Sexual not only cause emotional trauma like Post


            Sexual assault is a major problem
that has effected many people around the world. The risk of attempted or
completed rape is around 20 percent for women, although, sexual assault is a
problem for many men and children as well. Sexual assault can not only cause
emotional trauma like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, but
it can also lead to unwanted pregnancies and STI’s (Welch & Mason, 2007).  According to The United States Department of
Justice, sexual assault is defined as, “any type of sexual contact or behavior
that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the
definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual
intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and
attempted rape” (“Sexual Assault,” n.d.). In relation to sexual assault, there
are certain shared characteristics that an individual could possess that would
make them more likely to be a sexual assault perpetrator. Similarly, an
individual could also possess common characteristics that would make them more
likely to be a victim of sexual assault.

            In general, the risk factors of
people who commit sexual assault can not be grouped together because they all
have different reasons on why they would a commit a crime such as sexual
assault.  There are perpetrators who come
from many different backgrounds, share many different stories, and have
experienced many different things (Greathouse, Saunders, Matthews, Keller,
& Miller, 2015b). According to, risk factor is defined as, “a
condition, behavior, or other factor that increases risk” (“Risk Factor,”
n.d.). In other words, if you possess a risk factor for something, it will
increase your risk of that something happening to you. For example, childhood
abuse is a major risk factor for perpetrators of sexual assault. Therefore, if
you were abused as child, your chances of becoming a perpetrator of sexual
assault is increased. Over time, researchers have tried grouping risk factors
together, however, it has proved to be difficult. Often times, it is seen that
many perpetrators have committed more crimes unrelated to sexual assault than actual
sexual assault (Greathouse et al., 2015b). However, the common risk factors
found for perpetrators of sexual assault can be grouped into six categories;
childhood abuse, sexual behavior, interpersonal skills, attitude and
cognitions, peer attitudes and behavior, and substance abuse (Greathouse et
al., 2015a).

            The first risk factor for a perpetrator
is childhood abuse which encompasses sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional
abuse or exposure to violence in their home as a child. In several studies it
was shown that child physical abuse, specifically, was most linked to sexual
assault perpetration. In studies found within college studies, there was a
connection found between parental conflict and sexual assault perpetration
either as an adolescent or as an adult. The second common risk factor for
perpetrators is problems regarding sexual behavior. Perpetrators may have a
history of multiple sex partners as well as having been engaged in sexual
activities at an early age. This could have lead to perpetration because they
had an interest in sex at an early age and had advanced sexual experiences. In
relation to this, perpetrators may also have casual attitudes about sex such as
they feel sex outside of committed relationships is acceptable. There is often
a link found between casual attitudes about sex and having many sexual
partners. The last thing related to sexual behaviors is past sexual violence
perpetration. The third risk factor relating to perpetration is problems with
interpersonal skills. This includes social-skill deficits, lack of empathy,
attachment styles, and sex misinterpretation. Perpetrators who have
social-skill deficits may have trouble connecting with other adults and making
connections or may have trouble interacting with members of the opposite sex.

So, in order to compensate for their difficulties, individuals will commit sexual
assault. Another characteristic found in perpetrators is lack of empathy which
means they have trouble relating to someone’s feelings. A study found showed
that men who scored low on empathy and high on hostility towards women were
likely to be sexually aggressive. Attachment styles were also found in relation
to perpetrators. As humans, the need for forming emotional bonds to others,
especially during our younger years, is imperative. Since perpetrators usually
do not have these bonds, they have insecure attachment styles which can lead to
sexual aggression which can eventually lead to sexual assault. The last
characteristic in relation to sexual assault perpetrators is sexual
misinterpretation. Research has shown that sexually aggressive men are more
likely than nonaggressive men to mistake a woman’s friendliness as a sign of
sexual interest, therefore leading to sexual assault (Greathouse et al., 2015a).

