How many sexual assaults each year?

A round table topic on The Sara Mills Show yesterday was the under-reporting of sexual assaults.  One of the guests said that only 3 of every 1000 sexual assaults resulted in a conviction.  That number seemed really low so I asked about it.  The source is an infographic produced by the YWCA and highlighted in a Huffington Post article.


Where did that 460,000 number come from?  How do you count sexual assaults that aren’t reported?

The source cited is the chapter “Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault” by Holly Johnson in the book Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism, edited by Elizabeth Sheehy and published in 2012.

Where did she get the number?

Her source was the 2004 General Social Survey (Victimization)conducted by Statistics Canada.  A summary is available.  The question asked was “During the past 12 months, has anyone ever touched you against your will in any sexual way?  By this I mean anything from unwanted touching or grabbing, to kissing or fondling.”

So, 460,000 is an estimate of “sexual assault” calculated based on a survey of ~24,000 people and includes unwanted touching, grabbing, kissing, or fondling.  Is it any wonder that these “assaults” are not reported?

The truth is that we don’t know how many sexual assaults go unreported because they are not reported.  Based on the overly broad definition used above, it’s safe to say that the number is much less than 460,000 per year.  Exaggerating doesn’t strengthen your point; it weakens your position because your audience won’t trust your other “facts”.




3 thoughts on “How many sexual assaults each year?

  1. Why do unwanted touching, grabbing, kissing, or fondling not count? THESE ARE ALL ASSAULT!!! Get yer head out of the sand – you and your quotation marks of diminishment are part of the problem!

    1. Nope.
      If I bump into you on the subway and accidentally brush your breast you could honestly answer the question with a “yes”.
      If we are on a date and at the end I lean in for a kiss goodnight and you turn your cheek that counts as a “yes”

      The trouble with the question is it’s overly broad. People will honestly answer it and then have that answer conflated with “sexual assault”. Normal everyday human behavior is thus caught up and counted as criminal.

      I suppose I could point out that your idealogical driven belief system is part of the problem….but I suspect you already know that.

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