− testing strategies for using Green Dot as a

prevention strategy in entire communities;

− examining alternate methods of delivering

bystander interventions; and

− addressing the potential benefits of adding

substance abuse prevention

• Bringing in the Bystander teaches people how to

safely and effectively intervene in situations with

heightened risk of sexual violence. Prior research

found that the program improves knowledge

of, attitudes about, and effective responses to

sexual violence on college campuses. CDC is

funding a study to evaluate its use with high

school students.

• The Coaching Boys into Men program guides

coaches to talk with male athletes about healthy

relationships and their role in stopping violence

against females. A CDC-funded study found that

the program increases recognition of abusive

behaviors, gender-equitable attitudes, and

intentions to intervene in abusive situations. CDC

is currently evaluating whether Coaching Boys

into Men is also effective in middle schools.



CDC will continue to invest in innovative research

that improves what we know about sexual violence

and how to prevent it, building on advances in

research and practice from prior work. CDC is

committed to:

• Identifying factors that increase or reduce

perpetration of sexual violence among young

people and strategies that address those factors

at key developmental points.

• Finding effective, cost-efficient strategies

that work for people at highest risk.

• Continuing to examine the effects of prevention

approaches that are already in use in communities

but have not been formally evaluated

Sexual violence is a significant but preventable

public health problem. Continued evaluation

of practice-based prevention programs and

other promising approaches helps expand our

understanding of what works to prevent sexual

violence among young people and improve their

health and well-being throughout life.

Learn more about how CDC’s future research can

identify solutions to emerging violence issues:

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