            The fourth risk factor for
perpetrators is in relation to attitudes and cognitions. Hostility towards
women can be a characteristic of those who commit sexual assault. Specifically,
those who do not trust women and are very angry towards them. Another
characteristic related to attitudes and cognitions is perpetrators who believe
in rape myth. This means they believe in misperceptions that provide
justification about myth, such as, women are desired to be raped because it
makes them feel as if someone wants them. If perpetrators believe women want to
be raped, then it will make them more likely to do it. Another characteristic
is belief in traditional gender roles. In other words, individuals who believe
that men and women need to act in accordance with roles that are traditional
(Greathouse et al., 2015a). In other research, it was found that differences in
perceptions of sexuality can be due to gender roles. For example, American
gender role norms teach men that they have to be dominant and use force while
these gender roles influence women to be more passive. So, since these gender
roles might teach men to be aggressive, men will often express their dominance
sexually. (Fagen, McCormick, Kontos, Venable, & Anderson, 2011). The last
characteristic is hyper-masculinity and is often linked with callous attitudes
toward sex, excitement in the face of danger and violence. Violence, often
influencing men to exert dominance over women. The fifth risk factor is
perceptions of peer attitudes and behavior which says that if you hang with
people who are perceived to be sexually aggressive, then it is more likely to
make yourself sexually aggressive. The sixth risk factor is alcohol and drug
use. Research has found that about 50 percent of sexual assaults showed that
either the victim, perpetrator or both had consumed alcohol prior to the
assault (Greathouse et al., 2015a). Although all of this research shows
implications of risk factors for perpetrators, there are also certain
characteristics found relating to the victim which will make it easier for them
to become a target of sexual assault.

            The risk factors that make women in
particularly more susceptible to sexual violence is age, the use of alcohol or
drugs, having previously been raped or sexually abused, having many sexual
partners, sex work, education, and poverty. The first risk factor found in
studies is age because young women are usually more likely to be raped. In chapter
six of the book titled, “Sexual Violence”, it states, “according to data from
justice systems and rape crisis centers in Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New
Guinea, Peru and the United States, between one- third and two-thirds of all
victims of sexual assault are aged 15 years or less” (“Sexual Violence, 2002).

Alcohol and drug consumption, the second risk factor for victims, makes someone
more likely to be sexually assaulted because when you are incapacitated it is
harder to be able to defend yourself. Alcohol and drugs can also lead to
ineffective communication which can make it harder to clearly give consent. The
third risk factor for victims of sexual assault is having previously been raped
or abused. A study in the United States showed that women who were raped before
the age of 18 years old were twice as likely to be raped again than those who
have never been raped. This could be due to the fact that being assaulted early
on lead to other victimization and other problems in adulthood (“Sexual
Violence”, 2002).

            The fourth risk factor that could
lead to sexual assault is having many sexual partners. The fifth risk factor
for victims is engaging in sex work as it exposes them to a sexual environment
in their everyday life. Women who had experienced attempted or completed rape
in childhood or adolescence were shown to have higher numbers of sexual
partners. However, there is not enough data to show if this is a cause or
consequence of abuse. The sixth risk factor for women is education. Women who
have higher levels of education are put at greater risk for both sexual and physical
violence by their partners. It is thought to be that as a woman becomes more
educated, she feels more empowered. Therefore, men regain control by resorting
to violence. Similarly, women who work more are also more likely to report
forced sex by their spouse than women who do not work. The seventh risk factor
is poverty. This is often due to the fact that many poor women and girls need
to work to survive. Children will be raped helping their family perform daily
chores while women may be raped on their walk home from work. Children of poor
women may also have less parental supervision because their parents have to
work which makes them an easier target for perpetrators (“Sexual Assault”,

            To conclude, there are several risk
factors that have been identified for both the victim and perpetrator regarding
sexual assault. Sexual assault can be committed for many different reasons and
is based on social, cultural, and economic factors. Sadly, sexual assault is a
lot more prevalent than the general population may expect. Sexual assault is
happening everywhere; college campuses, at work, and even in people’s homes.

Fortunately, this information can be used to help educate people so that they
can protect themselves and lessen people’s chances of being involved in a
sexual assault crime.