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United States: Protection Gaps in Sexual Violence Laws and Practices

Prevalence of sexual violence is extremely high in the United States of America, where almost 1 in 5 women have reported being raped at least once in their lifetime. The vast majority (78.7%) of rape survivors reported that their first rape occurred before they were aged 25 years. More than 40% were raped before the age of 18, indicating that a significant proportion of sexual violence in the United States is towards young women and adolescent girls.

Despite the high prevalence, protection gaps in the laws themselves deny access to justice for many survivors of sexual violence as they provide a number of opportunities for perpetrators to escape justice.

The information in this factsheet is largely derived from the report titled Failure to Protect: How Discriminatory Sexual Violence Laws and Practices are Hurting Women, Girls, and Adolescents in the Americas, published by Equality Now in September 2021. Please refer to the report for further information on these laws as well as a full list of recommendations.