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Research Indicates Nearly Six Million American Women Became Pregnant from Rape, Sexual Coercion, Or Both During Their Lifetimes

Ann Arbor | January 30, 2024

Analysis of CDC data published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicinereveals insights into the incidence of pregnancy, STDs, and injury in the aftermath of multiple forms of sexual violence

Experiencing a pregnancy from sexual violence is common in the United States, according to researchopens in new tab/window conducted by investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicineopens in new tab/window, published by Elsevier. Nearly six million women in the United States who were raped, sexually coerced (defined as non-physically forced unwanted penetration), or both became pregnant as a result. This equates to about one in twenty American women pregnant as a result of rape, sexual coercion, or both during their lifetime.

Lead investigator Denise V. D’Angelo, MPH, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, explains, “Sexual violence is a major public health problem in the US that is associated with numerous health impacts, including pregnancy. Our study was the first to look at the national prevalence of pregnancy after sexual coercion and found it was even more common than pregnancy after rape.”

The study also determined that about one third (35%) of the victims of either or both types of violence who became pregnant also reported a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For rape victims who got pregnant, two thirds (66%) said they were also injured, and more than 80% said they felt fearful or concerned for their safety.

Investigators analyzed the most recent data (2016/2017) from the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Surveyopens in new tab/window, a random-digit-dial telephone survey of US non-institutionalized adults 18 years and older. The survey has the only nationally representative source of information on the topic. The survey asked about the experience and continuing impact of sexual violence. Data were segmented by current age, race/ethnicity, and region of residence, overall and among victims.

Dr. D’Angelo and her co-investigators emphasize that a comprehensive public health approach for the prevention of sexual violence is critical. They also highlighted strategies and approaches that leaders and practitioners can implement in response to the study’s findings.

She says, “This study focuses attention on the intersection of violence and reproductive health and how rape and sexual coercion have a lasting impact on women’s health and lives. Prevention of sexual violence is key, and so is ensuring access to services for survivors. Some evidence-based approaches to prevention include strengthening economic opportunities for women and families, helping to develop healthy dating and relationship skills, engaging boys and men in prevention, and screening for violence exposure during healthcare encounters to support survivors and provide referrals to services.”

Notes for editors

The article isRape and Sexual Coercion Related Pregnancy in the United States,” byDenise V. D'Angelo, MPH, Yang Liu, PhD, Kathleen C. Basile, PhD, Sharon G. Smith, PhD, Jieru Chen, PhD, Norah W. Friar, MPH, and Mark Stevens, MPH (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2023.11.001opens in new tab/window).It appears online in advance of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, volume 66, issue 3(March 2024), published by Elsevier.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Jillian B. Morgan at +1 734 936 1590 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact CDC’s Division of Media Relations at +1 404 639 3286 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of CDC.

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The American Journal of Preventive Medicineopens in new tab/window is the official journal of the American College of Preventive Medicineopens in new tab/window and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Researchopens in new tab/window. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials. www.ajpmonline.orgopens in new tab/window

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

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Contact

JBM

Jillian B. Morgan

MPH, Managing Editor AJPM

+1 734 936 1590

E-mail Jillian B. Morgan