The financial cost of rape

Sexual assault harms its victims in unimaginable ways. Understandably, the psychological and emotional damage is discussed most as it is the most severe. However, communicating this type of trauma can be difficult for those who haven’t experienced it. Without the ability to express the level of damage, it can be more difficult to see the importance of prevention and support.

“The high economic burden of rape may provide another avenue for expressing these impacts in ways that resonate with different audiences,” says Sarah DeGue, in an article for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

$122,461 is the estimated lifetime money lost, according to a 2018 study by the CDC that examined how much financial damage rape does to its victims.

Previous studies have answered this question, but according to DeGue, they weren’t as comprehensive in the costs included. Injuries, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, cervical cancer and rape-related pregnancy are just some of the additional costs expanded upon in this study, DeGue added.

In addition, the CDC added “costs associated with criminal justice response (i.e., investigation, adjudication, incarceration), victim and perpetrator lost work productivity, and property loss/damage during the offense.”

For an individual, this number is already shocking, but when applied at a national level, it only gets worse. “Multiplied by the estimated 25 million reported adult victims of rape in the U.S., we find that rape will cost the economy approximately $3.1 trillion over the lifetimes of those 25 million victims,” said DeGue. “Of this total, government sources pay an estimated one-third ($1.1 trillion) of the lifetime economic burden.”

It is important to remember this number is only covering rape. It is unkown how much the total is for all sexual assaults.

Facts like these are useful for visualizing the scale of the problem. $3.1 trillion is larger than France’s GDP, the seventh largest economy. And $1.1 trillion is a lot for the U.S. government to be spending.

However, it is important not to forget the more human damage suffered. The effects of sexual assault can’t be reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Ignoring the human elements by looking at the problems only as numerical losses helps visualize the scale of the problem but is far from a complete understanding.

Numbers like these show why it is important to invest resources to treat the problem seriously. ”Not preventing sexual violence results in substantial costs to the economy, in addition to the direct short- and long-term harms to individuals.” DeGue added, “investing in prevention may ultimately save money and, more importantly, can improve health and lives.”

For NDSU students that have experienced financial impacts as a result of sexual or domestic violence, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center has a special NDSU Survivor Fund. For more information, call 800-344-7273 or visit their website,

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