Sexual assault is an umbrella term that encompasses any kind of unconsented touching — including rape. While rape is a form of sexual assault, not all sexual assault is rape. It’s important to note that these numbers are based on the FBI’s most recent forcible rape report, done in 2012, which only includes rapes that were actually reported — since many rapes go unreported, the occurrence in these states is likely much higher.
This article looks at the top eight states with the highest reported incidents of forcible rape — rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault with intent to rape. The numbers are per 100,000 inhabitants.
8. North Dakota: 38.9
Only about 750,000 people call North Dakota home, but they’re still number eight for rape incidents. In early 2017, North Dakota passed new legislation that would toughen penalties for misdemeanor sexual assault. The least-severe misdemeanor now holds a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail; the old law was 30 days. The bill passed unanimously. North Dakota hopes this will help deter people from sexual assault and give more comfort to the victims.
7. Colorado: 40.7
Boulder, Colorado made headlines in August 2016 when a 22-year-old college student convicted of rape was not given any jail time. Many people saw it as enabling sexual assault and showing little disregard for victims. With a population of five and a half million, Colorado had more than 2,200 rapes reported in 2012.
6. Oklahoma: 41.6
Rape has been on the rise in Oklahoma. Although the FBI’s statistics reported 41.6 per 100,000 in 2012, the state indexes its own crime rates annually. The number has steadily increased from just over 1,600 reported rapes in 2012 up to more than 2,100 in 2016. That same year, a huge loophole was found in Oklahoma’s sexual assault laws, which resulted in a judge completely dismissing a sexual assault case against a 17 year old.
5. Arkansas: 42.3
Besides falling in the top five on this list, Arkansas also has some of the toughest abortion laws in the country. In July 2017, Arkansas lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would result in women needing permission from their attackers before getting an abortion. Although lawmakers said that was not the bill’s intent, it would have been a resulting requirement. A federal judge blocked the bill.
4. New Mexico: 45.9
With just over two million people in New Mexico, the state saw close to 1,000 reported rapes in 2012. In 2013, New Mexico led the nation in aggravated assaults with 450 per 100,000 and was ranked the second most dangerous state to live in behind Alaska. In 2017, US News reported that Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, has seen a spike of both property and violent crimes recently, including rape.
3. Michigan: 46.4
While Michigan saw 46.4 victims per 100,000 people in 2012, the Michigan state police release yearly crime statistics, and 2016 showed a rape rate of 32 per 100,000 — a significant decrease. Even with rape and other violent crime rates dropping, Detroit recently topped the list as the nation’s most dangerous city for the fourth straight year.
2. South Dakota: 70.2
South Dakota’s rape incident rate jumps up to 70.2 people, compared with number three Michigan’s 46.4. The true reasons for this high number are unknown, but The New York Times reported in 2012 that 40% of sexual assault victims in South Dakota were Native Americans. Native Americans make up 9% of South Dakota’s population, compared to 1.2% on average, and they are two and a half times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes than other races.
1. Alaska: 79.7
Alaska tops the list with nearly 80 rapes per 100,000 people. Alaska’s remoteness and high Native Alaskan populations are possible factors in why the sexual assault rate is so high; Native Alaskan women are 9.7 times more likely to be assaulted than other Alaskans. Women can’t rely on the police in such remote areas. The New York Times reported that a 19-year-old Alaskan woman was raped in her home, and she called the police but got no response. She left a message; nobody returned her call. Former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell once told CNN, “Alaska has an epidemic,” referring to sexual violence.
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