Data Breakdown:  The Truth About Men and Sexual Violence

(You can view the graphic here.)

This convo-graphic is designed to spark conversations and dialogue about men and sexual violence. As with the Truth About False Accusation graphic, this graphic reflects data from multiple sources and required us to make some choices about how to present it to you.  The Enliven Project encourages dialogue and debate, and hope that you will use this graphic to discuss the many challenges we face as families, communities, and society when grappling with the issue of sexual violence.

Victims: 22% of men are victims of sexual violence

The most recent and most comprehensive study about the prevalence of sexual violence is the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.  According to this study, 22% of men have been victims of sexual violence in their lifetimes.  This includes multiple types of sexual violence including being made to penetrate someone else, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences.

Perpetrators: 6.5% of men are perpetrators of sexual violence

The most recent and comprehensive study of men as perpetrators of sexual violence is one by David Lisak in 2002 called Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists This study found that 6.5% of men interviewed admitted to acts that meet the legal definition of rape.  This means that most – not all – rapists are serial rapists, committing multiple acts of rape and sexual violence.

There is a lot we still don’t know about perpetrators of sexual violence, but this is the best assessment we have of male perpetration to date.  As Lisak discusses, there are limitations of self-report and the definitions of sexual violence used in 2002 do not reflect our current definitions.  However, the findings in Lisak’s 2002 study are consistent with multiple other studies that he cites.

We picked this one because it was the most recent and addressed both rape and other types of sexual violence.  For example, Lisak found that serial rapists also committed a large number of acts of other types of sexual violence including sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

Perpetrators who are also victims: 30% of perpetrators are also victims of sexual violence

Men who are abused as children are not pre-destined to become perpetrators of sexual violence.  This is a myth.  Becker and Murphy (1998) report that 1/3 of sex offenders have a history of sexual abuse.  This graphic illustrates this point.

There’s no link to this study, but here’s the reference: Becker, J. & Murphy, W. (1998). What we know and don’t know about assessing and treating sex offenders. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 4, 116-137.

Known limitations of this graphic:

  • The NISVS study separates rape from other types of sexual violence, and does not provide data to account for overlap.  According to the survey, 1.4% of men who have been raped, which could add one more victim to the graphic IF there was zero overlap between victims of sexual violence and victims of rape.
  • There are female perpetrators of sexual violence against both men and women, but that’s not what this graphic is about.  Unfortunately, far less is known about female perpetrators of sexual violence.  It’s an area that requires more research.
  • There is still some stickiness about definitions of rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual abuse.  The victim data incorporates broader types of sexual violence, while the perpetrator data examines rapists and the other acts of sexual violence they commit.  The Enliven Project believes all survivors should be acknowledged and recognized and given the opportunity to find justice and healing.


Table 1: Data Breakdown for

The Truth about Men and Sexual Violence


Category Number
Victims 20
Victims who are also perpetrators 2
Perpetrators 5
Bystanders 73