Just how bad of a problem is sexual assault?

The reality is that we don’t definitively know; the available data can not begin to paint the complete picture of the scope of the problem.


Because most of the numbers we have reflect the number of crimes reported to law enforcement. But, sexual assault is one of those crimes that is still so misunderstood; we know that many victims are not reporting – either because they are ashamed, feel the assault was somehow their fault, are worried about consequences to their perpetrator (who all too often is someone known to the victim and/or an intimate partner), or because they feel that what happened was just “normal” and wasn’t a crime at all.

In partnership with state agencies and the service providers we represent, WCASA is working toward a more comprehensive picture of sexual violence in Wisconsin.

WCASA Infographics

In 2018, WCASA released a series of infographics to assist professionals in presenting and communicating about data on sexual violence prevalence. These are intended to provide a snapshot of the available research on sexual violence using a combination of national and state-level data using the most commonly referenced or requested statistics. Data was incorporated from many sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Darkness to Light, RAINN, Black Women’s Blueprint, Stop Street Harassment, Women of Color Network, KAN-WIN, Amnesty International, the National Center for Victims of Crime & the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, and Diverse & Resilient. On all infographics, users have the ability to click on the data point in question to see the full source report.


Burden of Sexual Violence in Wisconsin Report (WCASA, 2010)
  • Sexual violence is a significant public health problem impacting nearly a million people in Wisconsin. It is perhaps the most personal and invasive expression of violence that one person (or a group) can perpetrate upon another individual. Victims of sexual assault come from every walk of life, and this epidemic knows no boundaries; sexual violence affects us all. But what is the real burden of sexual violence on the communities in Wisconsin?
  • The Burden of Sexual Violence in Wisconsin Report (2010) compiles data from a variety of sources to help us articulate the impact sexual violence has at a state level, as well as in each of the 72 counties. This report seeks to heighten awareness and provide critical information to communities so they can successfully initiate and support efforts to prevent sexual violence. The following data is included in the report: prevalence; reports to advocacy, medical (state-level only) and law enforcement; and convictions.
Other Wisconsin Data
  • The Osnium WS database is used throughout Wisconsin to track statistical data, which allows advocates to set goals, plan progress, and report on outcomes in prevention work.
  • For questions on Osnium, please contact End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin at technology@endabusewi.org.


NISVS – National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2010-12 State Report from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). The report provides insight into the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence across the county, and in Wisconsin. The survey shows that more than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

To access all NISVS information and reports please visit the NISVS page of the CDC website.

For information from the CDC please review resources available through the NISVS page:

NISVS 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation explores patterns of victimization and impact based on sexual orientation. Note: this was a special report following the 2010 NISVS Summary Report (released in 2011), and some definitions may differ from the newer state report. This is the most recent report that NISVS has released on victimization by sexual orientation.

NISVS 2015 Data Brief, released in 2018 represents highlights from the 2015 data year of NISVS. This is the newest NISVS data available, but it is essentially a preview of the next NISVS, and does not have as much detail as the full reports listed above.

Additional National Data
  • Women of Color Network, Inc. FAQ on Sexual Violence in Communities of Color combines data from NISVS with other research to highlight the impact of sexual violence in different communities of color. For other resources from the WOCN, please visit their Publications page on their website.
  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality focuses on the lives and experiences of trans people. The section focusing on harassment and abuse (chapter 15) focuses on violence primarily, but statistics related to sexual violence are also included in many other chapters of the report in discussing intersecting issues. NCTE has also released a Wisconsin State Report with some limited information relating to sexual violence throughout.
  • Criminal Victimization in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Justice was released in 2019. This report combines national data on reported crimes, with other data on crimes both reported and not reported to law enforcement in order to provide data on rates of victimization, and of reporting. As summarized in this blog post from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), this report saw an increase in sexual violence victimization, and a decrease in reporting between this report and the prior year.
  • 2019 Sexual Violence Research is a literature review published by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). Their report summarizes academic research on sexual violence from 2015-2019.
  • 2018 Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault from stopstreetharassment.org (SSH). "In January 2018, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person, nationally representative survey on sexual harassment and assault, conducted by GfK. It found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime"