Violence Against Women and Men: Definitions & Gender Differences

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  • 0:05 Violence & Gender
  • 0:42 Sexual Assault
  • 2:33 Rape
  • 4:36 Domestic Violence
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wind Goodfriend

Wind has her PhD in Social Psychology and Master's in Social Psychology from Purdue University.

Some types of crime are especially painful due to their personal nature. This lesson discusses three forms of violence, including sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. Definitions, basic statistics, and a discussion of gender differences are provided.

Violence and Gender

We'd all like to live in a world where people are safe. Unfortunately, sometimes one person hurts another. When these crimes take on a sexual nature or are performed between two people who are dating or married, the crime often becomes especially painful for the victim.

This lesson is going to cover three specific forms of crime that fall into this category of being highly personal. The topics we'll discuss are sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. For each crime, some basic statistics will be offered as well as a discussion of how gender intersects with the topic.

Sexual Assault

Let's start by talking about sexual assault. The definition of sexual assault is any touching of a sexual nature that is against the victim's will. To clarify, sexual assault has a very wide range of possible specific behaviors. It could be something as brief as someone touching your breasts, crotch, or buttocks on a crowded train or the street. Or, sexual assault could be something that lasts longer and involves more serious contact, such as forced oral sex. If there was not explicit consent for any behaviors between both parties, it's very possible that sexual behaviors could be sexual assault.

One out of every ten men will be the victim of sexual assault.
Men Are Victims of Domestic Violence

According to the United States Department of Justice, one out of every three women will be the victim of some kind of sexual assault in her lifetime. While many people think of only girls and women as the victims of crimes such as sexual assault, this perspective is simply not correct. Again, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, one out of every ten men will be the victim of sexual assault. Another way to think about this statistic is that out of all of the sexual assaults that occur each year, about ten percent of the victims are boys or men. It's also important to remember that men are much less likely to report being the victim of crimes like sexual assault, so this number may be underestimating the true number of victims.

While these numbers are extremely sobering, one positive note is that in the last thirteen years, the number of cases of sexual assault being reported in national, anonymous surveys has gone down a full 60%. While it's possible that this number is lower only because fewer people are reporting sexual assault crimes, it's likely that the lower number is at least partially due to an actual decrease in sexual assaults, due to several national education and prevention programs.


When sexual assault takes its most extreme form, it becomes rape. In general, rape is unwanted sexual penetration from one person to another. All rapes are sexual assaults, but assault becomes rape when the victim experiences penetration from the perpetrator. However, it's important to note that definitions of rape vary greatly. For example, each state in the U.S. will have specific definitions of what rape means and what the penalty is for different forms or degrees of rape. If the victim experiences severe physical harm from the assault, the penalty might be greater. According to the United States Department of Justice in 2010, about 90,000 women report rapes each year in the United States. Again, however, note that rape is one of the most under-reported crimes, meaning that many victims of rape never report the crime to any kind of authority.

In 2010, 90,000 American women reported being raped.
Number of Rapes

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