Six Million U.S. Women Became Pregnant Due to Rape, Coercion in Their Lifetimes: Study

Becoming pregnant as a result of sexual violence is disturbingly common in the United States, a new study reveals.

Nearly 6 million U.S. women have become pregnant as a result of rape or sexual coercion, researchers reported recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

This equates to about one in every 20 American women enduring a pregnancy due to sexual violence, the researchers said.

“This study focuses attention on the intersection of violence and reproductive health and how rape and sexual coercion have a lasting impact on women’s health and lives,” said lead researcher Denise D’Angelo, a health scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion — non-physically forced, unwanted penetration — is even more common than pregnancy resulting from rape, D’Angelo said.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from a sexual violence survey conducted by the CDC.

Researchers found that about one-third (35%) of the victims of sexual violence who became pregnant also wound up with a sexually transmitted disease.

About two-thirds (66%) of rape victims who got pregnant said they also were physically injured, and more than 80% said they feared for their safety.

“Prevention of sexual violence is key, and so is ensuring access to services for survivors,” D’Angelo said.

“Some evidence-based approaches to prevention include strengthening economic opportunities for women and families, helping to develop healthy dating and relationship skills, engaging boys and men in prevention, and screening for violence exposure during healthcare encounters to support survivors and provide referrals to services,” she added.

More information

The Office on Women’s Health has more about rape.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, Jan. 30, 2024